By AYAME KOUSAKA
Rafu Staff Writer
WHAT’S ALL THE RUCKUS?!
A year ago, a few of my friends were interested in purchasing scooters. Having ridden a motorcycle for several years I thought I could be of some help to them. I guess you could have considered me a motorcycle snob as I had never really paid scooters much attention and knew only of the popular Vespa. As I began to do research, however, my eyes widened at all the different types of scooters and I found myself coming to appreciate these little machines.
I first began to take notice of the Ruckus scooter around Little Tokyo. Produced by Honda, the Ruckus (a.k.a. the Zoomer in Japan and Europe) has a rugged, urban look that I like. Stripped of all the plastic and chrome common to other scooters, its minimalist design comes with a small 49cc engine and an equally small 1.3-gallon gas tank.
Well, my friends never did purchase scooters: one was content with keeping his bicycle for his trips around downtown; another actually purchased a motorcycle instead; and the remainder stayed with their cars. I was the only one who got hooked on these tiny wonders. I started attending Ruckus meets and group rides and soaked up as much of the scene as I could. Five months later, I was convinced that this would be a great alternative to the oftentimes reckless and testosterone-fueled sports bike scene. The Ruckus atmosphere, contrary to its name, was friendly and the sense of community and belonging to something unique felt good.
PROJECT: ROX RIOT
Even though I had only been in the scene for a short while, I already knew I wanted my own custom scooter and I knew which shop would be the place to go to: Rucksters Customs in Arcadia. Rucksters Customs is to scooters what OC Choppers is to motorcycles. Their reputation for producing some of the cleanest, sickest Ruckus rides I had ever seen was next to none. Their previous build, “GFO” (considered the chopper of scooters and featured in The Rafu Shimpo), even came fully equipped with a turbo charger!
I explained my ideas to the Rucksters team. I told them that I wanted this bike to be something different from all the bikes they had ever built. In my mind, I was looking to create the first “survival streetfighter” Ruckus and I wanted no compromises in terms of style and performance.
I began in October 2011 with the purchase of a stock front frame and its legally required VIN registration number. For five months I steadily collected the other parts I would need until finally in mid-March 2012 my concept went into production. Project “ROX RIOT” was to be the 41st custom build at Rucksters since their inception as a company almost four years ago.
My inspiration for this creation came mainly from a combination of three things: rat bikes (deteriorated motorcycles that are maintained for use at a low cost), the “Mad Max” films and the futuristic style of the BMW K1200R and Buell XB12S motorcycles. For the desired streetfighter image, I went with a Suzuki SV1000 rear tail light; a stealth black matte paint scheme was used to give it a rugged, post-apocalyptic feel; and a pair of futuristic Lockhart 11-LED turn signals and a bright Trailtech HID headlight rounded out the exterior design.
Now all that was needed was a motor suitable enough for such a bold creation. Instead of using the stock 49cc single-cylinder four-stroke engine (which topped out at 35-40 mph), I decided to go with a GY6 150cc motor (almost doubling the speed). This was a copy of the vintage Honda GY6 motor, originally manufactured for the Honda Elite and Spacey line of scooters from the 1980s.
Readers should keep in mind that since this was a custom bike, a majority of the materials had to be fabricated from the ground up. Needless to say, the three-brother team at Rucksters (owner Tony Lac and Sonny and Hai Truong) lived up to their reputation and did an outstanding job. It would be only six short weeks later before ROX RIOT rolled off the assembly line. And just as I had hoped, it was ready in time for the Super Sunday event a couple of days later.
Super Sunday began mainly as a get-together for scooter enthusiasts by the Killer Scooter company in Irwindale. They have hosted the world’s largest Ruckus meets to date. This year marked the fifth annual Super Sunday event. In attendance were 210 riders from all over the United States, including Hawaii, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Missouri and even Canada. These hardcore scooter enthusiasts trucked, trailed and even shipped their scooters just to be a part of this epic event.
One thing that makes this ride particularly unique is that the final destination is kept a secret. Since no one knows where they’re headed, they simply must follow along and enjoy the journey.
RUCK ‘n’ ROLL!
Everyone gathered that Sunday morning in the parking lot of The Hat restaurant in Temple City. I was a bit overwhelmed at first, trying to keep track of the event as a reporter and a participant. But with some beautiful California weather (mid-70s, clear blue skies), I soon forgot my worries. We left at 11 a.m. with Steven Hoang of Killer Scooter leading the way. Riding into Arcadia, we headed west towards Pasadena and then onto La Tuna Canyon Road.
With such a large group, riding through residential areas became a slow process (making a left turn took an eternity!). Some of the bigger motorcycles and scooters would block off traffic so as to let our group go through intersections without being split up. I’m pretty sure we broke some laws along the way. One of the Rucksters Customs’ bikes, “Show Time” (a.k.a. the Lakers bike), actually did get pulled over for running a red light.
Out on the road, we had help from service trucks for any bikes that broke down and volunteers who used their car or truck as “support vehicles.” No one was left behind. If Sonny Truong (Rucksters’ head mechanic) couldn’t get a scooter up and running again, it would go up on a service truck for the rest of the way.
It was around 3 p.m. when we finally reached our secret destination: The Rock Store, Southern California’s renowned motorcycle hangout/restaurant. It was a bit intimidating at first to see the multitude of biker crews in their matching jackets with their massive bikes, next to us, rolling in on our tiny scooters. But there were no dirty looks. We even got a special treat when actor Dante Basco (Rufio from the movie “Hook”) just happened to ride in on his Ducati. He liked the Rucksters bikes and asked if they could build him something since he himself had recently purchased a new Honda Ruckus.
Overall, Super Sunday was a great event. Although the actual ride was only around 60 miles one way, it ended up being a 140-mile round trip for me. My custom-built ROX RIOT was put to the test through the winding canyon road up to The Rock Store and I was pleasantly surprised to see that it had held up remarkably well.
THE NEED FOR SPEED?
I never would have realized that you could have such a great time on two wheels without the ability to go very fast. Don’t get me wrong though, I still have fun riding my 1200cc Buell motorcycle, but it’s a whole different experience on a scooter. In the near future, I hope to bring my brother into this scene as it is quite welcoming to anyone and everyone. But don’t take my word for it—join us a at a meet sometime and find out for yourself.
Ayame Kousaka is a Rafu graphic designer and religion editor and can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.