Choices, 999S, Desmo, M5, RS4, Smart car or... Honda Ruckus!

Project Honda Ruckus - Part 1

by Jeff Naeyaert

Since MotoIQ is hurting for Honda content, we took a look at our Honda inventory to see what sort of project material we could conjure up.  Annie Sam has her EK Civic Hybrid with a B18C in it, but she did her swap many years ago and she was reluctant to tear into her daily driver.

This left us with our Honda Ruckus.  This little 49cc scooter has been our pit bike at races, our move the photographers around bike for track events and our run to the corner for coffee and bagels machine for two years.  Although we like our Ruckus’s 95 mpg, especially now that fuel prices are going up again, we sort of laugh at its jogger like acceleration and sorta dangerous 37 mph top speed.  The Ruck is something that you only want to ride in the neighborhood because higher speed main streets are suicidal.  You would get immediately ploughed by cell phone wielding distracted soccer moms in huge SUV’s.

The Ruckus brakes and suspension also earn big pluses in the super sucking category but what can you expect for what is probably the cheapest vehicle in the Honda line up?  The final blow to our Ruckus’s dignity was when Steph Papadakis started to shove stuff into our Ruck’s exhaust at a race at Willow Springs and it ran around with the exhaust corked up, not making much difference in power.

In typical MotoIQ fashion we decided that our Ruck was going to need some help in the suspension, handling and brakes department before we increased the power to help keep things safe.  We had almost rear ended cars due to weak brakes and ended up doing a flying W by hitting a water dip at 35 mph on the street.  Although this sounds somewhat comical, it was not safe and had to be addressed.

With a little keyboard research we found that the Ruckus scene is blooming and many Ruckus aficionados are crossovers from the import tuner scene. Most of them hang out on the web at www.totalruckus.com and ruckuscentral .  We also discovered that we knew people in the Ruckus industry, guys like Brandon Leung.  Brandon used to work for HKS and now owns a fashion and Ruckus tuning boutique called Bowls in San Marino California.  We also are buddies with the guys at Password JDM who have launched a line of Ruckus parts.  Another Ruckus tuner, Rucksters Customs signed up to help us out.

Honda Ruckus deconstruction
The packages arrive and it's time for deconstruction!

The first bit of sadness we had to dump was the entire front end.  The Ruckus had these really bad handlebars that were impossibly high and rearward.  They were not adjustable either.  This made for cramped rider positioning and gave us a Peewee Herman riding position, uh.  We had one word for the stock Ruckus fork, awful.  With no damper, it was like a pogostick.  The forks would nearly bottom from us just sitting on the bike and if a dip was hit at speed, the coiled undamped springs would try to launch us into the air.  Not cool. The front brake was ok for a mechanical drum but was barely adequate and could not come close to locking the front wheel.  Since 80 percent of a bike's stopping power is generated by the front, something better would be needed for safety.

The front steel wheel looked dorky and was heavy.  The weird semi knobby tire had the grip of a plastic wheel.  The lame tires resulted in our first crash; we slid out trying to hang a turn and thrashed the Ruckus body plastics, levers and bars.  We also got a case of road rash.  Fail. Rucksters came to our rescue with a complete NCY front end.

Honda Ruckus NCY Brakes and front fork password JDM front fender Dio Wheel
The NCY Front end included this cool and light 6 spoke alloy wheel, carbon wrapped billet fork sliders, Ti coated stanchion tubes with the huge 2 piston caliper hydraulic disc brakes, all for a price of less than one Brembo on our EVO.
Honda Ruckus NCY front end, KiJima front light, Kijima turn signals, password JDM fender
To give our Ruck a touch of JDM flavor, we added a Kijima headlight and turn signals in addition to a dry carbon Password JDM front fender

This trick piece is economical, giving you a lot of lameness fixing hardware for a decent price.  The NCY front end features a really good fork with honest to God hydraulic damping and spring rates meant for something other than a little kid or an anorexic import model.  We chose their Ti/carbon model which had titanium nitride coated stanchion tubes just like your 1098S with carbon wrapped alloy sliders.  Pretty tricks stuff, orders of magnitude better working and lighter.  To make things cooler, the NCY front end comes with an alloy oversize 12mm axle and an alloy wheel with hydraulic disc brakes! The hydraulic disc brake features a slotted wave rotor, alloy bolts, a fixed twin piston caliper, braided steel brake line and a master cylinder with a billet clamp.  We installed the front end with a sticky Michelin Bopper semi slick front tire from Bowls in 120/90-10.

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Friday, June 19, 2009 8:08 PM
Great coverage of the vendors! Lookin good so far, but honestly looking like pretty much every other ruck out there. Bring this Ruck outside the box and make it something amazing! Can't wait to watch the build progress though!
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Friday, June 19, 2009 8:18 PM
We admit that a lot of the looks stuff is bolt on, we are not too good at looks stuff in bikes or cars, but wait till you see the motor! We are doing things to the GET that no one else has done before to get GY6 like performance from it with less than half the displacement, stay tuned for that.
Type R #126
Type R #126link
Saturday, June 20, 2009 7:08 AM
Clean as always Mike. Looking forward to the big bore write up. Since I still have my stock engine I'm considering that as a project for next winter. ;-)
Monday, June 22, 2009 5:14 AM
I <3 my little stocker and I can't wait to see what ya'll do to it! If you can make it climb a hill, you'll be my hero.
Monday, June 29, 2009 3:27 PM
So what's this make it? A $4000 Ruckus? You can buy a used sport bike for less. Or just start with a Yamaha Zuma 50 or 125. Maybe with a little longer chassis stretch kit you could shoehorn in an SR16?
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Monday, June 29, 2009 3:30 PM
If you think this is dumb, you don't understand the culture of modding anything. What can I say?
Monday, July 06, 2009 5:41 AM
> If you think this is dumb, you don't understand the culture of modding anything

Uhh, sorry man. Didn't mean to sound negative or insulting. I really respect you guys and like the new site.

I've seen some Ruck's running around town and thought they looked kinda cool, but then you guys started going down the list of deficiencies and convinced me it was rather lame or possibly even an all out POS in stock form. Or maybe the whole article was intended to be more tongue in cheek then I took it for.

As for "the culture of modding", I've dabbled in it for nearly 20 years, and have developed some limits. Like -- it's silly buying a newish street vehicle then spending more then it's worth on performance mods. You should have just bought a more capable vehicle in the first place. If you're prepping for "real" racing or just building for looks, then the sky's the limit (or your bank account.)
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Monday, July 06, 2009 8:45 AM
Good answer!
Friday, November 11, 2011 9:55 AM
What's the part number of the easton stem you used?
Thursday, July 24, 2014 10:33 PM
If you can get a hold of a Easton Mg60 stem it would really smooth out the ride. I had one of these magnesium stems on my MTB and it was night/day difference over any other material. Magnesium really does some amazing high-frequency vibration elimination, I highly recommend one. Along with a Carbon handlebar you will feel like you're riding a super smooth machine.
Saturday, July 26, 2014 6:07 PM
I just started reading about these and I have to say they are really cool!
WOT2000: The 49cc allows many areas to get away with not registering them, insuring, inspecting, an M licenens etc. Also with 100+mpg they very eco. Not even mentioning the modability that on this site we all can't leave anything stock LOL.
I look forward to future articles on this.
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