Let's set one thing straight from the start--Ryde or Die Motors (formerly Ruff Ryders Motorcycles) IN Reseda, California, is not affiliated with the Ruff Ryders network of motorcycle clubs now active in 12 states and thousands of members strong. The shop is also not part of the rap-music juggernaut that's home to DMX, Eve, Drag-On and other hip-hop heavyweights. Many of Ryde or Die's (RoD) customers are members of the L.A. Ruff Ryders chapter, and the shop's bikes happen to be in very high demand by hip-hop video directors nationwide, but there is no direct relationship between all these entities. In fact, the shop's recent name change was engineered specifically to set it apart from these prominent Ruff Ryders organizations.
In addition to cutting through this confusion, though, RoD's name change also drives home one final point: The bikes this shop turns out are anything but "ruff." Make no mistake about that--the rolling sculptures created by RoD owner Beverly Roberts' highly skilled team of customizers, tuners, painters and technicians--led by ex-AMA Superbike mechanic Marco Montoya--are some of the slickest cycles in the two-wheeled universe. Not to mention the shiniest, with most pimpin' more chrome than a 1960 Cadillac bumper.
Being simple-minded editors inexplicably drawn to anything bright and blingish (mmmmm, shiny), we thought it a good idea to venture over the mountain and deep into the San Fernando Valley to get a firsthand look at RoD's hype machines. We rang up Roberts and asked her to gather a handful of bikes that typify the RoD attitude and parade them out for our cameras. She willingly obliged, organizing a broad spectrum of colorful customs that ran the gamut from mild to wild. A few were elegantly understated, like Paul Boyadzha's orange YZF-R6 and Suave Lovelady's Suzuki GSX-R600. Others, like Frank M's Kawasaki ZX-9R, were real eye-bleeders. A pair of Yamahas--Armen Amirkhanian's R6 and Robert Boyamian's R1--split the difference between mechanical mods and appearance upgrades, while JC Gibbs' R1 and the shop's own Ducati 996R were full-on flyers, both mechanically and aesthetically built to the teeth.
We came, we saw, we took some pictures to share with you. So slide a little DMX into the disc player, get a little head-noddin' going on, turn the page and let RoD blow your mind.
Save the best for last? Not us, no sirree--we like to hit the top-shelf stuff right off the bat, and that's why the first bike we're gonna show you is Ryde or Die's own wickedly trick '01 Ducati 996R. That's right, this sick superbike began life as an R-model, one of just 500 ever to pop out on the planet. While most owners would have been content to leave this production version of Troy Bayliss' '01 Superbike World Championship ride alone, the fearless crew at RoD rebuilt theirs from the ground up.
To get the rebuild rolling, RoD first stripped the factory carbon-fiber bodywork--a feature exclusive to the R-model--of its "Anniversary Red" paint and applied something with a bit more flavor. There's nothing wrong with Ducati red, mind you, but it's hard to argue with the black, silver and airbrushed checkerboard design laid down here, dominated by the chrome RoD "R" on the flanks.
The new paintwork is properly set off with boatloads of show-quality chrome. Everything that can be chromed has been dipped, from the tubular steel-trellis frame to the brake levers, rearsets and lightweight Marchesini rims. Even the single-sided cast magnesium swingarm, premium-grade Brembos and upgraded Oehlins Road & Track-spec fork received a dippin'. How many other bikes can you say that about?
In R-trim, the Ducati 996R was no dog. Powered by a 135-horsepower Testastretta V-twin--the first Ducati streetbike to pack that powerhouse engine--and featuring a gratuitous helping of exotic materials such as carbon fiber, magnesium and titanium, it was a machine to be reckoned with on any road, straight or twisty. But even all this WSB trickery wasn't good enough for RoD's showcase bike.
Accordingly, the motor was tuned with more aggressive camshafts and a custom-mapped Dynojet Power Commander. This Italian beauty has plenty of meatballs to back up its marinara looks.
This black '03 Yamaha R1 owned by Ruff Ryder JC Gibbs might appear outwardly mild, just a nicely painted, well-chromed, freer-breathing literbike. But beneath its subtle skin, this YZF-R1 has a spec-sheet to envy--or fear, if it runs up behind you on a twisty road.
A professional stunt man who has appeared in Torque, Biker Boyz and SWAT, among others, Gibbs is also an active roadracer capable of a very fast lap at Willow Springs. Gibbs' roadracing background is betrayed by the mods Ryde or Die impressed upon his bike. Gibbs' R1 was built from the ground up starting with a bare Yamaha frame and engine cases. The engine was immediately fitted with all the fixings from a full-race Graves Motorsports motor, including a stroker crank, pistons, camshafts and a radically reworked cylinder head. A Power Commander handles the math and ensures the right amounts of air and fuel are in the right places at the right time, and a chromed, full-titanium Graves exhaust spits out post-combustion aftergas.
To keep up appearances, the frame, subframe, swingarm and rims were chromed before assembly. Ditto the factory plastic fenders, ram-air intake covers and tank stays. With the bling in place, the factory Yamaha bodywork was sprayed gloss black, and that was all she wrote.
To help Gibbs keep the sticky side down--whether strafing canyons or dragging knee around Willow Springs--the suspension received a thorough upgrade. A Scott's steering damper attaches to the chromed triple clamp and does its damndest to keep tank-slappers at bay. Up front, the fork may appear chrome on the surface, but inside it's pure gold--i.e., a Race Tech Gold Valve Kit and custom-rate springs. Bringing up the rear is a fully adjustable Oehlins shock, and we have to agree with Gibbs here--an Oehlins shock is one of the few products that looks better stock, so it was left alone on this R1. The bike is braked by Galfer lines and EBC pads. It stops, goes and looks good doing both.
Best of all, this bike is regularly ridden hard--and has already logged major mileage on the street and at the track. Check out those Pirellis--not a chicken strip in sight, worn all the way to the edge just like the tire gods intended. Gibbs says, "I didn't buy it to watch it, I bought it to ride it." Amen, brother.
Ask some people about their first bike and you'll likely hear some saccharinE tale of a 50cc mini under the tree and wrapped with a bow. Ask 24-year-old Robert Boyamian of Reseda, California, about his first bike and he'll direct your attention to this stylin' '03 Yamaha R1--wrapped in flames, not bows. While one could make a helluva case that an R1 might not be the best choice for a rookie's first bike, it'd be difficult to argue against the mods that Roberts' already made on this, his maiden voyage into the super streetbike world.
Starting with a limited-edition, flame-painted R1, Boyamian proceeded directly from the showroom floor to Ryde or Die. Once in Reseda, Roberts' team of customizers broke the bike down and chromed the rims, engine cases, rearsets, levers, brake calipers and triples. Flush-mount front signals replaced the stockers, and the eyesore the factory calls a rear fender was binned in favor of an RoD-installed Eurotail. A Sportech windscreen on black chrome that joined the dinner party later concluded the decorating course.
Since Boyamian is mostly new to the riding game, RoD was wise to hook him up with an Oehlins steering damper and a set of braided-steel brake lines from Goodridge. But since he's also a power-hungry fool like the rest of us, a full-titanium Graves exhaust system was added to the mix along with Graves velocity stacks, a Power Commander and cams degreed by Marco Montoya, RoD's chief mechanic. In the end, this R1 is still "a virgin," according to its owner, and much more is planned for it in the future. Some say it's best to start out with a bang--it's obvious Boyamian digs what they're sayin'.
The Ducati shop bike makes one thing clear: Ryde or Die isn't a flavor of the month outfit--it'll build any bike with style. Take this '00 Kawasaki ZX-9R, for example. This beauty is owned by Frank M (just M, and Frank's not the kind of guy you argue with about stuff like that) of Godspeed Designs, who also happens to be RoD's prime paint slinger--which explains the insane graphics on his bike. The paintwork is flawless and intricate, with enviable depth. But best of all it still manages to keep some of the original Kawasaki green on the scene. Setting off said paint is a full onslaught of chromage. Again, RoD went chrome-crazy, and in the end nothing escaped undipped. The frame is chrome. The swingarm is chrome. The rims are chrome with color-keyed spokes and hubs. It's all chrome these days; do you need a refresher course?
Though Frank is obviously an appearance-oriented fellow--he is, after all, a painter by trade--he did dial up a few performance mods to the tune of a D&D slip-on exhaust (chromed, naturally), a jet kit and Vortex rearsets (also hit with the chrome stick).
Fond as we all are of 'Busas, Gixxers and R1/R6s, it's nice to see an old-school ZX-9R still getting some play and representing in style.
When bail agent Armen Amirkhanian, the owner of this smooth R6, isn't getting other people sprung from the joint, he's busy trying not to get himself locked up riding this Ryde or Die-tuned R6. Of course, if/when that happens, Amirkhanian can probably hook himself up with a deal to get him back on the streets before dawn.
Look closely and you'll realize that, unlike a stocker, this '03 R6 wears Yamaha Liquid Silver all over, even on the flat-black factory body pieces. The effect is, as you can see, dramatic. The chromed rims and accessories only make things that much sweeter in terms of aesthetics, along with a chrome windscreen from Sportech, a Hotbodies undertail and flush-mount signals that gain a few more style points for his put-together package.
To help expedite Amirkhanian's next trip to the slammer to, um, advise his clients, RoD cued up a Graves Motorsports slip-on acting in tandem with a Power Commander hidden beneath the passenger seat. Pirellis make the deals with the tarmac and an Oehlins steering damper adds more coolness as well as a bit of safety--jail's one thing, but the hospital's something totally different, and nobody wants to go there! This ride is yet another example of RoD's ability to deliver the goods, mild or wild.
Supa Smooth is a good way to describe this clean '01 GSX-R600 owned by Suave Lovelady (no typo, that's really his name, and no, it's not gay to start singing--in the comfort and silence of your own home--Gerardo's '91 hit, Rico Suave). As you can see, Mr. Lovelady likes his rides classy, simple and clean.
That said, his Gixxer Six is the real deal with Ryde or Die sprayed bodywork done up in the same bluish silver as his transpo mode, a 2K Mercedes S500. Other than that, Lovelady's kept the bike stock and is just happy to be back in the saddle and able to ride with his boys. Oh, and he's got a big ol' box full of blue and silver Louis Vuitton material that RoD will soon install on the seats, grips, mirrors and wherever else Lovelady wants it. Smooth.
Yeah, we know the cleaning product is called Simple Green, but this bike's not green, it's orange. And beyond that, it's pretty simple. So Simple Orange it is. Other than perfect paint and clear-lens Lockhart Phillips turn signals front and rear, 24-year-old clinical services provider Paul Boyadzha's tyte '03 Yamaha YZF-R6 is box-stock. While not as flashy as the Ducati 996R and nowhere near as fast as JC Gibbs' R1 mock-Superbike, Boyadzha's R6 is utterly arresting in person thanks to its killer paint. Seriously, this is one of the best sprayjobs we've ever eyeballed--James Brown's photos, as good as they are, don't come close to capturing its quality. Shot by Ryde or Die in a Lamborghini Murcielago orange hue, the depth of the paint and the way it comes alive in the sun just can't be reproduced on the printed page. Simply sexy, says us.