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Old 02-04-2016, 08:30 PM   #1
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It's Good to B-King

Drew Ruiz

My grandpa and his turbocharged Suzuki B-King

It’s a little after 9 p.m. by the time my grandpa Ray and I finish dinner, get geared up, and are back on our bikes. We’ve been on the road for almost 10 hours at this point, joking with each other for at least three-quarters of that time and eating the rest. The stretch of Southern California pavement we’re rolling across was littered in brake lights and irate drivers just a few hours ago, but it is now almost entirely empty. Home is getting closer by the minute, and yet even after a full day of aimless riding, bonding, and sweating, I wouldn’t mind if it were a little farther. All I can think right now is that this is as good as life gets on two wheels and that I’m entirely content with the sub-speed-limit pace that allows my grandpa and me to make the most of our time left together. Up until now, I thought my grandpa felt the same.

But then there was a car.

It’s not a particularly special car, a Toyota Corolla or something equally as insipid that I imagined we’d sit behind whilst still enjoying our leisurely stroll home. We’re in no hurry, I remind myself, just as from the corner of my eye I see my grandpa, who is an ex- (and in his head, current) dragracer, whack the throttle open on his turbocharged Suzuki B-King and almost simultaneously blow past me, the car, and a mile marker or two, as if this were some kind of race.

And then I realize that, to my grandpa, it is a race. I realize that he built this B-King for these split seconds of pure, unadulterated fun. For winning. And for having something that makes him laugh inside his helmet, which I can only imagine he’s doing right now, all the while thinking, “Yeah, I kicked their .”

Drew Ruiz

My grandpa, ever the storyteller, tells me about one of his first experiences with forced induction: “My one dump truck had a two-cycle engine with a supercharger and a turbocharger. After work I used to take it to the dragstrip, and I even won bracket races with it. I needed to have a foot on the brake and the clutch because it’d creep, which made launching it tough, so after a few races I took a piece of wood about a foot and a half long. I held that in my hand and pressed the brake with it. When the first amber came on I’d let go of it and throw it on the ground. Yeah, my dad wasn’t too happy about me racing the truck we were supposed to be making a living with.”

Answering The Question Of Why

There is more to the story, my grandpa says earlier that day over lunch, and in response to me asking the most obvious question: Why? Why a B-King and why in ’s name does said B-King need a turbocharger?

“There are a bunch of reasons why I bought the B-King,” he begins. “I like an R1 or a GSX-R just as much as the next guy, especially the speed. I just don’t want to ride those bikes anymore; they’re too uncomfortable for me. I liked the seating position on the B-King; you’re leaned over a little bit but not a lot. I knew I wanted something that was pretty comfortable and had a lot of horsepower, and when I bought the bike there weren’t really a lot of options. I knew it wasn’t the best-looking thing out there, but at least you didn’t see another one coming down the road every five minutes like you do with a GSX-R. And I’m happy; I don’t mind if people like the bike or they don’t. I like it. Even before the turbo.”

Which of course leads to the second half of my question: Why put a turbocharger on a bike that makes 160 hp right off the showroom floor?

Drew Ruiz

Suzuki’s B-King rolled off the showroom floor weighing right around 580 pounds, and my grandpa admits that there are better, lighter options for when a road tightens up. Nevertheless, he says he has never regretted buying the B-King. “I like it. Even before the turbo.”

“You know, my whole life I had wanted something with more horsepower than I really needed. So I built it,” he says. “I just wanted the bike, when I turned the throttle on it, I wanted the thing to try and freakin’ throw me off. I’ve just always liked going fast. I never really liked going around corners very fast. That took me a while to do, and I didn’t really get that until I started roadracing. [Fun fact: My father got my grandpa into roadracing at the ripe age of 41.] But on a straightaway, , I’ll run the thing as fast as it’ll go. I have just always loved the feeling of doing that, and this bike only makes that more fun for me.”

Drew Ruiz

My grandpa says he always wanted something with more horsepower than he really needed. Now he has it. And he can’t stop smiling.

Updates to the B-King came in stages but not surprisingly started at cosmetics. First to go was the horrid exhaust mufflers and license-plate hanger that came standard on the B-King, replaced by Yoshimura R&D components that tidied up the rear of the bike. Up front, my grandpa has also added a National Cycle VStream Sport Windscreen for better aerodynamics and, thus, less strain on his upper body while running down the freeway, at speed… He considered removing the Yoshimura mufflers once the turbo was installed but ultimately decided there was too much space between the rear wheel and fender and that it didn’t look right. They remain but are not hooked up. “I could probably get a pipe built that connects the turbo to the cans, but that would rob some horsepower, and that stuff cost me too much money to let go that easy,” he jokes.

Drew Ruiz

One of these things is not like the other. And, no, we’re not talking about maturity level of my grandpa and me; that’s about the same.

Drew Ruiz

Mickey Cohen, the man behind the B-King build, says he could put a spacer for the base gasket and then turn the boost up to 10 pounds, which would have obvious horsepower advantages. “The bike would be just as reliable because you’re pulling some of the compression out of it.” I never thought I’d hear my grandpa say no to more power, but for now, he’s shot the idea down.

More Than Money

Admittedly, the turbocharger kit and install cost more than money (read: blood, sweat, and tears), even if Mickey Cohen of Mickey Cohen Motorsports, the man responsible for the install, won’t admit to the latter part.

“I had always wanted something turbocharged or supercharged,” my grandpa says of the build’s beginnings. “I went back and forth for a bit then I called Mickey up and asked him about what he thought about doing the turbo. He said, ‘Oh, yeah, that’ll be easy. Won’t be anything.’”

Drew Ruiz

The turbocharger kit was purchased from Velocity, for a stock-engine B-King, but ultimately needed work. In the end, Cohen had to turn to RCC Turbos for help with parts, plus rebuild the B-King engine after it came apart on the dyno, due to the original kit being sent with a 14-pound spring.

Cohen, looking back at the build, admits it was more than he could have planned for: “Well to start, we ordered this kit from a company called Velocity, which was originally a mom-and-pop-type company but was sold just about a year before we put our order in. So first off, with the new ownership, it took like eight months just to get the kit—which Velocity had previously had a really good reputation. Then the kit showed up in a box, with stuff for water injection, hoses for cars, boost controllers, all this stuff that we didn’t order. And nothing fit. I mean nothing. The turbo and the header didn’t even mount to the motor, so we had to cut all that and re-weld it so it fit. It took us almost a week to basically re-engineer the kit. It was just a mess. Then, finally, we got the bike running. It fires. Sounds pretty good, actually.

Drew Ruiz

While the B-King build gave Cohen fits, he has since built another (yes, Suzuki actually sold more than one B-King), using a kit specially built by RCC Turbos. “Richard doesn’t actually make a kit for the B-King,” Cohen reveals, “but I called him, told him I got another one in, and asked if he could put a kit together. He calls me back to say he’ll have one at my door in three weeks. It had a flashed computer and was done really, really well.”

“We recheck everything, and when we’re done with that we make one pull at 100 percent,” Cohen continues. “And, man, it was singing. We honestly couldn’t believe how hard it pulled. All we could think was, ‘Man, let’s do that again.’ So we pull it again and then, boom… The thing explodes right there on the dyno. It just lifted the head right off the engine and started dumping coolant on me.

Drew Ruiz

Over the years I have learned that my grandpa is a bit of a contradiction; he’s almost never in a hurry but completely infatuated with going fast. Safe to say his B-King satisfies the second half of his personality.

“From there I was just trying to get away from the thing as fast as I could. The water was spraying out the side of the engine, and I’ve got my leg coming over the tank while at the same time I was hitting the stop button on the dyno,” Cohen recalls. “I’m trying to get out of the room and run outside to the hose. When I get there, I look at my leg and it looks pretty normal, but it’s just hot, so I’ve got it under the hose. I take it out for a second, and it’s still hot. After a while I’m like, ‘I think I better go to the ER ’cause, oh, s—t, it’s still hot.’ My leg wasn’t in the coolant spray very long, but it burned me pretty good. I wasn’t able to work for a week or so, and sleeping was basically impossible. Yeah, it was pretty bad.

“The most frustrating part though was that I’m sitting there in the emergency room and still didn’t know what had happened,” Cohen continues. “I’m thinking, ‘Why did this thing blow up?’ So when I get back, I email TiAL, who makes the spring for the pop-off valve that was included in the Velocity kit, and give them the serial number for the spring. They email me back and tell me it’s a 14-pound spring that Velocity had sent us. And remember this is a stock engine that we ordered the kit for! So, yeah, there was just way too much boost because of that spring they sent for the turbo and it pushed the head right off.”

The top end, at this point, was a write-off.

Drew Ruiz

A Yoshimura R&D exhaust was installed a few years before the turbo and helped tidy up the rear of the B-King. Interestingly enough, the cans remain for the same reason (though not hooked up to header pipes).

“It melted pistons to the liners and then to the valves,” Cohen says. “The whole top end was just one piece, basically. I had to beat it apart with a mallet. On two pulls it did that, that’s how hot the thing got. So at that point we had to go through and rebuild the engine. I went and put rods, bearings, pistons, a cylinder, cylinder head, and all the valves in it. The crank was okay. I just did the rods because the top of the pistons got so hot. I figured the small end of the rod might not be so round anymore. It got really, really hot, but, boy, did it haul . Right now it’s got an 8-pound spring in it. That’s really the lowest I could bring it down to because the turbo they sent us is so big. So it makes 265 to 270 horsepower with 165 foot-pounds of torque at around 6,500 rpm.”

Unfortunately, even with the bike back together, the job wasn’t done.

“Even after we got everything put back together, Ray is calling me and saying that the thing has a lag in it—that he’s going to get hurt,” Cohen remembers. “So I got in touch with Richard at RCC Turbos. I called him and said, ‘Dude, you’ve got to help me out here.’ I told him what was going on, and, in the end, we ended up changing the whole fuel system over from the stuff Velocity had sent to a kit he has. Richard’s kit comes with a return-style fuel rail, so you take the stock system apart and put his in. Then I gave him the ECU and he reflashed it. He made it so that the upper injectors fire the same amount of fuel as the lower injectors do. Plus he made the injectors fire at the same time, so now if I add fuel to the lower, it adds fuel to the upper at the same time. It just made it so we didn’t have to add a bunch of fuel, to where we didn’t have to make part of the map to where it was totally lean because of low fuel pressure to make the other half good. It made it like a stock bike, and so then we just had to fine-tune the map with the Power Commander, which we did. And now it’s completely smooth.”

Drew Ruiz

My grandpa Ray says you can tell when the front wheel is about to lift based on the sound of the engine, at which point you can roll out of the throttle a touch to keep both wheels on the ground. I heeded his warnings about wheelying the bike, for most of the day at least.

I stole the key to the B-King for a better half of a day and can attest to the smoothness. The bike fuels better than a good amount of today’s production motorcycles and still rides just as a stock B-King would below 5,500 rpm, which is a testament to Cohen’s tuning. Past 5,500 rpm things change rather dramatically, with the B-King eating up pavement like it’s going out of style and seemingly wanting to rip your arms from the handlebar. Just how hard does the bike pull? Hard enough that my grandpa has written off letting anyone ride on the passenger seat because, according to one “friend” who went for a ride, “I was just a few seconds away from not being able to hold on anymore.” The fact that my grandpa can’t bring chicks home on the back is probably the thing he likes least about the B-King...

You really have to have a screw loose to want something this fast. And my grandpa does, though when I ask him if he wants more, he shows a sense of better judgment and maturity I admittedly did not expect: “No, I don’t want any more. It’s honestly as fast as I would want. I wouldn’t want any more horsepower.”

Drew Ruiz

"I've just always liked going fast."

The Honest Truth

At roughly 580 pounds stock, the B-King is not the lightest motorcycle, and when a road starts to tighten up you really begin to feel the weight. To this end, my grandpa admits it’s not the best motorcycle for day-to-day abuse. “It’s not a lot of fun in the canyons,” he says toward the end of dinner. “I’d like to get something light for any type of canyon riding and just keep my B-King for the street or rides with a lot of freeway. I love opening it up there.”

Now just a few miles from home and with another car in front of us, I’m about to be reminded of just how much he loves it. And of how good it is to B-King.

Drew Ruiz

At the end of the day, this is what riding motorcycles is all about: fast bikes and family.

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