Many custom motorcycles are built to fix something inherently wrong with the appearance of a motorcycle, often sacrificing performance to look cool. Such is not the case with the Ronin Motorworks 47 - this thing was built for speed.
When the guys from Ronin offered to give me an interview on the creation of the bikes, I told them I would love to chat with them but I was really only interested if they let me ride it. There are literally thousands of beautiful custom motorcycles built every year, many of which would love to be featured on the site, but few of them are actually built to make the riding experience better or were worth sharing.
I wasn’t interested in just posting pics of another pretty bike unless it was something that also made you want to ride it, and I was curious if the Ronin was actually worth the hype.
I fully expected them to say no, that they didn’t want to let me ride their $40,000, one of 47 baby. That they appreciated the offer, but they would hold off and find someone who was content to shoot a pretty picture or two. I don’t know if you can take their response as a sign of intelligence or lack thereof, but they said yes.
We met for coffee around mid day a few weeks later, most likely so they’d have one last chance to pull the plug if I seemed like a bozo. I assured them I would be careful and that I had no desire to put $40k on my credit card today and, even after meeting me, they handed me the key fob and asked if they could follow on a ride in case the bike had any issues.
I considered how dumb I would feel if I couldn’t get it to start once I was out of cell service and quickly agreed as I tossed them the key to the Suzuki GSX-S750 I was testing (you can read my review about what a disaster the GSX-S is here).
There isn’t anything that comes close to the sound of a Buell motor crackling and coughing between your legs. Turning it on sounds something like a lion moaning and murmuring as it wakes from a slumber, with the full weight of its power somehow still evident in its peaceful purring. The price tag was already beginning to seem a little less crazy.
From downtown Los Angeles, we head up freeway to the Angeles Crest Highway, a popular road that would likely be dead at this time of day. With Ronin’s mechanic behind me on the Suzuki, we began to make our way up the hill.
The first thing I noticed is that everything on the bike is stiff. The seat is like that of the Aprilia Tuono or most KTMs. It felt like a wooden board, especially compared to the super spongy seat on the Suzuki. Despite being stiff, it gave the perfect support for riding an athletic bike athletically, whereas the Suzuki seat was content to punch me in the gooch with every bump.
The suspension was also decidedly more stiff than the Suzuki, which is another one for the plus column. The girder suspension works well, so long as you can keep from being distracted as you watch the front end move around independently from the handlebar. No, I’m not being dramatic, that shit is weird.
I thought the Ronin was cool looking, and that turning a bunch of old Buells into a futuristic streetfighter was a great idea, but it wasn’t until that ride that I fell in love with the Ronin. Those guys really did try and create the best performing bike they could have, and then made it nice looking where it didn’t mess with their performance goals.
The suspension was spot on, set perfectly to help me flick the bike from side to side through the canyon roads. The brakes had a strong initial bite, but an incredibly progressive feel to help moderate their pressure for trail braking. The fueling, something Buells were constantly criticized for, was simply flawless, as was they power delivery it gave access to.
When we began to head up the mountain that day, I reminded myself of the lack of dollar bills in my bank account and to take it easy. Six miles later my Ronin chaperone was missing from my mirrors, unable to keep up with the pace, and I was in sportbike heaven.
A mile or two after that, I was riding as fast as I’m willing to ride in denim, cursing myself for not wearing full leathers or something with knee pucks - this thing was built to go fast.
Good motorcycles are free from problems, but great ones give you the confidence to feel safer, allowing you to ride harder. The Ronin is a great bike and worth every single penny.
Photos: Zach Cohen
Helmet: Shoei Hornet X2
Jacket: ICON 1000 Basehawk
Gloves: REV’IT Sand Pro
Pants: uglyBROS Featherbed
Sean MacDonald is the brand spanking new Editor of Lanesplitter. He likes long walks on the beach, searching for the best new burger spots to ride to, and his girlfriend says his snoring sounds like “braaaaap.” Follow him and his adventures on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.