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Rat Bikes: A Rite of Passage For Hardcore Hobbyists

December 16, 2015       Muscle Machines
Rat Bikes: A Rite of
Passage for Hobbyists

Rat Bikes Look Like That Date Your
Momma Warned Ya About.  Up to No Good,
But Surely the Ride of Your Life

Many local motorcycle purists (stock machine enthusiasts) might sneer at the idea offellow rider dudebros actually spending good money to have their adventure riding bikes look literally black and blue.  Fished out of the junkyard or tar pit.  And actually done that way for show parades AND for just riding around too.  Meet the Rat Bike.

Rat Bikes at  U.K. Rat and Survival Rally Bike Festival  
Image by Liftarn     WikiCommons  CC BY-SA 3.0

The average biker would probably think it ridiculous for people to retool their bikes to look beat-up, rock n' roll and Mad Max-worthy.  Most locals seem to prefer 'stock and clean builds' of their motorcycle of choice.  Evoking the image of a gentleman rider's smart ride. 

On the other hand, the RAT BIKE, that beat up and dilapidated looking motorcycle that is painted matte, gun metal black and is maintained just so that it's motor can keep running and haul your ass anywhere, seems to be coming on locally as a NEW hobbyist ideal.  Is it because Mad Max out-sexes The Fast and the Furious?  Or do old motorcycle movies with crappy bikes that look awesome compared to the urban modern streamlined racers of today?  We don't know.  But we love the look of Rat Bike the way bedhead looks better on a truly gorgeous woman.

Taking a look at one hobbyist fancy for motorcycle fans, the Rat Bike phenomenon, what does it take to own AND keep one (or two) running?  Forever, if you please.

King of Rats?

A rat bike is any motorcycle in good to crappy condition--one that just STILL RUNS.  They look like  you don’t really care how they look--just as long as they can get you wherever you point them to.

Bike hobbyists who love to tinker, care dearly for their precious-ugly, rat bikes like it were their lifeline.  And for some they are.  Because you just can't go anywhere if your bike conks out.  They also don't stand out to highway robbers looking for a fast score--selling off your bike in the boondocks so the law can;t find it.  Rat bike lovers can do anything to keep their motorcycle up and running: from duct tape to dubious mechanical rigs to make up for unavailable or out-of-production spare parts. 

Rat bike maintenance notoriously runs to the cheap and next for nothing, but in western countries, as long as legal requirements are met for road safety and emissions--the bike is a good ride.  Not the death trap that it looks or sounds like. 

Looking precious in its own worn down and weathered
black matte paint job:  Rat Bikes

Some rat bikes ARE modified for style than for lack of parts of money to maintain the machine properly. Rat King Cycles is a renown ratbike custom rebuilder who, for a premium, will convert any model street bike into a stylized and grunge-worthy Rat Bike--the owner Scott Caraboolad himself prides himself in making bikes prudish riders would hate, and that's saying a lot--just look at his outre stylized Rat Bike design and you know you want your Rat Bike to look just like that!

Some motorcycle hobbyists may want their second hand rider converted into a survival bike and so they take them apart and put in parts that match but aren't part of the original or stock make--and paint them in as shabby a color as they can find--matte black gunmetal or camo military style.

This RatBike belongs to a female rat bike enthusiast calling
herself RatBike Queen who has a You Tube series on how to
customize and maintain rat bikes.

The soul of a true rat bike hobbyist is keeping his ride on the road for the maximum amount of time while spending as little as possible on it.  When the bike breaks down, parts that were not designed to fit the model can be used as substitutes and sometimes work better.  'Rat bike' was coined by custom motorbike magazines and the monicker stcuk to any roadster, even cars modified to look grungy yet are road worthy and can even race the best of them.

Purists among rat bike hobbyists may call some motorcycle rebuilders who customize perfectly functional rides into a rat bike as 'fake rats,' because the look is made just for show.  But that shouldn't bother hobbyists who want their rigs to look good now as Rat Bikes, than wait 5 years for their bike to break down before making them look amazing and grunge.

Image Credit:  Michael Lichter photo from website for review purposes only
Rat King Cycles is a premium custom rebuilder of Rat Bikes.

What also guides a Rat Bike enthusiast is the focus on functionality and practicality, as long as the bike rides ably with speed in all road situations, this becomes more important than the power to zip around like a bullet but only on a racetrack, and never safely in urban riding or country riding conditions.  Ratbikers are also impressed by bikes maintained for years off low-cost fixer-upper resourcefulness over brand new spanking chrome and paint jobs.  As many Filipinos love to ride motorcycles, and even spend good money to at least own a good bike, try to own at least one rat bike in your riding career. They grow on you.  Last forever.  And are sexy like Camilla Belle in the movie, 10,000 BC. 


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