Thursday, June 01, 2006

Rat Bikes

Rat Bikes Are No-Nonsense.

Motorcycles? Sure - they use less fuel than cars, and motorcycles are easier to maneuver, park etc. But, deep down, the True Secret is: Motorcycles Are Fun. That's it! That's why we ride them, all the rest is just so much rationalizing. And Ratbikes are the ultimate distilled evolution of motorcycling: No Bullsh*t involved. Just do the minimum to keep them healthy and Ride. Let your bike wear it's visual history with pride. No time consuming cleaning, washing, polishing, adding shiny parts that do nothing. None of that, forget about it! Embrace The Pure and Essential Essence of Riding - Ride A Ratbike!


If you ask a person on the street what a biker is, he or she will inevitably describe a guy sporting a ZZ Top beard and beer gut, riding a chromed-out Harley chopper. Or this person might offer a portrait of sportbikers, guys on high-performance Japanese bikes with cryptic alphanumeric designations wrapped in cocoons of bright plastic, often wearing shorts and tennies. Somewhere between these two extremes, though, a new urban motorcycle culture has formed, and at its center is the rat bike.

"A rat bike generally means any motorcycle that is in a shitty order of repair but is still being ridden by some broke fuck," says Paul, a biker from San Francisco via England, New York City, Arizona, and parts in between. "It's got to be kind of dirty and old and decrepit. It could be your girlfriend's CB 750, covered in stickers and paint, with mismatching bodywork. It could be your buddy's F2 ex-race bike – 'Only raced once, guv'ner, honest' – with no bodywork and so many scratches and dings on it that [you can tell] he hasn't got loads of money."

"Everybody gets their bikes from some crashed squid motherfucker." Translation: rats are scavengers, living off the superfluity of the wasteful classes, surviving at street level on their wits.

"The whole symbology of the Rats was kind of a religion for me," Slick says. "Here's this life of salvage that we've made. Nothing was good enough for anyone else, but it was always good enough for us to fix, then beat the shit out of until it's gone, so it doesn't last anymore, then step up and get the next good thing, you know?

"All those guys up at the Wall [a meeting spot for racer types in Tilden] had full leathers and bright sportbikes, and all the Harley guys were racist backwards hicks. But all my friends rode motorcycles, and we all had our own style of motorcycles, which was to paint 'em flat black and trick 'em out the way we do. Not putting money into anything to make 'em look fancy, just putting money into souping them up, otherwise letting them go to hell. Always repairing things with JB Weld and duct tape. Baling wire. And from there it just escalated."

But unlike streetfighters, super motards, and standards, a rat isn't pretty. At least not in a conventional way: it has a face only a mother can love, the vehicular equivalent of a droopy-jowled bulldog or clipped-eared pit bull. The true rat was born of economics: if you're a bar back or motorcycle messenger, living in a city with one of the highest rent rates in the world, what can you do to keep your bike on the road? You may not be from the ghetto, white boy, but you live there now, and the bike under your haunches is a testament to urban survival.

(snippets -- full article at Rat Bikes

No comments: