Now here we have a rat-bike of another color.
I had been thinking lately about the mainstreaming of the rat-bike aesthetic. The Bonneville Black is one of Triumph's best selling bikes (the 2009 blacks are already sold out in the US), Harley's Nightster is getting quasi-favorable reviews even in the usually rabidly anti-cruiser motorcycle press, and matte black helmets are on every powersport dealer's shelves. Matte black is the new black.
I'm not sure what is causing the virulence of this aesthetic, though I have some theories. The biker look as understood by the public and by bikers themselves, is fraught with a paradoxical search for authenticity as Sartre would have defined it. Or as a high school cynic might say, "everybody's trying to conform to the same image of non-conformity." It's hard to feel like a unique rebel in your black leather on your chromed steed, when your doctor, lawyer and accountant are all doing the same thing, and going to Sturgis for their vacation.
As the outlaw biker on "custom" ride becomes more and more institutionalized, more chrome doo-hickeys and airbrushed flames seem less like ways of expressing your individuality and setting yourself apart from the pack, and more like attempts to fit in. The ratbike aesthetic thumbs it's that these conventions. It's not about a cherry show bike that is trailered to rallys, but a functional daily rider...
OK, so I could rant and deconstruct these aesthetics for pages, but you get the point. What I like about ratbikes, is what I like about powered two-wheelers: They are a means to living on your own terms. They are everything you need, and nothing you don't. They have that Millenium Falcon appeal, a look that provokes intergalactic princesses to reassess you and say, "You came on that? You're braver than I thought!"
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So anyway, I found this picture while prowling ratbike.org. As an added bonus, the owner of this gorgeous eye-sore, also has one of the most fantastic ride-reports ever posted over on ADVRider. It's titled Detroit to San Diego, Zen and the art of motorcycle negligence, and that title alone should be enough to let you know you are in for treat. The illustrious Mr. Vermin (as he is known on ADVRider, has as unique a way with words as he does with cycle customization. Here are just a few choice tidbits from the saga of his journey with his 13 year old son:
I abbreviated/eliminated my instrument cluster when my speedo broke. The logic being that I had not been pulled over for speeding since 1987 and even then I had a speedo so it didn't help. Bye Bye speedo. Tach who needs a tack it is a Honda twist the handle until the noise quits getting higher there is your redline. A side benefit of this arrangement was that without a temp. gauge it would not overheat. I would have liked to have kept the gas gauge but my mallot was not that precise.
I personally enjoy English guys they seem to have a reasonable level of contempt for all carbon based life forms.
As we where dismounting in the viewing area of delicate arch, amongst the rabble, a young guy struck up a conversation and pointed out how our trip was like Pirsigs in zen and the art of motorcycle maintainence. It made me wonder, what came first my desire to ramble and include my son or the book. I know that when I read the book originally as a teen it resonated deep in me. I reread the book this summer and it still makes me want to be a better person and focus on “quality” in everything I do.
I tell the guys girlfriend that the only difference between the books main character Phaedrus and myself is that I am neither brilliant, tortured or insane, she looks at my bike and there is an uncomfortable silence.
Before this trip my friend maryjane also noted the similarities between Phaedrus’s journey and mine, the only difference is his insurance covered electroshock therapy.
told Drifter, the worse a situation gets on the road the better it feels when it stops. I am afraid that this discomfort/relief cycle is missing in today’s children’s lives. The phrase “it’s all good “ cropped up recently and it bothered me. I think my main problem with that state of mind is that it robs the kids of the chance to grow through conquering adversity. It’s not all good, and in order to be great you have to understand how bad it can be. Having said that I have run Drifter through the paces and I haven’t heard one complaint yet, this boy is made of good stuff.
Drifter is the handle which Vermin's spawn goes by, and he has his rendition of the trip up on ADVRider. I highly recommend reading both.