Daytona Knucklehead Rat Bike

You see them in rallies and competing for trophies in bike shows. I love rat bikes and count several owners among my friends. On this picture you can see Smitty posing on his 1944 Harley Knucklehead participating to its 29th Daytona Bike Week! Smitty and I know each other since 10 years, traveled the European tour together, and as you can see we went in very different directions to express our love for motorcycles. So, what is the definition of a rat bike? A motorcycle that over time has fallen apart but been kept on the road and maintained for next to nothing. They appeared in the 70’s and the name rat bike was invented by motorcycle magazines. You don’t build a rat bike (there is a trend to customize bikes into rat bikes, but in this case they are classified as “survival bikes”). Smitty states that a pure rat bike is a motorcycle that you let evolve. What you see decorating them is most often souvenirs from the road (yes, they run and are used for long trips) and little gifts of friendship given to the owner. Rat bike owners are always very interesting characters and talking to them about the road is a very enriching experience. I asked Smitty how cops react when they see one down the street. He told me that he never gets a ticket because they don’t know how to handle such bikes. And if you wonder how these rat bikes are judged in bike shows, I can tell you that extra points are given per junk part and oil stain under them while standing still for the public to admire.  They are part of our motorcycle history and as such deserve our respect..             

10 Responses to “Daytona Knucklehead Rat Bike”

  1. 1 Matt Server Mar 11th, 2007 at 2:28 pm

    I want to ride one because I always have problems with cops!

  2. 2 Steve Johnson Mar 12th, 2007 at 1:58 am

    I like rat bikes too, but I don’t like them when their owners stick a bunch of junk that has no other purpose but for “decoration”. I like rat bikes when they contain only the same things you’d expect to find on a bike (bags, seat, sissy bar, horn, suicide shifter, etc.)

    If a rat bike was judged based on how much junk you can fix on to it, then it becomes nothing more than a clutter contest.

  3. 3 DJ Chopper God Mar 12th, 2007 at 7:49 am

    Amen they suck!!! Even my freind Miles Squire doesn’t have that much STUFF hanging on his bike and he’s logged more miles than just about, if not anyone. I don’t get it but whatever floats yer boat or bike. Kinda like a post-apocalyptic vision of the future. I bet they’re hella great at fixing bikes though!!!

  4. 4 Peter Smith Mar 12th, 2007 at 8:48 am

    Hey, DJ. People ride what they want. It’s true that most rat bikes are running. They all leak oil though. You don’t change oil. You just refill. I prefer rat bikes to survival bikes (the ones customized to look like a rat bike) because rat bikes have a past, an history. Their owners are quite different, too. Talk to them and they will tell you great biker stories.

  5. 5 DJ Chopper God Mar 12th, 2007 at 10:21 am

    All good points, and you are right those guys do have great stories. Definitely true road warriors so no spite intended. I just don’t get all the junk hanging nor the idea of them competing. But not being a big competitor, I guess I’d be the last to understand it. I’m the first to fall for a leaky old bike though. Many kids I know out this way have shovels and the like that leak all over and none of the locals understand why I love those bikes and the guys who ride them. One of my buds has all of $500 wrapped up in his and the other $1500. I still think they (rat bikes) look like a junk heap from an A-bomb afterlife, but I do respect the guys who ride them. Guess I was just stirring up the pot to get some comments going. People do ride what they want & more power to em!!! Ride safe Pete. All the best, the DJ.

  6. 6 Peter Smith Mar 12th, 2007 at 10:32 am

    Heard that in Daytona some magazines were shooting pics of Cyril on a rat bike. A joke I guess. I know that cops never stop/ticket rat bikes. They could…They are so old that EPA rules don’t apply. Ha, ha.

  7. 7 ChopperChick Mar 12th, 2007 at 11:16 am

    You have to give them props for being able to ride those things. Kind of scary to me, like something might come loose, catch in a wheel or something and take you down.

  8. 8 sandie Mar 15th, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    I like the stories the guys who ride the rat bikes have to tell. Most of these guys were riding before I was born. I am surprised there is not some kind of contest…….maybe there is and I just have not seen or read about it. I have to agree with Chopperchick, I’d be afraid that something would get caught someplace it should not be and hense a spill. It would be cool to talk to these guys who have them and write a book. You have to admit, it takes a special sort of person to ride one. I am with DJCHOPPER GOD they look like a heap of junk but each to their own.

  9. 9 Brad Mar 15th, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    They compete in shows. There is a Rat class in the Rat’s Hole Show.

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Cyril Huze