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On a spring and a prayer

Bike design, it’s fairly simple isn’t it? You start with a frame to hold the engine and then, if you’re the sophisticated type, you bolt a swingarm and some form of shock absorber to the rear.

Or you can keep it simple and go with a hardtail. At the front a set of simple telescopic forks will suffice for most people, but old school folks can substitute a springer or girder fork at this point for the sake of authenticity. That’s it basically, isn’t it?

Okay, so we’re all clear on that one, aren’t we? The only problem is, there are people out there who come from places like America. Those strange folks from over the Atlantic don’t really seem to understand these simple design ideas. One in particular goes by the name of Rafik Kaissi. He owns of RK Concepts and the type of guy who enters bikes in the World Championship of Custom Bike Building in order to publicise his shop.

If you’ve spent any amount of time on t’interweb, then you’ll have seen the type of bikes that get entered in the Championship and appreciate that it takes something a bit special to get noticed. Something special in Rafik’s case means ignoring those basic outlines that I told you about at the start. Well, okay, not quite ignoring the rules, but definitely messing about with them.
We’ll start with the ‘frame’ which, as we all know, needs to be nice and firm to keep everything in place… or not, in this case, as Rafik went the opposite way. Why use nice conventional tubing when you can bend a piece of leaf spring material into a shape suitable to hang a pair of wheels and a motor from?

Still, if you’re going to use a leaf spring as a frame you don’t need to worry about making anything complicated like regular suspension. However, just to keep things nice and symmetrical Rafik did use flat steel bar to build the ‘swingarm’ and ‘forks’, both to the same basic design.

While Rafik usually uses Harley motors in his custom builds, would you want to drop a big V-twin into a frame like this? Me neither. Fortunately, Rafik thinks the same way (I guess he’s not completely mad then…) and instead found himself a 450cc single from a Yamaha YZF.

Sticking with the off-road theme of the Yammy motor he snapped up a pair of 19-inch spoked wheels and wrapped some Michelin Enduro Competition tyres around them. Yes, I know a proper off road bike would run a 17-inch wheel at the back but seriously, would you want to take this bike off road?

Due to the fact that this bike isn’t going to go off road, Rafik felt confident in only putting a brake on the back wheel - just confuse people, the right-hand lever on the ‘bars is actually for that brake. Well it makes sense really, when you think about it; would you want to stamp on a foot-operated brake lever if it was mounted to a frame made from a piece of leaf spring?

Given the frankly bonkers design of the rest of the bike, bolting an aftermarket Mustang or Sportster-style tank on just wouldn’t have cut the mustard, would it? Come to think of it, how would you bolt a regular petrol tank onto this bike? Fortunately, Rafik knows a few hot rodders and was aware of their fondness for using Hildebrandt beehive oil filters on their builds, so he modified one to carry the petrol. Okay, so the capacity may not be that great but it’s at least in the right place - on one of his previous builds Rafik converted an old fire extinguisher to work as the fuel tank and carried it like a backpack!

Maybe it was such sensibilities as putting the petrol tank in approximately the right place this time that convinced his fellow competitors at the 2011 World Championship of Custom Bike Building in Sturgis to place the Spring third in the Performance Custom class. Then again the rest of the bike could never be described as sensible, so maybe it recognition of someone willing to not only think outside of the box, but to stamp all over the box and throw it away…

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