I’m sure most people have definite ideas about what makes
a custom bike builder, and I’m equally certain that most of
you wouldn’t think that training as a barber was the perfect
background for someone thinking of knocking up radical customs.
Well I’m sorry to tell you, you’re wrong. Personally,
I think there must be something very strange in the air at the barber’s
shop owned by Rafik Kaissi. How else would you explain the bike
that brought him to people’s attention a few years back?
The bike in question featured a frame that’d been built to
look like it was made from massively over-sized sections of industrial
drive chain. And if that wasn’t mad enough, in order to show
off the frame detail the rider had to carry the petrol tank, a converted
brass fire extinguisher, on their back.
Known as the ‘Chain Bike’, it was also directly responsible
for the bike you see here. The Chain Bike made its debut at the
World Championship of Custom Bike Building back in 2009, and it
was while driving back home to Texas from Sturgis after the show
that Rafik started to think about a new build. “I did a lot
of thinking on that drive about creating a new style, a new design.
Once the idea popped into my head it was a challenge to see if I
could make it work.”
The idea Rafik wanted to make work was to breakaway from the regular
frame configuration and yet still have something that looked like
a bike. The first step was to get the tubing bent up for the frame.
Now while getting hold of 3.5-inch diameter stainless steel tube
might be fairly easy, getting it bent into an S shape is less so.
Let’s face it, it’s not the sort of thing you could
easily do with a regular tube bender in your shed - as it turns
out, it’s not the sort of thing a specialist could do either!
The specialist to whom Rafik took his design to bend the tube for
him, following the wire template Rafik had prepared, needed so much
force to bend such a big piece of tube that he bent it too far,
and when Rafik asked him to do it again, he was told he could have
the original attempt free of charge so long as he left and never
darkened his door again… such was the trauma of trying to
get the job right.
Now, while most people would look on this as a major setback,
maybe even shelving the idea, Rafik isn’t most people. He
took the lovely bent tube away and had a think. Having paid for
it, he was damn sure he was going to use it.
His solution was to simply cut it into pieces to make it work the
way he wanted. Chopping it up also meant he was able to segment
the tube, making the middle section a bolt-in petrol tank. Sticking
with the idea of making the frame do more than just provide a place
to hang the motor off, Rafik took an extra section of his fat tube
to not only mount the headstock and front motor mounts but also
carry the engine’s oil.
Now he’s a bit of a smart bloke is Rafik and he realised
that not only would that big fat tube block a fair bit of cool air
getting to the motor, it would also mean the oil would be getting
a touch warm being so close to the front cylinder. His cunningly
simple solution was to cut a bunch of holes through the tube and
weld smaller bits of tube in to allow cold air to flow through;
cooling the oil and the motor at the same time.
Just to be different the plugs for both the petrol and oil tanks
are massive Allen head bolts - such a simple idea I’m surprised
no one has done it before. Then again, you need to carry an equally
big Allen key around when you go to the petrol station so maybe
that’s why I’ve never seen it done before.
Now let’s face it, bolting an old pair of sports bike forks
up to the front of such a mad looking frame just wouldn’t
cut the mustard, now would it? Yep, that’s what Rafik thought
too, so he started bending more bits of tube to make a single-sided
front end that follows the same lines as the frame. To keep it all
nice and swoopy, a custom leaf spring was bent into shape and hung
off the ‘bars. Those bars also feature some trick grips; he
started with a length of hexagonal stainless steel bar and began
twisting it along its length, and then it was wrapped around the
‘bars to make the grips. The same twisty stainless was then
used to finish off all the edges on the bike, like the wheel hubs,
engine mounts, velocity stack, exhaust pipe caps… you get
Okay, so the RK-S may not be the most practical of rides bu, like
all the other machines entered into the AMD World Championship of
Custom Bike Building, it was seen to be ridden before it was entered
in the show, so it does go and stop and turn; and people with far
more knowledge of these things than me (in other words his fellow
competitors) voted the bike the fifth best custom in the World in
None too shabby, huh?
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