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RK-S

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 the idea.

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 2011.

None too shabby, huh?

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