Rad Rat Bikes That Scream Their Own Style

Sometimes style speaks softly...sometimes it screams

Cecil Seaman's Rat Bike Harley-Davidson Sportster and sidecar
Cecil Seaman and his '81 Harley-Davidson Sportster and homebuilt sidecar.Cruiser

Self-expression is a delicate intention. Social constraints often muffle the voice that would be our own, or remix it into something benignly acceptable. Sure we strive to make personal statements with our achievements and acquisitions, but in truth, our boundaries are preset. We seek comfort in convention. Well, most of us do, anyway.

Rat bikes are a superb example of dismissed inhibition. To be dubbed such, a motorcycle must have about it an air of chaos. There are no rules (although cleaning is generally frowned upon). A rat bike does not merely reflect the singularity of its rider, though. It’s a culmination of all the places it has been and the people who have donated to it. Each bike is a two-wheeled time capsule…a rolling museum.

Perhaps it’s reverse snobbery, this blatant commotion. Or, a conscious choice to swim freely from the pressure of trends. Certainly it’s an art form—eccentric, undulating and original. Here are a few rat bikes that stopped us in our tracks.

Meet Cecil Seaman (above) of Washington, Ohio, and his plaster-of-Paris princess, "Frieda." Seaman has more than 1000 baubles glued, wired, riveted or welded to his '81 Harley-Davidson Sportster and homebuilt sidecar, and he recalls the origin of every single one. "A rat bike isn't something you can make," he says. "It just happens. One day you go outside and look at your bike and say, 'Man, that's a piece of s**t.' It just goes from there."

Smitty's 1946 H-D Knucklehead.
Smitty's 1946 H-D Knucklehead.Cruiser
Smitty - rat bike owner
"I try to put things on as good as I can—especially the good stuff that I get. But I have lost some good stuff...you just hope another rat bike man picks it up." -Smitty, Salt Lick, KentuckyCruiser
Free Willi's 1942 H-D WLA.
Free Willi's 1942 H-D WLA.Cruiser
Free Willi Rat bike owner
"It isn't the proof only for beauty, but for the heart as importantly. Would you kill your wife only because she gets old?" -Free Willi, Wofegg, GermanyCruiser
EZ Rat's 650 Triumph Tiger
EZ Rat's 1970 650 Triumph Tiger.Cruiser
EZ Rat Rat bike owner
"I enjoy it every bit as much as I enjoyed my shiny, chrome one. It's constantly evolving. Three months later it's a different bike than it was before." -EZ Rat, St. Petersburg, FloridaCruiser
Bruce Biscorner's 1981 Honda GL500.
Bruce Biscorner's 1981 Honda GL500.Cruiser
Bruce Biscorner rat bike owner
"I'm a roofer...a carpenter. Everything in my job has to be precise, straight, measured. That's why I like the GL. I don't put anything on straight." -Bruce Biscorner, Marine City, MissouriCruiser