What is a Survival bike?
Survival bikes are usually lumped in the same category as rat bikes, but are different stylistically. The lines here seem a bit blurred since sometimes they are referred to as matte black rats and they are usually included in rat bike shows.
The idea for these futuristic, matte black motorcycles is the to create a bike that is the polar opposite of stock commercial motorcycles with bright paint colors and shiny chrome. They look a little militant and appear to be heavily influenced by the Mad Max (and maybe even the Alien) movies. You half-expect to see a shotgun mount on there somewhere. They are usually chopped, sometimes a larger tank is added, the exhaust is heavily modified and everything is blacked out with flat black paint–all done as inexpensively as possible. The result is a menacing, post-apocalyptic, bad-ass looking ride.
Traditional rat bikes are motorcycles that are never washed and over time, have fallen apart but been kept on the road and maintained as cheaply as possible. This low maintenance approach results in a distressed appearance, giving the bike a natural patina (read: rust).
In recent times there seems to be a trend of deliberately customizing motorcycles into rats. But that’s a discussion for a different day.
Mad Max: The influence on a motorcycle subculture
First of all, if you’ve never seen the Mad Max movies, I suggest you add these to your Netflix queue, pronto. They are definitely worth watching (uh, with the exception of Thunderdome), the second movie is worth it for the awesome car chase alone. Not to mention that Mad Max heavily influenced many movies that followed and spawned a subculture of motorcycle customization.
Mad Max was a low-budget, 1979 movie starring Mel Gibson (Max), set in a dystopian, future Australia where a vicious biker gangs try their hardest to defy authority. Max Rockatansky is a husband, father and cop who goes mad and turns into the ultimate avenger after his best friend, wife and baby are killed.
The motorcycles that appear in the movie are 1977 Kawasaki KZ1000s, all modified in appearance to outfit the Toe-cutter gang and the cop bike in the movie.
The Road Warrior was the 1981 sequel, where Max’s world has become a post-apocalyptic Australian wasteland. Max is a survivalist loner that agrees to help small group of honest people running a remote oil refinery. He protects them from the bike gang that is terrorizing them whilst transporting their entire fuel supply to safety.
The main biker-baddie is riding a a Kawasaki Z-1 900 or 1000 (which looks like a 1981 110cc Suzuki Katana, which was new at the time). You can get a better view of it in the video of the movie trailer below.
Survival bikes influencing production bikes?
I got the idea for this post when I wrote the recent post Flat black is the new chrome. While I do like flat black paint jobs on the new factory customs, I found it interesting that the major companies are drawing so heavily from this trend. One could argue to an extent that even some of the old school style bobbers might have some influence as well.
Want to build your own survival bike?
So, now you think you might want to create your own survival bike because they’re so F-ing cool? Well, here’s some inspiration and a high level how-to for you to use as reference.
Here’s a basic, video style-guide to use as a starting point.
And some photos:
And some sites to check out:
I have yet to see a survival bike rolling out on the streets in the wild, but if I did I might just bamboozle whoever is riding it and take it from them!