Growing up in Lebanon I’ve always enjoyed cars and bikes and really loved to ride. I had my first bike at 13 years old. It was a green Honda 70XL which I ended up painting it black. My second bike was a Honda 350XL then I moved on to a Suzuki 1000GS when I was 16.
Coming from an artistic family with whom my father was a renown artist, drawing is something that I always took an interest in and used this to express my ideas. I eventually moved to the states and had several different occupations until I decided to go to barber school.
After schooling I jumped right into owning my own barber shop. In 1994 I realized my true passion in life was building bikes. I would always attend shows and was bored of seeing the same bikes with different paint jobs and not much creativity. That’s what drove me to designing and building my own concepts.
Rafik and his build Vie a Vie
Here is my talk with Rafik.
Rafik : Since I was kid I was always into motorcycles and always wanted to do something different I refused to ride the bike the way it was, I always wanted to customize it, make it look different, wanted to cut the exhausts, make it louder and the paint scheme had to be black so even if it was different color i would spray it all black. Well even though it wasn’t a professional paint job i like the bikes in black, but at that time it did not matter.
As I was growing motorcycles were all around and when I saw the movie “ Mad Max “ that inspired me to make something raw, something mechanical but the priority was always to create something that was very very raw. Like for e.g. if the world ends you just grab whatever you can and that’s really what I wanted to make Raw.
I don’t like to paint my bikes, because they cover my work, my craftsmanship. This is my real inspiration.
2.Process of building his art.
Rafik : Process of building the motorcycle starts with an idea and later on I draw the sketch.
When I feel like the idea and sketch are as per my expectation then he makes the full-size cutout of foam or cardboard.
From then on the real process of building custom starts, then I put on tires, motor. I work from the way motor out. Motor comes first, then chassis and then the wheels and what I have in my mind. This are steps to build
But throughout this process the build keeps on changing .Almost 80% but the main idea is always present .If any part doesn’t go with the flow of the bike I replace that part. So yes there are changes throughout the build.
Rafik : The RKS was hard to build. The RKS was designed uneven; there was nothing straight about it. Everything was curvy. I wanted to push myself to all the challenges .That was built without motorcycle jig. I had build it with laser beam, measuring. It was the toughest bike to build till date. But the end result was flawless custom and I look at it every day and I am blown away.
Rafik : I don’t try to sell the bike and I have always had people approached me about they don’t know how to ask the question. They have always scared me to ask the question “How Much”?. If the guy is really interested he won’t care to ask the question of “How Much”.
So I have had couple of people come to me and showed and they literally said I don’t care How Much. Let’s meet and talk and that’s how it happens. There was guy in Dallas “ A Collector” that saw my bike at the show and I wasn’t even at the show. So he got my number from my website and called me and when he called me I dint event think he was legit guy.When he showed upon my door that’s when I took him seriously and he end up buying three bikes from me.
5.Is Electric Motorcycle competitor to Custom Motorcycle?
Rafik : Mix Technology with Custom Bike I also have a design drawn everything is ready. I just need to finish by five builds over here and then I will be ready to start on that one. I work alone its really tough to finish the projects fast enough so.On an average it takes me about 6 months to build the bike. So I try to do 2 bikes a year. So it’s tough but I am doing four bikes at the same bike. But I definitely consider electric motor in my upcoming build.
6.In Five Years.
Rafik : I would like to see myself doing the same thing, getting paid big bucks and actually the ultimate goal is to get these bikes in the movies, people can see them and that would be really amazing. That’s the goal.
7.On making your own custom parts?
Rafik : That’s a great question and I get people asking me about the same what about making design parts.
I don’t know why but I don’t want to duplicate even bike. Once I am done with the bike and I sell it .People say oh sale it and build the same like it. I just can’t do another one.
As an artist that’s the last thing you want to do it, make two copies of your work. So I can’t build the same bike twice and I definitely know that I can’t make the parts twice. So if somebody comes to me and says to design parts for them. I don’t have a problem with that. The only thing is I can’t make the same parts twice.
If you look at his work the builds that he think, plan and brings into production are not only artistic but they are very very different from the traditional builds that you see in normal day to day life.Every detail that is been put in the build is very much thought upon.Ideally such builds requires strong thought process characterized with patience.
The work is rare piece of art by Rafik motivated with passion and zeal to make something different.Such builds do remain fresh in your mind for years to come as it is unique and rare to see.