Uniquely amongst the custom bike scene, the bratstyle can be traced to one particular builder. Go Takamine (based originally in Japan but now located in the US) opened his custom bike shop in Japan called Brat Style in the late 90’s. Whilst he also established his name building old school Harley bobbers, his work and distinct design language on mid and small Japanese bikes became popular and struck a chord, not only in Japan but around the world.
And so the bratstyle bike was born, creating bikes that didn’t cost that much to make and retained most of their rideability. Thanks to the internet the world quickly adopted (or perhaps hijacked) this style with its minimalist leanings.
- As with cafe racers, the adage ‘less is more’ certainly applies. Brat style bikes are also all about stripping off (or changing) anything that is not necessary. The phrase ‘dark, low, mean and cheap’ is often used to describe a bratstyle.
- No clip-ons here! Bratstyle bikes have a higher steering set-up, with mini-apes or motocross style bars used, giving a more upright riding position. Small diameter headlights are used.
- A flat, slab style seat that allows 2-up riding is a very prevalent styling cue.
- Bikes with a low to medium height stance tend to work best.
- Fenders are bobbed (or often removed entirely on the front) and fairings and chrome are ditched. Blacked out mostly everything is the way to go with your paint scheme and bratstyle bikes tend to have a ‘rough and ready’ look to them.
- As with a café racer, easy and cheap exhaust changes are made with reverse cone or torpedo style mufflers often used and the pipes generally slung low under the engine. Heavy restricted OEM airboxes are usually ditched in favor of pod filter style intakes.
- OEM tanks are usually kept, or if a particularly odd shape, swapped for smaller vintage and cleaner lines versions.
- Wheels can be spoked or cast as the OEM wheels are generally retained, especially on cheaper DIY builds.
- Sprung suspension is kept, no hard tails in sight! Anything extraneous that reduces weight is normally removed. Alterations to the frame and other bikes are kept to minimum to keep the cost down
As you would imagine for a style that has only been around for 20 years, ‘traditional’ has a limited interpretation. As it’s a style that can be overlaid on almost any road going bike, but there are some favourites of the custom builders out there.
Yamaha’s XS series, Kawaski’s W series, Honda’s CB’s make common appearances. Older Harleys and Indians are also very popular.
Like the streetfighter style, no OEM has particularly latched onto bratstyle and in that sense, there are no modern interpretations. However, it is style that continually comes out pf many custom builders workshops, so there is a never ending stream of examples, that cover all types and ages of bikes, with newer models out on the market continually getting the bratstyle treatment.
Go Takamine himself continues to pump out all number of bratstyle bikes, keeping himself forefront of the style that he created.