A look at Bobber and Chopper Motorcycles
Author: Ellaspede Date Posted:1 May 2014
If you're keen on building yourself a custom Bobber or Chopper motorcyle, we've got you covered. Here's a short history of these utilitarian beauties and a list of all the sources necessary to help you on your journey.
Like most custom motorcycles the Bobber represents its owners' personality, their needs, and their style. With an emphasis on utilitarianism, these are the ideal bike for those on a budget who need a sharp machine to get them from A to B without looking like every other guy on the road. Cruise on through the article below to find out what makes a Bobber a Bobber, the rich history of these bikes, and how you can get started on your own.
When American soldiers returned from the Second World War in Europe they had been freshly exposed to the lighter, more manoeuvrable motorcycles of their northern Allies, and through their time in the military many had developed considerable mechanical skills.
These circumstances helped to contribute to one of the most significant motorcycle style developments of the 20th century, as these former soldiers intended to transfer the characteristics of the European machines to those on their home turf.
With the key emphasis on being to keep their bikes on the road for the smallest possible cost, whilst improving speed and maneuverability, bike owners would remove as many components as possible from their vehicles. Beginning with the front fender and a significantly shortened rear fender, eventually handlebars were altered, headlights, and even mirrors were removed, and seats were made as small and light as possible. Even chrome components were discarded due to their unnecessary weight.
This style continued to grow in popularity throughout the 1940's and 50's and played a significant role in the aesthetic development of Harley-Davidson motorcycles of the era and today. By the end of the Vietnam war, returning servicemen continued to implement ideas developed overseas which eventually led to the development of the Chopper; in essence the brash younger brother of the more established Bobber.
Although they share a penchant for minimalism, the Bobber and Chopper part ways when it comes to manipulation of the bike frame. Whilst the former keeps the frame in tact, Choppers earned their name from their owners' desire to cut and weld the bikes' frame to suit their needs. Generally Choppers favour flair far more than Bobbers, with chrome parts included, heavy Gorilla bars, and elongated forks. It is however, important to remember that these days the lines between Bobber and Chopper are very blurry. It's very common to find a Bobber that sacrifices weight for some of the the more aggressive aesthetics of a Chopper.
This melding of styles has increased significantly since the initial development of the Bobber, as bike design shifted from the American hard tail to suspended models, bikes from all over the world began to receive the Bobber treatment, and with that, more powerful motorcycles were customized to fit into this category. With increased power became a diminished need for lightweight bikes, and while many have adopted the Bobber aesthetic, many don't take the issue of weight as seriously.
If you're looking to build yourself a custom Bobber, it's as simple as removing everything you don't absolutely need on the bike in the search to shave just a few more grams off its overall heft. This is also what makes a custom Bobber such an individual bike, as it represents the foundational needs of its owner entirely. Have a read of the links below to find out more about the history of these 'form follows function' machines, get some inspiration, and learn how to build your own from pretty much any bike you can think of.
- USA Bobbers: The History of the Bobber Motorcycle
- Bobber Inspiration
- Tips for Building a Custom Bobber Motorcycle
- Custom-Choppers-Guide: How to Build a Bobber
There's also a few books out there on the subject, such as Kevin Baas's book, link below.