Many people out there enjoy riding motorcycles. Sure, some just want to have a bike that is reliable and will get you from point A to B. But most of us are interested in looks, the feeling of riding, maybe even racing!
However, not all motorcyclists are aware of what a bobber motorcycle is. To be honest, I’ve been riding for a while and didn’t even know what they were until recently! So what is a bobber motorcycle?
A bobber motorcycle is one that is typically stripped down with all unnecessary parts removed or replaced with something cheaper or more suited for the rider’s needs. This usually means removing items like mirrors, headlights, turn signals, saddlebags, and other non-essential accessories which can weigh down the vehicle as well as make it cost more money to run.
It seems as there is this whole sub-niche of bobber motorcycles that I didn’t even know about, and I’m excited to explore because they really do look good. In this article let’s take a look at what is a bobber motorcycle, some of the most iconic models, a brief history lesson, building your own bobber motorcycle, and different types you’ll come across.
What is a bobber motorcycle?
A bobber motorcycle is a special type of custom-built motorcycle that emphasizes simplicity and bobber style. These custom motorcycles usually involve removing everything unnecessary and making it as light as possible.
This can mean many things, but generally, it’s to produce a “less is more” aesthetic where the eye is drawn towards the important parts. Whether your bobber motorcycle is old or new, it is the perfect combination of form and function.
The history of bobber motorcycles
Bobber motorcycles have been around for a long time. The history of bobbers is one that has been infused with American culture and tradition. Here’s a look at the history of this bobber style of motorcycle.
While the term “bobber” has often been used to describe any stripped down motorcycle, this term was coined in the 1940s to describe a specific bobber style of motorcycle.
A bobber is generally thought to be any model of a motorcycle with an exposed engine that has been stripped down as much as possible. Bobbers are customized bikes that are often built from older motorcycles that have been left neglected and not used for a long time before being given a second life as bobber motorcycles.
The first bobbers were built in the early 1940s, and again in the late 1930s, as American soldiers came home from World War II. Bobbers gained popularity after World War II because many of these veterans wanted to escape the restrictions of society and embrace the freedom associated with motorcycle riding.
With limited resources, no motorcycle parts and wartime restrictions against motorcycles, these veterans started building their own motorcycles. As the supply of old bikes dwindled, locals began piecing together any motorcycle they could find in order to build bobbers.
Some of the earliest bobber motorcycles were built by chopping down full-size Harley Davidson models and combining them with other older motorcycle pieces. These motorcycles were often called “combinations,” and they varied in their design.
Some of the motorcycles had only the frame and front forks chopped down, while others were built with a custom-made frame that was designed to expose as much of the engine as possible.
Shortened fenders and shortened seats contributed to its minimalist look. The bobber motorcycle soon became an iconic symbol of the American biker lifestyle.
Bobber motorcycles continued to gain popularity in the 1950s and 1960s as motorcycle technology progressed and parts became more readily available. The most popular bobber motorcycles would have to be a triumph bobber, indian scout bobber or a Harley Davidson bobber.
Today, bobbers are still popular with bike builders. They represent independence and self-expression through customization. The trend toward bobber building is growing because there are more options when it comes to finding vintage motorcycles.
Building a bobber motorcycle yourself
A lot of bikers decide to take on the project of building a bobber motorcycle themselves using what’s called ‘bobber kits’.A bobber kit allows you to transform your stock bike into a bobber bike. And motorcycle riders love it! Building these custom bikes is a very satisfying thing to do. It takes time, patience and most importantly – lots of practical experience.
Below is a very quick overview of how you can build a bobber from scratch, with an old bike you find second hand online!
Find an old motorcycle frame
First thing you need is an old motorcycle frame. It must have straight tubes with no rust at all. If you find a good one, then go and get it. If it’s too expensive, don’t buy it! Old bikes are not always the best bike. Often they’re for sale for a reason and you may end up spending more money on repairs than if you had bought a newer one.
If you can’t find an old frame (or decide not to buy one) go and ask your motorbike buddies. If they don’t want to give you their old frame (for free) make it a very appealing offer: for example, you can offer them some cash and beer!
Prepare the frame
It’s basically your job to make the motorcycle frame straight again. Start by dismantling it completely; take out any remaining engine parts (don’t sell them if you can’t get cash for them) polish the frame, sand it down and then paint it. Note that this should be done very carefully! You don’t want any rust or dirt left on the metal.
Install all suspension parts
Once you’ve got your bobber motorcycle frame ready, go ahead and install all suspension parts. These include:
– front fork (the headlight and some other parts may be needed for this)
– rear suspension (shock absorber)
– brake system (not applicable if you’re building a chopper motorcycle)
You can choose to use swing arm kit on your bobber, but it is very hard to find such kit these days. You can either use rear suspension or do it by yourself.
Once you have the suspension system in place, it’s time for brakes!
Install front and back brakes
Bobber motorcycles are generally stripped off all unnecessary parts to keep the weight down. This means that you won’t find an engine, so there will be no need for a disc brake. However, you can still use a drum brake or even both! The disk brakes are preferred though. If your motorcycle frame doesn’t have any holes to attach the brakes then drill some and fit them right in!
Fit engine parts
Now that you’ve got everything set up, it’s time to find an engine! You can either build your own engine or go and buy one. If you want a chopper motorcycle, then it’s easy: just get a V twin engine. However, if you don’t have any experience with engines, we highly recommend that you avoid building your own one – unless you’re really experienced at this!
Once you have the engine in your bobber, fit a carburetor and a few other parts. Now it’s ready for a test ride!
Build a seat (optional)
If you want to make your bobber motorcycle more comfortable, you can always build yourself an awesome seat. There are many easy tutorials on the internet that show you how to build a seat from scratch.
Now it’s time to get out there and have some serious fun! Bobber motorcycles are fast, loud and they’re the real deal when it comes to motorcycle cred! In fact, many of those guys have been building their own bobber motorcycles for years now, so they really know what they’re doing.
Advantages of a bobber motorcycle
One of the biggest reasons many motorcycle riders decide to create a bobber is because they want more of an old-school look for their bike. Bobbers are often associated with being part of the “old school” style that includes choppers but are typically considered to be slightly different because of the lack of extremely long forks and extended front ends.
I mean, really, looks are a big part of why someone wants a bobber motorcycle.
Another advantage of a bobber motorcycle is that it typically takes less effort to work on when compared to choppers. Because choppers are so long, it can be difficult for one person to access the engine without help, while bobbers are generally much shorter and don’t have as many complicated parts.
The third and final advantage, is they have a super loud roar. And dependant on who you ask, this is a pro or a con for bobber motorcycles.
Disadvantages of owning a bobber motorcycle
The biggest disadvantage of the bobber motorcycle is that they are typically not suitable for riding on rough terrain and lack a lot of features useful for everyday situations.
Many bobbers also come with low seats, which some don’t find comfortable.
Another disadvantage of owning a bobber, ironically, also one of the advantages, they’re loud. Really loud. Since they are stripped back, they don’t have any sound dampening. Whilst this is great on the open road, riding home at 1:00 am might wake up a few neighbors.