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John Landstrom on Bobbers & Choppers

A Talk with the Experts... has invited a number of motorcycle experts and Bobber artists to give their opinions and personal views on Bobbers, Choppers and other custom bikes. Not with the intent to find alignment (nothing lost if we do or if we don't) but rather to deepen the subject.

John Landstrom On this page we got Mr. John Landstrom from Norcross, Georgia , United States.

John is the owner of Blue Moon Cycle and is a true BMW guru. On top of that he has built quite a collection of great Harley and Indian Bobbers.

John: "Ok, maybe it's just my opinion but it seems to me like every sort of custom bike today is being called a Bobber. Bobbers don't have: raked frames, extended forks, ape hangers or saddlebags. Bobbers are basically stock bikes with parts removed, usually no front fender and a shortened back fender. No parts added to the bobber should be newer than the bike itself.

Now that I am off my soap box, here is a photo of my 1969 Harley FLH. Formerly a Nevada Highway Patrol bike, this girl is now living the wild life. Sometimes chrome does get you home..."

Click to go check out John's awesome 1969 Harley FLH Shovelhead Custom Bobber.

Besides the above 1969 FLH Shovelhead Bobber, we have also published John's 1956 Model KH Street Tracker and his 1947 FL Knucklehead Bobber.

John on Bobbers


John: "A stock motorcycle with parts removed for performance enhancement.

Before Bobbers there were "Cut Downs". In the 1920's Harley Twin Cam JDH frames were cut to make them shorter and lower to be more dirt track competitive.

As you know, "Bobber" is a term from the 1940's. I think the word was used then to describe Harleys and Indians that had parts removed to make them lighter and therefore better performing. So if you want to use the word "Bobber" in the old sense, it pertains to big heavy American touring bikes that were lightened in an attempt to keep them competitive with the lighter more nimble bikes coming from Europe. That's the "Old School Bobber" which appeals most to me.

Take a look at Lee Marvin's bike in the Wild One. He had to take off the fender and modify the exhaust, Brando was riding an import, that Triumph ran circles around that old Pan Head."

"Neo Bobbers"?

John: "I know you probably don't want to alienate people that visit your website so it makes sense that you would want to include the "new school bobbers" which could be any brand of motorcycle that is modified in a way to make it look similar to the old bobbers of the 1940's. I would call these bikes "Neo Bobbers".

Still, a Neo Bobber needs to have the old look, that is rigid frame, short fenders, lowish handlebars, solo seat, etc. In this case disc brakes would be totally acceptable. I really don't have a problem calling these bikes bobbers but at heart I don't think they are true bobbers. Just like a fiberglass bodied 32 Ford with a Chevy engine is not really a "Hot Rod", it just looks like one.

One thing I know a Bobber is not: it is not a Chopper. A Bobber never has a raked frame, extended forks or ridiculous ape hanger handlebars. These modifications are concessions to style, and not performance related."

"Original Bobber"?

Do you ever use the expression "Original Bobber"?

John: "The traditional bobbers were big twin Harleys and Indians stripped of fenders, lights, etc. for racing in club events.

I think the original bobber came even earlier when somebody cut of a horse's tail to make him run faster... I know I would run like hell if you cut my tail off!"

"True Bobber"?

Do you ever use the expression "True Bobber"?

John: "Never heard the term but I would think a true bobber was actually used in the 40's or 50's as a bobber."

"Oldschool Bobber"?

Do you ever use the expression "Oldschool Bobber"?

John: "Old Skool, over used term to describe anything that has any resemblance to things made before the 80's. Usually this term is used by people too young to remember the pre 80's era."

What does your favourite Bobber look like?

John: "Stock uncut rigid frame, minimal sheet metal, low wide handlebar, solo seat."

Click to go check out John's 1956 Harley Model KH Street Tracker.

John on Choppers

What makes a Chopper a Chopper?

John: "Chopped or cut frame, increased rake, extended fork, peanut tank, outrageous handlebars, minimal brakes, little or no suspension.

Usually a chopper is ill handling and unsafe, I know i rode one for years. Coolness doesn't have to make sense. The whole idea of a chopper is rebellion. Unfortunatly chopper pilots often rebell against good engeneering and the laws of physics."

"Short Chop"?

Do you ever use the expression "Short Chop"?

John: "I never use that expression."

"Original Chopper"?

Do you ever use the expression "Original Chopper"?

John: "I guess this would be a Chopper that was built in the 1960's or 1970's and preserved in it's original condition ever since."

"Oldschool Chopper"?

John: " A bike that looks like the bikes built in 1960's or early 1970's. This means no super wide rear tire."

What does your favourite Chopper look like?

John: "Personally I think Peter Fonda's Easy Rider bike is the iconic Chopper. It had a huge influence on the general public."

Check Out John Landstrom:

John: "I appreciate all the new technology and I know the modern motorcycles are the best ever, but in my heart I still love the old machines. I get a feeling of satisfaction, of having earned the privilege to ride the old motorcycles.

Breakdowns and rebuilds create character in the owner as well as in the machine. Perhaps that's why I still run out of gas occasionally - there's nothing like pushing a 500 pound motorcycle that last half mile to make you appreciate the wonders of the internal combustion engine..."

If you'd like to get to know John a little better, please don't hesitate to visit his Blue Moon Cycle website:

Click Logo to visit Blue Moon Cycle

Click Photo of this 1939 Indian Chief Bobber to visit the Blue Moon Cycle website

(February 2010)

The Experts' Views on Bobbers and Choppers

On these pages we give you the personal opinions and views of motorcycle experts and Bobber artists.

Discover what the other guys have to say: