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About Bobbers and Choppers...

Bobber History

In general terms, here at Bobber Republic we would define a Bobber as follows:

A "Bobber" is a stock motorcycle without major modifications, except that most or all of the parts which do not contribute to speed and/or performance have been removed or shortened (i.e. "bobbed").



Not All Bobbers Are Created Equal...

Click this photo to go to this Harley Sportster CafeRacer TT Bike based on 1989 Evo Engine. Here to the right you see a picture of a 1989 Harley Davidson Sportster without major visual modifications except that most of the parts which do not contribute to speed and/or performance have been removed.

So, is this a Bobber then?

Sorry, but we wouldn't think so. If you take a stock motorcycle and remove most of the parts which do not contribute to speed and/or performance, and replace the handlebars by road racing clip-ons and you replace the seat by a streamlined road racing seat, you end up with a Cafe Racer instead of a Bobber.

Not that we have anything against Cafe Racers (to the contrary - we embrace them and love to show them!), but they are not Bobbers.

The thing is, for a bike to become a Bobber, is also a matter of style. To illuminate this we have to go back in time.

Bobber History

Click this photo to check out this 1936 Indian Scout Bobber. The "bobbing" of motorcycles goes back to the 1930's, 1940's and 1950's, to the days of classic Dirt Track Racing, Road Racing and Hill Climbing events.

During those days there was no big after sales market like we got right now, and the most effective way to increase performance was to shed as much weight as possible.

So it was that during those days guys would ride their bike to work during the week, and during the weekend they would ride it to a motorsports event, open the tool box, strip off all ballast from the bike, and participate in the race!

After the race the owner would put all parts back on again to make the bike street legal. That is, if the bike had not been crashed too bad during the race...

The Original Bobber

In the 1930's, 1940's and 1950's "Bobbing" was about the only way for the normal guy to increase the speed and performance of his Bike. It was in those days that Bobbers came into being. These bikes were the Original Bobbers!

An "Original Bobber" is a Bobber created during or prior to the 1950's to either actually participate in dirt track races or hill climbing or to represent a bike that would and could in theory participate in such dirt track races or hill climbing.


This historic racing tradition forms the basis of our general perception and definition of a Bobber:

A "Bobber" is a stock motorcycle without major modifications, except that most or all of the parts which do not contribute to speed and/or performance have been removed or shortened (i.e. "bobbed").

Original Bobbers - For Example: The Wild One

So, when talking about Original Bobbers, we must go back to those motorsport events of the 1930's, 1940's and 1950's. Check out a movie like "The Wild One", shot in 1953 and starring young Marlon Brando (Johnny) and Lee Marvin (Chino).

While "The Wild One" as produced by Stanley Kramer shows Hollywood's idea of subculture life in the 1950's, this biker movie also shows 1950's motorbikes in a 1950's motorcycle event.

And check out them bikes! All bikes participating in the race have wide handlebars and a rather straight seating position. And they are ridden like dirt track racers, riders sitting rather upright, taking bends with the inside foot on the ground.

In the movie, Marlon Brando rode his own import Triumph Thunderbird 650. Lee Marvin rides a Harley Panhead modified into a True Oldschool Bobber.

It may be interesting to know that the 1950's society had a problem with this biker movie. Johnson Motors, importer of Triumphs in the USA, protested at Triumphs being linked with Brando and his Black Rebels motorcycle friends. On an international scale: "The Wild One" was banned in Britain until 1968.

(By the way, according to Dennis Hopper, in 1968, when he and his team were seeking motorcycles for their movie Easy Rider, Harley Davidson turned them down because they did not want their image to be an outlaw image.)



Do You Have Old Photographs?

If you have an old photograph of your dad or granddad on a Bobber or other racing bike, whether on the track or in front of the house, please show him to the world!

Email: "info at bobberrepublic dot com"



(January 2010)

The Experts' Views on Bobbers and Choppers

BobberRepublic.com 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.

Discover what these guys have to say: