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About Bobbers and Choppers...

Straight Bobber or Custom Bobber?

Click this photo to check out this 1939 Harley Davidson Knucklehead Bobber by Ace. Nowadays the Bobbing of motorcycles is still widespread.

Many owners of Ironheads, Shovelheads, Evos and Twin Cams take off the front fender, bob their rear fender, mount a springer fork, weld on a hardtail, stick in a set of white wall tires and make some other modifications, all with the intent to create the image of the classic Bobber.

And many of these Bobbers are beautiful bikes.

However, if you mount a springer fork or a hardtail on your stock motorcycle, such are no small or minor modifications. And while they may look cool, a hardtail or springer fork will definitely not improve the speed or performance of your bike. And neither do white wall tires or apes.

It is here that we arrive at a major split in Bobber land:

Any Bobber is either a Straight Bobber or a Custom Bobber

Straight Bobbers

What is a Straight Bobber?

We would define a Straight Bobber as follows:

A Straight Bobber is a stock motorcycle,

• of which most or all parts that do not contribute to speed or performance have been removed; AND

• which otherwise has NOT undergone any major mechanical, structural or aesthetic modifications other than simple modifications which would improve the bike's performance during dirt track racing, such as:

      - Larger diameter front wheel; and/or

      - Shorter shock absorbers; and/or

      - Footpegs; and/or

      - Solo saddle; AND

• of which no major part is more than about ten years younger than the registration date of the motorcycle.

John Landstrom's 1956 Harley KH Street Tracker can be considered a Straight Bobber. John Landstrom's very Spartan looking 1956 Harley KH "Street Tracker" can be considered a Straight Bobber. Registered in the 1950's, this Vintage Bobber is John's tribute to the mighty Harley KR, the bike that dominated American flat track racing in the 1950's and 60's.

Custom Bobbers

You can build a perfect Straight Bobber from any stock Harley Sportster by following the criteria defined above.

However, as soon as you start making additional modifications like replacing the stock frame with a hardtail frame, or mounting a springer fork, or if you replace the stock handle bars with a set of rebellious apes, you break with the minimalistic approach that makes a Straight Bobber. With these modifications your bike may be totally cool, but she is not a "Straight Bobber" anymore.

By making such major modifications, or by making modifications that have nothing to do with weight shedding for speed or performance, you have turned your "Straight Bobber" into a "Custom Bobber".

For the sake of clarity: we love the sh*t out of Custom Bobbers. It's just that "Custom Bobbers" are not what we would call "Straight Bobbers".

A Custom Bobber is a stock motorcycle,

• of which most or all parts that do not contribute to speed or performance have been removed; AND

• which has also undergone one or more major mechanical, structural or aesthetical modifications, such as:

      - Hardtailed frame; and/or

      - Custom frame; and/or

      - Springer fork; and/or

      - Ape hangers; and/or

      - Sissy Bar; and/or

      - Speed kit; and/or

      - Disc brakes; and/or

      - Custom paint job; and/or

      - Elaborate pinstriping; and/or

      - Lots of chromed parts; and/or

• of which one or more major parts are more than about ten years younger than the original registration date of the motorcycle; AND

• of which the frame has not been raked, otherwise it is a Chopper.

Click Photo to go check out this 1968 FLH Harley Custom Bobber by Lucky Charm Choppers. 1968 Harley Shovelhead Custom Bobber built by Lucky Charm Choppers.

(January 2010)

The Experts' Views on Bobbers and Choppers 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: