Bobber Motorcycles: A Beginner Guide

custom bobber motorcycle
Photo by Brett Jordan

When it comes to purchasing a motorcycle, owners have a multitude of styles to choose from with most being specifically geared towards a certain lifestyle or need.

There are larger bikes with carriages for passengers, or there are small crotch rocket bikes that are for the young and sporty – most of these are quite commonly known. It’s when you get into terms like bobber and chopper that people become confused.

What is a bobber motorcycle?

A bobber, or bobbed motorcycle, is not a brand or type of motorcycle, but instead it’s simply a style.

You can bob any type of motorcycle because to have a bobbed motorcycle you simply strip down all of the erroneous parts and extras that are not necessary for riding.

This means you’re bringing back the bike to its most basic parts – a very simplistic and beautiful design that reflects the owner’s customization and style.

A chopper, on the other hand, is a style of motorcycle that emerged after bobbers and is all about taking the frame and welding it, modifying it, and creating a whole new frame from multiple parts.

There’s often a great deal of chrome on choppers and they often have a very pronounced front end since it protrudes more thanks to the customization and alterations that have been done to the frame.

History of bobber bikes

1937 bobber motorbike

Photo by Brett Jordan

The first motorcycle was seen in the 1800’s and since then these glorious two wheeled road demons have gone through some dramatic changes over the years.

One of the earliest styles was the bobber because it was all down to the essentials. Mechanics built bobber bikes with as few parts as possible so that it was cheap yet still road worthy.

These custom bobber style motorcycles began to emerge around the 1940’s and the following years after WW2. With metal being so crucial for the war efforts, motorcycles were bobbed down to a bare minimum. Additionally, this style also flourished when the soldiers returned from the war because they brought their love for European motorcycles with them.

At that time European motorcycles were very light and simplistic. As a result of these few influential years you’ll see some of the first bobbers in motorcycle history being created during these times!

Bobbing your motorcycle

If you’re looking to strip down your motorcycle to the bare essentials and enjoy the simplistic style and lightweight feel of a custom built motorcycle, then there’s quite a few modifications that you can do.

Something that should be noted is that because of the abundance of motorcycle manufacturers producing high quality vehicles, most purchase a motorcycle first and then tear it down for a bobbed style; however there are some more skilled mechanics and individuals who build a bobbed motorcycle from scratch.

If you’re considering building your own, you need to make sure that you follow all of the local road laws and regulations to ensure that you’re not in violation when you’re riding your motorcycle.
making a bobber

Photo by Benjamin Galli

Fenders

One of the first parts to generally be modified are the fenders because it is the easiest and requires very few tools.

Simply take your fenders and use a fine pen marker to draw where you’d like your fender to stop at. From there you’ll need to saw off the extra metal and smooth the edges (sharp metal edges are generally illegal).

Make sure to either paint or powder coat your fender when done to prevent rust.

Seats

Altering the seats allows for owners to really get creative and also express their style.

There are custom build bobber style seats that can replace the current one, but they are a bit costly. Fortunately simply removing the secondary passenger seat from the bolts and supports holding it in is enough to create more of a bobbed look.

Exhaust

This is something that should generally be done by a professional shop as there are carburetor settings and sound levels that need to be adhered to else you’ll be violating laws when operating your motorcycle.

Handlebars

Replacing these is a somewhat difficult task that not only requires a new set of aftermarket handlebars, but also an in-depth knowledge of the various wiring components.

The breaks, clutch, and throttle are all wired around the handlebars so having the wires be external is something that can be considered. Don’t drill new holes in aftermarket handlebars for internal wiring as this can cause weakness in the frame.

Guards and covers

Using a few wrenches and basic tools you can quickly remove the extra passenger seat, various side covers, passenger grab handles, and excess guards will allow for the inner workings of the motorcycle to show through. This is very simple and easily done.

Bobber kits

Bobber kits are bike kits that contain everything you need for the bobbed look on your particular vehicle style. These can include the following parts:

  • Upholstery
  • Rear fender
  • Oil tank caps
  • Fuel valve
  • Front/rear tire
  • Handlebars
  • Grips
  • Fenders
  • Lights
  • Modified muffler
  • And more

The great thing about these bobbing kits is that they allow individuals with a lack of certain saws and tools to purchase all of the parts necessary for their bike and install them without having to modify them at all.

Additionally, these kits are also specifically for certain bikes so you can be sure that you’re getting road legal parts for your motorcycle before you install it and find out the hard way.

Unfortunately, bobber kits do take away from some of the customization and important aspects of bobbing a motorcycle. The history behind bobbed cycles is that men are working away creating hand crafted bikes that are the bare essentials. Working on the bike extensively by hand creates a deep bond and when you purchase a kit you take away from that bonding experience and personalization.


There’s no vehicle more thrilling and exhilarating than a motorcycle. Being free from confines of a normal car, motorcycles allow you to experience driving in a whole new way.

Whichever way you choose to go in customizing your motorbike, you can be sure that you’ll get that raw and connected feeling from a bobber.

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