What is a bobber motorcycle? Loud and undeniably badass, bobbers are the epitome of custom motorcycles. A bobber refers to a bike that’s been stripped of excess parts and modified, usually by hand by the builder, often to increase its speed and performance. If you’re not ready to build your own, there are plenty of options on the market, including the legendary Triumph Bobber.
What Is a Bobber Motorcycle?
A Bobber is a motorcycle that has been stripped of all none essentials such as the front fender and other none essentials. It is then given a shortened rear fender (bobbed), a muted basic paint scheme and a lowered stance.
Bobbers are not without exceptions however, and they have a long history so you will want to read on to explore the uniqueness of the Bobber a little further.
A Brief History of the Bobber
The bob-job emerged in the 1930’s and evolved from the 1920’s cut-down that was created to modernize and improve the performance of the J-series Harley-Davidson. By removing the front fender, shortening the rear, and “bobbing” all superfluous parts, the motorcycle was significantly lighter and faster.
Bobbers became popular in the 40’s and 50’s by mechanically savvy soldiers returning from World War II who had been inspired by lighter and more nimble European motorcycles. Bob-jobs reflected the aesthetic tastes of their owners, and were largely home-built until the late 1990’s when the style saw a resurgence in popularity.
Shorten the fenders, replace the stock seat with a custom bucket seat, replace mufflers with something louder, add custom lights, and give it a change of color and you’re on your way to bobber bliss! Custom-built bobbers grew so popular that motorcycle manufacturers are now building their own factory bobbers, which is great news if you’re not eager to build your own.
The New Triumph Bonneville Bobber
The new 1200cc Bonneville Bobber is now blacked out into one single model powered by a Euro 5 certified and updated engine, boasting 77 horsepower at 6,100 rpm and a commanding 78 lb-ft of torque.
It’s stunning to look at and includes enhanced engine performance for an even more responsive and thrilling ride. Higher specification technology and equipment are included in an all-new blacked-out style.
The Bobber gets a host of upgrades, including lower emissions, reduced weight, a larger 3.2-gallon fuel tank, higher-spec twin-disc Brembo brakes, a Showa fork, and a new 16-inch front wheel. The seat height is an adjustable stumpy 27.2 inches for an authentic Bobber riding experience.
The Bobber also gets road and rain ride modes, ABS/switchable traction control, and a torque assist clutch. A well-hidden monoshock helps maintain the Bobber’s hard-tail motif, and an all-LED headlight and cruise control are now standard options. Three color choices are offered: Jet Black and a duo of two-tone Matte Storm grey and Matte Ironstone and Cordovan Red.
What Gives The Bobber Its Unique Look?
Bobber bikes were originally created by owners customising their own motorcycles, initially for performance purposes. This has changed over time but the following is a list of attributes that make a Bobber unique and a bike defined as such:
- Bobbers are generally built using stock bikes and modifying them accordingly.
- Removal of Front Fender.
- Shortened ‘Bobbed’ Rear Fender.
- Removal of some if not all excess accessories such as lights, mirrors etc.
- They may have a modified frame creating a shorter wheelbase and lowered seat tube.
- Typically, the Bobber will have a low-down stance and there is a distinctive shape identified by the sweeping diagonal line between the steering head and rear axle.
- Muted colour paint schemes or even just a primer base.
- Traditionally Bobbers are only meant for solo riding.
When Did Bobbers First Appear?
Bobbers first came on the seen in the 1920’s with the release of Harley Davidson’s ‘J’ Series V-Twin. Owners began to favour a lowered down bike so began using small diameter wheels, cutting down the frame and creating a shorter rear section.
It wasn’t long before this caught on and the ‘California Cut-Down’ phase was started. Owners had bikes that stylistically looked better but also performed better than the stock bikes being manufactured at the time.
In the 1930’s Harley and Indian produced bikes following the ‘Cut-Down’ trend. Following on racers began taking excess weight off their bikes to increase performance starting with the front fender and creating a ‘bob-tail’ rear fender. The ‘bob-job was born.’
This continued to be the base of the custom scene for a long time. Lee Marvin the nemesis of Marlon Brando in ‘The Wild One’ can be seen riding a Bobber style Harley Panhead; if nothing else the movie really gives a wonderful insight into the bike scene in the 1950’s and the evolution of the original Bobber.
It wasn’t long before manufacturers were presenting their customers with accessories to suit the style and it became substantially easier for riders to ‘bob-job’ their bikes. Production bikes from Harley, Indian and Triumph were already lending themselves to the style; which meant frames no longer needed modifying.
However, Bobbers were about to evolve that little bit further into a new phase altogether.
While modifications on stock bikes to increase performance prompted the birth of the Bobber, style was becoming slowly more relevant. People were chopping down their frames even further, increasing wheelbases and length of their forks, applying fresh paint schemes that sought attention.
Choppers were on the horizon and then catapulted to popularity by the 1969 release of ‘Easy Rider’. Style took priority over performance and therefore, Bobbers took a back seat for a while.
What Are The Benefits Of A Bobber?
- The Number 1 benefit is that stripping a bike down to the bare bones mean they are lighter and there is a higher power to weight ratio. So, they perform better or at least faster.
- Once you undertake a Bobber project you are making the bike your own, there won’t be another like it.
- They ooze cool, are utterly timeless, and as proven by 100 years of history they never go out of fashion.
What Do You Need to Ride a Bobber Motorcycle?
Removing these features could also increase the risk of injury. You won’t be able to see as much of your surroundings without your mirrors. You may have trouble staying in control of the bike if the handlebars are painful to hold.
Make sure you are using the proper equipment when riding your bobber, including long pants, a long sleeve shirt, jacket, boots, gloves and a helmet, either full-face or skull cap with goggles. Safety should be your first priority when modifying the bike.
Use a Bluetooth motorcycle helmet to stay connected to your phone while riding the bike. You shouldn’t have to take your hands off the handlebars or your eyes off the road to make a call or contact one of your companions. It fits right onto your helmet and uses voice activation for hands-free communication. Use a half-helmet Bluetooth headset if you are using a skull cap instead.
Consider having the bike inspected by a professional after the modifications have been made. If you don’t feel comfortable doing the job yourself, hire someone with bob job experience.
What is the point of a bobber motorcycle?
A “Bobber” motorcycle is NOT a type of motorcycle, but simply a style of custom motorcycle. In an effort to make the motorcycle lighter and faster, anything that is seen as extra or unnecessary on a motorcycle is taken off the bike to reduce the weight and give it a minimalistic look.
Are bobbers harder to ride?
The reasons that Bobbers are suitable for beginners are pretty easy to understand. They have a low seat height and being able to plant both feet firmly on the ground will fill you with confidence. Bobbers aren’t designed for speed, so they’re a whole lot easier to manage than many of the other motorcycle styles.
Is bobber good for long rides?
If your route involves lots of interstates then no, Bobbers aren’t the ideal motorcycle for long rides. It’s not just that you are sat upright and battling the constant air resistance on your chest either. There’s a few other things to consider if you are planning a road trip on your Bobber.
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