Friday, January 23, 2009

Bobber, not a Bobber Part 1

Bobber! From the Wingnuts M/C blog

If it's in a book it must be right. It's crap like this that's fueling the problem. Not a Bobber!

With all the new blood that has come on board there has been a fairly recent phenomenon to call all kinds of custom bikes bobbers. New blood doesn't just mean young, there are plenty of older guys that are new to this sport. It has gotten to the point that the term is now so over used that it has lost all meaning.

Where it started. After seeing racers like this, guys went home and bobbed their bikes.

To me, it's really important that the history of the sport doesn't get so distorted. I've been meaning to do a post about it because it's out of hand. It was also brought up recently on the Wingnuts M/C blog. I'm going to try to keep it simple without going into every detail of the history of cut downs, bob jobs, or choppers. There's just too much to get into for one post and I wanted to start the discussion.

So a white wall makes it a Bobber? I found this bike and others like it being marketed as a such. Stretched frame, extended forks,... too many things to even list. Not a Bobber!

Today, it seems if the front end is short, or the wheels are black, or it has a fat front tire, it's a bobber. Then, I see so called bobbers advertised like the bike above with none of those features. Now days if a bike exhibits an early or somewhat conservative form of a chopper they are wrongly being called bobbers.


The name bobber is a derivative of the term bob job. At one time It was clear what that meant. A bob job was a bike were you cut or "bobbed" the fenders or dumped the front one altogether. It was done by Class "C" racers and those who copied them. Many guys did it after the fenders or the tips were damaged. Instead of fixing that long fender (it was just going bang into something again), toss it or cut it off.

Side note: The practice of cutting off damaged fender tips continued during the chopper craze of the 60's and 70's. At that time Sportsters and early Superglides had front fenders that were much larger and whose front portion was always getting scraped or damaged. This eventually led Harley to just install smaller fenders on XL's and FX's.

So a Sporster tank, white wall, ape hangers, and black springer makes a bobber?... Not a Bobber!

A lot of guys think the term best pertains to post WWII bikes (sort of the golden years of bob jobs), and I for the most part agree with them. What's interesting is that during the later part of the 50's, the term chopper was starting to be used to describe to what many would call a bobber. Keep in mind that things were evolving and they were both terms for cutting.

I guess black wheels, forks, and bars does it... or chrome them and it's a chopper. Wrong again. Not a Bobber. Can a completely custom ground up after market bike really be called a chopper or bobber? How can you bob or chop something that never existed? Today I guess the word "style" has to be automatically inferred to the description.

Oh I get it now... red wheels white walls and flat black. Some guys call this old school. I got news for them, this lame subject was never taught. Not a Bobber!

Probably the best way to clarify what I think is a bobber and what isn't is with examples so, I'm going to do an ongoing post on the topic. The bikes I post and say are not a bobber will only be ones that I find inappropriately labeled as one.

Here's one to fight over . A nicely done new bike, with old style parts.


I know there are some gray areas. I also think you can "bob" newer bikes. Does that make it a bobber? Some call the old style "period bobbers", or "period correct". Maybe we need a new term for in-between, new, or questionable bikes. Chobber?