Also referred to as a “bob-job” or simply “bob,” a bobber motorcycle is a type of custom motorcycle with most of its bodywork removed including the front fender.
Most importantly, the rear fender is shortened or “bobbed” like a bobtail, hence the name. The idea is to remove excess body weight and increase speed and acceleration, though many motorcyclists like bobbers simply for the aesthetic.
Characteristics of a Bobber
The defining characteristic of a bobber motorcycle is the bobbed rear fender. Usually, the rear fender does not even cover the top of the rear tire, and it certainly doesn’t drop down to cover the back of the tire.
This can sometimes be confusing as the bobbed style of fender has basically become the standard on production cruisers these days even if they haven’t been customized.
Longer traditional fenders are usually specified as “softails” or retro. As a result, you may find production motorcycles with bobbed rear fenders that aren’t specifically referred to as “bobbers” by the manufacturers.
Other bobber features include:
- Removed front fender
- Minimal bodywork
- Minimal accessories
Although the term bobber technically just refers to a motorcycle with these customizations, bobbers, or “bob-jobs” as they were called at the time, became popular during the 40s, and a number of modifications became associated with the term, such as:
- Small gas tank
- Raised handlebars
- Upturned exhaust pipes
- Decorative modifications like chrome plating and colored upholstery
What’s the Difference Between a Bobber and a Chopper?
Basically, a chopper is a more dramatically altered bobber. Generally speaking, bobbers are created from stock production motorcycles, and the frame isn’t altered. Rather, extra parts are just removed.
A chopper, on the other hand, has a fully modified frame. The frame is cut or chopped and then welded into a new shape. Choppers also tend to have front wheels with large diameters while bobbers retain standard wheel sizes.
Nevertheless, choppers and bobbers both usually have the same aesthetic modifications, like chrome plating, pinstriping, colored upholstery, etc. A chopper’s customization is often more dramatic, though, especially since bobbers have become relatively standard in modern production lines.
Can You Buy a Bobber?
Bobbers were originally custom bikes. In other words, you had to buy a stock production motorcycle and then alter it yourself with a “bob job.” However, bobbers quickly became so popular that motorcycle manufacturers like Harley-Davidson and Indian began producing bobber models that lacked front fenders and had shorter rear fenders.
Today, you can easily buy a bobber without having to customize it. In addition to being able to find bobber motorcycles at custom shops that have bobbed or chopped stock motorcycles, there are a number of manufacturers that make their own bobber models that have become extremely popular.
Indian Scout Bobber Sixty
The Scout Bobbers are some of my favorite bikes, and one of them will likely be my next go-to. I like the 60cu model in particular because, at a bit under 1,000cc, it’s manageable and agile, which is kind of the whole point of the bobber design.
The aesthetic of the Scout Bobber is just about unbeatable. Like a lot of production bobbers, it actually retains the front fender, though it is shortened. You also get four color options including red and 78 horsepower from a liquid-cooled engine.
Harley-Davidson Street Bob
The Street Bob is more like the original custom bobbers in that it has a really heavy 114cu (1868cc) engine placed on a lightweight minimalist frame to give you as much power as possible. Specifically, it weighs just 660 pounds.
Basically, if you’re wanting a “real bobber” and don’t want to make it yourself, this is one of the best models to go with. Pumping out over 100 hp, it’s definitely all about power.
Harley-Davidson Fat Bob
The Fat Bob and Street Bob both have the same powerful 114cu engine and lightweight frame. The main difference is that the Fat Bob has a more relaxed sitting position, so it’s better for cruising or long distances while the Street Bob is better for commuting around town.
Triumph Bonneville Bobber
The Bonneville Bobber might come the closest to the original chopped-down bobber aesthetic of the 40s. It has a minimalist design that cuts down on weight on top of a larger but still manageable 1,200cc engine.
One thing I like in particular about this bobber is the six-speed transmission. That lets you take a bit more advantage of the big engine’s 76 hp than on the Indian Scout Bobber.