What’s Right For You: A Bobber Kit, or a Bobber Rolling Chassis?
So, you want to ride a bobber motorcycle. Could be just because it’s cool, could be the gas prices, could be the vision you have in your head of being an outlaw, or simply being free, that feeling of freedom you hear bikers talking of, not being confined to the all-encompassing cage of a car or truck, or memories of watching Easy Rider.
Whatever the reason, you want to ride, whether you’re a long time biker or a rookie. Good choice, though because bobbers are the coolest rides on the road in my opinion.
Side Note: The bobber shown above was built by Michael Durham, a professional bike builder and mechanic. This bike was put together on video. Check out Build Your Own Bike. It’s really good.
If you have the money and correct license, you go to your local dealership or catch a nice one for sale by owner. No? Not quite what you’re looking for? Or already have a bike? Well, just like anything else these days, there’s a market for those of you who want to do it yourself.
DIY bikes, no matter what the type, give the satisfaction to the individual of having put in the work with your own hands, or possibly a project to work on with your spouse, teenager or friends. With all the products available and so many different options available via internet, you can quite literally customize or build any bike you want.
Customization is very attractive and very popular these days. You can change anything, from the tubes/forks, seats, gas tanks, mirrors, brake lines, ride height, horn covers, anything and everything, even down to the turn signals. Any biker could tell you that it’s not just a vehicle.
It’s more than a machine, it’s an extension of the personality of the rider, it’s a unique statement coming from you, but which is right for you?
This depends on your technical know-how, tools, time and patience, and of course, money. Be it a sportster, roadster, fat boy, panhead, bobber, trike, combination, etc., you can put together any kind of bike you want if factory fresh off the lot doesn’t satisfy you. Here we’ll look at four types of do-it-yourself bikes.
They are: conversion kits, bolt-on kits, rolling chassis, and full bike kits (otherwise known as bike-in-a-box). Let’s take a look at conversion kits first.
Conversion kits are basically how it sounds. It allows you to convert something from the way it is to something else. In this instance, a conversion kit allows you to interchange parts on your bike that weren’t made specifically for your model.
These are generally used on a bike you already own, just converting it from factory to something else. Two of the most common conversion kits are trike kits or chopper kits. Trike kits allow you to change your motorcycle from the standard two wheels to 3 wheels. A chopper conversion kit normally allows you to extend the tubes and give it that long look usually associated with choppers.
However, these aren’t the only conversion kits. You can get a conversion kit for just about any changes or modifications to your bike. These kits offer the greatest in creativity and can be expensive, though relatively low cost depending upon what it is you are converting. With the proper tools many conversions can be done within 1 day.
Your technical knowledge may need to really come into play however when using conversion kits. You may find that not all parts are interchangeable, especially if you’re using aftermarket parts or parts with different manufacturers. A conversion kit basically covers the area that you’re replacing, covering the existing holes and you will either have to have them pre-drilled, or drill them yourself.
Also, the conversion kit you buy to be used may not contain all parts necessary to do the job. In many cases, bolt-on kits are needed to be used in conjunction with conversion kits to complete the modification or exchange.
For example, your conversion kit doesn’t have all the necessary bolts or the ones that came with the conversion kit are incompatible. This can be a pro and a con, pro due to the fact you are likely to end up with a lot of extra parts, which is helpful if any are needed and your creativity can really shine. Keep in mind that along with your other tools in the garage, might be a good idea to have a welding machine just in case. Welding, grinding, cutting, all of these may be necessary when doing conversions and modifications. Again, if you have the imagination, tools, and the know-how to get it done, this won’t be a problem for you, whatever the project may consist of. Now let’s take a look at bolt-on kits.
Bolt On Bobber Kits
Bolt-on kits are the next type of DIY. These also are relatively cheap in terms of cost and are a bit more complete, consisting of all bolts necessary to make the change desired to your existing bike. Whether or not this is right for you depends largely on what it is that you’re doing. They can be used for modifications or just to replace parts, for instance damaged pipes.
The kit shown to the right is one of many different bobber bolt on kits from Blue Collar Bobbers.
These kits are ideal for replacements that fit perfectly in the existing holes with no additional modifications. Many times you will need to use in conjunction with a conversion kit, but it just depends what the project is. Another advantage to bolt-on kits is like conversion kits, many of these can be installed in a day or less. Now let’s take a look at rolling chassis.
Bobber Rolling Chassis
The rolling chassis is the next type of DIY bike, a little more expensive but the basic groundwork is covered for you. The basic definition of a rolling chassis is the assembled frame, wheels, and suspension.
The bobber rolling chassis above is from American Motor Classics (I like the lines on that one).
Depending on where you order from, some rolling chassis may contain the engine, transmission, primary, handlebars, tires, and gas tank. This kit is ideal for those that want to build their own bike, but want to have some of the work done for them. Also, giving again the example of someone who wants a trike, you can order a rolling chassis already in that style rather than having to convert.
One disadvantage from having a rolling chassis to start with is you’ll need to get the proper engine to fit. Also, customization is somewhat limited since the points are done for you.
However, there is still much room for creativity. Many vendors already have the other parts you need available to order. Ordering a rolling chassis you’ll need to specify dimensions or even as little as the overall look you’re going for. Find the parts to fit, assemble, paint, and fill with fluids and off you go.
These are a bit pricier than conversion kits and bolt-on kits as you don’t already have the basic bike, however your technical skills aren’t so grandly used as you’re not having to figure out whether you’ll need a conversion kit and/or bolt-on kit, and getting it all to fit together, here you just need to install the parts and ensure they’re working correctly.
The majority of the parts you get already come with mounting equipment and hardware so get it together and take off. Now on to full bike kits.
Full Bobber Kits
The last option you have will be the most time-consuming and likely the most expensive (this is relative however since it depends on how many different modifications you make to your existing bike) option you have, but many go for this. Rather than modifying or converting an existing stock bike, many opt for the full bike kit (bike-in-a-box).
The bobber motorcycle kit shown above is another nice piece of work from American Motor Classics.
These kits contain all parts necessary for construction of a fully-functional motorcycle, with the exception of paint and gas.
Some come complete with battery and oil. All the parts that come in this full kit are designed to fit together so no other kits are really needed. Your creativity is compromised some (unless you later get conversion and bolt-on kits) but you get the satisfaction of knowing that you are riding a motorcycle that you built from the ground up. That’s right, you can build your own Harley (cheaper) from start to finish.
Now another advantage of full bike kits is there are several styles you can build, and some vendors even have replicas of classic bikes or theme bikes. These are a bit pricier than your normal full kits, but you have a genuine replica. For example, the Captain America bike featured in Easy Rider is available for purchase as a DIY kit. All that’s truly required of you is the time and dedication, tools, and the basic know-how of assembly.
Again, there are many kit bikes out there to choose from. Through the internet you can find literally hundreds, even thousands of bikes to choose from with varying price ranges, some as low as around $10000, ranging even as far up as $25000. Some of the popular brands are Harley-Davidson (of course) Sucker Punch Sallys, Twisted Choppers, Ultima, and many others.
Seems funny, doesn’t it? Motorcycles and their riders have long been associated with either just being free or being outlaws, but yet here we are talking about the law. Yes, there’s certain laws that have to be followed. With imagination, time, money, and tools, you can create your dream bike, but there are some factors to consider when customizing your iron horse.
As with cars and trucks, motorcycles need inspection stickers in many states. Once your bike is built (though it might be a good idea to check beforehand), you’ll have to have it inspected for safety and if it’s street legal.
Putting a nice set of ape hangers won’t factor in to the type of inspection sticker you need to have, but certain modifications such as the distance from front wheel to bike, distance of extension of pipes from the rear of your bike, and overall bike length will likely require the need of a modified sticker.
Also, there are noise requirements in the inspection checklist. If you had dreams of people hearing you for miles before you’re seen thanks to those awesome straight pipes, wake up.
Straight pipes are illegal in case you didn’t know, they must be baffled to reduce noise and have emissions filters. Motorcycles have decibel limitations, generally 102db max if bike is pre-1986, 99db max after 1986. An item of note here: Pipes that are too loud are the number one cause of failure for motorcycle inspections.
So, although you may love it loud, you have to tone it down some to get your sticker. Of course you 1% er’s will laugh this off, but the choice is yours how you do it. Just be aware.
So now you know what types of kits are, what’s different about each, and what it means in terms of time and money spent, skills required and creativity possibilities or limitations. Now all you have to do is get out there, build it, paint it, get your fluids in, get on the road, and RIDE!