Bobbers vs Choppers!

Bobber vs chopper. What’s better? Sorry, can’t answer that. It’s an issue of taste really. But I can help you understand the differences between them. So lets get into it then, shall we?

Motorcycle customization has been going on for decades, and is very popular today, but where did it start and what is a bobber or chopper really? Some avid bikers, enthusiasts, and historians may argue, but basically both bobbers and choppers are customized bikes, with a few differences in each.

cb750 chopper
This cb750 chopper was built with parts from Ebay.

Bobbers came first, with choppers evolving later on from that. With WWII over with, in the late 1940’s through the 1950‘s, as military personnel were returning home, they reflected on European bikes that they saw and rode while overseas, took the inspiration that they got from the style and feel of the lighter weight Euro-bikes and took to their garages. Many of these returned soldiers formed early motorcycle clubs and got together, started stripping down the bikes they had to resemble bikes they’d seen while away.

A bobber’s most basic recognized characteristic is the absence of fenders, which even this simple modification made the bikes seem lighter and give a more European look. A bobber itself is further characterized by its short length and stock frame. As with anything, there will be arguments about what is the true look of a bobber, and with the parts involved, but basically, the front fender is entirely removed, and the rear fender is either bobbed (shortened) or removed entirely.

vulcan 750 bobber
Vulcan 750 bobber - all parts made at him, in the garage.

Taken further, all other unnecessary parts are removed, keeping only that which is essential for the bike’s function. The frame is unmodified, and built around that, usually hand-built, although you can order one made for you, but then again, what’s the point of that? A customized bike can be built by someone else, and is necessary sometimes if you just don’t have the knowledge of tools and assembly to do it yourself, but if someone else built it, even if it’s for you, is it really your bike after all?

The term chopper is thought to have first been used in the late 1960’s.

Choppers are similar to bobbers, but the main difference between them is the frame. Whereas bobbers were built around stock frames, the chopper frame was usually cut and welded to the shape desired. Also, typically with choppers, the front ends were elongated and the suspension stretched out, stock handlebars removed and replaced by ape hangers (for those who don’t know, these are the tall handlebars you may see on some bikes). For many riders, the difference is what’s not on the bike.

So now you know a bit of the history of bobbers and choppers and what the difference is between them. As previously stated, depending on the enthusiasts or purists that may be about, whether it’s a bobber or chopper is up for debate, but either way, they’re both custom bikes, stripped down and remolded to reflect the personalities of their owners.

To have a custom bike that is truly your own, the recommendation is build it yourself or have a builder with a good track record build it to your specifications

If you build bobber or chopper yourself, you get the satisfaction of accomplishment and knowing your personality and style are truly reflected. Warren Fuller stated in an editorial about an old adage “Build it yourself or the bitch will always belong to someone else.”  Makes sense, doesn’t it?


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