The bobber was the earliest simple and stripped down variety of custom motorcycle. They are hand-built by individuals with mechanical skills, and were often part of the early biker clubs before there were any such thing as choppers. This style of custom motorcycle, which took shape in the 1940s and 50s, is generally thought to have been started by returning WWII American servicemen working on ex-military motorcycles. They were inspired by lighter European motorcycles they had seen and ridden. When bobbers were first created, the intent was not to create a new genus of motorcycle, it was to keep motorcycles performing as cheaply as possible.
The bobber continues to be favored by some to this day. Hybrid styles have emerged, such as the "bobber chopper", and "retro-bobber". These newer bobbers are more about individuality than simply being constructed cheaply.
Bobbers vs. choppers
Bobbers are related to choppers in that they represent a minimalistic approach where the motorcycle is stripped of parts or accessories not needed. The principal difference between a bobber and chopper is that bobbers are typically built around unmodified frames. Chopper frames are often cut and welded into shape. Bobbers also often lack most of the chopper's aesthetic characteristics such as chromed parts and elongated forks. Thus, bobbers are fairly easy to create from stock motorcycles and are generally hand built.
While customized motorcycles can be expensive, bobber builders tend to adopt an economical approach involving old, second-hand, recycled parts and hand-machined items reminiscent of the period before the mass-market motorcycle accessory industry had developed.
- Drate, Spencer; Salavetz, Judith (2006). Art of the Bobber (1st ed.). Minneapolis: Motorbooks. ISBN 9780760325315.
The bobber is, far and away, the coolest style of custom motorcycle on the planet.
- Lichter, Michael (2014). Café racers : Speed, Style, and Ton-Up Culture. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Motorbooks. p. 15. ISBN 9780760345825.
- "Show Bikes: Custom 'Old School' Bobber Photos". TheWorldOfMotorcycles.com. KHI, Inc. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
These original hard-scrabble bobbers were back-yard customs designed for flat-track and dirt-track racing, and the cannibalizing of unnecessary window-dressing was all about performance and weight reduction. The original bobbers were the precursor for the modern 'chopper.'
- Marx, Mandy R. (2006). Choppers (1st ed.). Mankato, Minnesota: Capstone Press. ISBN 9780736861694.
- Seate, Mike (2004). Outlaw choppers (1st ed.). Minneapolis: Motorbooks. ISBN 9780760318492.
- Jones, Peter (30 August 2010). "2006 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Bob-Job – World’s Coolest Bikes". Cycle World. Bonnier Corp. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
In the 1940s and ’50s when bob-jobs were first mothered, the necessity inspiring their invention was the search for cheap performance. Performance was gained not through respectable commerce but through the zealous removal of engineered items...
- Miguel, Jose de (2008). How to Build a Bobber on a Budget (1st ed.). Minneapolis: Motorbooks. ISBN 9780760327852.
- Holmstrom, Darwin (2002). Harley-Davidson Century (1st ed.). Minneapolis: Motorbooks. ISBN 9780760311554.
- Ets-Hokin, Gabe (23 January 2008). "2008 1/2 Harley Softail Cross Bones, Buell Ulysses XB12XT - First Look". Cycle World. Bonnier Corp. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
The new bike, styled like a classic post-WWII bobber, has apehangers, a springer front end, a cut-down rear fender, a tractor saddle and tough, aggressive styling. It’s another indication of Harley-Davidson emphasizing its history while at the same time reaching out to new, younger consumers.
- Edwards, David (July 2001). "The Ten Rest 2001". Cycle World Magazine (New York: Hachette Filipacchi Magazines) 40 (No. 7).
Honda Shadow Spirit 750... A spinoff of the ACE 750 retro-wagon with cut-down fenders, chopped suspension and a shotgun exhaust. Simple, sweet and, at $5999, cheap, just like the bobbers of the Forties and Fifties.
- Brown, Roland (15 April 2014). "Sport Bobber: Yamaha XV950". Bike India (Next Gen Publishing Ltd). Retrieved 1 January 2015.
Essentially, the XV is a production bobber: a simple, relatively sporty cruiser, designed to be easily customised using a variety of factory-made accessories.
- Lane, Billy (2005). Billy Lane's How to Build Old School Choppers, Bobbers and Customs (1st ed.). Minneapolis: Motorbooks. ISBN 9780760321683.
- Chronis, Peter G. (14 September 2006). "Bobbers and dirt-trackers roll out for Chopper's show". Denver Post. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
'These bikes are meant to be ridden,' Slaktowicz said, recalling that back in the 1960s and '70s, chopper builders got into a race to extend springer forks to the point that the bikes were so long that they couldn't be ridden safely. Not so with bobbers.
- Baas, Kevin (2011). How to Build an Old Skool [sic] Bobber. Stillwater, MN: Wolfgang Pub. ISBN 9781935828006.