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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 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.
The bobber is, far and away, the coolest style of custom motorcycle on the planet.
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.'
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...
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.
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.
Essentially, the XV is a production bobber: a simple, relatively sporty cruiser, designed to be easily customised using a variety of factory-made accessories.
'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.