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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 type of motorcycle or sub-genre, the idea was to keep motorcycles on the road as cheaply as possible.[better source needed]
The bikes reflected their owners and were often homemade. Today there are many companies that create such vehicles. The style has also influenced motorcycle manufacturers, such as Harley-Davidson.
The bobber continues to be favored by some to this day. Hybrid styles have emerged, such as the "bobber chopper," and "retro-bobber."Though only a bobber in name, newer bobbers are more about independence and customization than simply being constructed cheaply.[better source needed]
Bobbers are related to choppers in that they represent a minimalistic approach where the motorcycle is stripped of parts or accessories not needed, However, they generally retain the characteristics of the stock frame.
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.
The term chopper started to be used from the late 1960s onwards, for motorcycles whose frames had been customized to have a greater angle at which the front suspension protruded, with smaller fuel tanks and tall handlebars called ape hangers. For many owners, the difference between bobbers and choppers doesn't come down to what's on the motorcycle but what isn't on it and whether it has a short front end or a long front end, stretched suspension defining it as a chopper.
While customized motorcycles can be expensive, bobber builders tend to adopt an economical approach involving old, second hand, recycled parts and hand machined items redolent of the period before the mass-market motorcycle accessory industry had developed.