As with everything vintage these days, old custom motorcycle styles have made a comeback in recent years. Besides the rise of the cafe racers and scramblers, there’s also the bobber motorcycle genre that’s gaining a lot of traction and attention lately. And that not only from fans, but from some of the biggest motorcycle manufacturers as well.
Today, you’ve got plenty of factory produced options waiting for their rider. There’s no need to modify a standard motorcycle anymore, as most manufacturers offer the same models in various variants, including the bobber.
But let’s define the bobber motorcycle style for those who are in the dark here.
What Are Bobber Motorcycles?
As with other styles, bobbers have a little bit of history behind them. It all started in 1920s America, with riders who wanted to strip down their stock motorcycles from all the unnecessary parts and keep only the bare minimum for comfort and aesthetic, simplifying the original design and making them look cool and unique.
This started happening more and more after World War II, when servicemen would come back home from the war. They had gained mechanical skills working on military vehicles and aircraft during the war, so they had the know how and the desire to modify their bikes. They wanted good looking fast machines.
What Does Bobber Mean?
The term “bobber“, originally called a “bob-job”, was coined from the practice of “bobbing”, or cutting off various parts that were deemed unnecessary by their owners, thus removing any excess weight and material from the bike, especially the rear section, and fitting smaller diameter wheels.
Since the bikes were custom made, the term bobber became a reference to any kind of custom motorcycle that was modified in this way.
Bobber motorcycles became thus lighter and more agile and maneuverable than the stock ones, which made them ideal for tight turns and stunts. Later, they were often associated with the outlaw biker gangs due to their rebellious or unconventional nature.
The most obvious modification in a bobber is shortening or “bobbing” (bob-tail) the rear fender. Usually the fender of a stock motorcycle is cut off, including the pillion seat, leaving the bike with only the main seat.
You might think that a chopper is the same thing, but a chopper has its original factory frame modified, often including original parts replaced with custom ones, while the bobber keeps the original factory frame intact and only removes parts that aren’t crucial to the functioning of the motorcycle.
Bobber Motorcycles Today
Recently, bobbers have become more popular, breaking into the mainstream motorcycle culture, especially due to the growing custom bike scene all over the world and the fact that manufacturers have started to offer this style of bikes straight from their production line.
The downside of this of course is the increased price of bobbers compared to stock motorcycles, since they’re usually custom built, sometimes requiring more elaborate designs and features.
Let’s now take a look at some of the best bobber motorcycles you can get your hands on today:
15. Kawasaki Vulcan S
The Kawasaki Vulcan is a legendary motorcycle already, but with the Vulcan S, the Japanese bike manufacturer also brought more variants, including a blacked out minimalist bobber style.
This bike comes powered by a detuned engine derived from the ER6n parallel twin, capable of delivering 61 horsepower. What’s good here is the very low seat height, 705mm, allowing for even the shortest riders to enjoy life on two wheels.
The bike is easy to handle and unintimidating as well. Sure, it’s far from a Harley or a Triumph, and doesn’t benefit from many customization options, but it’s a very affordable option available on the market today.
14. Honda Rebel 1100
The Rebel first appeared in Honda’s offer sometime in the 1980s and enjoyed great popularity ever since. The motorcycle was an accessible and affordable cruiser after all. And it kept up the pace with the modern world, coming today in a new urban bobber outfit.
The new and modernized Rebel was introduced first in 300 and 500cc flavors, but this year, Honda launched the Rebel 1100, equipped with the tried and tested 1084cc workhorse of the Africa Twin model, making it an ideal motorcycle for both short range commutes and long distance cruising.
The design of the Rebel 1100 follows closely the bobber style, looking great especially in all black.
13. Harley-Davidson Softail Rocker
Harley Davidson tried their hand at offering a chopped off bobber right from the production line, and the Softail Rocker was born. The motorcycle was good enough when it came to riding and handling, but the looks kept almost everyone away.
It wasn’t the most successful motorcycle that came out from Milwaukee to say the least and many considered it to be too much. The 240mm rear tire and the skinny 19 inch on the front didn’t look good together either.
In the end, it’s still a bobber, but one the world never asked for and few loved it.
12. Moto Guzzi V9 Bobber
After one of their V7s was adopted by the California Highway Patrol back in the ’70s, the Italians at Moto Guzzi paid more attention to the cruisers that were famous in the States and produced their first California.
In an attempt to go deeper down that rabbit hole, they introduced a Bobber variant of their V9, replacing the old 750 Nevada. The new 850cc engine is good, the bike handles well, but success is still farther than they hoped for.
From a design point of view, the V9 Bobber gets close to looking like a bobber, but misses the point. It’s a good bike, with a minimalist style that looks close enough to what was intended, but still has a little bit more to go when it comes to the design.
11. Yamaha XV950R Bolt R-Spec
The Yamaha XV950R Bolt R-Spec is probably the closest and most authentic Japanese bobber you can find right now on the market. Better than Honda’s Rebel and Kawasaki’s Vulcan S, the Bolt wonderfully combines the manners of a Japanese motorcycle with the styling of a true bobber.
Sure, it misses a few details here and there, but it can be further “bobbed”, like they did several decades ago, which makes it even more interesting. The Yamaha XV950R Bolt follows and copies the Sportster, but that may not be a bad thing at all. Especially for those who can’t afford one.
10. Ducati XDiavel Dark
The Ducati XDiavel Dark isn’t technically a bobber in the true sense of the genre, but it sure does have a unique appearance that makes it look like a futuristic bobber with its blacked-out slick design, aggressive headlight, single sided swing arm, superb silver toned short exhaust, and under tail mounted rear lighting.
The big bore twin cylinder 1,262cc engine able to unleash 160 horsepower make the XDiavel, well, exactly what the Italian manufacturer named it, a devil on wheels.
Overall, the bike brings a modern spin to the classic bobber appearance, so it earned its place on this list.
9. Maeving RM1
Going all electric now with the Maeving RM1, inspired by the classic British motorcycles of the past, but boasting a fresh and modern means of power at the heart.
Maeving is UK based motorcycle startup. Their RM1 is a wonderful hand built addition to the small but growing electric motorcycle market, adding a fresh and clean bobber style and decent performance.
The bike is capable of a top speed of 45mph and a 40 mile range. The battery pack is removable, which is a nice touch, so it can be taken out and charged anywhere.
8. Harley Davidson Street Bob 114
Harley Davidson’s lovely Street Bob is modern, but keeps that vintage style of past bikes. Powered by Harley’s Milwaukee-Eight 114 engine, its the most powerful of the company’s Softails.
Though it comes with a rear fender mounted pillion seat, the Street Bob is open for customization, so you can style it as much as you want. In stock version, it comes with black spoked wheels, mid mounted foot controls and mini ape bars, giving it a very relaxed and stretched out riding position.
7. Cleveland CycleWerks Heist
The Cleveland CycleWerks Heist is an oddball, but a bobber nonetheless. A small displacement motorcycle, it uses a Chinese made air cooled 229cc single piston engine able to push the little bike to a top speed of 70mph.
The motorcycle is designed and assembled in the United States and the company has left plenty of room for customization, even offering a lot of optional bolt-on parts and accessories that can be used by the rider who wants to make it unique.
The Heist is a very good choice for its low seat height, nimble handling, fuel economy and affordability.
6. Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron 883 / Iron 1200
The stock versions of Harley Davidson’s Sportster Iron, both the 883 and the 1200cc are wonderful bobber candidates. Already minimal in aesthetic from the factory, they appeal to many riders, especially when looking at the affordable prices.
The Iron 1200 looks a little bit more bobber (ish) than its smaller brother, but the 883 offers the better customizability and costs a grand less. The air cooled Evolution engine is solid enough and the chopped fenders with the solo seat and small tank look great even without customization.
5. Veitis Ev-Twin
The Veitis Ev-Twin is one of the most minimalistic bobbers we could find, and an interesting one as well. It’s built by hand by a team that got plenty of experience in producing parts and components for Formula 1 cars, so you can bet they know what they’re doing.
The Ev-Twin is an electrical motorcycle modeled after the original 1948 BSA Bantam’s framework, and comes with Reynolds high-tensile 631 tubing for the frame and swing-arm and Ceriani forks.
The power this bike makes is similar to what a petrol powered 125cc can make, reaching a top speed of 70mph with a 100 mile range and sub four hour recharge time. Despite the electric nature of the engine, it mimics the shape of a classic V-Twin.
4. Indian Scout Bobber
Harley Davidson’s major rival, Indian Motorcycle, has come up with one of the most beautiful production bobbers ever created, the Indian Scout Bobber, available in three variants, the Bobber, Bobber Sixty, and Bobber Twenty.
The motorcycle is a lovely entry level cruiser and blends the modern with the old school Americana, boasting wire spoke wheels, cross covered split dual exhaust, mini ape bars and drop down mirrors, bobbed fenders and single seat, reminiscence of the original Scout produced during the first half of the 1900s.
The bike is powered by a 100 horsepower liquid cooled V-Twin, and features electronic fuel injection, optional ABS and various other modern tech gadgets such as a hidden USB charging port.
3. CCM Spitfire Bobber
Hand built by the motorcycle artisans at Clews Competition Motorcycles, the Spitfire Bobber is quite a sight. Impressive in its design and powered by a liquid cooled 600cc single cylinder with fuel injection developed by BMW for the Husqvarna TE630, the Spitfire is astonishing both to admire from the side and to ride it.
It comes in different variants, but the Bobber is what interests us here. Limited to only 500 units, it boasts impressive features such as spoked wheels, Avon Cobra tires with white sides, high end Brembo brakes, a superb tractor style seat, low dual-can exhaust, a USD Marzocchi fork and YSS mono-shock on the rear.
The floating frame and mid positioned foot controls make for a relaxed riding position.
2. Triumph Bonneville Bobber
Nothing looks more bobber than the Triumph Bonneville Bobber. At least not when it comes to production bobber motorcycles.
Triumph has made a great job on this one and ticked all the right boxes, offering a superb motorcycle. With wire spoked wheels, old school headlight, single seat on a metal subframe above the rear fender, the Bonneville Bobber looks exactly like a true bobber should.
It even has a triangular swing arm, reminiscence of those rigid frames of bobbers from the past, but it hides a mono-shock so the ride is smooth and comfortable. The 1,200cc parallel twin is able enough, offering no less than 77 horsepower and plenty of fun.
The Bonnie Bobber is what it needs to be, and there’s plenty of aftermarket customization options offered both by Triumph and other companies alike.
1. Curtiss One
It’s hard to describe the Curtiss One, as it’s more a work of art on wheels than what we know a motorcycle looks like. An engineering masterpiece, its design draws inspiration from aircrafts more than today’s motorcycles.
Electrical in nature, it comes with a state of the art powertrain which uses a cantilevered bullet style battery at the bottom. The One is equipped with Kineo tubeless spoked wheels, a fang style front fork and a unique rear shock system mounted horizontally. The bike’s full of carbon fiber elements and beautifully combines the silver with the black.
Curtiss One will come in a limited edition of only 300 units, and each client will get a myriad of customization options from the get-go.
We couldn’t find many production-line true bobbers on the market, but those that exist, they’re beautiful enough as they are, while still providing plenty of customization options for those who want something truly unique.