What is a Chopper, what is a Bobber, and How do you build one?
Bobbers preceded choppers, gaining popularity and steam in post-WWII ‘Merica when a handful of vets were returning home with an appetite for more than white picket fences and snot-nosed children. Factory bikes, specifically Harleys, were stripped down of non-essentials to be made lighter, faster and more maneuverable. This was a time in American history when it was more economical to remove saddle bags and stop eating so much butter to go faster on your bike rather than bolt on forced induction and nitrous.
One commonality that helped create the name was the action of “bobbing” or shortening the rear fender. Not only did it clean and minimize the look of the bike by cutting out the hinged portion of older fenders it allowed for easier changing of tires.
Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Jack Nicholson in the 1969 film Easy Rider
Easy Rider Facts:
The bikes for the film, based on hardtail frames and Panhead engines, were designed and built by African American chopper builders Cliff Vaughs and Ben Hardy, following ideas of Peter Fonda, and handled by Tex Hall and Dan Haggerty later during shooting.
As to why the post-WWII bobber appeared; I suspect that it was a reaction among patriotic ex-servicemen to the performance common to British motorcycles sold in the US in that era.
1905 and Now up to 2008
Once the war was over in 1945 civilian production commenced again.
In 1949 the Hydra-Glide was introduced using hydraulic front forks. The 1950's were not a good time at Harley-Davidson.
The British with their Triumph and BSA motorcycles had 40% of the market.
These were smaller, lighter and in some cases faster bikes.
This problem was met head on and in 1957 with the introduction of the Sportster.
However, for those who preferred the 74
to the 45
, cutting a lot of weight from the Panhead
seemed an obvious solution in the hunt for llivelier acceleration and more responsive handling.