Last night, outside a bar, I was getting my helmet on next to my bike (a customized xl883c), when some guy got close and started asking me questions, the same old questions a Harley rider is used to hear; among those one struck me: “Is this a chopper? What does chopper mean, anyway?”.
That’s when I got the idea of clearing the air about the various definitions of custom bikes: Bobber, Chopper, Café Racer, Scrambler, Hugger, Bagger, Full-Dresser, Rat Bike.
Bobbers were born in the late Twenties.
A bobber is a “stripped down” motorcycle, a bike from which all the non-fundamental parts are removed and lose weight both for better performance and style reasons.
The name comes from the shortening (bobbing) of the rear fender, which is the characterizing customization, together with the removal of as many chrome as possible that usually leaves space to matt black. Other common modifications (other than removing pretty much everything) are fat 16” tires, springer forks, smaller gas tank, banded collectors, raised handlebars, and short pipes.
Bobber’s Motto is: Less is Better.
Choppers were born in the United States back in mid-sixties, and are Bobbers’ evolution more than, as many say, antithesis.
A Chopper is a heavily customized (or made from scratch) motorcycle, which main characteristic is the modification of the frame, usually cutted (chopped) and then extended to modify the caster angle for a stretched-out look; usually a longer fork is also installed. Other common customizations are hardtail frames (frames with no rear suspensions), Ape hangers (tall handlebars), removal of the front fender and brake (as the saying goes: “Front brake, Chopper fake), wider and thinner front wheels (19” or 21”), high Sissybars (tubes mounted on the rear fender mainly used as a backrest for the passenger or/and as a rack), forward mounted foot pegs, as many chromed parts as possible and smaller “peanut” fuel tanks.
Café Racer origins lie in the United Kingdom back in mid-sixties, when proper racing bikes were not available on the market, so people started customizing their bikes to look as much as possible like those, and also optimized to be fast rather than comfortable. The name was a depreciative nickname due to their presence outside cafes, where their owners used to gather. Common customization are low-mounted straight handlebars, seat cowling, retro style, fairing, more performant brakes and suspensions, knee pads on the tank and tuned engines.
Rat Bikes must have a rough, run-down look. Originally “created” as a necessity by american farmers, who,having no money to spend on restoration, use to patch them up with any piece available, motorcycle related or not (e.g. often mufflers were fixed using soda cans). The purpose was obviously having them running with the lowest possible level of manteinance expenses. Today, Rat bikes are made on purpose by painting them roughtly in matt black (sometimes random sprays of dark gray are also used to make the bike look even more dirty) and are left to rust and filth, dented, and made as “survival” as possible.
Rat bikers motto is: In rust we trust.Glen Bullock on Pinterest
Scrambler’s origins are in England back in the late 1920’s.
As for Café Racers, at those times dirt bikes were still not available on the market, so, to organize dirt or mixed race, riders started converting street bikes to face dirt roads, hill climbs, and run on any surface. Most common modification are big off-road tires with alloy wheels, higher exhausts, short and padded seat, better air box, smaller tank, and, of course, “less is better”.
A hugger is simply the lowered version of a standard bike (e.g. 883 and 883 hugger), simple as that.
A bagger is a bike that comes with rigid saddle bags and a windshield (RoadKing, Dyna Defender).
Sometimes confused with the bagger, a Dresser is a bike that comes with, aside from the rigid bags, a hard dashboard, windshield, and sometimes a hard tour pack.
Hope this makes it clearer for everyone… which is your favourite one?