I assume shortly after the wheel was invented, someone walked over to the inventor and said, “Not bad, but wait till I get done with it.” We like to make things our own, especially our vehicles. Motorcycles have been and continue to be modified. But even long time riders can get confused by the names of all the different types of “customizations.” So here is Ohio City Moto’s quick guide to some of the more popular types (most of which have been adopted by manufacturers themselves).
Scrambler: Scramblers originated when riders wanted to ride their bikes in the dirt. Before motocross and motocross bikes, riders would take their street bikes, move the exhaust pipes up (so the pipes didn’t get beat to hell by stumps and roots), wrap them (so the rider didn’t burn the hell out of him or herself), put on some knobby tires and head off-road.
Café racer: The typical café racer has low slung handle bars, minimal seat, and a look reminiscent of 60’s road racing motorcycles. Café racers originated with British “rockers” who would modify their Triumphs, Nortons, and Vincents so they could speed between drinking establishments, cafés. The resurgence of the café racer aesthetic had riders modifying old Japanese bikes to create new café racers. Now pretty much any bike, new or old, is up for “caféing.”
Bobber: Bobbers could be considered the American equivalent to the café racer, though the original “Bob-Jobs” predate cafés. A lot of Harley Davidson and Indian riders wanted a fast, light, stripped down bike, so they “bobbed” their bikes, cutting the fenders and anything extraneous off. The wheel base was shortened and the seat lowered. Of course, what started as performance modifications also became a cool aesthetic.
Chopper: The chopper has so many variations, It’s a little hard to define, but the look came from the Bobber, all extras were “chopped” off. What the chopper added was a kicked out front wheel. Choppers are the ultimate cruisers. That front wheel keeps the bike stable, and when combined with a big engine the bikes make great drag racing machines. With the front end, quick turns are near impossible, yet most choppers look too cool to be criticized for performance issues.