In this blog post, you’ll discover:  
  • What the differences are between a chopper vs. bobber motorcycle
  • Some common engine types used in chopper and bobber builds
  • How a bobber differs from a standard or even “streetfighter” motorcycles

What is a Chopper Motorcycle?

peter fonda riding a chopper motorcycle
Brian Snelson, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Choppers can best be described as the motorcycle equivalent of a hotrod – immortalized through movies like Easy Rider from 1969.   The name “chopper” comes from the heavy modification or “chopping” done when making one of these motorcycles. Choppers are often modified from a standard cruiser, but sometimes, they’re built from scratch.  You’ll know the drill if you’ve ever seen shows like American Chopper. Some key characteristics of choppers are:
  • Extended front forks with high handlebars (known as “ape hangers”)
  • Large wheels (especially at the rear)
  • A set of tubes that connects to the rear fender – known as a “sissy bar”
Because of these features, choppers are all about style rather than safety or performance.

Common engines used in chopper builds

Harley Davidson engines are undoubtedly one of the most common engines for choppers. But even engines from British brands like Triumph are also common. It’s not uncommon to see choppers with engines from Japanese motorcycle brands like Honda.

What is a Bobber Motorcycle?

image of bobber motorcycle
Photo by Alex Borghi
Compared with the chopper motorcycle, the bobber has been around much longer – as far back as the 1930s. And unlike choppers, the bobber motorcycle doesn’t feature a heavily modified frame. Instead, the modifications involve removing non-essential parts, like the front fender and replacing the original seat with a “spring saddle.”
This process was known as “bobbing” – and as you may have realized, that’s where these motorcycles get their name from. The name has stuck too – so much so that some companies have models with “Bobber” in their title. One such example is the Triumph Bonneville Bobber.

Bobber vs. Streetfighter

A streetfighter is a high-displacement motorcycle (often a sportbike) with its fairings removed and lightweight and shortened exhausts, among a few things. As an example, take a look at the 2014 Triumph Street Triple R pictured below:
Dennis Bratland, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
So what makes a streetfighter different from a bobber? The definition isn’t cut in stone, but generally speaking, a streetfighter tends to be made from a modern sportbike, while a bobber tends to be made from an older cruiser-style motorcycle.

Bobber vs. standard motorcycle

The definition of a bobber and a streetfighter may be up for interpretation. The difference between a bobber and a standard motorcycle (aka “naked bike”) is more definitive. What makes a standard motorcycle different from a bobber is that a standard motorcycle rolls off the factory with next to no fairings on it. In other words, they’re not bobbed the same way that a bobber is – because they have no fairings to remove.