Guest Post – How to Choose the Best Custom Motorcycle Style For You
Choosing a custom motorcycle really sets you out in a crowd. Just owning a motorbike sets you apart from the herd already. But what if you want to stand out from other motorcyclists?
Well, of course, you could get yourself a flamboyantly detailed leather jacket, or get a novelty helmet with your face printed on the outside of it. Or you could do it properly and invest your time or money in a custom motorcycle. That’s a one-off bike that no-one else on the planet has. What could be better than that? Nothing, that’s what!
Hold up, before you sprint out to the shed and rip bits of your current bike, or even rush out and commission a custom build, stop and have a think about what style you want. Ask yourself a few questions: How often will I use this? Is this bike for commuting to work, or just for fun, or both? Am I more interested in style or comfort?
Below we have a quick rundown of some of the most popular types of custom-built bikes out there, and why people like or dislike them.
Bobbers, originally known as a “bob-job”, were the OG (that’s original for you older folk) form of custom motorcycle. Born in the 1920s, riders began to modify their stock Indians and Harleys to improve performance and appearance. Primarily by stripping excess body weight such as removing the front fender and clipping the rear one, as in like a “bob-tail”.
Where early Bobbers were all about extra performance, today’s Bobbers are all about style and not so much about engine output. They are a bike designed to be shown off, not one for those that just want to ride hard. In some of the more traditional parts of the Bobbing community bikes with parts newer than ten years can have their authenticity challenged.
You should consider a Bobber if you love vintage styling, you live in an urban area and you like showing off. You should probably avoid a Bobber if you are looking for something practical, quick, comfortable or modern.
Like Bobbers, Choppers were so-called as originally they were made by literally “chopping” down or stripping parts found on stock bikes, today the name “Chopper” has come to represent a certain style of a custom bike. Generally speaking, choppers have a high raked front end, thin front wheel, low or no rear suspension, elongated handlebars and a high sissy bar at the back.
Think 70’s bikers and you are probably thinking Choppers.
Choppers were born from the Bobber movement. But whereas originally Bobbers cared more for performance, Choppers were more about style. And they took a lot of influence from drag racing cars and motorbikes in the 1940s and 50s. Comfort was sacrificed for style.
Why choose a Chopper? Well for one reason alone really, they look incredibly cool.
Reasons not to choose one, well where to start…hard to handle, uncomfortable, small gas tanks, no suspension, “ape hanger” handlebars that will tire your arms out. The list goes on. But if style is what you are after, then Choppers have that, oh boy, do they have that!
So what exactly is a Street Tracker? Well, a Street Tracker is a road-legal bike that styled to look and feel a lot like an American flat-track racing bike of yesteryear.
Original trackers were road bikes customised for dirt racing, and now Street Trackers are road bikes designed to look and feel like dirt bikes. It’s all gone, full circle baby!
If you’re trying to get an image of a tracker in your head, think Evel Knievel, his trusty Harley XR-750 is one of the most iconic tracker bikes of all time.
Street Trackers today take most of their styling cues from race bikes of 40-50 years ago when dirt track racing was in its heyday. So, they look great and if you want a bike you can drive to work during the week and then hit the dirt at the weekend, then it’s a great choice.
Just don’t choose one for comfort. Oh, and Trackers are usually single-seaters, so they wouldn’t be much good if you have a motorbiking partner in crime you need to transport around.
Café Racers were born in the UK in the 1950s and 60s, these stripped-down small-displacement engined bikes developed as a way the “cool kids” of the time could race from one café hangout to another. Hence the name.
There is no way you are going to mix up a Café Racer bike with a Bobber or Brat. Café Racers are derived from classic racing bikes. They have low “clip-on” handlebars that force the rider into a tucked into aerodynamic position, ala motorbike racers.
If you are looking for a motorbike that combines classic styling and speed, or you just don’t have a huge amount of room at home for a larger bike like a Bobber, Chopper or Brat, then the Café Racer could be for you.
The downside, you aren’t going to have much companionship on one of these, they are one person only. Nobody to keep you back warm on a long ride.
Scramblers and Café Racers have a lot in common. If one flies past you at speed it might be hard to spot the difference. They both have middle seats and both are ridden high in the racer style. What sets them apart? Well, in general, a Scrambler motorcycle has a higher exhaust and wheels designed for off-road terrain. They are designed to well, scramble, whereas Café Racers are strictly road bikes.
When should you choose a Scrambler? Well, if you want a bike with classic styling, that is fast but relatively small, and you can take it off the road, then you should definitely get yourself a Scrambler. Don’t get one however if you want a true off-road experience, for that best get yourself a true dirt bike.
Well, there you have it, the main styles of custom motorcycle and some of the pros and cons of each. Do your research, ask your biking buddies for advice, go on some test rides. The important thing is not to rush into any decision you will regret later. Take your time, make the right choice for you, your riding style, your body and you will be hitting the road on your custom bike in no time at all!