Bobbers Versus Choppers By Sugar Bear

“Sugar Bear” opened his shop in Los Angeles in 1971.  His intent at that time, as now, was to produce street rideable Choppers and products, not show creations.  Because it was evident that a quality Springer was needed to reflect his customers’ desires for the long look, “Sugar Bear” started to build Springer front ends in solid steel where the triple trees were offset for greater turning radius, and both sets of legs (front and back) were to be made from round material only, resulting in a clean and simple design. “Sugar Bear” front ends are still a well kept secret in the industry. He wrote this very interesting piece where  he defines what is a  Bobber versus a Chopper (Bobber picture by Kiwi Indian).  

"A short bike with a Sportster tank and a flat fender is not a Bobber. It’s just a short chop. About 99% of the bikes that are called Bobbers…well, you get the picture. I’ve been involved in conversations with youngsters (born after 1960_ who claim that what they build are Bobbers. I’m not even sure most of them have ever seen one. In the 50’s, in my area, we were riding chops, bobbers and garbage wagons (full dressers or baggers as they are known now) and each had a distinct style! Chops had cut-down tanks (this is before Sportster tanks were made), cut-down fenders, no floorboards, cut-up bars or apes, usually upsweeps with fishtails (normally no mufflers), side mount taillight, etc. Bobbers had small fatbobs, floorboards, bobbed rear stock fender (usually cut at the rear fender hinge), the stock exhaust 2 into 1), stock bars, basically a cut-down (bobbed) stock bike. Of course we know what a garbage wagon (eh, bagger) looked like. Anyway, you guys are building short chops, not bobbers. This is a cycle that repeats itself time after time. People start building chops, long chops because that’s always what a chop should look like. Then after a while they begin to realize that the long chops they built are hard to candle and you need gorilla arms to keep it straight and to turn. Of course these people flunked geometry and physics because they unknowingly set up wrong their bikes. So, to be able to get back to riding they shortened up the bikes but didn’t want them to be called chops because that might seem to infer they don’t handle, so they called the bobbers, custom bikes, etc…I have seen this cycle so many times in my riding history that it’s ridiculous.

I remember people snickering at me in the early 90’s because I was riding long chops and still building them. They said: -it looks cool, but I wouldn’t ride one of those. How does that thing handle in the curves? (snicker)- It’s very easy to tell who the uninformed are. If you don’t know how to set up a long bike so you can ride with one hand and be comfy, buy a Stocker, put some chrome and handlebars on it and stop ruining the reputation of choppers. If you want a chop and don’t know how to set up a long one, do a short one. A long chop is a thing of beauty. There is nothing like it. If set up right, you’ll ride forever and smile away every mile. If in doubt, ask anyone who has ridden a “Sugar Bear” chop. Remember, a short bike with a Sportster tank and a flat fender is not a bobber. It’s just a short chopper"

12 Responses to “Bobbers Versus Choppers By Sugar Bear”

  1. 1 DJ CHOPPER GOD Oct 27th, 2007 at 10:36 am

    Well now that we’ve settled that, let’s all ride the hell out of whatever they’re called!!! C.F.L.

  2. 2 John Oct 27th, 2007 at 10:59 am

    Interesting remarks, but why today’s builders would not build their own style of bobbers…or choppers? Doesn’t have to be an exact reproduction from the past!

  3. 3 Gary Drumm Oct 27th, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    Nice explanation. But who cares how it’s called if you enjoy it. They are all custom bikes.

  4. 4 CJ "Warden" Hanlon Oct 28th, 2007 at 8:30 am

    Sugar Bear, that explination, is one of the best i’ve read. Mike (kiwi motorcycles) has gracefully corrected even me a few times on the use of “bobber” and i was born pre-60’s! However you cut it, thanks for the clarification and hopefully those watching will correct their verbage and ride a true “bobber’…(ok, that’s self serving as we sell kiwi’s bikes/parts, but you get the point)…

  5. 5 Scott Oct 28th, 2007 at 9:23 am

    I think we need to consult the chopper gods at OCC for the answer and finally put this age old argument to rest. HA HA

  6. 6 Rick Oct 28th, 2007 at 9:58 am

    OCC doesn’t know what they are building!!!

  7. 7 Nicker Oct 28th, 2007 at 10:49 pm


    “… But who cares how it’s called …”

    Well, if everyone used random terms for anything and everything, how the hell would we communicate?

    So if newbees don’t listen to old timers, well then that’s when you get nonsense like “suicide-shift.”


  8. 8 Troy Johnson Nov 4th, 2007 at 2:04 pm

    Thank you Cyril for displaying this article and thank you Sugar Bear for being you. Some of you would do well to listen to Sugar Bear instead of disrespecting his knowledge. Sugar Bear is one of the chopper gods. and has forgotten more about choppers and bobbers than most people will ever know. Us “old timers” are getting quite a good laugh about your “bobbers”, copper gas and oil lines and overall lack of knowledge about motorcycles. I do think that you shouldn’t be selling some of this junk to public, who also doesn’t realize when that copper oil line work-hardens and cracks, and it will, then you have created a oil slick for them to slide in. I do diagree with Sugar Bear on one thing, they didn’t flunk out of geometry and physics, it wasn’t part of their curriculum to begin with.

  9. 9 stagolee Feb 8th, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    Thanks for the education Sugar Bear. You put the finest point on the subject that I’ve ever heard.

    Experience and wisdom wins again.

  10. 10 Mike Greenwald Sep 22nd, 2008 at 11:22 am

    Here is some more insight.

  11. 11 karen Feb 4th, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    does sugar bear have a website of his own?

  12. 12 Cookie (Lowflyers) UK Mar 5th, 2009 at 8:14 am

    Makes sense to me Sugar Bear. A Bobber,s bobbed down and a Chopper,s chopped up regardless of the length of it. We get the same mis-terminology in hot rodding. Its usually down to so-called experts with nothing better to do than make rules and regulations up. I’ve built me a Tribsa Strutter so no confusion there! I’m sure its against the rules though. Anyway f^*k this lets ride

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Cyril Huze