“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.
Sugar Bear Choppers - Chops And Bobbers
By Sugar Bear
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 '50s, 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), sidemount 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, then they build long chops because that's always been considered what a chop should look like. Then after awhile, they begin to realize that the long chops they built are hard to handle 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 their bikes wrong. 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 them bobbers, custom bikes, etc.
I've seen this cycle so many times in my riding history that it's ridiculous. I remember people snickering at me in the early '90s because I was riding long chops and still building them. "That 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 it 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's nothing like it. If set up right, you'll ride it 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 chop.
Sugar Bear Choppers
Here's a bonus on one of the godfathers of choppers: