With the recent return of Indian Motorcycle Company and the rebirth of Triumph Motorcycles in the 1990s, the competition for Harley Davidson is fiercer than ever. What is one thing these top motorcycle manufacturers have in common? Their part in the bobber movement. Which is why it comes to no surprise that bikers are eager for each company’s interpretation of the old school bobber. Bikers are going back into time with Harley Davidson’s Street Bob, Indian’s Scout Bobber and Triumph’s Bonneville Bobber. While some riders will remain loyal to a specific brand, others can explore their options by weighing out the advantages and disadvantages of these bikes.
Many old-school riders will argue that these bikes do not meet the definition of a “true” iconic bobber. While this is primarily due to these bikes being built with new technologies, such as electric start, it is important to accept that definitions change. Perhaps these bikes serve as a representation of how the bobber has transformed, such as most vehicles in the automotive industry. So, what makes a bobber motorcycle? One thing that certainly hasn’t changed is the idea of a stripped-down, minimalistic cruiser.
This dates back to the post-WWII era when returning servicemen were stripping excess body work and unnecessary parts off their bikes to reduce weight and go faster. It was also a cheaper way to keep motorcycles on the road. This included removing the front fender and cutting the rear fender down to a bob-tail. Another essential aspect of a bobber is the concept of heritage. Indian’s roots goes as far back to 1901, Triumph goes back to 1902 and Harley-Davidson traces back to 1903. For these three brands, the bobber is their genuine factory custom, an authentic and timeless piece that will ride on forever.
Before we decide which interpretation is the best, let’s take a look at each bobber to compare their unique designs and features. While technology and performance is important, we’ll also take a look at each’s bike’s aesthetic to determine how true each one is to the original bobber take.
Marketed at $14,499, the Harley-Davidson Street Bob’s V-twin motor runs at 1753cc and delivers a horsepower 74hp and 110lb.-ft of torque. This bike was first introduced as a Dyna in 2006 and reintroduced at the end of 2017 as a part of Harley Davidson’s cruiser lineup. It was reinvented with a brand new engine, suspension and chassis, while keeping most of the desirable elements from the first model. Not only is the steering far more neutral, but the bike puts quality dampening at work.
With a V-twin engine that performs at 1133cc and delivers 100hp and 72lb.-ft of torque, the Indian Scout Bobber is priced at $11,900. It contains the same cruiser engine and chassis as the original Scout introduced in 2014. The difference is purely aesthetic, focusing on the ride characteristic. The new model carries different tires and has a unique riding position and suspension. The rear shocks have been shortened for a lower ride height and the swept bars have been traded for a tracker-style bar.
For $11,900, bikers can purchase the Triumph Bonneville Bobber which carries a liquid-cooled parallel twin motor that runs at 1200cc and delivers 75hp and 78 lb.-ft. of torque. This sportier take on the bobber has a lean angle, low stance and adjustable seat that can switch between low and back, and high and forward. In efforts to achieve the bobber look, this version has a caged swingarm, a wide and flat handlebars and a smaller tank.
All of these bobbers are winners when it comes to a certain aspect. As for technology and comfort, the Triumph Bonneville Bobber exceeds expectations. It has an abundance of advanced features, like traction control, riding modes, torque-assist clutch and an anti-lock braking system (ABS). Not to mention, its adjustable seat allows you to choose your own comfortable position. On the downside, Triumph relies heavily on chain final drive, meaning you will have to purchase a paddock stand to clean and lube the chain and take the time to adjust the chain tension. Its 9-liter tank is also noticeably small, compared to Indian’s 12.5 liters and Harley’s 13.2 liters.
As for Indian’s Scout Bobber, it takes the cake when it comes to having an affordable starting price. This, of course, is without ABS which costs extra. The motorcycle manufacturer also wins in terms of engine with its 1233cc powerplant and its strikingly powerful horsepower. It has a sporty and firm handling with an aggressive rideability, as well as a low center of gravity that allows it to effortlessly zip through traffic. Unfortunately, some find themselves complaining about the seat comfortability and the ab strain of grabbing the handlebars. Keep in mind this isn’t a touring or adventure bike.
Harley’s Street Bob defends the strength of its name, beating its rivalries in presence by upholding the bare-bones spirit of a bobber. While the bike is much bigger, its weight is low to the ground making it feel lighter. It’s only until you slam on the brakes that you notice it’s 93Ib heavier than its competitors. This bike takes the win aesthetically, with its rough and rigidly dangerous look. It looks ready to get dirty, muddy and like it wouldn’t be afraid to rock a little rust.
The winner ultimately depends on what the reader prefers in a bike. If you’re deciding between these three bobbers, evaluate the type of features you’re looking for. Identify your tastes and riding style to choose the motorcycle best suited for you. If your heart sits with a certain brand and you have a personal bias, follow your heart. For example, you may only picture yourself riding into the sunset with Indian on your tank. Visit these dealerships and take a test drive to get a feel for the bike’s handling and riding position. Do you feel comfortable? Which bike ignites an adrenaline rushing feeling from within? Asking yourself all the right questions and weighing each bike’s advantages and disadvantages will help you make a choice.