Bobber In A Box
By Steve Lita
Show some respect for the bobber! Long before the chopper came along and thought it was cool, the bobber ruled. It’s not just me. Everyone seems to be on the bobber bandwagon these days.
And I say, the more the merrier. The long-fork chopper are gone (again). And the minimalistic, do-it-yourself, low-budget attitude is just right for the times. I hope I never get sick of ’em. Our sister publication American Iron has run numerous bobber special editions. And now it’s our turn.
I was surfing the net, looking for cool, custom cues, and I stumbled onto a great web site. I don’t know how I linked to it, but I’m glad I did. Blue Collar Bobbers is the name and helping you build a fun, affordable, bolt-together bobber is the game. I had to learn more, so I fired an e-mail to the Utah-based shop and struck up a conversation. Owner Lance Wise got right back to me, and we immediately starting bouncing ideas around for a RoadBike project bike.
Lance started his machine shop back in 1975 with a concentration on developing pharmaceutical products. Luckily, that carried the business through the good and bad economies. He’s 61 years old now and his son runs the machine shop these days. “I started tinkering with the bobber thing and thought it would be fun to sell a few kits here and there,” Lance says. “Kind of a semiretirement thing. As it turned out, I’m working 10-12 hour days and loving every minute of it. My passion has always been in designing and creating new stuff. When I go to the shop, I’m like a kid going to Disneyland. I’ve always been an old-school dude, and I’m up to my ears in old-school stuff now,” he adds.
Once I had Lance onboard for the project, I needed a suitable donor that wouldn’t mind us stripping equipment off his bike, instead of the usual RoadBike modus operandi of bolting on parts. Now some might say that there’s something inherently wrong with buying a bobber as a kit. After all, the core of a bobber is to be individual, unique, and not mass-produced. Bobbers are traditionally homegrown and crude and revel in looking the part. However, after reviewing Blue Collar’s offerings and now having actually done the installs, I can say that there’s plenty of room for deviation and drawing out the rebel mechanic when installing Blue Collar parts. Lance’s measurements and machine work are meticulous, and he’s done all the hard work already. Why should I have to measure twice and cut once when Lance already has? The kits are modular, and you can install one component or do the entire Blue Collar treatment. His catalog of goodies is vast, with many varying options. You can bob a Honda Shadow 600, like we’re about to, or a Star V Star 650, a Kawasaki Vulcan 800, a Honda Rebel (finally, a way to make those things cool), Suzuki S40, or even a Harley Sportster.
Like I said, I needed a sharp saw blade and a victim. Just so happens a young colleague in my motorcycle safety class side job was about to get his motorcycle license. When Tyler Gyenizs started looking around for a bike, he went straight for a cruiser. It was just his riding style. “I shopped around for awhile. I looked at an assortment of bikes, Shadows, Sportsters,
V Stars, etc. I found a mint 1999 Honda Shadow VLX 600 at a local dealer. The condition of the bike and the price were too hard to resist. I knew it was a perfect fit for me. I was a beginning rider and didn’t want too much power, but I wanted a bike that would turn heads. Once I got the bike home I knew that my habit of customizing cars would soon influence my motorcycle. My original plan was to paint it black and change the bars. After the paint job, if I could save up some money, I planned to focus on the pipes, fenders, etc., take it step by step.” As soon as Tyler said “paint it black and change the bars,” I knew I had set the hook.
Tyler’s dad rides, too, and hot rods run in the family. “I would have to credit my dad for his influence on my taste in cars and motorcycles,” he told me. “As a kid I was always taken to car and motorcycle shows, and my dad’s enthusiasm for motor vehicles quickly became an obsession of mine. I found myself never being able to leave any vehicle in my possession stock; it was only of matter of time before my Shadow would be modified.”
Okay, so he’s not afraid of what I’m about to do to his bike. Now don’t think I took advantage of Tyler; I gave him an out. But he had bobber fever. “I had no idea I would be given such an amazing opportunity to create a dream bike in just a few weeks. I couldn’t be more excited and grateful for this opportunity,” he added. He’s in.
Time to get to work. The Blue Collar Honda Shadow 600 rear fender kit is a heavy-gauge, hand-layered composite fiberglass fender that comes ready to paint. This rear fender will not support a passenger, but Tyler was okay with that. It includes steel reinforcements straps at the mounting points and all the brackets are powdercoated gloss black. Some drilling is required, like the two 5/16″ holes just above rear axle. The Blue Collar kit is so comprehensive the drill bit is included. All hardware is, too, and the instruction sheets are actually entertaining DVDs. The hardest part of this job was having the patience to watch the DVD all the way through before I picked up a saw.
Follow along these next few months as we bob, hack, and shape Tyler’s Honda Shadow into a ride that’s way too cool for him. I almost didn’t want to give it back when it was done.
Blue Collar Bobbers
Rear Fender Kit, $225
Originally printed in RoadBike motorcycle magazine, November 2010