A bobber motorcycle is street legal, but depending on your location, there may be some restrictions as it involves removing extraneous components as part of its modification process. For example, California and New York impose stringent regulations mandating that all motorcycles have turn signals, at least one rear-view mirror, brake lights, and headlights.
Meanwhile, Illinois and Florida may have a more relaxed stance, with no specific laws requiring turn signals, yet still impose muffler restrictions with no modifications allowed, similar to Michigan and Utah.
Why Choosing a Street-Legal Bobber Motorcycle Matters
Adherence to these regulations that determine whether a bobber motorcycle is street legal brings us to the importance of selecting the right bobber motorcycle, whether it’s a DIY or factory model, especially considering that factory bobbers come with distinct features. But let’s take a step back in time, to the roaring 1920s when bobbers first burst onto the scene as enthusiasts modified their bikes for a better look and performance.
The trend evolved into ‘California Cut-Down,’ followed by ‘bob-jobs,’ before becoming the base of the custom scene, with manufacturers offering accessories. Bobber motorcycles then experienced a resurgence in the early 2000s, coinciding with the retro scene explosion, prompting manufacturers to produce their own factory bobbers, albeit with some controversy.
Today, there are several outstanding bobber motorcycles available, including:
- Indian Scout Bobber
- Harley Davidson Street Bob 114
- Honda Rebel 1100
Top 3 Best Bobber Motorcycles of 2023
|Motorcycle Model||Engine Size||Horsepower||Wet Weight||Price (MSRP)|
|Harley Davidson Street Bob 114||1,868 cc||95 hp||655 lbs.||$16,599|
|Indian Scout Bobber||1,133 cc||100 hp||553 lbs.||$12,249|
|Honda Rebel 1100||1,083 cc||86 hp||524 lbs.||$9,499|
As always, to facilitate easier comparison of items with similar value, I will be reviewing my selections in ascending order, starting with the most expensive and moving towards the slightly less expensive options:
1. Harley Davidson Street Bob 114
Price (MSRP): $16,599
Engine Type: 114 cu in (1,868 cc) Milwaukee-Eight® 114 V-Twin
Horsepower: 95 hp
Transmission: 6 Speed
Wet Weight: 655 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 3.5 Gallons
Named after the 1,868 cc Milwaukee-Eight power plant that it hauls, the Street Bob 144 holds its own against serious competitors like the Yamaha XV650R Bolt R-spec and its sibling, Sportster Forty-Eight. It’s the ideal HD bobber to customize.
The bike rides on 49 mm telescopic front forks with aluminum triple clamps, gaiter covers, and a dual-rate spring. The 144 also has a 43mm stroke-free piston coil-over mono-shock with cam-style preload adjustment, making it the Softail model with the largest engine HD has ever mounted.
Hang on to the mini-apes, and you have all-LED high beam and signature positioned headlamps, or as per each jurisdiction’s legal requirements, bullet-style multi-function stop/turn signals at the rear and incandescent bullet front signals to keep this bobber street legal. And with the blacked-out finish and Annihilator cast aluminum wheels, the all-American badass vibe is complete.
2. Indian Scout Bobber
Price (MSRP): $12,249
Engine Type: 69 cu in (1,133 cc) Liquid Cooled V-Twin
Horsepower: 100 hp
Transmission: 6 Speed
Wet Weight: 553 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 3.3 Gallons
Running on the same punchy 1,133 cc V-twin motor and chassis as the standard Indian Scout, the Scout Bobber draws its mojo from the best motorcycles from the ‘50s. From the aggressive riding stance with forward set foot pegs and a revised handlebar, to the chopped fenders that reveal the beefy tires underneath, and the matt black cloak, the new 2023 Indian Scout Bobber oozes style and confidence.
Of course, the rear twin shock setup is lower (by one inch) compared to regular Scout to bring out those bold bobber styling, and you can rely on the commanding 100 bhp and 72 ft. lbs. torque delivered through a 6-speed transmission. Stopping power is generated by giant 298 mm (about 11.73 in) discs with ABS, but you can opt out of the safety feature and save a pretty penny with the metallic black variant.
There is a higher trim called the Scout Rogue with a quarter fairing, mini-ape handlebars, and a 19-inch front wheel for that more pronounced slammed appearance. You can also opt for the lower trim Scout Bobber Sixty, which has a smaller and more approachable 1,000 cc motor and saves $2,000. Oh, and each Scout Bobber has a 2-up seat accessory option and nine color schemes to choose from – there is an Indian for every rider.
3. Honda Rebel 1100
Price (MSRP): $9,499
Engine Type: 1,083 cc Liquid-Cooled 22.5° Parallel-Twin
Horsepower: 86 hp
Transmission: 6 Speed
Wet Weight: 524 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 3.6 Gallons, Including 1.1-Gallon Reserve
Every cruiser enthusiast has thought about it; customizing a Honda with a bob-job. And the new 2023 Rebel 1000 offers low-slung seats with the ideal slammed geometry for a non-invasive bobber custom. It may have that relaxed 1950s vibe, but its up-to-date power rigs and controls handle like a modern sports cruiser, leaving antique bobber mods in the dust.
It’s everything you want in a modern city ride without the clutter of displays, bits and bobs. Whether you go with the automatic DCT transmission or a conventional six-speed transmission, the 1,084 cc 270-degree cranked parallel twin is sure to pack 72 ft. lbs. torque punch, making a peak 86 hp of, say, CRF1100L Africa Twin.
Perhaps the cherry on top is that Honda makes an assortment of riding aids from selectable modes and full LED lighting to cruise control, and even wheelie control.
Pro Tip: Buying a factory model avoids the need for customization. But if you choose to modify your own bobber instead of opting for a factory model, the benefit is that the modifications you make are entirely reversible, and you can always revert to the traditional stock setup if necessary.
To learn more about the best motorcycles for bob-jobs and the modification process, including the necessary accessories, read my article “What Is a Bobber Motorcycle? An In-Depth Look at the Evolution of Stripped-Down Bikes.”
I've diligently categorized my motorcycle gear recommendations into all available categories, with the aim of providing you with a comprehensive analysis that showcases the absolute best options for all your needs. These items are the culmination of in-depth research, extensive testing, and personal use throughout my vast experience of 50+ years in the world of motorcycling. Besides being a passionate rider, I've held leadership positions and offered consultancy services to reputable companies in over 25 countries. To See Top Picks and the Best Prices & Places to Buy: Click Here!
Information for this article was partially sourced and researched from the following authoritative government, educational, corporate, and non-profit organizations:
- New York Department of Motor Vehicles
- Motorcycle Lawyer Michigan
- Indian Motorcycle