Pretty, basic

Yamaha’s dressy XVS650 Dragstar hides a neat machine beneath the frills

WORDS & PHOTOS by Oliver Hulme

CHOPPERS, CUSTOMS, CAFÉ RACERS and bobbers all come from the same basic root. The principle is that if you make your motorcycle lighter by junking all the heavy extra bits and pieces put on it by the original manufacturer you’ll end up with a better, faster motorcycle. In the USA the legend is that this idea came from riders of Harley-Davidsons and Indians who wanted to compete on level terms with the faster, smaller, lighter bikes coming out of Bracebridge Street, Plumstead, Meriden and Small Heath.

The Hulk. The big number 3 on the tank is a reference to one of the new owner’s children

Those choppers from the US soon became more extravagant and shiny until it wasn’t so much the performance as the appearance that became the reason for their creation.

Custom bike building starts on the street before becoming mainstream, and a supply of suitable machines at low prices is needed to keep things healthy. As that supply of basic modifiable bikes started to dry up, building a custom bike on a budget became harder. That was until the arrival of the recent trend for Bobbers, a subculture of bike builders that owes much to their ancestors of the 1950s. Bobbers are being built in sheds and garages across the world – you’ll see them at city centre bars, hip clothing outlets and coffee shops, sometimes on the street and sometimes as interior decoration.

This 1998 Yamaha XVS650 Dragstar bobber is a good example of the breed. Yamaha’s 650 street cruiser has developed a dedicated following since replacing the XV535 and was in production and on sale in the UK until recently. You can still buy a version in the US. Christened The Hulk because of the green paint job, this is the creation of a young four-man team of builders, Bristol Bobbers, who have rented a shed at the back of a pub to work on their creations. While the BB crew would love to make a full-time business out of what they do, at the moment they work in their spare time with an almost evangelical zeal.

Read more in the April issue of CBG – out now!