Best bike to bobber for a girl?
July 19, 2012 11:33 AM   Subscribe

Best motorcycle to convert into bobber for small female?

The first thing I care about is weight, it needs to be light as a feather. The second issue is height. I want to be able to easily touch the ground. Every bike I've ridden has felt like it owns me and I dont own it.

So far I've been recommended:
I was told to look for a Honda CB 750 '75-'82

Any others?

Any suggestions as to how to make it lighter with parts etc. or the best places to find this type of thing are welcomed.
posted by JJkiss to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
What kind of riding? Around town with no interstate? Yamaha TW200!
posted by workerant at 11:38 AM on July 19, 2012

I would like to do long distance rides as well as around town.
posted by JJkiss at 11:45 AM on July 19, 2012

I have a friend who is also a small female. She is about 5 feet tall. She actually bought a new bike a couple years ago that her husband has since lowered for her. It is definitely a Yamaha. Cruiser style with, I'm thinking, a 600cc engine.

But, she went around to all of the motorcycle dealerships in the area with a guy she trusts to sit on and try out bikes. Have you done that, yet?

Before that, my friend had an '85 Honda Rebel and, now my bike, an '82 Honda CM 250 Custom. Small bikes. But, to be honest, the engine isn't big enough (for me, anyway) to do much more than commute within town on. If there's a headwind, my bike won't go faster than 60mph. I know. I've tried. But this kind of bike is a good small size, so I think the CB 750 is going to be similar.

Our local motorcycle training class uses Rebels and other 250cc motorcycles, and they sell them off every year or so. If you want a small bike like that, it might be possible to find a similar situation in your area.

The nice thing about the 80s Hondas is that there are lots of them out there still running great. I have 22k miles on mine and he still runs awesome. And they are cheaper than newer ones and people have been working on them and modifying them for decades.
posted by jillithd at 11:57 AM on July 19, 2012

Just looking at this website for my bike and it shows some nice Suzukis in the same range. I'd say that if you got between a 400cc and a 750cc, that'd be a good engine size for what you're looking for.
posted by jillithd at 11:59 AM on July 19, 2012

I'm 5'2" and was comfortably flat-footed on the ground on a stock Suzuki Intruder 800.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:01 PM on July 19, 2012

A Suzuki Savage is a 650 single cylinder cruiser that goes back to the 80s, relatively lightweight bike that's bobber ready, and will do distance alright. They are not too big and have low seat height. The CB 750 is more of a crotch rocket compared to most other twins or thumpers even of the same displacement.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:08 PM on July 19, 2012

I've seen a handful of 74-84 Honda CB bikes converted to bobbers. A friend--small woman--had a 76 cb360 bobber that was a great little bike. They ride short already, so I think they lend themselves well to that style.
posted by broadway bill at 12:10 PM on July 19, 2012

Depends on your budget and preference.

A second-hand Harley Sportster 883 Hugger is a good choice for a beginner bike project, as parts are plentiful and expertise easy to find, online and at local riding clubs. The Hugger was designed specifically to lower the standover height for smaller riders - if you can't find a hugger, lowering a Sportster is a pretty common aftermarket mod, kits are readily available. You can mod it to look like a vintage flat-track racer if you want to avoid the typical Harley look.

Vintage UJM's are definitely "cooler" at the moment, and donor bikes cheaper, but the parts and know-how are much tougher to come by - you need to be real confident in your fabrication and mechanical chops.

If you want something new with a warranty, look into the new Royal Enfields... slick looking bikes, and fairly reliable since they went to fuel injection.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:15 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

"Bobber" is not a familiar term to me so I don't know what the conversion would entail, but I would absolutely not suggest a stock CB750 as a lightweight bike for a small woman. I've owned several of them, all in the '75 and '76 model years. They're heavy, the seats are high and while they are nice and stable on straightaways, they don't handle very easily on curvy roads. They meet exactly none of your stated criteria.
posted by jon1270 at 12:24 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

tha heist?
What's your inseam? (a more useful measurement than height)
The virago is a fairly low "chick" cruiser.
What's your budget? are you set on a bobber? Want to do the work yourself?
posted by captaincrouton at 12:59 PM on July 19, 2012

Sorry for thread-sitting, but my friend's new bike is definitely a V-Star (the model that replaced the Virago captaincrouton mentions)!
posted by jillithd at 1:02 PM on July 19, 2012

What jon1270 said. The cb750 is kind of a pig of a bike, top heavy and far from svelte. A smaller cruiser would be better, as might some ducatis.
posted by Forktine at 1:06 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Kawasaki LTD 454 or Vulcan 500 might be a good starting point. They're relatively lightweight cruisers with a low seat height, and since you're building a bobber, swapping the stock seat for a thin solo saddle will get you even lower. Both bikes use the same basic liquid-cooled parallel twin motor that was used in the EX500 and Ninja 500, which has proven to be a reliable, rugged powerplant with a surprising amount of power for its size - definitely enough for longer freeway rides. They were made from the late 80s until 2009, so there are enough of them around that it shouldn't be too tricky to find one, and parts availability shouldn't be a problem.
posted by zombiedance at 1:46 PM on July 19, 2012

My first bike was a 250 Rebel. I did some long-distance riding on it, but it was not the most comfortable way to go. I currently have a Honda Shadow VLX, which I find very comfortable even with my 28 inch inseam.
The CB 750 is a nice bike, but probably bigger than what you are looking for.
posted by lawhound at 1:54 PM on July 19, 2012

This is my bobber, a 1986 Honda rebel

Good for about 2 hours of riding max in a stretch, but small, nimble and reliable. Bobber porn.
posted by kanemano at 3:23 PM on July 19, 2012

Honda CX500. Not as light as some, but for under a grand (heck, under $500 if you get lucky like I did on craigslist) you get: a running bike no collector ever gave a second glance to so no one will ever begrudge you hacking it up, a backbone frame with a swingarm that begs to be cut up, shaft drive, and a dead reliable, water cooled, v-twin motor that slips out of the frame in mere minutes, (Replace the stator first off, and check the water pump seals while you have the motor out of the frame), and cheap parts everywhere you turn (I've seen five to six for sale this month just for parts for $100-200).

It's the smoothest v-twin engine I've ever had the privilege of sitting on top of, and though the torque isn't as instant as my vertical twin, it's got enough oomph for twisty roads, a long day of interstates or a quick run to the supermarket.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 5:13 PM on July 19, 2012

Honda CX500

Oh god, no. The CX has the best motor Honda ever made -- but is also the most top-heavy motorcycle Honda has ever made. You want something super light and low to the ground, and with a low center of gravity. If you are set on old, look at BMW twins, Ducatis, or Hondas like the CB-1.
posted by Forktine at 5:44 PM on July 19, 2012

Oh god, no.

You're mostly right about the stock machine, but if you're building a bobber, it has loads of odd stuff you can strip off and add lightness to. I ripped a metric ton of questionable 80's "styling" and worthless weight off my wife's bike and once you get all that extraneous crap off, turns out there's actually a decent little bike under hiding all that plastic. Look at the Wrenchmonkees CX 500 build for an idea of what I went for. Her bike weighs in a few ticks over 400 lbs now and handles quite nicely.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 7:27 PM on July 19, 2012

Nthing the recommendations to steer away from the CB750. I have a 750 and the seat height is perfect size for me as a 5'10" woman with long legs. It is a far cry from light and I do not see that changing with even the most drastic of measures when bobbing it.

Personally for bobbing, I would look at a 74-76 CB360. But bobbing a bike to fit your inseam isn't going to get you a comfortable long distance bike.

If you're just looking for a bike that will fit, as a 100% Honda girl all the way (I have THREE) , saying this shocks me: go to a Harley dealership and look at one of their "Super Low" sportsters. They are really nice bikes.
posted by hecho de la basura at 7:33 AM on July 20, 2012

I own a '78 Honda CB 550F, and it is pretty tall. I'm 5'6" and on my tippy toes. Jon1270 is right, these aren't what you want.

You might want to look at a Buell Blast. I know some have modded them in to bobbers, and they are light and low (especially with the lower stock seat), but not cruiser low.
posted by QIbHom at 11:51 AM on July 20, 2012

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