After my planned trip to the Western Isles of Scotland was put on hold by the Covid lockdown I decided to test the comfort of my Bobber by doing a few hundred miles (mostly none stop) around the Isle of Man TT course.
Are Bobbers good for long rides? I consider my Bobber to be ideal for both town and country lanes. The riding position though means speeds of 70mph and more soon become tiring. If your route involves lots of interstates then no, Bobbers aren’t the ideal motorcycle for long rides.
It’s not just that you are sat upright and battling the constant air resistance on your chest either. There’s a few other things to consider if you are planning a road trip on your Bobber.
Are Bobber Seats Comfortable?
All bobbers bikes (that look great) have a thin minimalist seat. I have the Triumph statement seat and I am usually thankful for a fuel stop so I can get off and have a stretch.
As you would expect, potholes don’t tend to be problem on the TT course.
From Barregarrow to Kirk Michael though, the road can be bumpy if you have some decent pace on. If your Bobber is a genuine hardtail then riding this type of road is going to be hell with a traditional Bobber seat between your legs.
Even though the Triumph Bobber has (limited) rear suspension, this is the most uncomfortable part of the course for me thanks to the hard seat.
If you watch any of the on board camera action from the professional TT riders you will see that they actually lift their backside out of the seat for this entire section.
I should point out though that when I had the standard seat on (which is much thicker) this stretch of road would pass by largely unnoticed.
Are Bobbers Comfortable To Ride?
Bobbers (that look great) don’t have a windscreen – or even a fly screen. Couple that with the upright sitting position and it makes for a windy ride should you find yourself eating up the miles at speed on a long stretch of open road.
On a naked sports such as the Yamaha XSR900 you can at least lay on the tank and get your head down.
With a Bobber though there’s no hiding from the air resistance and after a while it does wear you down. Find yourself riding into a headwind as well and it’s quickly both tiring and uncomfortable.
Long 70 mph motorway rides on a Bobber would not be my idea of an enjoyable trip.
Bobber Fuel Tanks
All Bobbers (that look great) have a small tank. Whether off the shelf or custom built, Bobber designers are trying to achieve a minimalist look with a clean line from the rear axle to the fork yoke.
A big tank just ruins the whole Bobber look.
I filled up at St. Ninians garage which is about 200 yards from the Grandstand and the TT start line.
For those interested, here on the Isle of Man it costs me £10 to fill the tank. Being on an island, everything that has to be shipped here obviously costs more. On the mainland I’m told £8 fills her up and for those lucky enough to be in the States I hear it’s about 75 cents 😉
I rode along Glencrutchery Road to the start line where I swung around and set off for the first lap.
I was just finishing lap 2 when the fuel gauge went straight from full to 3 bars, as it usually does. 2 laps is 75 miles so I decided to pass the St. Ninians fuel station for the second time and push on for the one at Kirk Michael.
I had done 90 miles by the time I pulled in for fuel and while the tank wasn’t empty, there wasn’t much left.
I had been pushing pretty hard, especially on the mountain section and if I had been up in the Scottish highlands the arse would definitely have been twitching if I would have had to continue on for another 10 miles for fuel.
A Bobbers small tank is definitely going to be a pain for those attempting long rides of 400 miles or more.
Do bobbers have rear suspension?
Traditional Bobbers and many custom builds only use hardtail frames. A hardtail pretty much ensures your Bobber is not going to be good for long road trips.
All modern off the shelf Bobbers do have rear suspension. A few such as the Harley Davidson Street Bob and the Triumph Bobber have a mono shock system and they do a decent job of hiding the suspension to give the appearance of a hardtail setup.
Can You Fit Luggage On a Bobber?
If you are considering buying or building a Bobber that you would want to use for long rides it’s worth noting there is limited space for fixing luggage. You have the rear mudguard and that’s about your lot.
Many of the off the shelf Bobbers offer side rails and bags as optional extras. The bags are generally small though due to the lack of space between seat and pipes.
They don’t look great on a Bobber either.
Is My Trip Still On?
I ended up doing just over 300 miles which was more than the distance from Heysham port to what would be my overnight stay at Glencoe.
I didn’t find it a problem. Arms were aching a bit later in the day but nothing that made me think a road trip isn’t doable on a Bobber.
No, it’s not the ideal motorcycle for road trips but a Bobber, like most styles of motorcycle are all about compromise.
Personally I’m happy to accept a Bobbers impracticalities in exchange for it’s looks. That’s why the statement seat will be staying on for the trip should we ever be allowed to leave the island again!
The Bar Hopper
If you are considering a Bobber as your main mode of transport and you have to do 500 mile round trips every weekend due to your girlfriend living on the other side of the country then like your current relationship, a Bobber is not going to be the best choice you ever made.
Think of a Bobber as the quintessential bar Hopper. It looks cool and is perfect for rides to the cafe or bar or even for a Sunday afternoon blast but there’s more comfortable options for those long road trips.