The Danish Bobber
Danish citizen Kim Scholer has owned and ridden Nimbuses for most of his life. “It’s like a virus I’ll never get rid of, in spite of frequent affairs with other brands,” he says. So one day he decided, why not a Nimbus bobber?
Kim explains: “Nimbuses are common as dirt here in Denmark, so the local vintage bike community doesn’t care much for them. Besides, they are too reliable, too easy to fix, parts are too cheap and too easy to find, and thus they’re completely missing that essential masochistic element so dear to most old-bike enthusiasts.
“But I’m a lousy mechanic, I ride a lot, and new bikes just don’t cut it for me. So a Nimbus it had to be. When the bobber style came back some years ago, I thought I’d go with it. A Nimbus bobber would almost be legal here, and in any case, leaving it all to the Harleys and the Indians just didn’t seem right.”
Different by design
Kim’s first step was to draw and redraw the project dozens of times. He found the process to be tricky with the Nimbus, finding often that by changing one thing, eight other things suddenly looked wrong.
But he kept on, tracking down needed parts and modifying where necessary — most notably the stock front fork, which was cut down 8 centimeters (about 3 inches) and its plate-type handlebar replaced with a motocross-type one. This was originally meant to be an interim solution, so Kim would know exactly how to bend the Harley-Davidson WLA-type bars he planned to add. But the motocross bars grew on him, so he plans to keep it that way.
Kim found an original, late 1920s Indian headlamp at a flea market for a ludicrously cheap price, then traded for the replica item a friend had for his Indian Four project. The replica’s internals consist of a VW Polo (Golf in the U.S.) reflector, an old piece of glass and an “ungodly amount of silicone keeping everything in place,” says Kim. A fellow Nimbus owner in Florida located “The Peace Taillight” on eBay for him, complete with the original packaging and all, for just $55.
The stock 19-inch wheels were replaced with 18-inch H-D wheels, and they’re now shod with Avon tires designed for sidecar duty: Tire quality is the one thing Kim didn’t want to skimp on. “Besides, I like the zigzag pattern,” Kim says.
An old friend of Kim’s fabricated the exhaust system, using four pre-bent 35 millimeter tubes exiting from the cylinder head joined to a 50 millimeter main tube. “Great care was taken to have it as close to the engine as possible, as I didn’t want a heat shield to mess up the styling. It took him three years to do it, though. He’s very good, but smokes too much funny stuff,” says Kim.
Other parts include an MZ front brake lever and switches, a Saab 96 door hinge for the H-D saddle, a Suzuki kickstand, and innumerable small bits and pieces Kim made in his workshop. The cut-down rear fender, the fender strut and the brakes are all Nimbus items.
Kim rode the bike without a speedometer for years, and though it doesn’t appear in these photos, he eventually added a Smith Chronometric as he likes its clockwork-style operation. Plus he needed the bike to have a speedo for a trip he was planning to Japan. More on that in a minute.
Remember Monty Python’s “dead parrot” sketch? No? In any case, this was re-enacted with Kim doing the John Cleese part, and the painter as the idiot pet shop owner. Over and over the parts were painted. When Kim wanted semi-gloss, the painter did gloss — nice and shiny in one place, and badly wrinkled at the other side. “Oh, can’t be done any other way,” the painter told him. The colors were wrong, too, but at least they matched. In the end another painter had to finish it, which he did beautifully. It took a full year to get the paint work done.
The last major modification was a new constant-mesh 4-speed gearbox, which replaced the original 3-speeder. Though it was hideously expensive, Kim says it was well worth it. “Hand gear change and suicide clutch took a little while getting used to,” Kim says. “So did the welcome at the annual Nimbus Club rally. Ten years ago they might have considered stabbing me – now it is smiles all around. Even the police, who do stop me every so often for other reasons, seem to have decided to ignore the obvious irregularities, like the missing front fender, which is illegal in Denmark.”
Unlike many custom motorcycles in the U.S., this bobber was built to be ridden. Kim has taken three major trips and put more than 6,000 miles on it since he finished the build, and he says the bike still works exactly the way it was designed to. “The Harley saddle and the wider handlebar make it much more comfortable than a standard Nimbus, mainly because the original Nimbus was designed at a time when people were just a lot shorter than they are today,” Kim says.
Oh yes, and remember that mention about Kim wanting to take the bike on a trip to Japan? Not only did he make the trip on the Nimbus, but he kept a blog throughout his eight weeks in Japan that makes for quite an interesting read. Check it out at www.nimbustripinjapan.blogspot.com MC