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Back in the day when flares were something that got in the way of your bicycle chain and shoulder pads were quickly becoming the in thing, I had the pleasure of having a Raleigh Chopper Bike. Not only did I ride it using the handle bars with great aplomb, but I also fitted it with some funky side tassels (lol, who remembers those?) which hung down from those same handle bars with a great amount of style.
My Raleigh Chopper Bike was a hand me down at the time, but that didn't matter at all. It may not have been brand new when I got my paws on it, but it was way cooler than my previous Raleigh Shopper Bike which had never been a style icon, although it did have a very fetching real white leather bag.
The Chopper had a number of revisions during its lifetime and mine was the MkII, which had been slightly tweaked for safety reasons.
What was there to like about the Raleigh Chopper Bike? Well apart from everything, the seat for one thing was much more comfy than many other cycle saddles. It had a nice padded feel and a super comfy back rest to it that offered great lumber support. You had to sit in a rather upright position to ride a Chopper, so this added back support was a great bonus.
Although the front wheel on the Raleigh Chopper Bike was smaller than the wheels on many other bikes, I found that my Chopper could still pick up speed with a bit of effort. In fact the back wheel being much larger seemed to be a real powerhouse when combined with lots of frenetic peddling and certainly meant that anyone else had to peddle hard and fast to keep up with the Raleigh Chopper.
At the time when I had my Raleigh Chopper Bike tank tops were just about still cool and they kind of went with the over all nerdy look and feel of this iconic bike. The simple gearing system was operated via a lever which was more like an oddly shaped T bar gear knob and was located in the centre front section of the cross bar. This was something that was a real feature at the time.
I thought it was so much cooler than a normal handle bar gearing system, although it didn't perform much better it looked and felt cooler and that was all that mattered at the time. When I wanted to get off my bike and pop into the shop to buy some penny sweets I was lucky enough to be able to flick out the built in kick stand and then park my Chopper where ever I liked. This was another thing that was great, as your bike wouldn't get chucked on the floor when you got off it. I could nonchalantly kick out the stand with no effort at all and my bike stood proudly without falling over...most of the time.
My Raleigh Chopper Bike may have had thicker tyres that meant it took a bit more effort to push the bike along, but that didn't matter. As the Chopper was the height of coolness and sophistication at the time the fact that you some times had to secretly peddle a bit harder to keep your street cred didn't matter at all.
There may be more modern bikes such as the BMX and the almost all terrain mountain bike that have come along since the Raleigh Chopper Bike stopped being made, but none have ever been as cool as this. There is only 1 rating for the Chopper and that as to be a full 5 stars. Original versions may be hard to come by these days, but you can still pick up the newer copies that were made around 2004 which are nearly as cool (ish). However to any previous original Chopper owner they aren't quite in the league of an original model.
The Raleigh Chopper bike is a 1970's cultural icon and for me no bike since has come anywhere near being as wonderful. I can't express to you how desperate I was to own one, they were are a "must have"!
Did I get one? No because my Mum deemed them dangerous, unsafe etc....
Have I ever got over it? No, sad as it may seem, still to this day I have a desperate yearning for a Raleigh Chopper, there is definitely a gaping void in my life that only a Raleigh Chopper can fill.....
I never forgave my Mum, especially when she presented me with a Raleigh Shopper, complete with nerdy shopping basket, I set about trying to "lose" it, but alas everytime I left it somewhere, some "kind" person would return it, that flippin shopper haunted me. Eventually I left it in the shed to rust and thank goodness Dad gave it to a lovely little girl who cherished it, as a lesson to ungrateful me Yipeeeee!......
One day I will own a Raleigh Chopper, I have been promised one, probably to stop me plotting to steal the one on the wall in TGI's near us, I wouldn't really, Honest.....
The Raleigh Chopper was made suprisingly by Raleigh bikes in Nottingham England and they eventually sold over 2 million.
The Raleigh Chopper MK1 was launched in USA in 1968 and had no success so it was launched in UK in 1970 and sold like hot cakes, it was "the must have" for children and it single handedly saved the Raleigh bike company. This lead to smaller versions for younger children being produced Chipper, Tomahawk and Budgie. Right up till 1984 Choppers were snapped up, then BMX and then Mountain bikes took over.
The bike was based on the customised Chopper style motor bike and was influenced by films of the time such as "Easy Rider" it was billed as "The Ultimate Bike For Coolness".
With it's high rise (ape hanger) handlebars which you could undo and incline them backwards which rendered it almost unridable a challenge for any child, we never ever participated in this dangerous activity, honest.....
The long, high backed black leather padded seat was the ultimate in cool features and also enabled me to ride with my friend, back to back, affectionately known as a "backie" which I might add was much more dangerous than having my own Chopper all to myself.....
It featured a 3 speed "Sturmey Archer" gear hub with a frame mounted gear lever ( a stick with a knob on the end, only way to describe it) in the middle of the frame. Sprung suspension at the back and "bobbed mudguards".
The wheels were different sizes, the back 20" with a wide tyre and chunky tread, the front 16", both with a red line round the side wall. A hoop above the seat similar to the motorcycle "sissy bar" and a kickstand again modelled on a motorbike were more special features.
It came in bright sunny yellow, racing red and glowing orange. Later models came in a vast array of colours black, blue, silver....
All this wonderfulness for the sum of £32 and I got a Raleigh Shopper!
Chopper MK2 was launched in 1972 featuring 5 speed derailleur gears with a T-Bar style gear stick. The seat was slightly more forward and the handle bars were welded to stop the shenanigans of turning them backwards ~ spoilsports.
Chopper MK3, with a normal seat,( no backrest )and handle bar gears was launched with an alluminium frame to replace the original steel frame, not as good as the original in my opinion....
Why was it deemed dangerous?
To be honest in my opinion, the Chopper wasn't designed to ride long distances, but which children want to ride long distances? Bikes for children are for a ride round the block and to their friends house, the park etc. They were tricky to ride with the high handlebars and high back seat, the weight didn't seem to be distributed very well, partly due to the fact it was made of steel and therefore a heavy bike to begin with. This resulted in a "wobbly" ride much of the time but the sheer joy of riding this stylish machine made up for any wobbles a hundredfold.
If you fell off on to the original style gear stick, that little knob on the end could really hurt, especially where it hurts if you know what I mean...
Im told it was a fabulous design for pulling wheelies with the chunky larger tyre at the back but, of course I can't comment as I never pulled wheelies, Honest.... if you believe that you will believe anything....
To complete the look you could buy "tassles" to hang out of the end of the handles, they really completed the style of ultimate coolness for me as my friend and I took turns to peddle her bright yellow Chopper with the other on the back. When I think how dangerous that was, the 2 of us lived on that bike and I can tell you it was flippin hard work pedalling with the weight of both of us.
So there you have a true icon from the 70's and one day just one day, I will have my own but it's got to be a red original the price varies massively depending on the condition, I've seen them for approx £189 and upwards~ 5 stylish stars from me.