1975 Raleigh Chopper Mk2

1975 Raleigh Chopper Mk2

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1975: ABBA. Rocky Horror Show. Wombles. End of the Vietnam War. Bay City Rollers. Curly perms. Jaws. KC & the Sunshine Band. If that’s the way you like it, then read on, this classic 1970s bicycle might be for you…

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Though I appreciate the Raleigh Chopper represents a great icon for several generations, I was already into scooters and motorcycles by the time it hit the shops.

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My recent nostalgic adventures (as you may have observed from the http://www.oldbike.eu online museum) have focussed more on earlier history ….that is, until I came across this ’75 Chopper.

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When I found this bike, it was hidden away in a box. But what I could see of it was in such fabulous time-warp condition that I couldn’t help myself.

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It had been part-exchanged back to the original bicycle shop a few years after its sale and kept in a box in their storeroom since. It’s not new-old-stock, but its condition is just about as good as. I bought the shop owner’s private collection of early bicycles and, after some negotiation, managed to get him to include this one too.

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After unpacking it, giving it a good polish and replacing an inner tube, I’m amazed at its original condition. With so many vintage vehicles now restored, good condition original examples like this are the most sought-after by collectors.

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I put on my flares and road-tested it (my first ride on a chopper) and it rides well on the road and off road too. I could easily get hooked on these things.

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The frame number is NG5008322, which means it’s Nottingham built, in May, 1975. It has an AW rear hub

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As attractive as it is though, the seventies are not my thing at the moment. I’m learning about 19th century bikes and thinning out my collection so I can put money into restoring them.

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I like this Chopper a lot and appreciate I’m unlikely to find another as good. But it’s time this beauty went to another enthusiast. It would easily form the centre-piece of a 1970s collection, is the ideal accessory for a top condition VW campervan, a great present if you were also born in 1975, is perfect for a museum, a practical investment …and you can enjoy riding it too!

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RALEIGH CHOPPER HISTORY

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In the late 1960s, Schwinn and other US cycle makers had discovered a grassroots Californian trend towards high-rise cycles for adolescents and were now capitalising on it. Responding to this, in 1969 Raleigh launched the Chopper in the USA. It was too expensive and too late for the American market but, in September 1969, it was released in the UK, where it was hugely successful.

England has a conservative cycling history….. If you took a bicycle from 1930 and one from 1970, and stood them side by side, you’d have a hard time telling them apart. The standard triangular frame ruled the roost, with practically no departures in design…. maybe cable brakes replacing rod actuated brakes was about as ground breaking as it got…..Times were changing however… The film ‘Easy Rider’ was released in 1969 over here, and the flood gates opened on the embryonic motorcycle chopper culture.

They released 500 bikes to dealers in Croydon, Newcastle and Manchester in the run up to Christmas 1969 and such was their instant popularity that the bike ensured its place in the January 1970 sales catalogue.

We got the standard three speed version, in 6 colour choices. For some reason Raleigh never trusted its home market with a large model range. They dipped a cautious toe into the water in 1971 by releasing the mustard coloured High Backrest model, but as quickly pulled it out again after safety campaigners claimed it was even more deadly than the standard model. It didn’t make a reappearance in the 1972 model catalogue. Safety issues dogged the Chopper on both sides of the Atlantic, but over in the UK reached monstrous proportions.

The Chopper was just Soooo…. radical a departure from standard bicycle styling, and people to whom Margaret Whitehouse was a goddess, raised their collective voice. The main item of public scorn was the seat…. if you sat too far back the front wheel raised up… and, horror of horrors, two young people could sit on the seat at one time! The indignation reverberated throughout the country. One legitimate safety issue, that most complainers missed altogether, was the fact that the frames were falling apart under their riders…quite literally…the rear stays commonly came unstuck from the rest of the bike, and Raleigh dealers were kept extra busy replacing frames under warranty.

Surrounded by controversy, what became known as the MK 1 Chopper was quietly withdrawn from sale in late 1971. Just, and only just, in time for Christmas 1971, a new Chopper appeared in the shops… The MK1 was dead…hail the MK 2.

The MK2 was a redesign of the MK1, with several safety issues addressed. First. the seat had been shortened, this was accomplished by bending the rear seat stays in towards the frame, making the frame almost arrow shaped from the side view. The seat got a warning written on the white strap, telling anybody who could be bothered to read, that the seat was not designed to carry more than one rider… perhaps the most ignored warning in the history of the bicycle? Second safety concession was the loss of adjustability in the apehanger handlebars. On the MK1 the handlebars had been attached in usual bike manner, by a bolted clamp…this disappeared towards the end of the MK1s to be replaced by braised in place handlebars, strangely enough, Raleigh had used brazed up apehangers on its Moped of 2 years before. Because of the pure volume of Choppers being produced in late 1971, the MK1 didn’t just disappear overnight, more a sort of fade away trick. MK1s on dealers’ floors stayed there until they were sold, Raleigh made no attempt to recall them. First, the MK2 handlebars appeared, followed by the MK2 itself. Several early MK2s had quite a few MK1 parts, but by early 1972 the MK2 was king. MK1 brakes and levers were the last to leave, still being fitted as late as October 1972.

In its ten-year production, about 1.5m were sold in the UK alone. Importantly, it pushed the price point for toy bicycles to unimagined heights. It was launched at 31 guineas (£32.55, = about £292 today), when hitherto the most expensive Raleigh child’s bike, the Chico, cost just £19.99.

With the Chopper, Raleigh had created a new market in the UK and other developed countries for expensive toy cycles, which it continued to exploit. Moreover, in contrast to toys such as the Chopper, it offered fine Carlton lightweights to the discerning enthusiast. Thus, in 1975 Raleigh enjoyed record sales 599,000 units in the UK. The fact that the Chopper existed in three decades, and out sold all other children’s bikes of its era, is testament to its strong visual appeal and trendy image. The bike is most associated with that much maligned decade, the 1970s and is probably one of the most instantly recognisable icons of the era.

[Thanks to Raleigh Chopper Info - http://homepage.ntlworld.com/catfoodrob/choppers/history/index.html%5D

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DETAIL PHOTOS OF NG5008322

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UPDATE: This Chopper has now been sold

Published on May 7, 2009 at 6:38 am  Leave a Comment  

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