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Raleigh Chopper

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File:Raleigh Chopper-001.jpg

The Raleigh Chopper was a children's bicycle manufactured and marketed in the 1970s by the Raleigh Bicycle Company of Nottingham, England. Its unique design became a true 70s cultural icon, and is fondly remembered by many who grew up in that period. Based on the look of a customised chopper motorcycle, made popular with films such as Easy Rider,[1][2] the Chopper bike was the "must have" item and signifier of coolness[3] for many children at the time.[4][5]

DesignEdit

File:Redraleighchopper.JPG

Ogle Design claim to have designed the Chopper for Raleigh.They actually only produced concept art for the Raleigh design department headed by Alan Oakley, none of which were taken up. The final design of the Chopper was submitted by Oakley's department. [6][7] Raleigh themselves built a copy of the chopper-like Schwinn Stingray they called the Rodeo, which was launched in the US in 1966. It was not a success, but its design clearly was a forerunner of the Chopper.[citation needed]

The popularity of the Chopper also led to a range of smaller bikes following a similar design theme. These included the Raleigh Chipper, Tomahawk, Budgie and Chippy models aimed at younger riders. [8]

History Edit

File:Fastback100.jpg

The Original Chopper: Mk 1 Edit

The Chopper was launched in Canada in April 1969 as a Fastback 100 & the Chopper later released June 1969 1/2. It went on sale in the UK in 1970. The bike featured a 3-speed Sturmey Archer gear hub, selected using a frame-mounted car-like gear lever — one of its "cool" features. Other features that appealed to the youth market were the unusual frame, long padded seat with backrest, sprung seat at the back, high-rise (ape hanger) handlebars, 'bobbed' mudguards (fenders) and differently sized front (16") and rear (20") wheels. The rear hoop above the seat resembled a motorcycle 'sissy bar'. Even the kickstand was designed to give the stationary bicycle a lean reminiscent of a parked motorcycle. [9] Tyres were wider than usual for the time, with a chunky tread on the rear wheel, featuring a red line around the sidewall. The price was from approximately £32 for a standard Chopper to £55 for the deluxe.

The Fastback 100 Edit

The Raleigh Chopper sold through Eatons of Canada as a Glider Fastback 100.

The Mk 2 Edit

The Mk2 Chopper was an improved version from 1972. It had the (rarely purchased) option of five-speed derailleur gears, and the gear lever shifter changed from a knob to a T-bar-style shifter. The frame was subtly revised, and the seat moved forward, to help prevent the bike tipping up. A small rear rack was added. The handlebars were welded to the stem to stop children from inclining the 'ape hanger' bars backwards, (thereby rendering the bike almost unsteerable). A drop-handlebar version, the Sprint, was also produced. The Chopper remained in production until 1984, by which time the BMX had taken over its' market.[10] However, the Chopper almost single-handedly rescued Raleigh , which had been in decline during the 1960s, selling millions worldwide.

Handling and Safety Issues Edit

The original Chopper is fondly remembered, though it was not without problems — it was less stable than a conventional bike, and trickier to ride. It was slow and heavy, the wide tyres creating significant rolling resistance; the Chopper was not suitable for long distances. At moderate speeds it suffered speed wobbles.[11] After several reported accidents, it was attacked in the press as a dangerous toy. The long seat lent itself to giving lifts to others,[12] and accidents were not uncommon. It could perform involuntary wheelies readily, again a frequent cause of accidents. The gear lever was also positioned to cause injury in a crash.

Imitators Edit

The runaway success of the Chopper led to many similarly-styled imitators, such as the Dawes Tracker in the UK.

Revival: The Mk 3 Edit

File:Raleigh Chopper Mk3 in a UK collection.JPG

A new version of the Chopper, the Mk3, was launched in 2004, after being out of production for almost 25 years. The Mk3, in deference to modern safety concerns, adopts a more conventional saddle design to discourage "backies," and has dropped the groin-catching gear lever in favour of handlebar mounted gear controls – to commemorate this former feature the Mk3 has a sticker where once the lever had its place. The frame is made from aluminium alloy tubing rather than the originals' steel, to make the bike lighter. The wheels are again 20 inches for the back wheel and 16 inches for the front wheel.[citation needed]

See also Edit

ReferencesEdit

External links Edit

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