Most of us kids probably rode the MK2 Chopper which was first released in 1972. For the MK2 they bent the seat stays forward so you wouldn’t be sitting so far back over the rear wheel compared to the MK1 version. They also added a nifty rear carrier on the back which in times of need you could always fit a third friend on for that trip to the shop for the 10p bag of sweets. The iconic saddle came with a warning that said “THIS BICYCLE IS NOT CONSTRUCTED TO CARRY PASSENGERS” Hell yes it was, with that extra long saddle there was plenty of room for two. Just make sure your buddy keeps his feet away from that back wheel.
The Chopper featured a much bigger rear wheel compared to the front wheel. The rear tyre was beefy compared to the front which meant you got loads of traction and had loads of rubber on the back for skids, while the skinny front tyre combined with the long chopper bars meant cornering in very tight circles meant your average chopper rider would have the edge when playing bicycle squares.
The big wheel/small wheel combo combined with the long saddle meant it was dead easy to lift that front wheel off the road when doing a wheelie. The down side was the tipping point came really quickly and quite often you would end up on your back on the hard concrete. There was also a bit of a speed wobble problem with the front wheel at speed so doing no handers at high speeds was ill advised.
Probably the fondest memory most of us have of the Chopper was the unique t-bar gear shifter which sat right down there between your legs. The t-bar controlled the Sturmey-Archer 3 speed gearing and the unit even had a visual indicator which let you know which of the three gears you were in. For the rich kids there was also a deluxe five speed version which incorporated two handles to shift with but they didn’t sell that many of them.
- High back polo-type saddle. Adjustable seat pillar. Chromed roll bar gives a real ‘fast back’ look
- Gears. Sturmey-Archer 3 speed. With stickshift control and speed indicator
- ‘Hi-Rise’ handlebars. With finger impression moulds on the black vinyl grips.
- Front lamp bracket
- Racey wide section mudguards. Chrome plated
- Brakes. Caliper to front and rear.
- Ribbed-tread front tyre. Vredestein Black with with red line.
- Black rubber pedals. Fitted with individual amber reflectors.
- Sturdy, kick-into-position propstand.
- Brightly enamelled chainguard with tapered front.
- Sure grip knobbly-tread rear tyre. Vredestein Black with red line.
After being out of production for almost 25 years Raleigh released a MK3 version in 2004. The 2004 version is a health & safety toned down version of the good old MK2 with a shorter saddle to discourage giving your mates backers and a gripshift on the bars instead of the ball bashing t-bar shifter. The frame is now made out of aluminium instead of steel but it had kept it’s distinctive large/small wheel combo but there is just something about the saddle that doesn’t sit right with us.
So what about todays kids? What will they remember from their childhood? The stryder bike they had till they were 3? The scooter they had for a month when they were 4 that ended up just sitting out the back in all weathers till it rusted away to nothing. Is there an iconic bike for this generation or even for the 90’s generation? Thankfully for us 70’s & 80’s kids we had the chopper. Whether you were lucky enough to get a brand new one or like me delighted to get a 2nd hand one, it is great to think that we were part of a bicycle revolution.
And here is a video of kids in the 80’s ripping it up on their choppers