Raleigh Chopper 1968 to 1981

Raleigh Chopper Mk1, 1970

The Raleigh Chopper brought the style of Easy Rider to the backstreets of Britain in the 70s. It took the UK youth bike market by storm and probably saved Raleigh from financial disaster.

The Chopper was a distinctly different bike for young people and was a first choice Christmas present. However, it was criticised for some aspects of its safety. The Chopper became distinctly unfashionable in the 1980s, when BMX became the latest craze.

Raleigh Chopper Mk1

The design for the Raleigh Chopper was revolutionary when it was launched in the UK in 1969. However, the bike style, with its ape hanger handle bars and long padded saddle, may have been more familiar to American children. The original inspiration for the Chopper was the Chopper motorcycle: a cut down, customised machine, which had a cult following with enthusiasts in the US from the late 1940s.

US manufacturer, Schwinn, made bikes with ape hanger handle bars from the early sixties; they were nowhere near as well packaged as the Chopper though. In this market until the Chopper came on the scene, Raleigh played catch-up.

Raleigh Chopper Mk2 saddle

In the US market the Chopper was more evolution than revolution. In the UK market it was something entirely new. Its launch coincided with the movie, Easy Rider, in which Peter Fonda and Denis Hopper cruised around America on two stripped down Chopper motorbikes.

Easy Rider gave the Chopper its cool image and contributed enormously to the acceptance of this radical cycle design in a conservative British market. In 1971 Raleigh reported a 55% increase in cycle sales mainly due to the Chopper. The cycle maker went through lean times in the 50s and 60s as sales of adult bikes slumped. With rising affluence, more people got mobile with cars, motorbikes and scooters and the traditional push bike now had a down market image.

Raleigh was now able to charge a premium for the Chopper over the price of a conventional child's bike. In 1970 it cost 34 19s (360 in today's money). The Chopper was so popular in 1970 that retailers had to persuade adults it was not a suitable bike for them. It gave the kids of the time something distinctly different from an adult bike, something of their own. The Raleigh Chopper brought the style of Easy Rider to UK streets and to boys in the ten to fourteen age group.

The Chopper was joined in 1972 by a version for younger children, the Tomahawk. However, by then the safety record of the Chopper was being questioned. A competitor, the Morando Easy Rider Bike which was manufactured in Italy, was withdrawn from sale due to safety concerns. Its UK distributors, the Barclay Group (Mobo, Chad Valley and Tri-ang), recalled models already sold.

The Raleigh Chopper's car style gear leaver (Mk2 version)

Raleigh Chopper Mk2

A British Medical Journal report claimed that the high handle bars made steering unsafe. Other people were concerned that it was possible for two children to ride on one Chopper. Safety concerns prompted a revision to the basic design in 1972, with the Chopper Mk 2 having a shorter seat. Raleigh also made changes to the gear leaver style and handle bars. Raleigh even had to defend the safety of the Chopper when questions were asked in Parliament.

The Chopper was a bike that put style before practicality. In the early years of the 70s it might have been every boy's dream, but volunteers for a Which? report in 1972 found the Chopper slow and hard work. Most would have preferred a racing bike.

In spite of the style over substance approach it won a place in the Council of Industrial Design (COID)'s Design Index. 

The Chopper fell out of favour in the early 80s, when BMX bikes became the latest craze. A new model, the Mk3, was launched in 2004, retaining much of the original's style, but without the crossbar mounted gear leaver and banana style seat.

Raleigh Chopper Mk1 10 speed

Rare and special Choppers

Raleigh Chopper Mk1 10 Speed 1969-1970

In the USA, Raleigh sold the Chopper as a 5 speed or 10 speed bike, as well as the standard Sturmey Archer 3 speed.

The 10 speed is the most highly prized of all Raleigh Choppers.

If you want one today, a perfect example will cost in the region of £2000.

Raliegh Chopper Mk2 GT Sprint (1972)

GT Sprint 1972-73

The GT Sprint was a Chopper with drop handle bars. It was available in two colours: flamboyant green (left) or fire bronze.

The Sprint had different tyres, a 'racing saddle' and a modified frame, but only 3 speeds. It was not a big seller and thus is a rarity today.

Of course that makes the Sprint all the more desirable and a top notch one will now cost from around 1000 to 1500.

Raleigh Chopper Mk2 5 Speed, 1976

Raleigh Chopper 5 speed 1973-1976

The Raleigh Chopper 5 speed had a new gear change based on the classic racing bike derailleur, but with the Chopper style gear shift. Strangely, it was only available in pink, a colour guaranteed not to appeal to boys in the 1970s. So like the Sprint, it did not sell well and was quietly dropped in 1976.

It is, of course, highly collectable today.  Expect to pay around 1000 for a good one.

Raleigh Chopper Silver Jubilee Speical Edition, 1977

Silver Jubilee Special Edition 1976-1977

To celebrate HM Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee, Raleigh released this silver special edition chopper.

It was actually launched in 1976 to be in the shops in time for Christmas. In spite of the new wheels (yes, those alloy wheels are genuine) it was not a great seller and is also a rare bike today. You will need to spend around £1500 for one of these.

Who designed the Raleigh Chopper?

Whilst the Raleigh Chopper caused controversy in its day for its safety reputation, today a controversy rages over who the actual designer was. Both Raleigh's Chief Designer, Alan Oakley, who sadly passed away in 2012 and Ogle's former Managing Director, Tom Karen, have claimed to be the Chopper's designer.

Alan Oakley always maintained he sketched out the design for the Chopper on a flight back from the USA in 1967 after researching into the American teenage market.

Ogle was approached by Raleigh in 1968, to help them come up with a design to rival the Schwinn bike that was better than their first attempt, the Raleigh Rodeo. Tom Karen recently showed his original sketches, which look remarkably like the final design, to the Daily Mail in May 2014 after fishing them out of his garage.

Both Wikipedia and the enthusiast website raleighchopper.info say it was Alan Oakley; you will need to make up your own mind. More than likely both men contributed to the final design.

Values

The Chopper Mk 1 is worth a little more than the Mk2. The Mk1 is rare and more desirable. If you want a good, usable Chopper, look for a Mk2 in presentable, but not perfect condition. You should be able to find one for around £400. Perfect examples of both models are worth more than double this price.

Chopper Mk1

  • Restoration project £100 to £300
  • Good presentable and useable condition £500 to £800
  • Excellent condition £800 to £1000
  • Restored to factory condition or better £1000+

Chopper Mk2

  • Restoration project £50 to £200
  • Good presentable and useable condition £300 to £500
  • Restored to factory condition or better £800 to £1000+

Chopper Mk3 (2004 reproduction model)

  • Good £50 to £100
  • Mint £200

More on the Raleigh Chopper

The most comprehensive web site about the Raleigh Chopper is www.raleighchopper.info. See also, the Raleigh Chopper Owners' Club and Raleigh Chopper on Wikipedia.

Look for

Your comments on the Raleigh Chopper

"I HAVE A 1972 RED CHOPPER, NEEDS TO BE RESTORED BUT ALL ORIGINAL. WOULD LIKE TO KNOW ROUGH VALUE." red rider

Early Raleigh Choppers sell for 200 to 300 pounds on eBay, if they are in good condition. The Raleigh Chopper Mk 1 commands a premium over the Raleigh Chopper Mk2. The Mk2 came in in 1972, so yours could be either. Raleigh Choppers in poor condition are worth considerably less. One very tatty example failed to sell for 20 recently. I would recommend having a look at eBay Completed Listings and comparing bikes in similar condition to yours. Retrowow

"I had a Chopper bike. I used it from the age of ten to fourteen. It was fantastic, red colour, the ease of lowrider seat. The banana seat was very comfortable and the gear position was attractive.

My Difficulties were: whobbles, wheelies were not uncommon, hard to run or make long distances with it." Chopper Lowerider

"I am looking to buy a mark 3 chopper but finding it extremely hard as they only made 400 . I'm thinking and correct me if i'm wrong but would they go up in price. If you know anyone or a good website that are willing to sell tell me in a email mine is Orcf@hotmail.co.uk. ps. i have only 200 to spend." oran cowell-fergusson

"i had a 'Raleigh chipper' (it was the smaller brother of the chopper) my dad brought back from the dump and restored it, but nether fixed the broken front seat bracket, so the whole seat used to tilt upwards exposing the stem, once i was out over the park on it, stood up to give it fast burst of accelaration and sat back down, you can guess the rest! it was about a week before i was able to ride it again! thanks dad." robert

"I rode a yellow Raleigh chopper from the mid-seventies right up into the mid-eighties and came off it most memorably as it wobbled out of control while I was freewheeling down a hill. I lost half an eyebrow and bear the scar to this day. Another time I almost castrated myself on the famously malpositioned gear lever. Not long after that I got a racer but missed the upright sitting position and the comfort of the wide saddle with its sturdy suspension." Chopper cropper

"i have the very one chopper bike mk1 it was my husbands he holds the bike and he goes on about the past on this ike he still thinks that this bike is the very best bike for any one still to have we like this to go to a new home to some one who would now give it the home it really needs any one intreasted pls contact me on 01902828217" wrs emms email: zojjj@live.co.uk

"hi ive just got one im having dowts on weather its a mk1 or mk2 its got gear solector in between your legs witch is the T bar shaped and the top of the seat back grab rail is curved squair not like a arch if you can help please contact me thanks damo" damion milner

Raleigh Chopper Mk 1 gear stick (Image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0, author:Gerry Lauzon, imaged cropped to show gear lever only)

Hi Damo, It sounds like a Mk2 to me. The Mark 1 gear stick is left, the Mk2 is as illustrated above. Retrowow


"I want one so badly but i don't know where to get them but i wanton for 99.99 please do you know where i can get one???" Nisa

"this is the best bike of the word .... i use 2 have 2 before .... and i wish 2 have 1 now" musaab alkhayatt

"Hi I have an original purple and orange chopper. It is in quite poor condition, but apart from 1 wheel it is all original features. I'm trying to find out it's value and where I could sell it Any help much appreciated! Thanks" marsha

"I have an original gray chopper. Its in a good condition and i would like to sell it for 250 euros. It has all original. Who is interesed in it contact me on my email.My email is neville-spiteri@hotmail.com." neville

"eek, i have vivid memories about the 'purple raleigh chopper' and that 't' bar geat changer....it almost turned me into a gelding... after one particular top spec crash....lol great days" tim

"Im looking for a set of chrome mudgaurds for a mk3 chopper.Must be new or in excellent condition.Can anyone help...Many thanks Ian.Birmingham" ian

"Hi,I have a mk1 chopper in fair condition, a friend wants to buy it of me he has offered me 60, do u think this is a fair price or would it be worth more." Shane

Hi Shane, That sounds a little on the cheap side to me. Check out eBay completed listing for a proper valuation, but I'd say around 100 if it is usable, but 'fair' condition. Retrowow

"I have just discovered that my mk2 Raleigh Chopper is actually a Mk1. However, it has mk2 gears and pedals. My parents bought it second hand for me 29 years ago. We think it is dated 1970 from the crank. Anybody got any ideas why it would have the wrong gear?? Thanks!" Lor

"i have a raleigh chopper mk111 arrow wedge that id like to sell its in vg condition how much it worth or eanyone intrested semingly only 400 were ever made." murray

"lor,the mk1 chopper was going through a change over to the mk2 in 71 72 for safty reasons so the late mk1 was fitted with mk2 parts when going through the change over,hope this helps," john

"I am now 49 years of age and in the 1970s had an original chopper bike, I still remember it to this day as it was such a sturdy and fun bike to ride. probably the best bike I have ever owned . I am looking to buy an original chopper in good condition soon if I can find one and keep it for prosperity." kevin hull

"i have a mrk 2 raleigh chopper ive restored it its in fab condition but its an un usuall colour its the golden yellow wot they only did in the mark 1 its not the fizzy lemon in wot they did in the mrk2 is it worth anymore can any 1 help thanks !!!!!!!!!!!!!" tango

"I am looking to buy a mk1 or mk2 raleigh chopper for restoring, Email me with what you have at v4vol@btinternet.com i live in the south west.05/01/2010 Peter in Devon " Peter

" I have a limited edition totally original chopper, seat gears wheels, grey colour. Its been in the family since new 1970's. I don't know a lot about it but it 's in ok condition. all offers welcome. If you want to come and view the bike you won't be disappointed. west London" JOANNE joannakanzali@yahoo.co.uk

"Hi i am looking for a handle bar stem bolt and nut for a mk1. does any one have one, if so how much would it be. cheers" john

"Hi, I'm in Australia and looking for someone to sell me a MK1 or MK2 (any condition) - I realise the postage and packing will be extra to send me one from oversea's but I would love to get one now as I was one of the few dreamers as a kid who never got one. Would also consider a Raleigh Grifter as well. How cool to have both haha. reckless4990@gmail.com" Neil Driver

 

 

 
 

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