Picture the scene: It’s 1972, Ted Heath’s the Prime Minister, glam rock is in the ascendancy, George Best is still plying his trade at Old Trafford, and a certain sideburn-sporting Belgian is busy devouring every bike race in his sight. Oh, and Raleigh has just launched arguably one of the most famous British bicycles of all time – the Mk2 Chopper.
And now, 51 years later, you can relive those heady days (well part from the George Best and glam rock bits) by getting your hands on Raleigh’s relaunched Chopper, updated for the health and safety requirements of the 2020s.
The new Chopper, the product of four years of research by the famous Nottingham bike brand, is the first time Raleigh has relaunched its most celebrated bike for nine years. However, the company says that, unlike that 2014 model, this Chopper stays as close to the original as possible.
The new version follows the design of the Mark 2, a mainstay underneath British Christmas trees between 1972 and 1985, and features its sprung one-piece saddle, a (slightly lowered) ‘sissy bar’, mismatched front and rear wheels, and – like the earlier, pre-health and safety tweaking Marks 2s – three speed hub gears and a top tube shifter.
Raleigh has become adept at reviving old classics in recent years, either for its 125th birthday in 2012 or the 40th anniversary of TI-Raleigh’s Tour de France success three years ago, so the team have nailed the formula.
The company says it purchased and 3D modelled several old Chopper frames, as well as using the original technical drawings, to produce new CAD designs for the bike, while spending hours agonising over the details and, most importantly, the decals.
“We had to change the height dimension of the saddle and sissy bar to meet modern safety standards and increase the gauge of the frame and fork tubing to allow the bike to pass physical force testing,” says Raleigh’s head of product management Adam Snow.
“There have also been some concessions to modern manufacturing techniques but all key features from the original bikes, we have tried to keep with this new model. For example, rather than braised joints, the new bike is welded, but to retain the authentic look the head tube has been CNC machined to a fine detail.”
The 2023 Raleigh Chopper – the weight of which, 18.4kg, is similar to the original – comes in the one 37cm size, while the colour choice between Infra-red and Ultra-violet again reflects two of the original Mark 2 options.
“The Raleigh Chopper is the most iconic bike Raleigh has ever made, arguably the most iconic bike in British history,” Lee Kidger, managing director at Raleigh, said.
“Selling millions of units worldwide during the 70s, the Chopper cemented its place in British culture and to this day evokes a feeling of nostalgia for the era.
“This new model is as close as we could get to the original Mk2 released in 1972, while still meeting today’s required standards. The Chopper is still seen by the Raleigh team as the jewel in the brand’s crown. A legacy to be admired, protected, and never forgotten.”
The new, updated Chopper is described by Raleigh as limited edition, with the recommended retail price coming to £950 (a fair jump from the original £32 of the 1970s), so we’ll have to wait and see if it becomes a Christmas stalwart of the 2020s. It will be available to buy online, in the infrared and ultraviolet colourways, from 20th June at 12 noon on Raleigh's UK website.
The company is also offering a range of spares with the new bike, which will be compatible with different Chopper models of a bygone era. So, if you have an old one gathering dust in the shed, now may be the time to start practising your wheelie technique…
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.