The Raleigh Chopper is back - iconic bike from the 1970s makes a return

Raleigh Chopper
(Image credit: Raleigh)

Raleigh has relaunched the Chopper, probably its most famous model, in a new version updated to meet the safety requirements for all bicycles in the 2020s.

The new Chopper has the famous sprung banana seat of the original and even the top tube gear shifter, which was relegated to the bike’s bars in later versions of the Chopper, in deference to the march of health and safety. 

The MK 1 Raleigh Chopper was launched in 1969, but it was with the MK 2 Chopper, made from 1973 to 1985, that the bike really took off, selling millions worldwide and in the 1980s rescuing the Nottingham-based bike brand, which had once been the largest in the world, from near-bankruptcy. 

Raleigh Chopper

Raleigh has gone to great lengths to replicate the looks of the original Chopper (Image credit: Raleigh)

Subtle changes to meet modern regulations

The relaunched Chopper follows the design of the MK 2 Chopper, with a Cr-Mo steel frame and mismatched 20 inch rear and 16 inch front wheels.

As with the original, the 580mm riser steel handlebars are welded to the stem, so that they can’t be tilted backwards. Although later Choppers included derailleur gear options, the new bike replicates the three-speed hub gears of earlier models.

The "sissy bar" behind the saddle is there too, although it’s a few inches lower than on the original bike. As with that model, there’s the short rear rack to carry your frisbee or whatever and that funny mount in the headset to push your Ever Ready front light onto. Of course, there’s no sight of disc brakes, with rim brakes responsible for stopping power.

Adam Snow, Head of Product Management at Raleigh, says that the company purchased a number of MK 2 Chopper frames, which, alongside the original hand-drawn technical drawings, were scanned for new CAD design templates for the new bike and to build up an accurate scale model - a necessity for modern-day manufacturing processes and techniques. It then built a prototype in the UK and worked with Raleigh's Taiwan-based manufacturing partner to manufacture the frame and components.

According to Snow: "We had to change the height dimension of the saddle and sissy bar (saddle support) to meet modern safety standards and increase the gauge (thickness) of the frame and fork tubing to allow the bike to pass physical force testing. 

"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."

Snow points out that despite its beefed-up frame and components, the modern bike's 18.4kg weight is similar to the original. 

Raleigh Chopper

Infra Red and Ultra Violet colour options replicate two or the original colours available for the Mark 2 Chopper (Image credit: Raleigh)

The new Raleigh Chopper frame comes in one size, 37cm and the bike is available in two colours, Infra Red and Ultra Violet, again reflecting two of the colour options of the original Mark 2 Chopper.

The recommended retail price for the new Chopper is £950. That’s quite a jump from the £32 for which the Chopper originally sold. 

Raleigh describes the new Chopper as a limited edition, so it remains to be seen how many it plans to manufacture or if the Chopper will take off with kids (and their parents who remember riding the original) and again becomes a blockbuster bicycle.

It’s also offering a range of spares for the new bike, many of which it says are compatible with the original Mark 2 Chopper, so it might be time to dust it off if you still have one lurking in your shed awaiting a restoration project.

The Chopper follows in the wake of other bike revivals by Raleigh, with a replica TI-Raleigh Team bike released in 2020 to mark the fortieth anniversary of its Tour de France win.

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Paul has been on two wheels since he was in his teens and he's spent much of the time since writing about bikes and the associated tech. He's a road cyclist at heart but his adventurous curiosity means Paul has been riding gravel since well before it was cool, adapting his cyclo-cross bike to ride all-day off-road epics and putting road kit to the ultimate test along the way.