In Friedrichshafen airport, at the close of the Eurobike show in August, BikeBiz.com asked Mike Reynolds, then the sales director at the Nottingham company, whether it was true Raleigh had asked its design team to see whether an updated Chopper could be squeezed through BS.
He smiled, and said the time was not yet right for a re-launch, but that Raleigh would not rule out a relaunch at some point.
A twinkle in his eye revealed that a relaunch was certainly on the cards but Reynolds didn’t want BikeBiz.com to let the cat out of the bag.
According to cycle historian Tony Hadland, Raleigh launhced the Chopper in 1970 (1969 for the US market, but it bombed). In its ten-year production, about 1.5m were sold in the UK alone. Importantly, it pushed the price point for toy bicycles to unimagined heights. It was launched at 31 guineas (£32.55, = about £292 today), when hitherto the most expensive Raleigh childs bike, the Chico, cost just £19.99.
In order to get the relaunch Chopper through BS, it was necessary for Raleigh to move the three-speed gear-shifter from the crossbar to the handlebars. Most of the rest of the design remains intact, including red-lined tyres, ape-hanger bars and the banana seat.
In September, Madison launched the Thunderbird, a Chopper-style bike based on the forerunner to the 1970s Chopper, the 1955 Schwinn Orangecrate, complete with ape-hanger bars, adjustable banana seat, and Ashtabula-style flat-bladed fork.
Raleigh will initially import 2004 of the new Choppers, now with alu frames, not steel. These will be the ‘collector’s edition’ models, each available with numbered plaques, and retailing for £250. The mass market models – sans plaque – will retail for £199.99.