Raleigh Chopper

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1969 Raleigh Chopper

The Raleigh Chopper is a bicycle (referred to as a wheelie bike) for children / young adults, manufactured and marketed by the Raleigh Bicycle Company of Nottingham, England. The unique design became a cultural icon and is fondly remembered by many[quantify] who grew up in that period.[citation needed] The design was influenced by dragsters, "chopped" motorcycles, beach buggies, and even chariots, as can be seen on the centre page of the 1969 Raleigh US catalogue. The bicycle has featured in many movies and TV series. MK1 models were produced from 1968 to 1972 , MK2 models were produced from 1972 to 1983 and MK3 models were produced from 2004 to 2012 and sold through to 2018.

  • MK1 - available only as a 3 speed model, Brilliant Orange, Golden Yellow, Flamboyant Green, Targa Mustard (HBR model), and Horizon Blue.
  • Sprint GT - available in either Bronze or Flamboyant Green.
  • MK2 - standard 3 speed models available in Infra Red, Ultra Violet, Fizzy Lemon, Quick Silver, Space Blue, and Jet Black (Prismatic decal model).
  • MK2 - Pink 5 Speed (Derailleur)
  • MK2 - SE with cast alloy mag wheels to commemorate 750,000 choppers
  • MK3 - Standard available in Black, Purple, Red, Silver, Pink, Yellow
  • MK-IV - Ultra-Violet and Infra Red only at initital release.


The Raleigh Chopper design has been subject of debate but only since 1996, with claims by Alan Oakley (1927-2012) chief designer for Raleigh and then more than 30 yrs later, from Tom Karen of OGLE Design.[1][2][3][4]

Alan Oakley's archive was sold in 2018 (Mellor & Kirk Auctioneers, Nottingham, August 2018) and reveals valuable insight into this debate that until 2018 had not been seen in public. The archive reveals that the Design Council did not consult Raleigh before citing Tom Karen as designer of the Chopper and the Design Museum merely acknowledge Karen as the designer of the finished 'product'. The Oakley archive contains an account from the then Managing Director and Chairman of Raleigh that reveals the reasoning for Raleigh sending their chief designer to America for a three week fact-finding mission, it describes the trip, the 'envelope sketch' that provided the inspiration for the eventual product and the months following the trip. It describes the market's need for the Chopper and the strategy for going to market. Whilst this debate was active for a short while, study of the Oakley archive confirms that Oakley's famous envelope sketch was the inspiration and was included in the brief that was offered to an outside design firm, OGLE design, who then designed the product.

The Raleigh Chopper was the bike that rescued Raleigh from administration with huge global sales from a total production run including Mk1 Mk2 Mk3 models which ran from 1968 to 1983 (mk1 & mk2) and then 2004 to 2012 (mk3).

The Chopper featured in numerous TV series and movies throughout the 1970s and 1980s, including "Back to the future". Until the BMX came along in the mid-1980s, the Chopper outsold other bikes by 6 to 1.

In 2014 a 1980 MK2 Raleigh Chopper gifted to US President Ronald Reagan sold at auction for a record $35,000.

The Chopper was designed in response to the Schwinn Sting-Ray,[1][2] and an earlier attempt, the Rodeo, which was not commercially successful.[2] The popularity of the Chopper also led to a range of smaller bikes following a similar design theme. These included the Raleigh Chipper, Tomahawk and Budgie models, aimed at younger riders.[5]


Mk 1[edit]

Raleigh Chopper Mk1

Mk1 1968 to 1972. The Chopper's patent was applied for in the US in 1967. The Chopper was introduced at American trade shows in January 1969 but it was not until April 1969 when Raleigh Choppers were available for public to purchase. The bike featured a choice of a single-speed coaster hub, a 3-speed coaster, a standard non-coaster 3 speed or 5-speed (3+2) Sturmey Archer gear hub, selected using a frame-mounted console gear lever. Other features that appealed to the youth market were the unusual frame, long padded high-back seat, sprung seat at the back, high-rise (ape hanger) handlebars, 'bobbed' mudguards (fenders) and differently sized wheels: 16 in (41 cm) front and 20 in (51 cm) rear. The rear hoop above the seat resembled a dragster anti roll bar "sissy bar". Even the kickstand was designed to give the stationary bicycle a lean reminiscent of a parked motorcycle.[6] Tyres were wider than usual for the time, with a chunky tread on the rear wheel, featuring a red line around the sidewall.

In 1969 the Raleigh Chopper was launched on the UK market. This was a triple launch for Raleigh with the Mk1 Chopper produced until 1972. The Chopper was branded as THE HoT oNE, alongside the Moulton Mk3 (The Smooth One), and the RSW Mk3 (The Dolly One). The Chopper was sold as a "must have" item and signifier of "coolness"[7] for many children at the time.[8][9]

Mk 2[edit]

1972 to 1983 The Mk 2 ("Mark 2") Chopper was an improved version sold from 1972. It had the rarely-purchased option of five-speed derailleur gears (1973/74 "Pinky"), and the gear lever shifter reverted from a knob to a T-bar-style shifter only with a different style to the lever. (The earlier 'Tall frame' model had already sported the T-bar style, albeit with a black shifter handle with an elliptical window within the shifter cover.) The frame was subtly revised, and the seat shortened, bringing rider weight forwards of the rear axle (and thus the fulcrum point of balance) to help prevent the front of the bicycle lifting up. A small rear rack was added, the handlebars were welded to the stem to stop children from inclining the "ape hanger" bars backward, thereby rendering the bicycle almost unsteerable. A drop-handlebar version, the Sprint GT, was produced 1972 - 1973 and this differed from the standard Mk 2 as it had a slightly taller frame. The Chopper Mk 2 remained in production until 1983, by which time the BMX craze had taken over its market.[10] However, the Chopper almost single-handedly rescued Raleigh, which had been in decline during the 1960s, selling millions of the model worldwide.

Mk 3[edit]

After being out of production for over 20 years, a new version of the Chopper, the Mk3, was launched in 2004. In deference to modern safety concerns, adopted a more conventional saddle design from a single one-piece saddle to a split saddle and cissybar arrangement to circumvent saddle height laws, and dropped the groin-catching gear lever in favour of handlebar mounted gear controls; to commemorate this former feature the Mk3 had a sticker where the lever once was located. It was available at first in red, then purple then various colours followed including Limited Release models. . Rather than steel, the frame was made from aluminium alloy tubing to make the bicycle lighter. The wheels were still 20 inches at the back and 16 at the front.[11] In 2012, all unsold stock was brought back in-house, re-liveried (new colours and decals) and then sold off up to and including 2018. Available in various colours including Purple, Yellow, Polished alloy, White, Pearl white, Black, Red and some runs of Limited Releases such as the World Cup Edition, Beano edition, and Ben Sherman edition.

The Mk3 was never manufactured in Nottingham UK and instead production was either based in the USA, Taiwan or Vietnam..

MK - IV[edit]

Brief Outline[edit]

The MK-IV is the latest model to be added to the Raleigh chopper range and is a return to the classic mk2 model outline in all major design aspects but with the need to comply with modern legislation (see Design below).

Released to the General public in June 2023 the entire available stock sold out within three hours.

Available colours were Ultra-Violet and Infra-Red.

Two members of the enthusiast movement were invited to work with and on the design team from 2020.

Support in the form of Q&A and general advice for and about the new model has been and continues to be given in a social media group specific to the new model since the official media launch. The group is currently headed by the two enthusiasts who worked with and on the Raleigh design team, therefore the knowledge being shared about the MK-IV is accurate, well presented and openly shared with everyone.


The MK-IV project was started in 2019 with the intention for the new model to be released in 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of the release of the mk2. However, world events delayed this until 2023. The team behind the new MK-IV invited two members of the Raleigh Chopper Enthusiast movement[12] Mr K Price and Mr R Whitmill to work with and as part of the design team from 2020.

Based upon and reverse engineered from the Mk2, the MK-IV Chopper is an updated version that complies to contemporary safety standards as at time of manufacture, with a frame that is stronger than any previous model through use of modern tube materials with thicker walling.

There are a number of differences between the mk2 and the MK-IV, most notably the saddle, which, as per contemporary regulations and safety standards, is slightly shorter in height at the rear end. The saddle is also slightly wider at the front. The other most notable difference is the low height sissybar, which is the same style as was used on the mk2 Sprint GT as well as some USA models of the chopper from the late mk1 onwards. Again, this is to meet contemporary regulations as at time of the design process.

With the shifter once again returning to the cross-bar, the need to completely redesign the inner mechanism arose. It was, therefore, designed in such a way as to be made from laser cut steel which includes the slider table as part of the shifter base itself whilst also having cable guides. The shifter lever is held between "plate packs" either side of the lever acting to space the lever into the centre. One set of these plate packs on one side of the shifter lever house the indexing plate, bearing and spring which gives the shifter mechanism the ability to correctly set the cable position for each gear of the SRF3 rear hub. This new shifter works with the AW hubs of prior models and original shifters work with the SRF3 proving compatibility forwards and backwards.

Other design elements include a newly designed heron head chainwheel, a newly manufactured spoke protector to match the original design, a return to twin block pedals and a specifically newly designed headbadge to match the original other than being a stick-on type vs the original rivetted on type.

The pedals were manufactured once again under the UNION brand (owned by Marwi group from 1995). Union previously produced the pedals as used on late mk1 and all mk2 models as well as other Raleigh bicycles of the period. Uniquely, these new pedals also carry a narrow reflector, a feature harking back to the early twin-block pedals used on late mk1 and early mk2 Raleigh Choppers before legislation required slightly wider reflectors be utilised.

The spoke protector is of a brushed finish and does not carry any makers mark, though it is in all other ways a perfect duplication in size and pattern to the later alloy type as used on the mk2 models

The handlebars are of the same pattern as the mk2 model, however they do not have the ball bearing groove and carry a tapered locking wedge in place of the conical locking wedge used on the mk1 and mk2 models. All handlebars carry dates on the lower end of the stem as well as under the left hand handlebar grip.

Brake levers and brake callipers are alloy Dia Compe units.

Wheel rims are once again steel and a very close duplicate of the original type used on the mk2. However, they are now made from 2mm steel and thus a single skin "U" shape rather than 1mm steel folded over with an inner shoulder, as per the original type.

The wheels are laced to contemporary standard alloy hubs, utilising 12G stainless steel spokes for the rear wheel and 14G stainless steel spokes for the front wheel. In line with contemporary standards, both wheels are spoked with a woven pattern.

One not-so-obvious change in design is seen within the chainstays. On mk1 and mk2 models, the "S" bend of the chainstays started 1-1/2 inches (38.1mm) behind the saddle post tube of the frame. On the MK-IV this "S" bend starts at 1/2 inch (12.7mm) behind the saddle post tube.

MK-IV Production[edit]


Production of prototypes occurred Twice

Production of the first prototype batch occurred in April 2021, then again in October 2022 a further batch of prototype frames were manufactured. In each case, three frames were produced. Of the April 2021 batch, only frame number three (RE210003) passed testing and is the only frame that remains extant.

Of the October 2022 frames, frame number one (RN220001) was used as a test mule and destroyed (photos exist of this testing), whilst frame number two (RN220002) and frame number three (RN220003) were painted in Ultra-Violet and Infra Red respectively. These were, are and remain the only painted prototypes to exist and they are the first of any of the new model to carry the colours decided on for the "first launch" models. These colours were chosen as the first to be released in recognition of these colours being the launch colours of the mk2 model of 1972.

Later into the R&D process, RN220003 the Infra-Red prototype, was used as a parts compatibility test mule, this involving removal of parts from the MK-IV for test fitment on a mk2, as well as mk2 parts being tested for fitment on a MK-IV to prove compatibility both backwards as well as forwards.

The RN22 prototypes carry wheel rims of a slightly different profile, early dated shifter covers and handlebars, have thin vinyl decals on the shifter covers vs the better quality production decals, slightly different front forks and slightly different mudguards. RN220003 still carries prototype pedals.

Main Production[edit]

Full production of the MK-IV started in February 2023 and lasted through March 2023 for the first release of this new model, production of the frames being carried out in Taiwan. Other parts specifically for the new model were manufactured as well as appropriate parts from other manufacturers / models being used.

The frames are constructed of metric tubing with a thicker wall than previous models due to contemporary safety standards making all tubing much stronger than the previous models. With all joints TIG welded, rather than using a mix of brazing and welding as used on the mk1 and mk2 models, the new frames are therefore more robustly constructed.

Paint finish is achieved utilising etch primer over the bare metal, followed by white primer, colour coat, then decal application, followed by a coat of clear lacquer. All paints used being water-based.

Decals are slightly smaller due to the new tubing sizes and were reduced proportionately to suit during the design process.

The "Arrow Wedge" design decal carries the number 954917. Although this number bears no relationship on or to the design of the new MK-IV frame, it is carried as a continuation of the prior number carried on the last of the mk2 models, which was 954916 (prev 954915, prev "design no applied for").

MK-IV Launch[edit]

The Raleigh Chopper MK-IV[13] underwent three launch events. One private launch, two public launches and these events consisted of both Official and supported Private campaigns.

The first launch event was an invite only VIP "Soft Launch" in May 2023 consisting of a few select members of the Raleigh Chopper enthusiast movement. This was held at the (now closed) "Experience Raleigh" center in Maid Marian Way, Nottingham

The second launch event was the official media launch of 31st May 2023. From this point onwards both Raleigh UK and the two members of the enthusiast movement who were working with and on the design team provided information on and about the new model being released. Raleigh UK used the National newspapers, television and social media, whilst the two enthusiasts, with the blessing of Raleigh UK, worked privately using social media and the Annual Raleigh Chopper show website exclusively to bring news and information of the new model to the general public and enthusiasts alike.

The third launch event was the official sales launch of 20th June 2023, once again held at the (now closed) "Experience Raleigh" center in Maid Marian Way, Nottingham. Doors were opened to VIP guests at 10am whilst, officially at least, the doors were opened to the general public at 12pm. Four of the new model were on display, these consisting of the two RN22 prototypes being displayed in the window to the right of the doorway, with RB230002 (Infra Red) and RD230010 (Ultra-Violet) taking centre-stage in front of a balloon arch where people could get "hands-on" with the new model, inspect and even pose with them for photographs. Previous generations of the model (mk1, mk2 & mk3) were also on display courtesy of enthusiasts who brought them along to the event.

Between official media launch, yet prior to official sales launch, Raleigh UK attended and had a display stand at the Annual Raleigh Chopper show 2023, held at Emberton Country Park (Prev. held at Billing Aquadrome) in early June 2023. This consisted of a display of previous generations of the Chopper with two of the new MK-IVs forming part of the display, one of those being Ultra-Violet RD230010, the other being Infra Red RB230002. Only two other MK-IV's were in attendance, those belonging to the two enthusiasts who were working with the Raleigh design department and who were carrying out private publicity campaigns for the new model with the blessing of Raleigh UK after receiving one each of the new MK-IV. These two privately owned MK-IV's were not only the very first in private ownership, even before official media launch or sales launch, but they were on display for the purpose of inspection by fellow enthusiasts. With many attendees of the show choosing to test ride them, it proved a great method of further promoting the new model, along with those on display by Raleigh UK.

The reasoning behind the two MK-IVs being in private ownership was, in part, to allow time for real-world testing and feedback as well as for acquisition of photographic material for the private publicity campaign.

MK-IV Sales[edit]

The MK-IV Chopper was sold online through the Raleigh Bikes UK website and at the Nottingham "Experience Raleigh" showroom from, officially at least, 12pm, 20th June 2023. Available only in Ultra-Violet or Infra-Red and available only to the home market. All available bikes sold out on day-one within three hours, demonstrating that demand for these iconic bikes after some 51 years since the introduction of the MK2 in 1972 has not waned but increased.

These sales also included the sale of the two RN22 prototypes to private buyers.

Further inventory, not available on sales launch day was released for sale through the website on 25th July 2023 and again, sold out within hours. This was expected to be the last of the inventory, however, a further 50 unsold MK-IVs were released for sale through the website on 24th August 2023. Once again, selling out within hours.

Despite these sales, there have been a considerable number of complaints made about the quality of the wheel rims, particularly about the finish of the joints of the rims. In some cases, wheel rims that appear "egg" shaped and in other instances, poor welded joints in the rims that were actually cracked. Despite these issues, the vast majority of those who purchased one are happy with them, even those with replacement wheels.

MK-IV Prototypes & Sample Bikes[edit]

RE21 R&D Prototypes[edit]

The first prototype frames were manufactured in April 2021 and carried RE21xxxx frame numbers.

Frame number RE210001 failed testing, destroyed and disposed

Frame number RE210002 failed testing, destroyed and disposed

Frame number RE210003 Passed testing. Bare Metal. Built into a full bike. Later stripped back to a frame only.

RN22 R&D Prototype Paint Samples[edit]

A further three frames were built in October 2022 and these carry RN22xxxx frame numbers.

RN220001 Used as destructive test mule. Destroyed and disposed.

RN220002. Ultra-Violet - 1 of 1 Colour

RN220003 Infra-Red. - 1 of 1 Colour

RN220002 & RN220003 were built into full bicycles to continue the prototyping and R&D process.

RN220003 Used as R&D parts compatibility mule. Parts stripped and tested for fitment on standard (Infra Red) mk2 before being re-fitted.

Sample Bikes[edit]

RB230001 Ultra-Violet

RB230002 Infra Red:

RB230003 Ultra-Violet

RB230004 Infra-Red

RD230002 Ultra-Violet

RD230010 Ultra-Violet

MK-IV / MK4 Prototype & Sample Bike Ownership[edit]

RE210003 Bare-Metal Frameset - Current whereabouts unknown.

RN220002. Ultra-Violet - Private ownership as at 20th June 2023

RN220003 Infra-Red - Private ownership as at 20th June 2023

Sample Bike RB230001 Ultra-Violet - Private ownership.

Sample Bike RB230002 Infra-Red - Private ownership. Filmed for Bargain Hunt episode in August 2023.

Sample Bike RB230003 Ultra-Violet - Private ownership. Used by Raleigh for Advertising/PR on social media.

Sample Bike RB230004 Infra-Red - Private ownership as at April / May 2023 - PR work outside Raleigh UK - PR released 31st May 2023 @ 00:16hrs. First Infra-Red MK-IV in the world in private ownership.

Sample Bike RD230001 Infra-Red - Current whereabouts unknown.

Sample Bike RD230002 Ultra-Violet - Private ownership as at April / May 2023 - PR work outside Raleigh UK - PR released 31st May 2023 @ 00:16hrs. First Ultra-Violet MK-IV in the world in private ownership.

Sample Bike RD230010 Ultra-Violet - Last known location Raleigh UK "Experience Raleigh" centre Window Display. Owned by Raleigh UK. Current wherabouts unknown following closure of Experience Centre.

MK-IV / MK4 Dating[edit]

How to date a MK-IV Raleigh Chopper

Dating the new MK-IV is relatively easy as it uses a slightly modified form of the 1974 onwards frame numbering system.

In Basic Form the frame sequence breaks down as follows:

R = Raleigh,

N = October,

22 = Year,

Last 4 digits constitute the number of the frame built that month, in sequential order, resetting to 0001 the following month.

MK-IV / MK4 Full tools list[edit]

Raleigh Chopper M-IV Tools List
Raleigh Chopper M-IV Tools List

The following full tools list was put together to aid those who own a MK-IV in knowing which tools are required for each part of the bike.

It is released to the general public in the hope that it will be of use both contemporaneously as well as in the future.

Original models[edit]

UK market[edit]

  • MK1 - available only as a 3 speed model, Brilliant Orange, Golden Yellow, Flamboyant Green, Targa Mustard (HBR model), and Horizon Blue.
  • MK2 - standard 3 speed models available in Infra Red, Ultra Violet, Fizzy Lemon, Quick Silver, Space Blue, and Jet Black (Prismatic decal model).
  • MK2 - Sprint GT - available in either Bronze or Flamboyant Green. AW 3 speed (Prod. 1972 - 1973)
  • MK2 - Pink 5 Speed (Derailleur) (Prod. 1973 -1974)
  • MK2 - SE with cast alloy mags to commemorate 750,000 choppers (Prod. 1976-1977)
  • MK3 - Standard available in Black, Purple, Red, Silver, Pink, Yellow (Prod 2004-2012, sold through to 2018)
  • MK-IV - available only as a 3 speed model at launch. Ultra-Violet and Infra Red only. Frames dated as RB23 (February 2023) and RD23 (March 2023) only, with exception of RN22 (October 2022) Prototypes and RE21 bare metal frameset.

North American market[edit]

The North American market had a much wider spectrum of models and colours available. In 1971 there was a ban on tall sissy bars so the chopper was only sold with a low back rest.[citation needed] A summary of US models:

  • MK1 1969 'Tall Frames'; available as a single speed coaster (SC), 3 speed (AW - three speed and TCW - three speed coaster), and 5 speed (S5 - 3+2).
  • MK1 1970-1972 available as a single speed coaster (SC), 3 speed (AW - three speed and TCW/S3C - three speed coasters) 5 speed (S5 - 3+2) 5 speed and 10 speed (derallieur). The single and three speed models were also available as a Girl’s model without crossbar.
  • MK2 available as a 3 speed (AW) and 5 speed (S5 - 3+2). 1973 -1984
  • MK3 3 speed handlebar shift 2004 - 2012


The Glider Fastback 100 version was sold by Eatons of Canada

The Raleigh Chopper was also sold through Eaton's in Canada, badged as Gliders, and sold as the Fastback 100, Fastback XT101, SS357, ULT, Princess and MACH-2 models.

Worldwide sales[edit]

Raleigh sold the Chopper to many countries worldwide. In some countries Raleigh chose to sell Choppers with alternative brands. These included BSA, Hercules, Humber, Malvern Star, Phillips, Robin Hood, Rudge and Speedwell Fireballs.


The success of the Chopper led to similarly styled imitators, such as the Pavemaster Trusty Tracker, Triang Dragster, Dawes Zipper, Panther and Vindec High Riser in the UK as well as the very close copy of an Mk 2 named "Cincoa" as well as a Portuguese variant called the Chapparal, and in more recent years the Ground Cruiser which was sold in the UK at the same time as the release of the MK 3.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Richard Abraham (10 September 2014). "Raleigh Chopper: bicycle classic". Cycling Weekly. Retrieved 19 November 2016. Initial designs for the Chopper are sketched on the back of an envelope by designer Alan Oakley while returning from a research trip to America
  2. ^ a b c "I designed the Chopper, argues Cambridge inventor". BikeBiz. 21 January 2004. Archived from the original on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 19 November 2016. Dr Karen's claim is backed by the Design Council, which gave Dr Karen a special commendation in 2002 for his lifetime achievements, including the Chopper.
  3. ^ "Mark I Raleigh Chopper Bicycle". BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2016. Designed in the late 1960s by Raleigh employee Alan Oakley, [although some contest it was the work of Tom Karen of the Ogle]
  4. ^ "Raleigh Chopper's come back". Design Week. 29 January 2004. Retrieved 19 November 2016. Despite some controversy over the original designer – Raleigh's chief designer at the time was Alan Oakley, though inventor Tom Karen is reported to claim credit for the prototype
  5. ^ "Chopper Extreme". Chopper Extreme. Archived from the original on 13 October 2006.
  6. ^ "Raleigh Chopper — Cooper Mk.1". RaleighChopper.info. Retrieved 27 January 2009.
  7. ^ DL Byron (18 June 2007). "Raleigh Chopper Bicycle". Bike Hugger. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  8. ^ Finlo, Finlo (15 January 2004). "Design classic that entranced kids". BBC News Online. Retrieved 27 January 2009.
  9. ^ "Raleigh Chopper". DoYouRemember Ltd. Retrieved 27 January 2009.
  10. ^ Kirby, Terry (26 February 2004). "The decade taste forgot is back — on a brand new Raleigh Chopper". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 25 April 2008. Retrieved 27 January 2009.
  11. ^ "Raleigh Chopper designer Alan Oakley dies from cancer". BBC. 20 May 2012. Retrieved 20 May 2012.
  12. ^ "Building an Icon: Return of the Chopper | Raleigh UK". www.raleigh.co.uk. Retrieved 28 August 2023.
  13. ^ https://www.raleigh.co.uk/gb/en/bike-knowledge/meet-the-2023-raleigh-chopper-classic-but-with-a-few-tweaks/

External links[edit]