Raleigh created one of the most recognisable bikes ever produced, the Chopper, and today it announced it will be releasing a new version of the bike.
Raleigh says fans have been demanding a new Chopper for decades and that it has undertaken four years of research and product development to create the new bike.
Lee Kidger, managing director at Raleigh, says the new Chopper should bring back memories for many people.
“Whenever you mention the Chopper, most people have a story. We want to re-engage with those people and bring some joy and memories back from the 1970s,” says Kidger.
Technical (and legal) challenges
Raleigh has designed the new Chopper to be as close to the original Chopper MK2 as possible.
Released in 1972, the Raleigh Chopper MK2 was the second version of the bike and has become the most desired Chopper, still fetching high prices at auction.
The new Raleigh Chopper features many of the same features as the Chopper MK2, including the one-piece saddle and mid-frame gear stick. However, achieving these features required work – particularly around the gear shifter.
“There were some key features on that bike around industrial design and craftsmanship that people did not feel like we could ever do again. We wanted to test the boundaries to see if we could really do it,” explains Kidger.
Raleigh worked with internal hub gear manufacturer Sturmey-Archer to develop a new version of the gear stick, which is mounted at the top tube and enables riders to shift through the bike’s three gears.
Raleigh has had to make some changes to the design of the Chopper to ensure it’s compliant with modern regulations.
Kidger says one-piece saddles can only have a maximum height of 125mm, so the new saddle is slightly smaller than the Raleigh Chopper MK2’s version.
Raleigh has had to adjust the design of the Chopper’s bar as well because regulations mean the handlebar can’t protrude over the saddle.
But Kidger says when Raleigh showed the new bike to Chopper enthusiasts, they often mistook the new version for the original.
“Once they’ve started to really look at the detail, they realise it’s not the MK2. But from a first glance, they all said it was the MK2,” says Kidger.
Balancing heritage and practicality
Kidger says the Raleigh Chopper created a “movement” in the 1970s, with the bike encapsulating a sense of joy, freedom and fun.
Designing a new Chopper, which so closely resembles Choppers of old, is a way for Raleigh to help people rediscover what Kidger calls the “contagious joy of cycling”.
Kidger says this is where releasing heritage models joins up with the more modern side of Raleigh’s business: electric bikes.
By pulling on the hearts and minds of people in evoking the heritage of the brand through bikes such as the Chopper, Kidger hopes Raleigh will convince people to cycle more.
In turn, Raleigh’s electric bikes provide practical solutions to facilitate this move to more frequent cycling, and Kidger suggests they could help people take kids to school, replace a second car and help with wider issues.
“Electric bikes are the single biggest benefit to a lot of the challenges the UK faces at the moment, in terms of congestion charges, and net zero and sustainability targets that have come in,” he says.
Kidger says ebikes provide an opportunity for Raleigh to expand: “We’ve identified that as a real growth area for the business, and we’ve pivoted Raleigh into that emerging market,” says Kidger.
The brand was bought in 2012 by the Accell Group, one of the biggest electric bike manufacturers and brand owners in Europe.
It has been adapting to the cargo and electric bike market for a number of years, with ebikes becoming a core part of its business in 2018. Recently, it released the Raleigh Modum, a folding e-cargo bike.
Kidger says the electric bike market isn’t growing at the rate Raleigh would like it to, but it’s still double the size it was in 2019, and Raleigh has seen “some real successes over the last five or six years in that market”.
As an indicator of this success, the Financial Times reports Kidger estimates Raleigh’s share of the UK’s electric bike market to be around 5 per cent and that Raleigh made a pre-tax profit of £2.82m on sales of £74.5m in 2020.
We’ll have to wait and see whether the release of the new Raleigh Chopper will stimulate further success across the different sides of the business.
When will the new Raleigh Chopper be available?
Raleigh says a limited-edition release of the Chopper will be available to purchase online via its website from 12pm on 20 June.
The chopper will come in two colours, ‘Infrared’ and ‘Ultraviolet’.
A range of spares will be available and Raleigh says most are back-compatible with older Chopper models.
Raleigh Chopper spec and price
- Frame material: Cr-Mo Steel
- Handlebar: Raleigh Chopper steel high-rise handlebar, 580mm
- Stem: Steel stem integrated with handlebar
- Brake type: Caliper
- Gears: 3
- Rear shifter: Raleigh 3-speed gear shifter
- Gear type: Hub gear
- Wheel size: 37cm
- Colours: Infrared/Ultraviolet
- Claimed weight: 18.4kg
- Price: £950