'Chopper' cult bike is back

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For any self-respecting Seventies child they were the ultimate symbols of urban cool, before becoming the obsession of cult collectors across the globe.

Now, the nation's passion for the distinctly shaped bicycle defined by its ape-hanger handlebars and extended backrest is to be indulged once again. After an absence of 25 years, the Chopper is back.

Capitalising on the rose-tinted nostalgia of its customers, Raleigh UK yesterday announced plans to relaunch the Seventies bicycle later this year.

An initial run of 2,004 limited-edition bikes will be released in April, each capturing the historic sense of the occasion with a unique production number stamped on a plaque.

The Chopper became an instant hit when it was launched in 1969, with more than 1.5 million sold in the following decade, until production ceased in 1979. Along with Space Hoppers and etch-a-sketch, the bicycles swiftly came to define an era due to their runaway popularity among schoolchildren. The enduring passion of many childhood Chopper lovers was subsequently reflected in the growing band of ageing collectors who lovingly restored and collected rare models.

Clubs for Chopper owners and on-line auctions, where original models sell for more than £500, have continued to thrive.

The new Chopper will not disappoint those who continue to covet the original model. The red-lined tyres, distinct handlebars, elongated seat, backrest and chrome seat loop are all intact.

The main changes will be the gearshift, which has been moved from the crossbar to the handlebars for safety reason, as well as a new light-weight form.

A Raleigh spokesman said: "It has taken us nine months to redesign the new Chopper and we know it's going to prove as popular as it did in the Seventies." The first will cost £249.99, while subsequent bikes, without a plaque, will retail at £199.99.