Minor British Institutions: The Raleigh Chopper

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We have to be careful what we say here, as the credit for the design of the Raleigh Chopper seems to be hotly contested. Tom Karen, of the legendary Ogle design house, has one claim; others say the design was the work of Raleigh employee Alan Oakley.

Whatever the truth, the Chopper was an enormous commercial – and cultural – success. It was the first child's bike that aped adult products such as sports cars and motorbikes in being a must-have possession. Launched to a lukewarm reception in the US in 1969, where a trend of customising high-riding bikes had been going on, it was a hit when released in Britain the following year.

The wedgy styling, the car-style gear stick, the lurid colours – all suited the Chopper's decade perfectly. It was great for wheelies and giving "backies" to passengers. Production ceased in 1984, by which time over 1.5 million had been sold. A new version was launched in 2004, this time without the phallic "gear stick". You might say the Chopper's lost its chopper.

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