Chopper bikes are not my kind of retro

I'd like to see the return of black steel cycle clips rather than fiddly, reflective 'trouser bands'

Share

The relaunch by Raleigh of the Chopper bike, which had its heyday in the Seventies, received much coverage last week. The original Choppers were ridden by tough kids. They used the "ape-hanger" handlebars, the stick-shift and the generally preposterous riding posture to suggest that, for them, effete cycling would soon give way to something more motorised.

Of all the features of cycling in the Seventies, the Chopper is not the first one I would have brought back. From a purely aesthetic point of view, I'd like to see the return of black steel cycle clips rather than fiddly, reflective "trouser bands". (I would also like to see the return of men who wear their cycle clips all day.) I would welcome back the term "racer" instead of road bike. In fact, I would like to banish the whole fantasy that anything other than a tiny minority of people ever ride a bike anywhere other than on the road. But I am not against the whole world of modern cycling; I am against only half of it:

Cycling is big right now. It is said to be the new golf – popular among middle-aged men who like to spend a lot of money and wear silly clothes. This is the half that I am against. According to the proprietor of my local bike shop, Muswell Hill Bikes, "A middle-aged bloke starts cycling to work on something like that. [He pointed to a nondescript hybrid mountain bike.] He then finds he's being overtaken by older and fatter guys wearing lycra and riding carbon-fibre road bikes." So the competitive urge kicks in, and he buys a £3,000 bike and a lycra outfit.

Most middle-aged men in lycra look sausage-like. And I believe that Jeremy Clarkson and the Top Gear team once conducted an experiment whereby they established that a cyclist wearing lycra had a speed advantage of 0.00001 per cent over a cyclist wearing a tweed suit and smoking a pipe.

But I am glad to say that I see many younger cyclists looking all "Belleville Rendez-vous" in retro merino wool cycling jerseys. The popular "fixie" bike (fixed wheel and no gears) is far more elegant than the cumbersome mountain bikes that have been blighting our roads (rather than our mountains) for the past 30 years. And when those fixies have semi-dropped, "time-trial" handlebars, they look Edwardian in a way that I like and that compliments the beards and waxed moustaches their twentysomething riders often sport.

Steel-framed road bikes with leather-look handlebar tape are also making a comeback. My 20-year-old son loves his folding Brompton bike. He concedes it's "not crass" but denies it's retro, even though it's racing green and named after the Brompton Oratory, for heaven's sake. Whether the retro status of the Chopper saves it from being crass… that's another matter again.

Andrew Martin's book 'Belles and Whistles: Five Journeys Through Time on Britain's Trains' is published by Profile on 3 September

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key Stage 1

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key S...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...

Tradewind Recruitment: History Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee