Chopper hopes for cult revival
Friday January 16, 2004
The classic bike that defined a decade for many a parka-clad
youngster is back after more than quarter of a century. The new
look Chopper will hit the shops in April, when the first 2,004
go on sale.
The Chopper was a "must have" item in 1970s
Britain, when 1.5m were sold. It has since built a cult
following, with fan clubs round the world.
Gary Hughes, manager of the Raleigh Chopper Owners' Club,
said its return was great news. "It's fantastic for all the
fans of these wonderful bikes. People all over the world cannot
wait to get their hands on one. We've got members in Australia,
Singapore and the USA who are all excited about this."
The new Chopper will be available only in its original Infra
Red, with the red-lined tyres and distinctive "ape
hanger" handlebars, elongated seat, back rest, and chrome
seat loop. One difference will be the gearshift, moved from the
crossbar to the handlebars for safety reasons.
Despite this Mr Hughes thinks it will prove just as popular.
"It was an absolute classic then, and it still is
today," said the 39-year-old City trader. "It had a
big seat so you could take your mate for a ride, and it had the
shift gear stick just like your dad's Cortina. When you look in
bike shops today, it's like modern cars - they are all the same
boring design. The Chopper is different, it's got style; and
that is why it is still so popular."
Among fans are the England goalkeeper David James, and Blur
singer Damon Albon.
Loz Cox, product manager at Raleigh, said: "It 's taken
us nine months to redesign, and we know it's going to prove as
popular as it did in the 1970s."
Raleigh shut its Nottingham factory, which once employed
8,000, at the end of 2002. The bulk of production has moved to
Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Thailand, although some wheels are still
made in the UK.
1970s: When not falling off their hard-to-ride Chopper
bikes, children had innocent hobbies. For outdoor types it was
bouncing - either sitting on a Space Hopper, or standing on a
pogo stick. For those with less ambition (and less pocket money)
the must-have items were yo-yos or, if you were desperate,
Clackers. And for an embryonic gaming generation, the
"computer" game Pong, allegedly based on tennis, was
as hi-tech as it got.
Today: PlayStation 2 and the X-Box console offer
limitless fantasies in front of the TV. For a truly interactive
experience mechanised pets are hard to beat. For the more
traditionally minded, Beyblades, hi-tech spinning tops, are
popular, as are Bratz: "funky dolls with a great range of
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