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Raleigh Chopper Owners Club
This e-mail was sent to us from a Chopper fan in New Jersey USA .
(As with all the E-mails sent to us, we do NOT publish the senders e-mail address)
Raleigh Chopper Story may be a bit different from most. I am an American, but in
1969 I was a 12 year old US Army Dependent living in Pirmasens, Germany.
I pined after the Schwinn Krate bikes at the time. None of my friends had one, nor had I ever seen one in person. My desire was due to Schwinn's extensive advertising in comic books of that era. I knew I wasn't going to get one in Germany.
My family made our Saturday trip to the military Post Exchange in late fall when the allotment of Christmas toys came in. There on display was an orange Raleigh Chopper 5 Speed! I instantly fell in love with it and my father agreed that it would be my Christmas present. I kept the bike in my room all winter!
I loved the Chopper and it was the first one in my area, so all my friends thought it was the coolest. We lived in a huge four family house on the Army Post. Each family had a small caged storage area in the basement, but all of us kids kept our bikes lined up in the boiler room. We all knew where the hidden key was, and we all knew to keep it locked at all times!
Well, that was all the kids except JR. He forgot to lock the door and that night, German kids snuck in and stole my Chopper and my sister's Raleigh spyder bike (don't remember the model). It was confirmed by teenagers coming home late at night, who saw a group of German kids riding bikes from the American housing area! Of course the bikes were very gone and not to be found. This was in early 1971. JR's mother marched him over to say he was sorry. And that was it! No offer to pay for the bikes.... nothing!
The Military Post Exchange only sporadically stocked anything. They seldom had any bikes. So I took to stopping there after school every day. My father took the stance that I should earn my new bike as one of those life lessons, so I started washing cars for $1 each in our neighbourhood. Each of the family houses was responsible for mowing the lawn, so I signed up to mow three of them each week for $2 a mow. Just think about how much work I did to save the $65 US for my new Chopper! And the lesson was well learned. I've always been very responsible with my finances.
My trips to the Post Exchange first turned up a girls model Chopper. This was a dark red three speed. I was so desperate for a Chopper I almost considered it. We did buy it for my sister though. Now my Chopper desire was even more intense since she had one and I didn't!
Anyway, one day my persistence paid! I arrived at the Post Exchange to see the most beautiful yellow Chopper. It was also a 5 speed and I was in Heaven. I told the clerks that this was MY bike! I told them I had the money and only had to go get my father. The clerks told me they couldn't hold it (I'll bet that kids said that all the time!) so I ran all the way to my father's office practically holding my breath. He knew how important this was to me. I had gone a year without a bicycle. I rode it home within the hour! Of course this Chopper became my most valued possession and I protected it with my life.
It was time for us to move back to the USA, and of course the Choppers came with our household goods. Once back in New Jersey, I pulled out my Chopper to show it off to my new friends. They were not impressed. It seems the current rage in the USA were the then new "English Racer" 10 speeds and spyder style bikes were passe!
That didn't hurt my enthusiasm and I kept on riding the Chopper. The bar with the "CHOPPER" lettering got damaged, so I repainted the bar gloss black and added yellow vinyl lettering. It looked great. I also took the plastic gear shift housing and managed to fit a tiny AM transistor radio into it. I had the two knobs sticking out the side of the housing and cut out part of the top of it for the speaker. My father showed me how to cut window screen to fit a speaker grille into the recess. I remember it didn't work too well, but I was the only kid around with a radio on his bike and it looked cool!
I don't know about the Chopper model designations, but both of my Choppers were pretty much the same bike. The years of purchase were 1969 and 1971. Both were duel shifter five speeds. Both had a full length black seat, without the spring on the sissy bar.
The most unusual feature on all three of our Choppers was the lighting kit. I believe these were produced for the German market. All of them had reflectors on the pedals (unusual in this era), a square plastic chrome and grey headlight, a rear light and a generator in the centre hub of the front wheel. In all my searching on the web, I haven't seen any photo or mention of this option.
Anyway, when I was 16 I finally bought a Peugeot Tour De France English Racer 10 speed. My friends and I took to riding 10 miles to the beach and the heavy Chopper couldn't keep up with them. Being consistent I bought a yellow Peugeot to match the Chopper.
I kept the Chopper as a second bike, but eventually lost interest in it. After I moved from home, I learned that my father gave away both Choppers. I was upset since I felt they would always mean something to me, and probably would be worth having in the future. I always had that collector mentality!
So now I'm 43 and hadn't thought about Raleigh Choppers for a long time. Then I came across an article in a British car magazine, which led to a web search, and here! I'm suddenly finding myself needing a Chopper. It won't be long now.
I still have my Peugeot and ride it occasionally. I still have many of the Matchbox cars and models I had as a kid in a display case. I even still have my first car! So now I need to see that yellow Chopper sitting in the garage between the Peugeot and my 1965 Barracuda!
I hope you enjoyed my life story!
Tom in New Jersey USA