Raleigh Chopper
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The Raleigh Chopper S.E. of 1976/1977 has become the single most sought after model in the whole Chopper bike range. Why ??? Because its immediate silver identity stand it apart from other Mk2 Choppers, but mainly because of its scarcity. There were other Chopper 'one offs' like the 'Sprint' and the immediately preceeding 'Pink 5 speed', but non have the magical appeal of the Silver Special Edition

Thanks to Alex Jewell for the picture

The bike was released at a time when the Chopper was riding high in the U.K. bicycle popularity stakes, but signs weren’t good.... The U.S.A. always years ahead of us Brits in the bike fashion department, had embraced the upcoming B.M.X. style, with a vengeance! The high-rise bike was dead in the U.S. and Raleigh chiefs could just about make out the writing on the wall.
Raleigh Chiefs realised they needed a push in the Chopper market, to keep the Chopper line afloat, to hedge their bets, in 1976 they released the infamous "Grifter" bike to try to get a foothold into the perceived B.M.X. craze (The B.M.X. craze didn’t really get a hold in the U.K. until the release of Stephen Spielberg’s early 80`s classic movie E.T. which featured Kuwahara b.m.x. bikes.)

So it came to pass that the Raleigh Chopper S.E. was designed, to tie nicely in with the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977, and to help boost Chopper sales. Raleigh's attempt to produce an American style 5-speed had been ruined by the choice of its colour, so design chiefs (and remember Chopper designer Alan Oakley was still chief of the design department at this stage) so the bike was painted a nice safe silver.
The bike was released in August 1976, a full 6 months before the dawn of the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations, and to explain the reason we have to look at Raleigh’s sales structure of that era.
Christmas was, and still is, the biggest sales time for any bicycle manufacturer, Raleigh being no exception.
Raleigh liked to release new models in the summer, this gave time for the trade dealers to see the bikes, and place orders. In turn allowing Raleigh time to judge a model’s popularity, and actually make enough bikes to fill the Christmas demand.
Therefore, the Silver Jubilee Special Edition Raleigh Chopper was released in August 1976. Raleigh named it the ‘Silver Jubilee Model’, but needed a reason for its appearance before the Queen’s Jubilee Year. So the S.E. was released to celebrate 750,000 sales of the Raleigh Chopper.
Whether this figure had actually been reached in sales, no one knows for sure, maybe they had sold more, but the advertising department decided on 750,000 bikes and it stuck.
The bike was launched at the same time as the Grifter, with a std mk2 Chopper being £67.95, a Grifter being priced the same, and a Special Edition being £71.75...nearly four pounds more expensive.
The silver paint and cast alloy wheels made it look a lot more than four pounds better. Especially with the chrome reflective stickers which gave the bike a decidedly modern look.
After Christmas 1976, the advertising for the S.E. changed to reflect the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, for which it was originally intended and the bike appeared on the children’s show "Blue Peter" early that year. (This time John Noaks didn’t ride the bike!)
However, the S.E. was short lived. When the August 1977 catalogues landed on the Raleigh Dealers’ shop floor, there was no sign of the Special Edition. The bike was phased out in the Autumn of Jubilee Year.
This demise may have lead to the bike’s scarcity and value in the 21st century, but takes some understanding from Raleigh’s point of view. If the bike had indeed been intended to span the Queen’s Silver Jubilee year, why not continue making it throughout 1977? Why not have two Christmases in the bike’s brief sales history? Why not a two-year run like the equally unpopular Sprint? The answer, unfortunately is a stark fact of business life, the bikes did not sell well.
Despite the obvious investment cost of the alloy wheels, the bike was declared a disaster by the management at Raleigh, and production effort was pulled off the Chopper production line to allow other models to be built.
And so ended an all too brief appearance in the Chopper line-up of the Special Edition.

So what was all the fuss about? Surely just another silver bike with weird wheels?
The bike was painted in Quick Silver, a colour first seen on the Quick Silver mk2 released in 1974, and from the middle up, was a standard mk2 bike, just with a black gear selector knob (all others being red) and tacky black plastic sleeves on the brake levers set it apart.

Thanks to Alex Jewell for the picture

But the lower half carried the important differences...the wheels.
Using a design first seen on the small framed Raleigh Tomahawk Formula Three, Raleigh cast up alloy wheels for the bike, which, despite looking heavy and ungainly, actually produce a bike slightly lighter than a standard mk2.
The front wheel was a 16x2 rim with a Chopper standard calliper front brake, but for some reason the rear wheel (20x2) carried not just our old friend the Sturmey Archer Three speed hub, but on the left side, a lever operated drum brake. The reasoning for this must be obvious to some Raleigh design boffin, but it escapes me.
Most people assume the drum brake is to prevent a calliper brake ruining the wheel rim’s paint...but that’s exactly what happens at the front end! Did the prototypes have drum front brakes? Was it scrapped for economy? We’ll never know, but we do know that the rear wheel got a version of the Sturmey Archer SAB3 Rear hub. (SAB3 Spec Sheet - BEWARE, big image suitable for printing)

SE Rear Brake
Left side of rear wheel, showing brake actuation lever. Cable routingcan be seen on the picture below.
Thanks to Alex Jewell for the pictures

To get the rear brake cable down to the lower rear spar, and along to the rear brake lever, three small tubes were braised onto the Special Edition’s frame for the cable to slip through. As opposed to running along the top tubes as on the standard bikes. Also, for some unimaginable reason the bike appeared with a small black rubber cap on the tip of the kick stand. Another small detail that never appeared on subsequent bikes.
All Special Editions have the frame number stamped on the rear of the seat tube, just below the seat post clamp and all have the first letter 'N' for Nottingham and "6" or "7" as the third character in the number, indicating 1976 or 1977 (See 'How to date your Chopper)

Thanks to Alex Jewell for the picture

The Stickers on the S.E. were made from silver foil, printed with the letters in satin black. The seat tube followed standard form with the word "Raleigh" and the main tubes had the word "Chopper" but instead of the expected " Raleigh" on the chain guard, the magical words SPECIAL EDITION stand proud.