In 1977 the
short lived Raleigh Chopper Silver Jubilee model was phased out.
The marketing department had taken over the reins of the model
range, and after the design departments farcical attempts to upgrade
the model range with turkeys like the Sprint and 5 Speed, it was
time for a more business headed approach.
The MK2 colour range had ticked away in the background of all
the “special editions” with the original red, purple
and yellow having been joined by the metallic blue and silver.
By 1978 sales of the Chopper were slowing down in the marketplace
slightly, and the marketing men decided upon one last try at a
“special edition” that this time, might actually sell
in some numbers.
Black was chosen as the base colour, mainly to show off the new
stickers. Taking a lead from the Custom Car community of the era,
they decided to manufacture graphics for the bike using Diffraction
tape. ( or Prismatic tape)
Originally invented in America for the musical instrument trade,
Diffraction tape had been taken up with some enthusiasm by the
custom car painters. It was a multi layer vinyl adhesive tape,
which bent reflective light as it left the surface of the tape,
allowing, in sunshine especially, all the colours of the rainbow
to be seen in one silver reflection. Prisms in the transparent
tape layers allowed the light to diffract, .i.e. bend producing
spectacular visual effects.
bike was basically a standard MK2 with special graphics. This
meant production costs were the same throughout the range, no
special wheels or silly handlebars to spend production cash on
with this model.
The chain guard sticker was something new, instead of saying “Raleigh”
it had a set of motorbike exhausts with flames coming out of their
tips. A very stylish attempt at updating the bike . The rest of
the stickers followed time honoured tradition with Raleigh on
the seat tube, and Chopper on the down tube. The Arrow wedge sticker
on the right top tube was considered too small for the diffraction
treatment, so a red version was fitted.
just a painted/stickered standard MK2 bike, the black prismatic
sold well right until the end of Chopper production.By 1979 the
colour range was cut down to the Red, now called “Hot Red”
instead of its previous name “Infra Red”; Silver, re
named” Pearl Silver” instead of its previous “Quick
Silver”, Space Blue, still called Space Blue and Black with
These four bikes continued to sell well into 1980 but the three
original colours were discontinued leaving just the Black bike
being produced when the Chopper was finally phased out over the
Towards the end of production, a few subtle changes took place.
The famous “R” nuts disappeared from all Raleigh small
wheel bikes including the Chopper, to be replaced with just plain
nuts that weren’t even chrome plated. Also, Sturmey Archer
changed the bolt through the centre of the brake callipers from
the old favourite round head with a slot, to a hex headed bolt,
and the calliper metal was slightly thinned. On the subject of
thinner, the front forks reduced in cross section slightly sometime
in the early 1980`s when the thread on the head nuts area on the
front forks changed from the existing Raleigh style 26 threads
per inch, and became more industry standard 24 threads per inch.
Exactly when the coloured bikes were phased out to leave the Black
one is unclear , however there is a chance that the black bikes
never had “R” nuts fron 1977 onwards, whilst the coloured
bikes most certainly kept their “R” nuts until being
phased out. If this is true, maybe the black bikes were infact
produced on a separate production line to the coloured bikes,
maybe the coloured bikes were special order only towards the end.
Only time and research will tell, if you have a late bike, send
its detail in so that we can add to the story.And remember, theres
still the mystery of the Gold coloured gear console stickers to
be unraveled. See separate article in the details section.
The handlebars on the later bikes were slightly narrower at the
bottom also. You have to remember that the Raleigh Chopper had
enjoyed a production run of over ten years, right through a turbulent
period for the British manufacturing industry. Raleigh changed
outside contractors and staff came and went, so it’s a wonder
the bike stayed so recognisable throughout the era.
Whilst the Red MK2 is undoubtedly the classic early 70`s bike,
the Black Prismatic was undoubtedly the bike for the late 70`s