Raleigh Chopper
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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.

The 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.

Although 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 prismatic graphics.

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 1981/1982 period.
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 early 80`s