Raleigh Chopper
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So, you just can't live without a Raleigh Chopper, but how do you find one?
Well, as this is a web site, I suppose we need to explore the Computer contact first. There are several Notice boards accessible from the links page of this website. Leaving several “I want a Chopper” sort of messages on these boards might be your first move. The most important thing is to leave your general area in the wanted message…don’t think that by leaving it out you will get replies from all over the place, and you can take your pick of any in your area, it won't happen. Postage charges put off both senders and buyers. Most senders can’t be bothered with wrapping up a bike and taking it to the post. If you’re in their area, they will have more incentive to contact you. Oh, and it might seem obvious, but leave a valid e-mail address for goodness sake.
Our old friend E-Bay comes next. Typing “Raleigh Chopper” into the search on E-Bay.co.uk (if you're in UK) will bring up several pages of Chopper items. They’re not all full bikes for sale, many items are spare parts and collectibles from the era, but there are always several full bikes. This is your first port of call if you are in a hurry for a bike, you could have the Chopper of your dreams on your own doorstep within ten days of first typing “e-bay.co.uk” into your computer.
Never bought from E-bay? Well by clicking on the seller’s name, you can find out quite a lot. First, read his feedback…it can tell you about his trading reputation. Also look for length of trading, if he’s been trading for quite a while, and has all positive feedback, he should be safe to trade with. If he has no feedback, or worse still, negative feedback, stay away, another bike will be available soon.
Postage has to be taken into the account when purchasing from e-bay. The fact that the seller has listed on e-bay indicates that he is willing to safely wrap up the bike and organise transport. Remember a Chopper isn’t a light bike, weighing as it does, around 45 pounds. Don’t just bid and sit back, for goodness sake e-mail the seller, tell him you're serious about the purchase, (if you win) and that you need the bike posting. Gauge his seriousness and abilities from his reply. Even e-mail him before placing a bid, to try to work out if it’s going to be worth bidding. The last thing you need is to win an auction placed by a ten-year-old kid who has no idea how to organise delivery of the bike, and no intelligence to go with it.
If you are a little more old fashioned, and not quite in such a hurry, advertising might be the way for you. Most areas have a local free newspaper that is probably free to advertise in. A simple advert could result in a plethora of replies, but then again it might not. You might consider paying to place an advert in a slightly larger, but still local paper. A little expenditure might be worth the extra exposure your advert will get.
Next on the advertising front comes the corner shop. Many corner shops allow free or cheap advertising in their window. But not just any old corner shop will suit your search. You need to find a corner shop in a village or area or neighbourhood that is surrounded by houses that actually existed in the early 1970`s. There are no Raleigh Choppers to be found on new housing estates. You need a housing estate that would have homed families with teenage children in the 1970`s. makes sense really, also you could locate moderately affluent areas, Choppers weren’t cheap bikes remember. You are looking for a bike that has lounged unnoticed in a shed or garage since the teenage owner left home over 25 years ago. The ideal bike has been dry stored and forgotten about by the parents. Because we are targeting the parents of the original owners, place a picture of the bike on your advert in the shop - you have to jolt memories. It might be worth adding “also wanted, any 1970`s Raleigh’s” because many items from other 1970`s period bikes also fit the Chopper.
* I have had many a bike come from tips picked up in local bike shops. I make a point to visit bike shops whenever I am in some place new. I keep a pile of well done colourful "Wanted" flyers with me along with a odd coloured and professionally made business card. (If you include a web address on your flyer or card, do not lead your potential seller to a sales page where bikes are listed for 1.000's of dollars, unless you want to pay the big price. A smart seller will research a bit so don't lead him to an overpriced answer.) Many shop owners will post your flyer and have your cards on hand when the old lady brings a gem into his shop. If the shop owner is not helpful, I respectfully ask for where the best local bet is and try my luck there.
Spare parts for your Chopper should always be in the back of your mind if you are actually visiting an old bike shop.
If the shop itself has Choppers or spare parts take note! There is a reason why a shop owner has 30 year old bike or parts... and it usually ain't good. He is either: a poor businessman who has held on to stock that should have been tossed out years before; a path person who has narrow paths from the door to the register to the bench and to the bathroom, with all available floor/wall space jammed with unsaleable crap or he is a prospector who hates the stuff, but keeps it because he feels it is worth a bucket of money.
In almost all these situations, Respect, Persistence and a fair price will be the best tools to pry the stuff out of the disfunctional shop. In most cases the word has leaked out about the gold mine and these shop owners have had to deal with a bombardment of rude collectors offering too little, Kids with no money pestering him for his stock and liars pretending to know nothing about value. Be better than that. State you wants, request a fair price and have the cash or be able to get it in short time. It is OK to admit that his stuff is worth money, he knows it. Be honest and likable, do not interfere with his paying customers and encourage him to wait on people when they interrupt your conversation. Have the time to spend waiting and time it so it is the shops slow time. It is good to find the owner asleep at the register.
Educate him on the stuff you want and do not be afraid to show him what else he has that is valuable. Offer to give him leads for the BMX collectors that will by his 300 vinyl yellow pads. Keep it fun. Keep it exciting. This is a hobby and your enjoyment of it will be contagious. Oh... sometimes bringing a pretty girl in a way short skirt doesn't hurt.
If your answer is "Sod off", respectfully ask if you can stop by in a few months to see if he has changed his mind, and DO IT. (Stopping by when he is not there and pestering the help is an option!!).
If you ask about spare parts and the answer is positive, be prepared. HAVE A FLASHLIGHT. It wont hurt to have a step ladder and boxes. Offer to make a neat pile for his approval and pricing. Keep it contained as it may be there a few months while he decides. Thank him for his time.
Back to searching for your dream Bike, another method , after you have located a housing estate that looks promising, is to use your computer to print out some flyers, simple wanted ads, maybe four to a piece of paper, cut them out, and don’t be frightened to pound the pavement placing your ads through peoples mail boxes. Again, it might be best to avoid houses with no garage or ones with obvious signs of being lived in by younger people. Use your discretion.
Don’t expect to get any bike you find ridiculously cheap however. The fact that Raleigh Choppers are very collectable has become folklore. Everyone knows, unfortunately, that they are 'worth a fortune' This fact often can work against you in your search, people hear the story of the fully restored show bike being worth a king's ransom, and believe that the rusty wreck of a mid 70's Mk two that they have stashed away is also worth that much.
If you are lucky enough to locate a bike locally, visit the owner with hard cash in your pocket. If a deal can be completed, it is almost always smoother when you waft solid cash under the vendor's nose.
There was a time when you could walk away from a bike that was too expensive, and find another in your price bracket. Those days are over. Choppers are hard to find, and if you are offered one, my advice is to buy it.
For price comparisons, again, e-bay is a safe bet. You can see how much bikes are actually changing hands for, and gauge the worth of any prospective purchase. However, Just remember, Choppers haven’t been made for 30 years, and aren’t getting any easier to locate.
It might be best to avoid thinking of the Choppers actual e-bay value, and decide just how much you actually want the bike, and price it accordingly.
So off you go, Good luck in your search, and when you get one, visit our various sections for info on identifying it and restoring it.