I had one of those conversations earlier that triggered a warm glow of nostalgia. You know the feeling. The feeling you get when you and a bunch of approximate peers reminisce about stuff from when you were kids. Growing up in the 70s and 80s as we did, there was just one brand in the bicycle world that called all the shots. Sure, other cool bikes existed – things like the Stingray and the multitude of Racers and BMXs – but the brand of the bike we all recalled, was Raleigh. I’m please to say, the company is still going strong – unlike many of the other brands it used to jostle for space with, during the adverts on Tiswas.
My first Raleigh was a Blazer. I remember going to the bike shop in Catterick Garrison with my dad to see a “Pal” of his, several days before (I think) my 6th birthday to pick out my first proper whip. I literally could not sleep from that point until I got it. Raleigh touched everyone’s lives in that era; one colleague had a Burner, another, along with one cousin, a Grifter, another cousin, a Bomber and my best childhood friend’s sister, had a Budgie. We’ve probably all ‘had a go’ on every Raleigh though. “Giz a go on your bike?” was one of the stock (albeit grammatically appalling) phrases of our formative years.
Many of these legendary bikes have now achieved a cult status – probably the most iconic of which would be the Chopper. Taking its design cues from the mutated Harley Davidson popularised in the Fonda, Hopper and Nicholson classic Easy Rider, the Raleigh Chopper was as cool as it was impractical. It may have been tenable in somewhere like Norfolk, but in Swaledale with its unavoidable steep hills where I grew up, it got left for dust.
And left for dust, as they often were, by the Raleigh Grifter. These 35lb beasts were almost as impractical as the chopper but at least you could stand up on the pedals properly without running the risk of slipping off and finding the crossbar mounted gear shift stick (which is where you’d find it on the Chopper) somewhere, er, awkward. The Chopper v Grifter competition wasn’t just about racing; there was an almost a junior ‘Mods v Rockers’ thing going on as well with kids falling into either the Chopper or Grifter camp. (Grifter, for the record).
You may have noticed by now, that the feature picture for this post isn’t actually a Raleigh. It’s Nirve – a modern day maker of vintage feel bikes with up to date technology. I’ve got to say that even Raleigh’s Red or Dead range doesn’t hold a design candle to some of the Nirve steeds. Nice bikes. I don’t think Nirve are any real commercial threat to the Raleigh empire though, as I get the feeling that Raleigh will be trading for another 100 years or more.
Just in case anyone from Nirve is reading this.. Giz a go on your bike?