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Tales of the Uninvited #5: Four years in the saddle.

My Mk1, Golden Yellow, Raleigh Chopper was a beast. My absolute pride and joy.

I’d wanted one for yonks. That laid-back seating rig. The frame-mounted stick shift gear console. The Easy Rider-style handlebars. It was every pre-teener’s dream when I were a lad. Bye ‘eck!

My Mum and Dad were canny though. We struck a deal. If I could save up enough to cover half the cost of a second-hand Chopper, they’d chip-in the other half.

It took months, but eventually I had an old bicarbonate of soda tub filled with 10p pieces, that added up to 15 big ones. Fifteen knicker in old money.

We were on.

The Derby Evening Telegraph’s classified section came up trumps and after picking it up with my Dad, and staring at it in awe, for a full 30 seconds, I was off. Wind in my hair, round to my mate Martin’s house.

It was love.

I named ‘him’ Chippy, and we were best friends forever (sorry Martin). We even became blood brothers via knee and elbow scrapes, skidding and attempting wheelies around the estate.

It was a design classic, and for several years, the best bike in the world.

Everybody wanted one. Well, Adam West, Sid James and Ray Wilkins did.

He weighed a ton. He was slow. He wobbled at high speeds (going down hill with the wind behind you). But boy, was he cool.

And as with all cool things, there’s a bit of mystery and intrigue.

In 1968, Ogle Design were approached by Raleigh to help them design a bike that would rival the Schwinn Sting-Ray. Ogle’s MD and chief designer at the time, Tom Karen, says he came up with the original designs for the Chopper. In fact, he still has the sketches to prove it.

However, and this is where the intrigue comes in, Alan Oakley, Raleigh’s head of design, visited America in 1967. He claims that he was wowed by the shape of the choppers that Hell’s Angels were riding over there, and on the flight home, sketched a rough outline on the back of an envelope. This sketch, he says, is evidence that he was the real designer.

Tom Karen still insists that Oakley’s claims are nonsense.

Raleigh first applied for a US patent in 1967, but it wasn’t until 1969 that the MK1 was available in the shops. Maybe we’ll never really know for sure who the Daddy was.

All designer bamboozlery aside, Chippy and I had years of fun together. Cruising, conkering, clowning around. Until I got to that awkward age, where nothing was cool anymore – except for slouching, moping and eye rolling.

I don’t recall what happened to my beloved Chopper. Maybe he was swapped for a 4-pack of Woodpecker cider. Maybe he ended up in a scrap dealers, was refurbed and is now being ridden in an ironic fashion around Dalston, by a bloke with a topknot.

That doesn’t matter. What does matter is how much pleasure I managed to squeeze out of 40lbs of steel and rubber. All thirty quid’s-worth. That’s about 2p a day, over 4 brilliant years.

Why did it bring me so much joy?

Here’s the crux of the matter; deferred gratification.

And at the risk of sounding like I actually know what I’m talking about, I think this is where modern society is going horribly wrong.

We want everything now; if not sooner. If an Amazon delivery takes two days, if a Big Mac takes two minutes – it’s too damn slow.

My MK1 Chopper took months of dreaming and even more months of saving before I got my sticky mitts on it.

And, because of all that pawing over ads in the back of the Beezer, gawping into bicycle shop windows and saving my pennies, it meant so much more to me.

Of course, it’s great having the contents of the Argos catalogue instantly available in a few clicks or a swipe, but anything with real gets-into-your-bones value has to be worked at.

Anyway, rant over, I’m off for an instant coffee and a pot noodle.

Over and out.

Actually, one last thing. The MK2 Chopper was rubbish. Ha!

More tales to fluff up your fancy parts:

Tales of the uninvited #4: Junior Bake Off and the meaning of life

Tales of the uninvited #3: The day they killed advertising

Tales of the uninvited #2: A brush with death in Kashmir

Tales of the Uninvited #1: How to kill a pig

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a Senior Freelance Copywriter.
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