Choppers, Grifters & BMX’s | 15 Images of British Bike Culture in the 1970s & 80s.

Kids who grew up in the 1970s & 80s were blessed with a golden age of bicycle production. At the turn of the 1970s Nottingham company Raleigh began producing a number of now collectible models.

Inspired by American dragster motorbikes the Raleigh Chopper brought a touch of Easy Rider to the mean streets of 70s British suburbia, becoming an icon of the era. Smaller models for younger children such as the tomahawk, Chipper and Budgie came soon after, followed by the Chopper MK 2 in 1972.

Other classic models produced during the decade, include the rather bulky Grifter in 1976, which came in a choice of either metallic blue or red, complete with a twist grip gear shift. It’s smaller relations the Boxer & Strika followed as well as the MK 2 Grifter in 1978.

Enter the early 80s and the BMX scene found its way over the Atlantic, once again the Raleigh design team produced the goods, this time in the way of the Raleigh Burner in 1982. A later model the Tuff Burner came complete with yellow skyway mag wheels for extra kudos.

Growing up 1980s there was an abundance of kids out in the streets practicing bunny hops and endo’s on their BMX’s, giving their mates a ‘backy’ to the shops or bouncing on a new set of stunt pegs. These bikes also gave us the freedom to explore our local areas & estates, going on bike rides and getting lost on summer adventures, helping us on our paper rounds too.

Our gallery below revisits both decades with some of our favourite bike images.

Boy on a Chopper, Toxteth, 1975. Photo Paul Trevor.
Bygrave Street, Longsight, Manchester, 1972. Photo Manchester Libraries.
Hemans Street, Bootle, Liverpool, 1978. Photo unknown.
Boys on bikes in the mining village of Holmewood, Derbyshire, 1973. Photo Don McPhee
Portland Street/Commercial Road, Pill, Newport, 1970’s. Photo Robin Weaver. Taken from the great book ‘A Diffrent Country’ by Robin Weaver.
Lancashire, 1973. Photo Peter Pittilla
Toxteth, Liverpool, 1981. Photo Timothy Soar.
Two friends on a Raleigh Chopper, London, 1973. Photo Henry Grant.
Model Cheryl Hersch poses with a Raleigh Grifter at it’s press launch, Craven Cottage, July 1976. Photo PA.
Boys on Raleigh Boxers/Strikers. Vauxhall, Liverpool, 1985. Photo David Sinclair.
Great shot of BMX riders at Meanwhile Gardens skatepark, London, circa 1980, with the grade II listed brutalist gem Trellick Tower in the background. Photo Meanwhile Gardens
img_7741 A teenager showing off his Raleigh Burner, Dalston, 1980s. Photo Andrew Holligan.
BMX Kids, 1980s. Photo Unknown.
Dodging waves at Roker, Sunderland, 1980s. Taken from the book Sunderland and South Shields in the 1980s by George Plemper.

Article by Paul Wright for British Culture Archive

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