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

Kids who grew up in the seventies and eighties were blessed with a golden age of bicycle production. At the turn of the seventies Nottingham company Raleigh began producing a number of now collectable and iconic models.

Inspired by the American dragster motorbikes, the Raleigh Chopper brought a touch of Easy Rider to the streets of 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 were produced during the decade, including the rather bulky Raleigh Grifter in 1976, this came in a choice of either metallic blue or red, complete with a twist grip gear shift. It’s smaller relations the Boxer & Strika later followed.

Enter the eighties and the BMX scene found its way over the Atlantic, once again the Raleigh design team produced the goods. This time it was the Raleigh Burner that turned heads when it was released in 1982. A later model the ‘Tuff Burner’ came complete with yellow skyway mag wheels, an addition to make your friends that little more envious.

Growing up during these times there was always an abundance of kids playing out in the streets, making makeshift ramps using bricks and a plank of wood or trying to perfect bunny hops.

It was a great time to be young and these bikes gave us the freedom to explore our local areas & estates, helped us on our paper rounds and took us on many adventures.

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
Ayton Park, Byker, 1980s. Photo via Mirror Group.
BMX Kids, 1980s. Photo Unknown.

Dodging waves at Roker, Sunderland, 1980s. Photo George Plemper.

Liverpool, 1970s. Photo © David Nicholls.



2018 © British Culture Archive

10 thoughts

  1. Can’t believe that I know two people in those photos. Martin Jarrett is Black guy on the Chopper with the white kid behind. Taken in King Edwards park, kensal rise, London. The other BMX jump with the tower block in background is Dennis from Latimer Road, London. He is jumping out of the legendary PC half pipe in Meanwhile gardens skate park. The tower block in Trellic Tower. Wow. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hi guys can anyone point me in the right direction please; I need front mudguard n gears for my Mk3. Was told by my buddy Norman J This shit is real prices gone through the roof for part’s n for Choppers; -(

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