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

By Paul Wright | 19 May 2018, 07:00am

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 manufactuer 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.

Other classic models were produced during the decade, including the rather bulky and heavy 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 came up with the goods. This time it was the Raleigh Burner that turned heads when it was released in 1982. The ‘Tuff Burner’ came complete with yellow skyway mag wheels.

Hackney Downs, 1980s. Photo © Andrew Holigan.

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
Pill, Newport, 1970’s. Photo © Robin Weaver.
Lancashire, 1973. Photo © Peter Pittilla
Toxteth, Liverpool, 1981. Photo © Timothy Soar.
Two friends on a Raleigh Chopper. London, 1973. Photo © Henry Grant.
Boys on Raleigh Boxers/Strikers. Vauxhall, Liverpool, 1985. Photo © David Sinclair.
Meanwhile Gardens skatepark, London, circa 1980. Photo Meanwhile Gardens
Ayton Park, Byker, 1980s. Photo via Mirror Group.
BMX Kids, St Colm’s Church Youth Club, Edinburgh, 1985. Photo © Jimmy Dickson.
Dodging waves at Roker, Sunderland, 1980s. Photo © George Plemper.
Liverpool, 1970s. Photo © David Nicholls.

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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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