What’s the best thing to do this time of year? Watch telly of course! The second best programme, after ‘Shaun the Sheep Christmas Special’ was ‘Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Toys’, which featured the infamous Raleigh Chopper, impressively ranked at number 46.

Anyone who grew up in the seventies knows about this bike. It single-handedly made cycling fashionable and was also responsible for possibly more crashes than any other bike in history.

The combination of the ‘ape hanger’ handlebars and small front wheel made it virtually uncontrollable in the hands of a child, and the gear lever was positioned to maximise injuries when you were thrown forward off that ludicrously shaped saddle.

But they sold by the million, even at a princely sum that equates to £360 in today’s money. When I worked in a bike shop, we sold out of these machines every December. Demand was so high we even had waiting lists. It’s been a long time since a bike was the most wanted Christmas gift.

Has any other model launched more cycling careers? Probably not. Thanks, Raleigh. It was madness, but it worked.

Robert Garbutt is editor of Cycling Weekly

  • Kristina Banham

    I had an orange Raleigh Chopper and I’d had my heart set on one right from the start !! My parents said I had to have it as a combined birthday and Christmas present (my birthday being 22 December) because it was too expensive (£36 in 1971 I think !!) but it was the best, the envy of all my friends – such a cool bike !!!! I did have a problem when wanting to do Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award expedition as it wasn’t suitable, so had to borrow a more traditional bike !!

  • Grant Grieve

    The iconic bike for me was the Raleigh Grifter. I think this was the Chopper of its day and sold by the ton. It was the preamble to the BMX which was the preamble to MTB’s of today. Legend!

  • Andy Westcott

    When the Raleigh Bomber came out I could believe anyone would buy one with it’s knobbly tires. It weighted twice that of my junk yard bike. Now every kid has a heavy weigh MTB. I’m not convinced it has been good for cycling as most kids ride on paths and roads 90% of the time.