It started with the Chopper

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.

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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