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ALL YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT CLASSIC RALEIGH CHOPPERS BUT DIDN'T KNOW WHO TO ASK

Lets see now...well imagine were in the design department of Raleigh, just around the end of 1972. The first of the "Special Edition" Choppers, the racing handlebar "Sprint" has been doing badly in the marketplace, and Raleigh are planning its replacement. Let's evesdrop......
"I say Curruthers, why don't we build a Five Speed Mk2 Chopper...we have proved it works and is reliable over in Anmerica, where we sold thousands of MK1 5 speeds....."
Good Idea old boy...we need something that will sell really well after the embarassment of the "Sprint" ...
Are we following this conversation readers? well listen on......
"Yes, we need it to sell really well, so well make it available in an exclusive colour so everyone will be able to instantly recognise it as something special..."
PINK!
Yes, they painted it PINK!!!!!!!!
Now, back in the mid 1970s, what kind of boy, eager for a new Raleigh Chopper would want a PINK bike????
You're right...the ones who were Girls.
No boy would be seen DEAD on a pink bicycle...not in our liberated modern age, and certainly not in the 1970s.
So, Raleigh's second attempt at a special Chopper died a quiet death. Girls bought them...but the fact that they were 5 speeds was completely lost on them...they just wanted a pink Chopper, 'cos it's a girly colour...
Another great marketing failure by Raleigh.
However, the 5 speeds are very collectable now, and the fact that they are pink (and rare!) is a talking point.

Gary Leddingham and his lovely wife Carol are famous for their matching his 'n' her's pink Chopper 5 speeds .
Here Gary describes them, and defends them!

MK2 Sharp Pink 5 speeds, the Rolls Royce of Choppers?
Some may say yes, but they are not that different. Here’s why…..
Let's start with the obvious bits that are the same. The handlebars are the same, as are the brakes, front wheel, front mudguard and wait a minute! This is more difficult than I thought!

Pink 5-speed
Thanks to Alex Jewell for the picture

Let's try looking at the bits that are different. Let's start with the obvious bits (where have I heard that before….?). It has 5 gears! The gears are changed by a shifter which is the same but different to the 3 speeds. More of that later. The gear change is by way of a derailleur arm that lifts the chain across 5 different sized ‘cogs’. This arrangement is (to me at least!) far easier to understand than the insides of a Sturmey Archer rear hub! So gear change is by derailleur and 5 ‘cogs’ known as the ‘free wheel block’ (which on modern bikes are called the cassette!). That means that the back wheel is very different as is the rear of the frame. More of that later too!

Derailleur Gear
Thanks to Alex Jewell for the picture

Back wheel then. This takes the normal ‘Red line’ rear tyre. The hub/spindle is of course different to a 3 speed. So are the spokes. They are slightly longer, in fact the spec sheet says they are different lengths each side! This is because the gear block is wider on the right side...so the spoke dish is smaller to allow the wheel rim to sit in the centre of the frame, but not over the centre of the rear axle. Nothing like keeping it simple! The rim is the same as the 3 speed. The wheel spindle is slightly wider than the ‘3’. This is to accomodate the gear cog, and to clear the chain, the rear frame arms from the pedals to the rear axle, have a definite bend, or "kick up" as opposed to the 3 speeds straight tubes.The rear wheel also has ‘R’ nuts on both sides. I think this makes the rear end look much better than the ‘3’. The rear spoke protector is different to the three speed,and is the same as some racing bikes from the period. The spacing in the center is slightly different.

Rear Frame
Thanks to Alex Jewell for the picture

The frame. This is pretty much the same as the ‘3’ except for the rear tubes as explained above...and the rear dropouts.. These are the slots that the rear wheel fit into. The ‘3’s go straight back where as the ‘5’s rake back at an angle.All this means that no way can a 3 speed be fitted with a ‘5’ speed derailleur! The gap between the drop outs is also wider than the ‘3’.
The colour (some call it Sharp Pink, some call it Dusky Pink) is unique to the ‘5’. So to are the decals. Split colours of Day-Glo Orange and Bright Yellow. These are the same colours as used on the ‘3’. The chain guard also has these graphics but is otherwise the same as the ‘3’.
The Chain Wheel is also different to the ‘3’. So is the Chain. This is because the chain has to be thinner to get between all 5 of the cogs at the back, and is basically a racing bike chain...they had derailleurs as well.. This means the Chain Wheel is slimmer than the ‘3’. The chain wheel does not have the ‘Heron’ logo on it either. The cranks are slightly different too but the same odd ball length as the three.! The pedals are the same long reflector type.
The sissy bar, springs and seat stem are the same. I have heard that some ‘bull-nose’ seats were used on the ‘5’ which did not appear on the ‘3’. I’m not too sure about this. The rack is the same as the ‘3’. The rear mudguard seems to have been slightly shorter than the ‘3’. Don’t know why. All that seems to do is get a nice streak of mud down your back when you ride in the rain!
The brake callipers are the same as are the levers (with black plastic covers). The brakes used the usual ribbed cable. The front brakes also had the ‘hooks’ or stabilisers on them.
Now to the shifter! The two levers functions are misunderstood by some. The long lever (with red knobs in the UK) changes gear but does not ‘click’ into place. Also there is no window to show what gear you are in. I think the ‘click’ was tried on American ‘5’s but it must have been very difficult to make the gears ‘align’ correctly. Maybe that’s why it’s very rare to see this shifter! The small black knob tensions the large red lever to hold it in gear whilst at speed(?). The diecast base under the console cover is the same as the ‘3’ with the small lever added to the side of it and the ‘click’ mechanism removed. Simple really! The console cover is different from the ‘3’ in that the window has a ‘Hi - Low’ sticker over it and an extra slot for the tensioner lever. The gear cable was smooth as far as I know.

Gear Shifter
Thanks to Alex Jewell for the picture

Well, that’s about it as far as I can remember. . Just one last thing. The real difference between the 3 speed and the 5 Speed was the price. It was far more expensive than the 3 speed. Maybe this is why they are so rare these days? Is this why it’s the Rolls Royce of Choppers?
Gary and Carol Leddingham.
5 Speed Raleigh Choppers first appeared in Early 1973, suprisingly priced lower than the mk2, maybe as an "opening offer" at £36.82 compared to the std bikes £37.50
They managed to survive untill early 1976, by which time they were £66.95 compared to £62.95 for a std mk2 bike.
They were phased out in early 1976, to be replaced by the third, and most famous special Chopper...the one they actually called the "Special Edition"