Did you have a Chopper? – Vintage bikes we’ve loved

Did you have a Chopper? – Vintage bikes we’ve loved

So, did you have a Chopper? Or was the BMX the bike you lusted after? Here at Vintage Photo Lab we love all things retro and we love vintage bikes, so we thought we’d peruse a few of these two-wheeled beauties.


The Chopper

The daddy. The design classic [kind of] that defined a decade, and if you admit to having owned one people know how old you are!

Built by Raleigh in the ’70s and although influenced by 60’s American cruising bikes it remains a British icon.

I never owned a Chopper, though I would have loved to, luckily my friends did and I got to ride theirs. It was an absolute horror show to ride! With its tiny front wheel, biker boy handlebars & ridiculously long seat I soon realised you needed the limb skills of a chimpanzee to control this bad boy. Then the gear stick; the Nutcracker. The don’t stop too quickly or you’ll impale yourself on it and earn yourself a trip to A&E, the wondering if you’ll ever have children gear stick. A faux car shifts beautifully positioned without any regard for a young man’s bits.

For all my candour about the Chopper, I do love them and I’m still a bit jealous of my mates.

VPL Ratings

  • Retro cool styling – 9/10
  • Reproductive health safety – 1/10




Did you have a BMX? Did you see Nicole Kidman in ‘BMX Bandits’ and think that’s the bike for me.

The history of BMX can be traced back to the early ’70s where kids in California started racing bikes on improvised tracks on waste ground. These races soon became regulated and a style of bike evolved to suit the tracks and rules. Thus, the BMX bike was born.

While the Chopper was built for cruising, the BMX was built for racing and ‘tricks’. I say ‘tricks’ but what I really mean is trying to jump over things, failing, trashing your bike, your bones and earning yourself another trip to A&E. Obviously to avoid such damage you could blag your parents to buy a range of protective clothing. Which included; guaranteed to shatter plastic helmets & highly flammable and very sweaty polyester racing clothes.

With no gears and tiny wheels, the BMX was the perfect burn off those calories from the jumbo pack of Haribos you’ve just eaten kinda bike. And I loved it!

VPL ratings

  • Do they still look great now – 8/10
  • ‘Nicole Kidman never wore a helmet’ safety rating – 3/10


The Racer

The big boy’s bike. The ‘serious’ bike. Not for you the toy Choppers & BMXs, no. You wanted a bike with more gears and cogs than a steampunk robot; you wanted a racer.

The racer bike with its multi gears and curved dropped handlebars became increasingly popular in the late ’80s. It’s a classic sports design. Its styling and functionality evolved over the last century to meet the needs of cycle racing across Europe. The most famous race being Le Tour de France which has its origins in Frenchmen racing between vineyards whilst wearing onions on a string.

Ah, the racer with its streamlined racing position, head down low and your backside high in the air. Obviously, your visibility was shockingly poor with your eyes pointing at the ground and not forward. And can we talk about the improvised builder’s bum such a riding style gave you? It’s only the 80’s high waist fashions that stopped the back of your trousers becoming an improvised flycatcher.

VPL ratings

  • Yeah, I’m serious about bikes – 7/10
  • I can’t see where I’m going and how do you change these bloody gears safety rating – 4/10


Let’s Wrap This Up

I loved my bikes as a kid. I love my current bike, I even think about using sometimes. It’s somewhere in the back of the shed…

At Vintage Photo Lab we love a bit retro chic and I’ve no need to remind you that we are the experts in scanning your old bike photos. Bikes, kids, weddings, holidays, if you’ve got a shoebox full of these beauties why not got them scanned, call us and have a free trial.


Bye for now & don’t forget the spokey dokeys!


Simon Beckett

Vintage Photo Lab