Alan Oakley, the designer of the iconic Chopper bicycle, has kicked the bucket aged 85. As for all English men of my age, the chopper was an important part of my life. It seemed years when everyone else had one and I didn’t and then, one birthday, I did.
Choppers were amazing. They were a joy to ride but they weren’t faster, lighter or easier to ride than conventional bikes. They were just fantastic! My fondest memories are of cycling down country lanes in the summers (which were, of course, long and hot).
Bikes of today are far too serious. They are crammed with stuff. Bora Ultra carbon aero cranksets, Alloy Brake Levers and Hydraulic Disc Brakes. Disc breaks! On a bike! Who the hell is going so fast on a bike that they need disk bakes? In the 21st century we seem to take ourselves far too seriously. Accountancy clerks spend their Saturday riding a bike and then wear a T-shirt to work proclaiming that they LIVE LIFE ON THE EDGE. No mate, you don’t. You are a hobby cyclist. That Lucozade your drinking used to be sold to grandmother’s as a health drink until a bunch of marketing men bamboozled you into thinking that it makes you cycle faster.
Rather than getting on our bike to look for work we don layers of spandex and ridiculous hats and board contraptions built to the tolerance of a space capsule only to ride around the streets shouting at cars. I remember a TV sketch referring to motorbikes but which I will adjust for push bikes. The son puts on his spandex leggings, his florescent top, his, frankly, weird shaped hat and crazy sunglasses and prepares to leave the house to ride his bike. His dad shouts “Are you going out on that thing again? It’s too dangerous, you’ll get yourself killed!”. The son replies “but dad, I have all he safety clothing”. The old dad yells back “You little idiot! That’s what I’m talking about, you look so stupid that someone is bound to beat the shit out of you!”.
Cyclists don’t need those all that clobber, they just need a pair of bicycle clips and a flat cap to keep the rain off. And they also need MUDGUARDS! What’s this bollocks that people are so macho they can’t have mudguards? In England! Where if doesn’t rain for three days in a row we declare a drought!
The Chopper is a symbol of another age. An age when efficiency and precision were secondary to fun. Bring back the chopper, I say, and while we’re about it we should start wearing flared trousers again.