I decided ages ago that I wanted a Mark 2 Chopper of a similar age to the one I had as a child. I also wanted the same colour – an Infra Red. So, after spending as long as my patience would allow watching them on eBay I bought a black frame Chopper with the intention of respraying it red.
Then while reading about Choppers online I found that I had bought a Black Prismatic chopper—and suddenly I was in the middle of an ethical dilemma. Can I make Black Prismatic into an Infra Red? Sure I can paint over the black paintwork, replace the fancy stickers with the garish yellow ones but underneath would it always be a Black Prismatic? I spent a bunch of time agonising about what I wanted to do in buying an old chopper. One answer was easy = recreate my childhood Infra Red; another was more problematic = own and look after a piece of British cycling history. For the latter, I needed to feel that my bicycle was true to itself. So, authenticity mattered. There could be only one answer to my dilemma…buy another Chopper! This time, make sure it is red!
So, I got my red chopper. I wrote about it in another blog post.
Then I spent a lot of time thinking about whether to keep it in its original paintwork and condition, which was reasonable, or to repaint. I also had to make decisions about a few pieces that were not in the best condition—like some of the nuts and bolts—do I replace them or stick with the originals? I see a lot of bicycles, particularly on eBay that have been restored and in many cases they’ve been done with a real sensitivity to period, retaining original features and choosing a paint job that respects the authenticity of the piece. I also occasionally see people riding older bikes that have their original (often peeling) paint. While I think that’s great, I’m not sure I could ride around on a peeling bike. So I decided I needed to be pragmatic rather than overly romantic about this.
I decided that as my 1974 bike was in reasonable but not great condition, in terms of its paint and chrome, I would want to retain as much of the original as I could but I would repaint and rechrome it. It isn’t going to be a museum piece, I want to ride it and although I’m pretty careful generally it is going to get a bit scratched over time. A good example is the Raleigh head badge—it is in nice but not perfect condition but replacing it would seem odd and not authentic. I do however need a couple of new shiny red R-nuts and I feel like they can definitely be replaced without losing sleep!
I have to also be realistic that while I love the idea of keeping and maintaining a piece of cycling history, I am also engaging in a rather self-indulgent bit of nostalgic romanticism. I will love it but it will be one of my bicycles – it is too heavy and poorly-geared to do much of the riding that I enjoy. But hey, now that my dining room doubles as an indoor bicycle shed, I have the space!
Once I get my Infra Red up and running I’ll have to figure out what to do with the Black Prismatic! As it says on the Chopper site I found: ‘whilst the Red MK2 is undoubtedly the classic early 70’s bike, the Black Prismatic was undoubtedly the bike for the late 70’s early 80’s’. How cool, I’ve got two classics, even if they are both still in pieces!