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Archive: Bike eat bike in those tough streets.

Byline: Paul Groves

These things were important back then. To be perfectly honest, they still are, writes Paul Groves.

Down our way you were either a Chopperhead of a Grifterer. There was no middle ground. You nailed your colours to the mast and stuck with it through thick and thin.

To be more precise, it was more likely that your parents made the choice for you and bought whichever model was currently in stock at either of the two main local bike shops -Ken Roberts or Callows.

I was actually a Grifterer by choice. I preferred the squat, stocky ruggedness of the Grifter to what I perceived was the more obvious and predictable attractions of the Chopper.

So it was that I ventured out on the streets surrounding my childhood home to be greeted by a chorus of: 'Grifters are for girls'.

It seemed everyone else in the neighbourhood had been seduced by the marketing campaign for the Chopper.

But I knew I was right. I knew my Grifter could mount the highest curbs, negotiate the deepest potholes and make mincemeat of the muddiest grass verges and leave the Chopperheads in my wake.

A Grifter was built for life, not just for poncing around outside the local shops like the Chopper. Those lads posing with legs draped over the 'centre console' may have mocked as we Grifterers swept by eating up the asphalt, but we were the ones exploring the undiscovered countryside around our town.

You see, I wasn't alone after all. During our regular 25a-side kickabouts in the school yard, battle lines were being drawn up and it was soon Chopperheads versus Grifterers in just about everything -footie, rugby, cricket, crazy golf even.

It is no coincidence (I like to believe) that the best sportsmen of the school, particularly my best mate Twisty, also rode Grifters.

It is now well over 20 years since those heady days, but I am still proud to say I was a Grifterer.

Why? It is simple really. The Grifter was and still is a far superior bike. The Chopper was a triumph of style over substance. It looked the part, but basically couldn't deliver in the harsh reality of the urban jungle.

It had Ferrari bodywork with Reliant Robin performance. The Chopper was for wannabes.

On the other hand, the Grifter was a man's bike for adolescent boys. It was a go anywhere kind of machine, oozing with macho cool.

It was a 4x4 mud -plugger with racing car performance. The Grifter was for heroes.

The twist grip gear change of the Grifter was also light years ahead of the Chopper's inferior stick shift (it was interesting to note that the new-look Chopper will dispense of its so-called 'revolutionary' stick shift in favour of the Grifter-like twist-grip).

I had a menacing black model. The Chopperheads' mocking soon subsided when we rolled into town.

There were also a few Tomahawks squeaking limply around. If you had the misfortune to ride a Tomahawk, you deserved the utmost pity. Of course, ridicule was also well deserved and liberally and sometimes quite cruelly meted out but at the end of the day we realised the kids who rode these inferior models were merely victims of hopelessly misguided parents.

The bike wars eventually subsided. The Chopperheads versus Grifterers stand-off continued, however, in different guises.

You were either County or City. You were either a mod or a skin. In your pre-teens, you were even either Blue Peter or Magpie.

The Grifter was an almost constant companion throughout much of this. Well, at least until I was 14 when I made the massive transition to 'adulthood' and took procession of my first racing bike.

But, as much as I enjoyed racing along on the sleek racing machine, the chunky, mud-loving Grifter always remained in the garage and would always make the occasional trip out.

I still remember the day it was sold. But it went to a good home. I made sure the slightly bemused lad of nine who came to pick it up (I still think pounds 5 was ridiculously cheap and seriously disrespectful to such a stand-out piece of machinery and engineering) was well aware of the importance of maintaining the Grifter to the highest possible standards.

He looked completely awe-struck as he rode off our driveway, fully aware of the majesty that was the Grifter. You can keep your Choppers, either vintage or 2004 model. The Grifter was and always will be king.


The Chopper, pictured, may have reigned supreme in some neighbourhoods, but some preferred the rugged Grifter
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 24, 2004
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