12 Speed Racer!

I used to get a new bike every Christmas. This was in the mid to late 70’s, and I loved them. They weren’t anything special, I had 2 older brothers and a younger sister, who all got a bike, so there wasn’t much money to spread around on quality.

While I may have got a 3 speed Sturmey, my older brothers would get 5 speed “racers” – I envied them. I thought these were the ultimate. Then one day the lad around the corner pulled up on a 6 speed racer. Yes, a 6 speed racer! I just had to keep counting the cogs – there were indeed 6 gears on there. I now had 2 bikes that I wanted, a 6 speed racer and a Chopper, just like the lad across the street.

I knew nothing about bikes back then but I had a knack of dismantling anything mechanical. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I think I moved into the shed for a number of years and taught myself everything I could about bikes. We had an outside toilet next to the shed so I didn’t even need to go into the house until bedtime. My experience with 5 and 6 speed developed into 10 and 12 speed.

So now in the present day, in my mind, I have the ultimate 12 speed racer! Up until this morning it was just a rear mech, but that has been successfully joined by a NOS Super Record front mech and a very nice Super Record chainset. The best thing of all is the 1980 date code on the back of each crank which matches up with the PAT80 rear mech and the 1980 SBDU frame.


I set out on this build to try to source as many 1980 parts as I could to match the frame date. If it is NOS, then even better. The rear mech is PAT80 NOS, the chainset isn’t new but it is dated 1980. It’s 32 years old and used so there are a few little nicks but not too bad. I’ve spent 6 months trawling the internet for a NOS 1980 chainset and just can’t find one out there. Some have had the correct date code on one arm but another code on the other and not having a matching pair would irritate me beyond belief so I’ve walked away.

Next through the door was a NOS Super Record front mech.

This mech is stunning and is a perfect partner for the stunning rear mech, both fixed to a frame for the very first time. The chainset is in pretty good nick, a couple of tiny marks, hardly any toe strap rub and very clean.

Back in 1980 when I was a 10 year old, living in the shed, taking bikes apart and dreaming of a 12 speed racer (my ultimate dream bike), a bike like this was winning the Tour de France. I still can’t believe that I’m building my ultimate bike.

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Written by Neil McGowran

Blogger of all things to do with the Specialist Bicycle Development Unit (SBDU) and TI-Raleigh Ilkeston.

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