It’s been a busy start to the year. January always seems to be busy with our photography businesses. New leases to organise, tax returns, accountants and a flurry of new clients to meet, not to mention trying to start my own bike business. I took a couple of hours out recently to go through my SBDU collection and see how I was doing against my ‘want list’. I’ve talked about my ‘want list’ in previous posts but don’t think I’ve ever actually listed the contents. The problem is, it never remains the same, it is constantly evolving. The list just seems to get bigger; as I tick things off, I add more on…!

My list started as something very basic. I was happy just to have the one bike but the collection bug gripped after I bought another and another and the list is now developing at a rapid rate due to the amount of options and details the SBDU built with!

Specialist Bicycle Development Unit SBDU TI-Raleigh Ilkeston 1984 Frame Details
Specialist Bicycle Development Unit SBDU TI-Raleigh Ilkeston 1984 Frame Details

The extract above is from the 1984 SBDU catalogue. I count maybe 10 or 11 different options, not to mention the multitude of colour choices. The unit had been in production for 10 years at this point and existed at Ilkeston for another 2-3 years after this. Therefore the possible combinations of options is considerable.

This is how my list started…

  • A Reynolds 753 Road frame in TI-Raleigh team colours – this is probably the bike everyone thinks of when the SBDU and TI-Raleigh are mentioned
  • A Reynolds 531 Road frame (any colour)
  • A Track frame (any variety)
  • A Panasonic Raleigh frame (any variety)
  • A 753 Time Trial Special
  • An early bike from 1974/75 – the start of the SBDU
  • A Team riders frame (something/anything ridden by a TI-Raleigh member)

That was a simple, easy list – the Team riders frame was a long shot but you have to have a goal!

But now it gets complicated, the more you learn, the more you understand the bikes and technologies and the more you realise that nothing is straight forward. For example, 753 wasn’t just 753, 531 wasn’t just 531 – they had several varieties; so the list gets added to as the possible options expand. Instead of just wanting a 753 frame, you need an early and later example.

Reynolds Tubing Decals
Reynolds Tubing Decals

These decals just cover the standard Reynolds range, it doesn’t include the special aero ranges of tubing that the SBDU could offer. So just to have a model in each of these, I would need…

  • A Metric (early) 753 frame
  • An Imperial (post 1983) 753R/T frame
  • A 531 Special Lightweight (531SL) frame
  • A 531 Professional frame (this replaced 531SL)
  • A 531/531c frame

Frames then come in different categories – take a  Road frameset for example; you can get the standard road frame or a Services des Courses frame. That means that the Services des Courses model also gets added to the list.

Sometimes I can be lucky enough and tick several items off my list in one go by combining the model the tubing and the discipline. This frame ticked 4 things off my list.

SBDU Ilkeston Panasonic Raleigh Services des Courses Reynolds 531 1984 SB6560
SBDU Ilkeston Panasonic Raleigh Services des Courses Reynolds 531 1984 SB6560
  • It is a road frame (tick!).
  • It is Reynolds 531c (tick!).
  • It was a Panasonic Raleigh (tick!)
  • It is a Services des Courses model (tick!)

That was 4 things removed from the list in one go. That was great!

Unfortunately, the problem then came that they make the Services des Courses in 2 models, 531c and 753. That means I have to add a 753 Services des Courses. This is how it just never ends.

It doesn’t happen often but occasionally I do manage to complete part of the list. As I found out more and more about different model options, I found the ‘Randonneur’ in the 1986 catalogue. This model was produced in 753R and 531c.

Raleigh SBDU Ilkeston TI-Raleigh SB7660 1985 Randonneur
Raleigh SBDU Ilkeston TI-Raleigh SB7660 1985 Randonneur

I have both! So both options miraculously ticked off the list!

Having the 2 Randonneur frames then leads to another problem and the continuing expansion of the list. I now want to collect different options within different models – this means developing sub-lists; lists within a list.

This is how the want list currently stands…

  • A 753 Services des Courses road frame
  • A 24″ front wheel low-profile frame
  • A 531 Pro Super (full chrome) – I already have a 531 Pro Super (part chrome)
  • A track frame
  • An early 1974/75 frame
  • A Team riders frame

Owning SB447, which was a 1975 track frame and then selling it was a bad decision, something I’ve always regretted. I’ve learnt a lesson to never sell any of my collection if it means having to add something back onto the list. If I had 2 of exactly the same model and option then I would consider selling, but I’m always very careful now.

TI Raleigh 531 Track Frame SBDU 1975
TI Raleigh 531 Track Frame SBDU 1975

Track frames are probably one of the most difficult frames to track down (pardon the pun!). It is especially difficult to find a track frame that has not had a hole drilled through the fork crown for a front brake. Another problem with track frames is that they often live a hard life – most top tubes suffering from a dent caused by bars swinging around and hitting the frame.

SB447 was also the earliest frame I had. At the moment I don’t have anything before 1978; so a 74/75/76 or 77 would be great.

The most rare SBDU bikes are those produced in 1974, right at the start of production. The first 40 (approx) had yellow head tubes instead of the more well known black head tube. Out of approx 8500 frames made at Ilkeston before it closed, only 40’ish came with a Yellow head tube – those particular bikes are now 40+ years old. They are so rare, it is very difficult trying to find an image to show. You can just about make out the yellow head tube below (this is probably even a 1973/pre SBDU bike).

SBDU Ilkeston Early TI-Raleigh
SBDU Ilkeston Early TI-Raleigh

That just leaves a Team riders bike, more specifically, a Team riders bike from the TI-Raleigh international team – these are very rare and very much sought after and command a hefty price tag. The TI-Raleigh team bikes were exactly the same as the std SBDU bikes. Anyone owning and riding a 753 Team Pro was riding exactly the same bike as a pro rider riding the tours. The pro TI-Raleigh Team bikes were marked with the rider initials, bike number and year instead of the standard SB prefix.

The search continues for one of these…

SBDU Ilkeston TI Raleigh McGregor and TI Raleigh Creda
SBDU Ilkeston TI Raleigh McGregor and TI Raleigh Creda

Maybe one day I’ll have that Team rider bike… maybe one day I’ll complete the list…

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About the Author Neil McGowran

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

2 comments

    1. Hi, thanks for getting in touch.

      There isn’t much information around for this type of sequence of frame number. It is probably late 1990s. Do you know if it has any kind of labeling/transfers such as ‘Raleigh Special Products’. The first letter indicated the year but like I said, there isn’t much accurate detail about this. ‘J’ is probably 1998/1999 depending on what source of information you look at. This is a list of letters and corresponding years that I’ve seen but not sure how accurate this is.

      1990 A
      1991 B
      1992 C
      1993 D
      1994 E
      1995 F
      1996 G
      1997 H

      The 5 digits is just a sequence of numbers, typically this is a count of how many were made. Unfortunately, the frame number doesn’t relate to bike model so you wouldn’t be able to pin point an actual model for it based on the number. If you know the year, some people will then hunt down online copies of catalogues for that year and see if the bike is featured.

      Sorry I can’t be any more help.
      Neil

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