Over the last couple of years the amount of people seeking anything painted black red and yellow has spiralled. So many Raleigh frames are getting a fresh coat of paint and transformed into the colours of the TI-Raleigh team. Some are done well while some are… well, some are just really lacking. Looking to copy the TI-Raleigh scheme is not necessarily a bad thing, after all, the TI-Raleigh team are legendary in cycling and the colours are famed. But for me, I’ve always celebrated the history of the SB bike and the craftsmanship of the unit more than the team and the colours. After all, the TI-Raleigh scheme was just one of the many options produced by the SBDU. So should you preserve, restore or renovate your frame?
There is no denying that the sight of an SBDU bike in TI-Raleigh livery is an awesome thing, it is evocative of an era of winning and success. But I guess I’m too much of a traditionalist, I like things to slot into the correct compartments. I like originality, period correctness, I like to enjoy the vintage of a bike and I prefer to preserve or restore rather than renovate and change.
You hear the words ‘Preserve’, ‘Restore’ and ‘Renovate’ all the time. They are often used to describe the same thing, especially ‘restore’ and ‘renovate’, but they all have very different definitions.
My definition of preservation, or to conserve something, means to work with what you have, to preserve it’s history and do what you can with what you’ve got, to keep something in it’s current condition but also keep it usable. Doing what you can to stop items deteriorating often just means sensitively cleaning and touching up paint, transfers and components.
Preservation is always my ultimate goal with any bike or frame in my collection. If I have a frame that is factory correct and original, but shows it’s age, then that is how I try to keep it.
SB1688, a 1977 531 double butted frame gives clues to the lug and cutout detail that went into a specific period on the TI colour scheme. Lugs weren’t always detailed like this, there were subtle changes over the years and preserving this frame helps to record this feature.
SB5794, an early 1983 frame, one of the first with seat bolt mounted seat stays and one of the first with a 531c Reynolds frame transfer. It’s a Time Trial Special frame but not in the more typical SBDU TT colours
SB7660, a beautiful original example of the paint work of the SBDU. The chipped paint showing the undercoat gives clues to how this deep red paint colour was achieved.
SB5464 – this is the earliest example I have seen of the use of the new double taper seat stay attached to the rear of the seat lug, forming what was known as the ‘fast back’ style.
SB7219, a gorgeous 531 Pro Super Part Chrome – another beautiful coating of original SBDU paint. Even though the chrome on the fork crown is in poor condition, I’m doing what I can to preserve this frame, that includes the rare, but not unique, French Reynolds frame and fork transfers. A feature that needs to stay.
All of these frames are examples of original SBDU work – all these frames are as they were when they left the SBDU. Their originality aids future preservations and restorations, they not only show period correct transfers, but also how different transfers can ‘slip’ or move and how they might fade and deteriorate.
Preserving these frames means trying to maintain them and to slow down any further deterioration while keeping them ride-able. But most importantly, preserving an SBDU frame preserves the SBDU history and heritage. In my opinion, each frame that is changed or modified is a chunk of SBDU history that is lost forever.
To me, ‘Restore’ means to bring back to original state, or to a known earlier state. It is to make something look or work better than it currently does while working towards an original scheme or design.
However, sometimes a frame presents a problem. When is a frame too far gone, when can a frame feasibly be preserved and kept ride-able. Frames that sit on that borderline give me the biggest headache and really pull at my instincts to preserve.
My 1979 SB2692 is an example of an original frame. It’s not just a frame, this is what many consider one of the best frames the SBDU produced, an early 753 metric tubed Time Trial Special, built in the lighter gauge. It is a great frame to have in the collection.
It is a beautiful frame but with lots of paint problems. So far, I’ve preserved it, giving it a gentle clean and removing some of the worst flaking paint before it fell off. I’ve used some small areas of chainstay and frame tubes to check the metal, and all is good, the corrosion looks bad but isn’t terminal. It is so tempting to replace things like the Reynolds 753 frame transfer that you can see has almost disappeared. But that is one step towards a restoration, and not preservation. So at the moment, I’m leaving it alone and preserving what I have.
My options with SB2692 would be to either preserve in it’s current condition or document it and restore it back to its original state. I would never consider changing this frame, I would never paint this frame red, black and yellow.
SB8868 is a good example of a restoration. It is a Nottingham SBDU built 753 frame in what I believe to be original paint. However, when I got this frame, the transfers were either missing or incorrect.
Rather than preserve what was there, I restored. Restoration needs to be done carefully. You need to take note of what you currently have, and decide which points are original or period correct and which aren’t. Take photos and document what you have before starting any work.
Research is vital! Poor research gives poor results.
SB3800, a 1980 Reynolds 753, is an example of a little preservation with a touch of restoration to gain a period correct look.
This frame was professionally repainted in the early to mid 1980s, so even the current coat of paint that it wears is over 30 years old. It was an excellent restore in its day, using period (not reproduction) transfers. I’ve preserved this frame with a clean and polish and small paint touch ups. However, research has shown me that the 753 shield fork blade transfer was seldom used by the SBDU. I’ve seen it used on a couple of Team bikes, but never on original paint SB numbered frames of this period. The correct restoration is to remove and fit period correct circular TI transfers.
So if you can’t preserve something, or if your desire to have something looking like new is what you really want, then go for a restore.
My definition of ‘Renovate’ is to renew something making no attempt to respect the original design. You are taking a frame and applying anything to it, your aim with a renovation is simply to make something look new.
For example, if you have a 1985 531c Panasonic Raleigh that looks tired and you want to repaint and use different gearing, you might opt to repaint it as a TI-Raleigh because you like that scheme and you might re-space the rear ends from 126 to 130 mm for 8 speed; that is a renovation, you haven’t restored it to an earlier state, or preserved it in it’s current condition. You’ve given it a new look and made it more modern and ride-able, but it is not to its original design.
Renovations often include changes and modernisation. A classic example of a frame renovation is to add items such as new braze on fittings where previously there were none, gear lever bosses and brake cable stops are common changes. Moving braze ons or adding them can give a newer, cleaner look to a frame and allow you to use different parts.
SB4944, a 1982 531SL frame came to me with a poor renovation – someone had taken a frame and changed it for something with a more modern look. Fades like this were popular in the later 80s/90s. It wasn’t a particularly good renovation as it appears to have been painted over paint, you can still see the red around the rear ends and other parts of the frame. The Reynolds 531 Professional frame transfer is a later replacement to the original 531 Special Lightweight version that it would have had.
So my plan for SB4944 is to restore it, remembering that restore means to take back to an earlier known or original condition. The remnants of the red definately indicates that this frame was originally in TI colours. Other early 1980s 531SL frames I’ve seen have also been in the TI scheme, adding more credence to my TI restoration plan.
I’m confident that SB8945, a nice 753R frame, did not come out of Nottingham’s SBDU looking like this. I’m not going to preserve it as I don’t like the colour. I have no idea of any previous history of this frame so I can’t restore it, therefore whatever I do to it, it will be classed as a renovation, I will be making it look like new. I have plans for this frame but no money to match those plans at the moment.
Preserve, Restore or Renovate
Everyone will have a different answer to this. Everyone will have a different need and desired outcome. But there are some points to keep in mind.
Preserving and restoring needn’t cost much. It depends on the condition of the frame you are dealing with and your ultimate aspirations for it. My Raleigh Banana restoration cost me a set of transfers and a little bit of clear coat. SB3800 cost me some polish and some touch up pens. Preserving SB5794 has cost me nothing but my time and elbow grease. These are three excellent bikes, preserved and restored, keeping them as original as possible and more importantly, keeping three SB bikes on the road for very little cost.
On the far end of the restoration scale you can spend a great deal of of money. The frame of SB4059 was already restored when I received it, but to complete the restoration, and return SB4059 to Team specification, it cost a lot of money. Much more than it is worth as a bike, but to me, it is priceless as SB4059 was the start of my SBDU collection and start of my research, it is the reason for everything you see on this blog.
Restoration is the process that will almost certainly always drain your funds. Think carefully before renovating. A good renovation with excellent paint and detailing will be expensive and in my experience you will never see a return on your money with this option. A newly renovated frame with bright, clean and sharp paint will only look its best with similar quality new or barely used and clean components. If you are going to renovate to a high standard you need to make sure you have a budget for the parts you are going to need. If you intend to keep your renovation the cost may not be an issue for you as you aren’t looking for a return on your investment.
A poor quality renovation, poor paint, poor detailing, poor colour choice or inferior quality items such as transfers will affect a frame’s value. If the renovation is bad then you may end up with a frame that is worth less than when you started. I’ve seen some shocking renovations that just need to be done again.
Choice of colour scheme is also key. Many of the newly renovated frames that I see on internet auctions and classifieds are so badly done but are commanding very high asking prices due to the popularity of the TI colour scheme. I’ve seen original and beautiful SBDU frames sell for next to nothing while awful renovations, but done in the TI scheme sell for vastly inflated prices. Try not to get stung by someone else’s substandard work just because a frame is red black and yellow.
I’m a firm believer that if you can keep something as it is, then you should make the effort and keep it in that condition. Preservation always comes first for me, closely followed by restoration, and finally, if I have no other option, then I’ll renovate.
SB6398 is the epitome of preservation. This bike is 99.99% as it was when it left the SBDU and the workshop in early 1984. Sadly the brake lever hoods couldn’t be preserved, but the levers were restored with replacement and period correct authentic items. Each bearing, each cable, each cable end, every part, every transfer is the same.
It was extremely tempting to renovate this bike and transform it into a TI bike, and I’m sure that most would do that. A TI with a perfect 50th anniversary group would be worth so much more, but preservation and originality wins each and every time for me! This bike is part of SBDU’s history, I think that needs preserving.