After selling one of my frames a few years ago (SB447), I promised myself that I wouldn’t sell another. These frames are sought after and I get lots of requests to part with them, but I decline them all. My frames form a very important collection – they document the materials, styles and features that Raleigh’s Specialist Bicycle Development Unit (SBDU) used throughout the lifetime of the unit and I’m close to having an example of most of these styles. However, I had a frame that was a duplicate of another and so I took the opportunity when it came to swap it, with the intention of enhancing my collection.
I think that if I received another offer of a swap that would benefit me and enhance the collection then I would definately consider it. The frame I let go was SB1688, a 1977 TI-Raleigh Team Pro 531. It was in original condition but was a 56cm frame which is slightly on the small side for me.
This frame became a duplicate when I purchased SB1861, another 1977 TI-Raleigh Team Pro 531 in original condition. Although it is a small frame, it is a complete and original bike and the importance of that to the collection put it ahead of SB1688.
So what tempted me to break the promise I made to myself and part with a frame? Well, I’ve had early SB frames before, SB447, the one that got away, was a 1975 531 SB Track frame which featured the early scalloped style seat stay caps, but as it was a Track frame, it had a Fischer crown and round blades; one feature I’ve never had is the original SBDU style fully sloping chrome fork crown with part chromed narrow oval fork blades.
When the SBDU was created in late 1974 and started to build frames, this is the type of fork they were building. The blue paint is new, it should be red, but the chrome on these forks is original and in beautiful condition for being over 40 years old.
The SBDU started with this fork style and continued with it until the Reynolds Tube Company introduced a change to the dimensions of fork blades. SB518 has what is known as narrow oval blades, but at the end of 1975, Reynolds introduced fork blades for their new Reynolds 753 and 531SL range with a wide oval profile, sometimes referred to as the New Continental. Reynolds 531 taper gauge blades followed a little later and adopted the newer profile.
Because the fork blades changed and got wider, the fork crown needed to change too, so the SBDU introduced the semi sloping external crown and used that until the start of the 1980s, finally being replaced with the range of Cinelli crowns (CC, SC & SCA). The semi sloping continued on some 531 frames and the Fischer continued on some Track frames but the fully sloping original crown disappeared.
This little video shows the significant difference in fork blade width… the difference is visually obvious but the use of the gauge demonstrates it. Early narrow oval 531 Double Butted on the left compared to later 531 wide oval on the right.
So the fork (fork crown and blades) are the significant feature of this frame. The other frame features are all typical of an early 531 frame. Scalloped seat stay caps, plain lugs with no cut outs, Campagnolo 1010/A ends, top routed gear cables, a BB milled with 4 slots and no braze on gear lever bosses or brake cable guides.
SB518 dates to the start of 1976. This is based on SB576 which has documented dating evidence putting it at Feb/March 1976, so SB518 must be turn of the year 75/76. The bottom bracket is stamped ‘SB518′ together with the size of ’57’. The fork column is just stamped with ‘SB’.
The chrome on the fork is in exceptional condition.
During the re-paint that this frame has had at some point in the life, the original head badge, which would have been held in place by three rivets, has been replaced with the later two pin type. However, the three original holes are still there, they have just been filled with brass and will be re-drilled when I restore the frame so that I can fit a period correct head badge.
The paint on this frame is in very good condition, it actually looks like a really nice renovation, it is just the wrong colour. So the plan will be to save the existing chrome and restore the frame back to the classic TI-Raleigh Team colours and period correct Raleigh and Reynolds transfers.
I’m undecided on group set, but there is plenty of time to think about that! I’m just happy that I’ve added features to my SBDU collection and happy too that I’ve gained another frame in my size!