I have several frames and bikes in my SBDU collection that constantly vie for top spot. Should top spot go to JR178T, my Jan Raas frame? Should it be SB632, the earliest known Reynolds 753 SB numbered Track frame; the Beryl Burton connection on that frame alone should surely make that a contender? What about the bike that started all this blogging, SB4059, my immaculate 1980 Team Pro 753, or how about SB6398, a time capsule of an original bike with a 753R SBDU frame and a complete Campagnolo Super Record 50th Anniversary Group. Then there is the rare SBDU 753 Dynaflite with Ovoid tubing, SB4409. But what about SB664, an early Carlton Capella lugged Imperial tubed 753 frame, that is also a possibility.
It is a constant battle! And now another frame is fighting for top spot… SB1500, my newest arrival, this has so many possibilities that give it the right to be up there with all the others too.
I already have a 753 Time Trial Special in the collection, SB2692; it’s a lovely frame although a little bit tired, but still very original and, some would say that the 753 Time Trial Special is one of the more iconic SBDU frames. But SB2692 just doesn’t feature as a contender for top spot. So why should SB1500 feature, what makes it different, it is after all just another Time Trial frame?
Based on my SBDU Date Timeline, SB1500 dates to approx the middle to later part of 1977. There are lots of interesting features on this frame, starting with the Reynolds 753 frame transfer. Reynolds changed their name in 1977 – they went from the “Reynolds Tube Co Ltd” to “TI-Reynolds Ltd”; they had been part of the Tube Investments (TI) group for a while but had never adopted the name ‘TI’ into their name. Reynolds had gone through frame transfer change over periods before, they had a period in 1973/1974 when a gold name box was added to the bottom of the 531 transfer, during this time, your 531 frame could have been fitted with either transfer. So in 1977 when Reynolds changed their name, there was a similar change over period with some frames showing Reynolds Tube Co and some with TI-Reynolds. This frame displays the original “Reynolds Tube Co Ltd”. It is also a French version of the Reynolds transfer. This is unusual but occasionally happens, I haven’t figured out why yet, but I’ve seen it before. My own SB7219 has similar French version transfers.
You immediately notice differences in this frame, even small differences. One thing I know about the SBDU is that they built for function, their frames were beautifully simple and clean looking. Something like the chain stay bridge was kept simple. They changed the size of the chain stay bridge once in the entire history of the SBDU. This age frame should have a plain tube, approx half an inch in diameter, mitred to fit in between the stays just behind the BB chain stay lugs – they never used chain stay bridge stiffeners. Here is an example from SB1861 showing the clean uncluttered and simple bridge.
Now compare SB1861 to SB1500…
Frame builders distinguish themselves from others by incorporating signature details in their frames, and the SBDU did have some such as the seat stay caps, but the SBDU never did this kind of detail on the chain stays. The bridge itself is much smaller in diameter and has a 4 pointed stiffener at each end.
The brake bridge between the seat stays on SB1500 has similar 4 point stiffeners. However, that is not the significant feature, or even “features” that set this frame apart from other SB frames. The bridge on this period of frame should be a plain round tube with a larger circular section in the middle to form the hole for the nutted brake caliper. The diamond shape stiffener changed periodically in size and style, sometimes incorporating cut out windows and sometimes just plain. Sometimes there were no stiffeners were fitted. Here are some examples…
SB1500 is very different…
The SBDU have succeeded in making this bridge different in every respect. The 4 point stiffeners are completely overshadowed by the diamond shape brake bridge. If the stiffeners and brake bridge weren’t enough, the bridge also incorporates a brazed on Campagnolo brake caliper stud to directly mount brake caliper arms. SBDU frames with direct mount studs do exist, there is no surprise there, but they aren’t fastened to a brake bridge like this. It’s been pointed out that the shape of this bridge is reminiscent of some seen on Presto frames (Presto is a small link and reference back to Jan le Grand, the TI-Raleigh team mechanic and Presto frame builder).
Everything about this frame is original, and that includes the frame transfers. But even these differ to other 753 Time Trial Special frames. SB1500 is very similar but subtly different. The top tube script is beautifully intact and so are the foil head badge and seat tube badge. Even the original Reynolds 753 transfer is almost complete. When you compare SB1500 to SB2692 you see a huge difference in the condition of the transfers and paint.
The subtle differences between these frames are the two bands on the seat tube, one above and one below the foil Raleigh badge, and the SBDU “Ilkeston Specialist Bicycle Developments” transfer at the base of the seat tube instead of one transfer on each chain stay. The two bands are made up from the famous Red, Black and Yellow TI-Raleigh Team colours. These changes in layout and scheme are so small and probably insignificant to others but they have helped me in understanding part of the story of this frame.
SB1500 is incredibly light for a 56 cm (22 inch) frame. When you pick this up you know it is special. My other Time Trial Special 753 is also a 56 cm frame, but SB1500 is lighter. These are the weights of SB2692…
Even with the different brake and chain stay bridges and the brazed on steel Campagnolo brake bolt, SB1500 is lighter than the same size SB2692. It isn’t a huge amount but it makes a difference to overall bike weight, a bike weighing 21.0 lbs becomes sub 21, at 20.86 lbs – in the head of a time trialist that could make all the difference.
On a frame with so many differences, you might expect an ‘H’ reference. The H ref was used by the SBDU from the mid 70s though to late 1979/early 1980 to signify a customer specific build. But this frame doesn’t have one, it just has a standard SB reference. The fork column of SB1500 has what appears to be the initials ‘SH’.
So there is no H reference – that isn’t unheard of, my SB664 frame which has unique details doesn’t have an H ref either. The fork has SH which could, from stories I’ve heard, be the fork builder’s initials, Sam Hudson. But without any firm information, the SH could mean something else. During this period of production, the SBDU were known to stamp other initials and words on the fork, it was only later that they seemed to settle on the frame serial fork stamp.
SB1500 arrived with a handful of original parts. The first was an EDCO Competition headset in beautiful condition. SBDU road frames would fit either a Record or Super Record headset depending on if the frame tubing was Reynolds 531 or 753. A 753 Time Trial frame typically had EDCO fitted as standard. This might be due to the slight weight saving in headset; a Campagnolo Super Record is approx 135 grams compared to an EDCO Competition headset which is approx 109 grams.
The next part to arrive with SB1500 was an early Campagnolo Super Record 2-bolt Seat Pin. The size of the pin is 27.0 mm which is the expected size for this Metric tubed Reynolds 753 frame – the standard seat tube outer diameter on Metric 753 is 28.0 mm and the internal wall thickness on the single butted tube is 0.7 mm/0.3 mm. This seat pin has been chopped short – another weight saving feature…
The last part to come bundled with SB1500 were the Campagnolo brake caliper arms. A standard set of Campagnolo brake calipers would fit the rear brazed stud, but these arms have been modified to allow the use of some very nice Andrew Hague sleeves and fastenings – these sleeves are also original and also came supplied with the frame.
The rear brake is assembled by fitting the spring directly to the brazed boss. The centre hole of the brake arms have been enlarged so that the Andrew Hague sleeve can fit and support the arm on the bolt. The arms are locked in place and adjusted with the grub screw and lock nut – they are a really nice detail.
The front brake is slightly different as the fork crown does not have a brazed on brake bolt. It is a standard SBDU semi-sloping crown but has been enlarged at the rear to accept the sleeve. The front brake will use two sleeves, one at the front and one at the rear. Frames of this period would be nutted and the crown would typically have a 6 mm hole drilled though front to back.
That is all the parts fitted back onto SB1500. Now I can start to explain the story that also accompanied this frame.
I received an email about two SBDU frames, the first had been restored by the owner and looked lovely in its TI colours, but the second was slightly too big for him and he was thinking about selling it. A day later it was offered to me and after agreeing a price, I bought it and it was on my workbench four days later.
The ability to trace the ownership of a frame and therefore the provenance of a frame is always important. There is always so much more significance to a frame if you can trace it back to its origins. Knowing the history of a frame makes it more special for me. The significance and provenance is multiplied if the owners are known within the cycling world. In the case of SB1500, I think I know that provenance and its origins and its ownership.
This is an SB frame so its origin is a given, it’s origin is the SBDU – it was created within the walls of the Ilkeston unit. So who was the first owner? The lack of that H reference is part of the story… I believe the first owner was simply just the SBDU. My theory is that it was never built for a customer so it would never receive an H ref.
One of the interesting attachments I was sent while discussing this frame was a snippet from “Cycling”, dated August 6th 1977. It was an article titled ‘Harrogate Show Report’ about the International Cycling Show, the centre piece of the International Festival of Cycling.
Now you need to start putting all the clues together. SB1500 dates from approx mid to late 1977, that is the same period as the cycle show. I mentioned the fork stamp earlier, “SH”; however, when I was contacted about this frame, the fork stamp was quoted as “HS”, and if you think about it, the letters of SH can be rotated by 180 degrees to become HS.
If you know me and read my blogs then you should know that I don’t like to assume, but in this case, I am assuming that SH means Sam Hudson, but, what if the HS could also mean ‘Harrogate Show’?
The picture above, from that Cycling article, has a Time Trial Special frame in the foreground, setup as a frame set, and a Time Trial Special frame built up as a bike in the background. Look at the frame transfers… they match exactly, that strange seat tube arrangement of transfers all match. I don’t actually think SB1500 is that foreground frame, the rear brake bridge does not match, it has a standard round bridge. However, I do believe that my frame is from the bike in the background. You can see a tiny bit of the bottom of the seat tube on that bike with the distinctive Ilkeston oval transfer at the front of the lower part of the seat tube.
This is what I think is happening here… I think the SBDU built two frames for the show, both frames would have matching livery and have the same visual appearance – the TI-Raleigh coloured bands around the seat tube are a nice touch to remind onlookers about the TI-Raleigh heritage behind these frames. Two frames were needed for the show. The first to enable visitors to the stand to handle the frame, to get a feel for the weight of a 753 Time Trial frame. The second frame was built into a bike to WOW people with the weight and design of Raleigh’s flagship Reynolds 753 frames. The frame features on SB1500 also had to have that WOW factor and needed to be different to the standard, you want visitors to a trade stand to go away talking about what they have just seen. This bike was ‘tricked out’ to make it light. If you squint, you may also make out that the single chain ring is drilled.
When you combine the weight saving of SB1500 over a standard frame with the unusual details and the lightened parts fitted to it then you have an exceptional show bike to demonstrate the work and craftsmanship of the SBDU and to tempt customers with a bike that they could own if they ordered one. Everything about SB1500 fits in with that bike at the Harrogate Show. So what do you do with a tricked out frame built specifically to WOW people at a bike show. The next part of the story is about what happened to this frame.
The provenance for this is 100% reliable. This frame was given by Gerald O’Donovan to Ken Evans. Now if that name rings a bell with you, then you would probably be correct. Ken was a previous editor of ‘Cycling’ and a time trialist too. So the ownership and provenance moves from the SBDU to Ken. Sadly Ken passed away in the 1980s. After Ken passed away, SB1500 along with other bikes and frames that Ken owned were stored in the loft. This frame was Ken’s pride and joy. His widow took the brave step to bring his bikes down from the loft and pass them on. I can understand how hard that would be as there are memories attached to everything, especially to an item like SB1500, his family know how much this frame meant to Ken.
All I can say is that SB1500 will remain with me. It rightly deserves a place, to do battle for top spot with all the other great frames I have. It couldn’t have a better new home, my collection celebrates everything that the SBDU built. To have a frame that the SBDU built and used to demonstrate their own work, craftsmanship and innovation is amazing. The very best thing about my collection and my blogging is the story that comes with each frame; sometimes that story is known and sometimes that story needs to be worked out. I think the story behind SB1500 is one of the best.
I haven’t cleaned any part of this frame or the parts that came with it, I might take the decision to leave it exactly as it is and preserve it’s condition. I might build it back into a bike by adding some contemporary parts. There will be more to come from SB1500. It needs to be measured and documented and it definately needs to go to the studio so I can capture every part of this frame with beautiful photography. As time goes on and I get more information then there may even be more of the frame’s story and history to write about.
I’m thrilled to have this frame and even more so that the provenance of this frame appears to be…
- Gerald O’Donovan for the SBDU, a frame built to showcase the very best of the SBDU
- Ken Evans – Editor of ‘Cycling’
- My SBDU collection
…and that is the story so far…