eBay… it is a place I try to avoid. I like to find bikes and frames that haven’t had much exposure to the internet. eBay links containing interesting vintage bikes are shared across social media, and before you know it, the item has been seen by thousands and hyped up to a point that the auction escalates and bidders get into a frenzy pushing the prices up beyond anything sensible. I enjoy the hunt, searching and discovering SBDU bikes that have been hidden away. But I do keep an avid eye on eBay and every now and again a little gem crops up to pique my curiosity. SH377T was listed with no reserve and a low starting bid so I saved it into my ‘Watch List’ thinking it would go the way of so many others and spiral out of control… but it didn’t!
SB8851 is an example of an SBDU bike that went under the eBay radar because it was listed under a different builder. However, SH377T wasn’t really hiding, it was listed as a “Raleigh Reynolds 753” but it had little interest and no bids. The pictures weren’t great but the description was full of interesting detail; I couldn’t understand how people weren’t picking this up. I was the only bidder until the last 2 hours of the auction which is when a few others entered bids, but as I continued to press F5 and the auction clock ticked over to complete the 7 day listing, my final bid was enough. I’d bought a bike based on three low resolution images with no real detail other than an interesting story.
I’ve done it before, and it always gives me a bit of a buzz, buying something based on a hunch, not 100% knowing the full facts about what I’ve bought. The six hour drive to collect the bike went very quickly as my mind was going from thinking I’ve bought something quite special, to thinking I’d just wasted my time and money and this bike could be something completely different to what I thought it was. But I should know by now to trust my senses. I wasn’t disappointed when I arrived.
Every single part of this bike was screaming at me that the trip had all been worth it. I took the images above with my phone while I was chatting to the seller, going over the story and looking at the frame which was confirming the things I was hearing. This bike is indeed a “Raleigh Reynolds 753” bike, but the details were very interesting. Another 753 frame with Carlton Capella lugs, similar to SB664. An RGF BB shell with 4 slots, correct for the period. Beautiful over sized seat stay caps, drilled Campagnolo 1053 track ends and what appeared to be a Campagnolo Pista BB and Super Record Pista headset. The wheels, saddle, seatpin, bars and stem are later replacements. My eyes were drawn to the square section brake and chain stay bridges which were also drilled, it also had narrow section fork blades similar to those on SB632, and a Vagner fork crown. Turning the bike over in my hands revealed the frame number of SH.3.77T.
I paid the cash and placed the bike in the back of the car, set the Sat Nav for ‘Home’ and drove away into the one way system of Uxbridge, ending up in a random car park. After sorting out the Sat Nav again, I got on my way back up the country to Newcastle.
The story that came with this frame is that it was built by Mike Mullett for a British Professional called Steve Heffernan – that does confirm the frame number initials of ‘SH’. Steve was a Pro in the late 1970s/early 80s. The eBay seller bought this directly from Steve several years ago and used it himself at the track. About 15 years ago, Mike was at the track while this frame was being raced and confirmed that it was built for Steve.
Steve won the British National Elite Pursuit Championships in 1977 and also came 3rd in World Professional Individual Pursuit in the same year. Another part of the story is that Steve told the seller that this is the frame he used in the Worlds but couldn’t locate a picture. So it is an interesting story with parts of it that seem to be confirmed such as the frame number and ownership, but the part about who built this and if it was used in any of Steve’s victories is something I’m going to have to work on to confirm.
Every bike I add to the collection comes apart to start the documentation process. Track bikes are great, they come apart in minutes, a couple of allen key bolts for the bars and saddle and a 15mm spanner for the wheels and cranks; a few minutes later and the headset and BB are out.
Now it is apart, I can measure the tubes, find the angles and start the research to find answers to the questions I have…
- Who built the frame, was it Mike?
- Why did Steve get a Raleigh frame when he raced for the Midlet-BSA team?
- Was it used in any victories, did it get raced in the Worlds?
- Is it another early Imperial 753 frame, it definately appears to be?
- Can I figure out the narrow fork blades, is this another type of 753 that the SBDU had access to?
- Why does it have the square bridges, where did they come from?
While I’m checking out those questions, the frame and fork will get a good clean and polish and the Campagnolo parts will be re-fitted so I can measure the frame geometry. Hopefully I can get some period wheels, bars and seatpin/saddle to get SH377T back to how it might have been in 1977.