I always find this topic a sad one to write about. I get sad when I know that someone is spending money on a bike that may not be what they think it is and I could have helped to provide some info if only I was asked. That sad feeling prompts me to write blog posts like this; seeing SBDU bikes mis-represented by sellers; unintentionally or not, isn’t good. Do the sellers really not know what they are selling, or do buyers really just not know what they are buying? I can’t stop some sellers writing what they write in their ads but I certainly can help buyers with some helpful advice, and help them to read the signs and to spot a potential dud. I never call out a seller directly, their business is their business, but I’m always available to help any potential buyer.
Although the Specialist Bicycle Development Unit were custom frame builders, a lot of what they built did actually follow patterns. They produced documents every year that listed their models and specifications – yes you could spec some geometry and specific braze on fittings but a 753 frame was a 753 frame and a 531SL frame was a 531SL frame and a 531 frame was a 531 frame. Knowing these documents, design patterns and yearly developments is massively helpful in spotting the possible holes in a sellers story.
There are a few different types of seller… you rarely find a seller who is selling an originally owned frame… a frame that was bought from new and where they can confirm (with evidence) a history and provenance. Then there is a seller who has owned a frame for several years but who isn’t the original owner – they can give a good history and give details about several years of ownership. Then there are the buyers and sellers… the traders… those who just buy and flip. What history or provenance can they bring to the table?
When you are buying a bike or frame it really is buyer beware. As a buyer you really need to ask the right questions… the most obvious question is “how long have you owned this bike?” If a seller quotes a bike as original but has only recently acquired that bike then more questions really should be asked.
SBDU frame features can often be predictable if you know what to look for – these frame features can provide much more accurate evidence than any sales listing. SBDU frame features can help to differentiate tubing types and frame models. Frame transfers can also help to tell a story. Frame transfers changed over time, they also changed type and location and can help to not only date frames but also spot repaints.
When you combine frame numbers and frame features and frame transfers you can start to build a picture, and compare that to a sellers story. Sometimes you will find that the story adds up, but sometimes the story doesn’t quite fit all the evidence.
I have details of over 600 SBDU frames spanning from the creation of the SBDU in 1974 to Raleigh’s Special Products Division of the 1990s. If you have any questions about any SB numbered frame or any potential Team frame, then I give quick, free and totally impartial advice to any buyer or seller.
My quick, free and totally impartial advice might just save you several hundreds on a bike that isn’t what it is meant to be. Hopefully though, my help may also provide you with the piece of mind that you have spent all your money on something worthwhile and I can continue to help you with a renovation or rebuild.
There are lots of groups, forums and quasi Facebook experts out there… just make sure you ask the best! To get that confidence as a buyer and to make sure you are putting your money into a sound investment, message me through my Facebook page at My TI-Raleigh SBDU or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I don’t think anyone knows these bikes better!