It was a Thursday evening a couple of weeks ago, and as usual I was sitting in front of the laptop, half watching TV half browsing the internet, when a flashing notification from a new email caught my eye. A quick scan of the first line and reading the words ‘Raleigh 753’ grabbed my full attention.
“I have a c 1977 Raleigh 753 frame made for me when I was researching The Penguin Book of the Bicycle (1978)”Martin Gray
Before I went on to read the second line, I reached for my copy of that book from the bookshelf and checked the name. Yep, the same name… the name on the email matched the name on the book.
The rest of Martin’s email went on to describe the frame…
…think I used it a little for a season and then had it resprayed at Ilkeston. It is in pristine condition, having lived in a cupboard for nearly 40 years. I am trying to sell it and wonder vaguely what it might be worth, and whether you know anyone who might be interested. I see some of these frames are on sale for huge prices. The frame number is SB1995. It has very beautiful cut out lugs, and Campag bits and pieces. Size I think was 22.5 inches; colour Champagne — i.e. a pale gold.Martin Gray
How nice did that sound? An SBDU 753 frame, used for a short while, repainted by non other than the SBDU at Ilkeston and then stored away, preserving that newly painted frame in pristine condition and even better, it was still with the original owner.
I couldn’t not ask for images and a price and the wait for images was happily quite short. When they arrived they didn’t disappoint. It was indeed a circa 1977/78 SBDU Reynolds 753 frame and it was, based on what I could see in the pictures, in absolutely amazing condition with a nice looking black EDCO Competition headset and a Nuovo Record fixed cup fitted to the frame. The seat lug bolt and water bottle bolts looked new.
What the pictures were showing me were Prugnat S4 lugs, Campagnolo 1010/B Portacatena short ends, lovely large single taper seat stays, drilled front and rear ends and a Vagner semi sloping fork crown with fork blade stiffeners; everything you would expect to see in this period.
The transfers were from a later period so that definately confirmed the story about a repaint. Their period and placement all indicated that the repaint took place no earlier than late 1982. The frame had also been brought up to date with a new set of braze on stops and bosses and it had a re-route of the gear cables to below the bottom bracket via a plastic cable guide.
NOTE: I’m going to cover the small detail about the repaint, the transfer details and placement and the additional braze on fittings in the next post.
When anyone is considering buying an SBDU frame my advise to them is always to ask lots of questions and see as many images as possible and to confirm details such as the frame number, but I’m confident in my knowledge, and I know the details of these frames inside out, I’ve bought several frames in the past without a great deal of information and only based on a couple of images. It is a strategy I would 100% not recommend unless you know exactly what you are looking at.
I didn’t need to ask anymore questions or see the frame number. Everything in the images matched Martin’s email exactly. I offered a fair price and it was accepted.
This is my perfect bike buying scenario, receiving an email, seeing a few images and agreeing a price all within a couple of email exchanges.
One thing I did mention in a reply I sent was that the frame wasn’t repainted after a season of use; based on the original Reynolds frame transfers that have been used, it couldn’t have been repainted until late 1982 at the earliest. Martin came back to me and, after confirming with his colleague, he was in agreement with me, he had actually used it for a couple of years before sending back to Ilkeston.
My last blog post was about how I’ve gathered a few examples of my collection together into one place for the first time. I’m aware that I’m in a fortunate position where many people comment that they would love to come and have a browse. Martin also said that he would consider bringing the frame to me so that he could view my collection of SBDU bikes. But he lives at the other end of the country and it would be an 9 hour round trip so I offered to go to him and pick it up instead. I have no problems travelling around the country to collect frames – for the seller, it takes away their need to source a box, package securely and arrange a courier, and for me it takes away my worry about receiving a damaged frame, or even worse, receiving no frame at all.
Collecting frames and meeting their owners also gives me an opportunity to take a little time to talk to them and listen to their stories.
A date and time was arranged and I entered details into my trusty Sat Nav, got comfy in the driver’s seat, tuned in some 80s music and set off for the 4.5 hour drive down to see Martin.
My first reaction to seeing this frame… “WOW”, I actually think I said that. The pictures were of a very clean frame but the reality was amazing. Holding this frame was exactly like holding a brand new frame. I’m so glad I decided to drive and collect this, it would have been a huge shame to risk any kind of damage or marks on this. It is, with no exaggeration, perfect.
We spent a little while chatting, I think Martin could understand my obsession; he used that word first, not me! I also saw the cupboard space that this frame has sat in for all these years. That space is a big part of this frame’s story. It has sat on a shelf in a cupboard, well above head height and well out of the way of any daylight or the chance of any accident.
It was too late by the time I got home to get any images taken but as soon as the sun got itself over the horizon the next day, the camera was out.
The first thing to catch your eye with this frame is the perfectness. Each and every transfer fitted to this by the SBDU is still perfect. And then if you can pull yourself away from admiring the perfect transfers, you see the paint, and how perfect the paint is. And then you look at all the areas that normally get tatty or rusted and you see that they are all still perfect.
This is a renovation and has new paint. However, it was painted by the very people that built it and uses the same paint and paint methods. So the paint on this frame is representative of how a new SB frame would look.
The quality and finish of this paint is outstanding – I hope the images do it justice. The significant difference that makes this renovation and repaint stand out above any other is the finish. The sharpness of the frame detail has been perfectly preserved by the painter. The SB frame number above is sharp and precise; look at any modern renovation and you don’t see that detail. What you will see is layers of base and top coat. Any chance of sharp detail is lost under the following layers of clear coat.
The BREV CAMPAGNOLO around the end is clear, the are crisp, everything is perfect, nothing is smothered in paint.
The next post about SB1995 will show how the details of the renovation can be used to provide dating evidence. Martin’s recollection about exact dates isn’t clear but I’m not going to rely on his memories. Instead, I’m going to let the frame tell me when it was renovated. One of the features I’ll be using to date the renovation is something as simple as the Raleigh cable guide.
The SBDU took this 1978 frame and produced a 1983 frame. They added gear lever bosses and top tube brake cable stops. They also routed the gear cables to under the BB shell and positioned a new cable stop under the chainstay. Another update was fitting a chain hanger onto the right hand seat stay. One of the nice little touches was the update from nutted to recessed brake fittings. They also correctly drilled and countersunk the hole for the head of the allen key fitting. Most would simply drill the original 6mm hole to a larger 8mm, but this has also been countersunk to 10mm.
This frame does have to be considered as the best preserved SBDU Ilkeston renovation, anywhere.
Karen really put it into perspective for me last night. I was only 12 years old when this frame found a new home high up on the cupboard shelf. I’m now nearly 49 years old. This frame was put away in 1983 and didn’t come out again until 2019. That is 36 years without any exposure to moisture. 36 years without any damaging sunlight. 36 years without any possibility of accidental damage. In the time that it has sat on a shelf I’ve studied and sat my O’level exams. I’ve had my bike mechanic career, got married, divorced and married again. I’ve even had children who are now adults too, all while this frame has been sat in that darkened space.
It is a time warp frame.
SB1995 arrived and without any effort, without even a wipe of a cloth, it has moved straight to the top of my collection. I don’t have the vocabulary to come up with the words it deserves, so I’ll just say ‘Amazing’, ‘Beautiful’, ‘Outstanding’… ‘Perfect’!