Recollections are a funny thing. Could you remember details or be precise about a specific date from maybe only a month ago? Could you remember a detail from ten years ago? How about four decades ago? Memories become fuzzy with the passage of time. The brain forgets, and confusion prevails. So what can I figure out about this SBDU Reynolds 753 frame based on the slightly fuzzy information I have?
You might be wondering what I’m waffling on about – I’m meant to be blogging about bikes! What do fuzzy memories and recollections have to do with bikes?
Here’s an example I can use to explain…
I was recently contacted about a Mercian frame – I do still talk to people who want to talk about other builders! Anyway, pictures of the bike came with the story, and it was convincing. Everything was linked to events that happened in certain years within the family. I think the story involved time at university, which is quite specific. But something about the frame didn’t seem to tally with the time period. Mercian use a frame number format that identifies the year but sadly, part of the story was that the BB shell had been replaced in a frame repair, the frame number was lost. I asked the owner if the fork was original and the reply was yes; so he dropped the fork out and there was the frame number, a number providing a very different year that made him rethink his original story. How could all those memories connected with the family be wrong? But they were, the frame proved it.
I bet you are still thinking what on earth I am on about!
The point I’m eventually making is that frames and their features don’t suffer from fuzzy recollections, you just need to know how to read and translate them. You need to understand their history, and how their details sit within the context of what you are looking at. A Prugnat S4 lug, RGF BB, a fork end or seat stay will have a different context within the SBDU compared to other builders.
This Is What I Know So Far
After 300+ words of waffle I’m getting back to this lovely Reynolds 753 frame, SB1995. The only information I have about this frame is…
- I was told the frame was built circa 1977 while researching a book that was published in Nov/Dec 1978
- SB1995 was still with the original owner
- It was used a little for a season before renovation
- At some point it was sent back to Ilkeston to be renovated
- It was never built up following the renovation
No. 5 is a fact and definitely correct. No. 4 is a fact and definately correct and No. 2 is a fact and definitely correct.
That leaves questions over No. 1 and No. 3… “when was it built” and “when was it renovated”? Some details from the original owner about when it was built and renovated aren’t too clear and I’ve already questioned the story about only using the frame for a season before it’s renovation.
SB1995 Reynolds 753 Renovation
My research on SBDU frame numbers and dates provided the evidence to answer No. 1, SB1995 is from the early part of 1978. I can now confidently tick off four of the five questions about this frame.
|1||The frame was built circa 1977 while researching a book (It was early 1978)||Known!|
|2||It was still with the original owner||Known!|
|3||It was used for a couple of seasons before renovation||Needs Investigating|
|4||It was sent back to Ilkeston to be renovated||Known!|
|5||It was never built up following the renovation||Known!|
To get a complete picture of this frame’s history, I need the answer to No. 3, the question about when it was renovated. This is when knowing about frame details and their context can be used to provide the answer. I can only do this because I am 100% confident that this is an SBDU renovation, and the SBDU processes and details on their SB numbered frames can be read like a book.
I mentioned late 1982/early 1983 in my first “New Arrival” post, but why have I highlighted that period? Could it have been 1984 or 1985, or even earlier, 1981 or early 1982? After all, I’ve known some people who have been between six and ten years wayward of the actual dates with their recollections.
I’m going to approach this post using a timeline order sequence from the date it was built to demonstrate how I arrived at that date in my head. I want to be able to pinpoint the renovation of this frame to between an upper and lower SB number range and that range will give the year.
Details… who doesn’t like details! To date this renovation I need to look at the details that a 1978 frame shouldn’t have, and look at when the details it shouldn’t have were introduced. Those details aren’t just the small braze on fittings, I can also look at the transfers and where they have been positioned during the renovation. To be confident about finding the answer, I have my data and my collection.
Knowing how to read an SBDU frame based on its details and being confident about the facts comes from two things. First up is experience; handing so many of these frames on a daily basis for a good amount of years has given me that experience, I know what to look for. Second is knowledge; my head is full of information gained from my process of documenting and recording detail. Yes that means getting the metal rule out for each every frame, yes that means photographing them, yes that means recording data, the type of data that most would find insignificant. My data gathering and repetitive processes have given me that experience and knowledge.
I know that some might have their own opinions about my process, but I don’t mind, I do what I do and it works for me. My process doesn’t just work now and then, my process and data give me accurate results and information time and time again.
The process I follow with any new bike or frame added to my collection allows me to capture and record hundreds of small and individual pieces of data. I can supplement that information with a catalogue of over 700 SBDU frames. From that large sample, I can call on well over 100 frames that are still in original condition. It is that amount of data and originality that allows me to determine what should be present on an SB frame and also, if needed, the correct period position.
So lets start to define a timeline of frame details and transfer features that can prove a renovation date for SB1995.
SB1995 is from a time when there were no brake cable stops or gear lever bosses. It used either a metal clip or brazed on BB guides to route the cables above the BB and across the top of the chain stay. It may have had the lugs and fork blade stiffeners picked out in contrasting black. So the starting point for identifying the renovation date is to identify when bosses and stops were added and when the lug detailing stopped.
SB1500 is shown above. It was built mid’ish 1977 and has original paint and lug detailing. In my TI-Raleigh transfer and paint scheme blog post, I found that lug detailing on SBDU frames stopped sometime between SB1957 and SB2004. So SB1995 may have originally been detailed, likewise there is evidence that it wasn’t, it falls into that 47 frame period. Therefore lug detailing cannot be used to help date the renovation on this occasion.
Brake Cable Stops and Lever Bosses
There is no doubting that SB1995 was built at a time when clips were used to secure the brake cable outer and a band was used for the gear levers. It wasn’t long before the SBDU introduced braze on alternatives. Lever bosses appear to have come first followed by the typical two cable stops on the lower left hand side of the top tube. The introduction of both happened randomly, spread over a period of approx SB2200 – SB2900.
SB1995 is again close to that lower limit, but there is a clear gap. In my opinion, these fittings were not original and were fitted during the renovation.
Just like the lug detail information, the additional braze on fittings are too close to the build date of SB1995 to provide any meaningful renovation dating evidence. I need to look at more details.
Gear Lever Boss Location
The gear lever boss location is helpful and does confirm one thing for me. Their location on the down tube gives me the opportunity to accurately set the first upper date of this renovation timeline. The boss location sets that last possible date as the end of 1983.
From their introduction, gear lever bosses on SB numbered frames occupied 3 distinct locations (give or take a few millimetres). The bosses on SB1995 are in the first location which is approx 10.5cm – 11.5cm behind the head tube. The image below shows the first SBDU position (LH images 1978 – 1983), second SBDU position (centre images 1984), third SBDU position (RH images 1985 onward).
At approx SB6300, which is the end of 1983, the lever boss was moved up towards the head tube by approx an inch. A very noticeable change. The tip of the gear lever on 1984 frames would now overlap the head tube. You can see the 1984 position in the image of SB6398 below.
That location detail proves that at the time of my frame’s renovation, the SBDU’s standard position for gear lever bosses was still 10.5cm and therefore definately pre 1984.
SB1995 was renovated before the end of 1983 (SB6300).
Tour de France Winners 1980 Transfer
Next up is a transfer, specifically the Tour de France Winners 1980 down tube oval transfer. This was introduced to SB numbered frames just before SB4200, the end of 1980.
This small transfer detail brings the timeline for the renovation of SB1995 up to the end of 1980. This 1978 frame had to have been renovated after the end of 1980 and before the end of 1983.
You have to be very careful using frame transfers to confirm a date, either a build or renovation date. Absolute unquestionable provenance has to be known in order to use a transfer as dating evidence. I have that confidence with this frame so I can safely move this timeline into 1981.
Seat Tube TI Transfer
Another transfer detail that can be used to date the renovation of this frame is the location of the circular TI transfer at the base of the seat tube.
Following its introduction in mid 1975, this small transfer occupied the space half way between the BB shell and the location of the front derailleur band. The 2 original paint TI frames below show that original location.
It was lowered to a new location at approx SB4700. Here is SB5084 showing the new location. You can see the same location mirrored in the renovation of SB1995 above.
That small change of TI transfer location moves the earliest possible renovation date closer to the end of 1981.
The seat tube TI transfer location combined with the gear lever position evidence tells me that the date this frame could have been renovated falls into a period covering a little over 2 years. It was renovated between late 1981 and the end of 1983. That is a span of frame numbers ranging from SB4700 to SB6300.
Reynolds Frame Transfers
The style of Reynolds frame transfer changed during 1982 following the revamp of the Reynolds tubing range (this included 531c, 531P, 753R etc). The earliest I’ve noted an original new style frame transfer is approx SB5550. All original frames before this point used the earlier type. SB1995 has an original newer style transfer fitted, therefore, it had to have been fitted no earlier than SB5550.
SB1995’s renovation timeline is moving on and is reaching the end of 1982.
The next section proves that knowing the smallest detail about these frames really does pay off. Who would have thought that a simple piece of plastic would help to date a frame.
Plastic Bottom Bracket Cable Guide
When SB1995 was built at the start of 1978 it used either a metal clip fastened around the base of the down tube or brazed on tunnels. Both of these methods provided a route for the gear cables to negotiate the path from gear levers, across the top of the BB and onto both derailleurs. This detail was changed during the renovation and SB1995 had a black plastic RALEIGH guide fitted.
Once again, I’m only using this small detail because I know it is authentic and definately fitted at the time of the renovation.
You’ll either find this REALLY interesting or REALLY boring – and you’ll probably all ready know that I’m the type that finds this very small detail really interesting.
SBDU gear cables were initially routed on top of the BB. The main method used was braze on Campagnolo cable ferrules (tunnels) 626/b and 663. There was an occasional and random use of a metal cable clip, Campagnolo’s 626/a twin gear cable clip is an example. The bottom of the BB shell at this time was either plain on earlier frames or with 4 slots milled into the BB slightly later. Here is a selection from SB664, SB1500, SB1861 and SB2692. SB1500 is the gold frame (bottom LH corner) requiring the cable clip, you can see the mark on the paintwork at the bottom of the down tube from the band of the clip.
Things moved on and gear cables moved to underneath the BB shell. Two slots were cut into the bottom of the BB shell and the cables simply sat in the groove. Sometimes either bare cable, sometimes protected with a plastic sheath. This is a 1980 frame, SB3505.
The grooves on SB3505 are clear and well defined and cut. A little later the grooves became less well defined, especially when Cinelli BB shells came along. Here is SB4933 from late 1981/early 1982. Note the difference in the definition of the slot. The lack of definition and depth in the cut was even more pronounced on a Cinelli BB – they typically had a shallow groove. Some team frames even used a small brazed on loop to ensure the cable stayed in the shallow groove.
At approx SB5000, things changed, and the very first SBDU plastic cable guide appeared on SB numbered frames. Branded as VITUS, it was a press fit into a large hole on the underside of the BB shell. This is the Cinelli BB on SB5377 – the frame is no longer in original paint but it does still with original guide fitted.
And here is the RGF BB on SB5464, this frame is still original and has the original VITUS guide fitted.
In the previous section on Reynolds frame transfers, I mentioned the earliest appearance of the new frame transfer was approx SB5550. That original paint and transfer example also had a VITUS branded plastic cable guide fitted.
So when did the VITUS era end?
Based on other original paint SB numbered frames, the press fit VITUS guide was replaced by the RALEIGH guide, fastened with a rivet, at approx SB5640. This means the new guide, the type fitted to SB1995 at its renovation, made an appearance just before the end of 1982. The date of SB5640 is based on my own SB frame number timeline.
There has been a lot of information to absorb, so here is a recap on where I am up to…
Starting at the beginning… This beautiful frame was built at the start of 1978.
- Lug Detailing
Detailing ended between SB1957 and SB2004 – SB1995 may of may not have been detailed in contrasting black.
- Lever Bosses and Brake Cable Stops
These made an appearance at random points between SB2200 and SB2900 – SB1995 did not originally have these fitted.
- TDF Winners 1980 Down Tube Transfer
This transfer first appeared at approx SB4200, the end of 1980 – SB1995 must have been renovated after this point.
- TI Transfer at Base of Seat Tube
This transfer moved to a new and lower location just above the BB shell at approx SB4700 – SB1995 must have been renovated after this point.
- VITUS Plastic Cable Guide
First appeared at approx SB5000 – SB1995 has the later RALEIGH type so must have been renovated after this point.
- Reynolds Frame Transfer – New Style
Later type 531c, 531P and 753R Reynolds transfers started at approx SB5550 – SB1995 has the new style so must have been renovated after this point.
- RALEIGH Plastic Cable Guide
It was almost the end of 1982 when this guide was introduced at approx SB5640. The SBDU were probably putting the fireworks away and dusting off the Christmas tree – SB1995 has this type of cable guide so must have been renovated after this point.
- Gear Lever Boss Location
At the start of 1984 (SB6301), the position of the gear lever boss was moved higher up the down tube – SB1995 has the lower position so must have been renovated before the end of 1983.
According to the evidence I’ve shown so far, SB1995 was renovated between points 7 and 8 (during SB5640 & SB6300). SB1995 has the Raleigh guide and still has the lower gear lever position. However, that is still quite a large chunk of time, an entire year… can I narrow it down any more?
The answer is yes, I can, by using one more small transfer detail.
I measure and record the location of SBDU transfers. I’ve got lots of original paint frames in my collection spanning a range of years and I can see how things changed over time. The measurements I take are added to my data, and on this occasion, I can use that data to prove a point.
SBDU Chain Stay Oval Transfer
Introduced at approx SB400, this small transfer wasn’t just fitted to the chain stay on the TI-Raleigh paint scheme, it also formed part of the scheme all SBDU frames. It was used in different locations depending on the type of scheme, but helpfully, SB1995 has it fitted to the chain stay. I can use what I know about the changes that took place in transfer position to pinpoint another reference point for this renovation.
The early position was approx 9 – 10.5cm (90 – 105mm) behind the chain stay socket of the BB shell.
Then at approx SB4500 (a similar time to the change in location of the TI transfer), the oval transfer was moved away from the BB by approx 3cm (30mm), The new position was around 14.5 – 15cm (145 – 150mm). Here is SB1995 (at the rear of the image) compared to SB5464. I’ve lined up the BB shells on both frames… note the similar position of the SBDU oval.
SB1995 has a measurement of 14.6cm (146mm) from the chain stay socket to the front edge of the transfer.
And then it changed again. It changed at the start of 1983! The earliest original paint frame I’ve been able to measure in this period is my own SB5794 and it has a measurement of 17cm (170mm). In fact, all my original paint frames from the start of 1983 onward are similar and have the following measurements…
- SB5794 170mm
- SB6398 165mm
- SB6827 165mm
- SB7393 165mm
- SB7660 170mm
That is a definite change in measurement, recorded at the very start of 1983. Here is SB1995 at 146mm compared to SB7660 at 170mm. The difference is clear to see.
SB1995 must have been renovated before the transfer location changed at the start of 1983 (before approx SB5794).
All the details I’ve discussed here indicate the work to SB1995 was carried out by the SBDU in a period spanning the end of 1982 and the start of 1983. I’ve narrowed the actual period down to a span 154 frames between SB5640 and SB5794.
Here is the information included in the SBDU frameset information for 1982.
Summary of SB1995
- SB1995 has gear lever bosses and brake cable stops – fitted from SB2200 onward
- It has the TDF Winners 1980 transfer – fitted from SB4200 onward
- The TI transfer is in the lower location – re-positioned from SB4700 onward
- SB1995 has the newer style Reynolds frame transfer – fitted from SB5550 onward
- The BB on SB1995 is fitted with the RALEIGH plastic cable guide – fitted from SB5640 onward
- SB1995 has the SBDU oval transfer in the 2nd chain stay location – altered after SB5794
SBDU frame details really can be read. Measuring them really does help. Documenting them really does work.
This timeline indicates when the features I’ve used to explain my theory changed over the period from 1978 to 1984.SB1995-Renovation-and-Detail-Timeline-Graphic
SB1995: Built by the SBDU in early 1978… Renovated by the SBDU at the end of 1982/start 1983… Stored away for the next 36 years…
A perfectly preserved example of the work of TI-Raleigh’s Specialist Bicycle Development Unit with perfect provenance.