SB1861, built at SBDU Ilkeston in late 1977 is back in the workstand, I need to get this bike completed. It has sat for too long, and this original SBDU bike deserves more. So I’m picking up where I left off by sorting the bar tape, brake levers, cables and setting up the gear adjustment. When I’m finished, the only thing left to do will be to rebuild the wheels.
There are lots of worn out parts on this bike that simply need to be replaced, there is no hope of resurrection for them. Working on this section of the build will mean new bar tape, new brake lever hoods, new brake cables and new gear cables.
The original Benotto tape is being replaced with some period black cotton bar tape. I was initially also intending leaving the levers without hoods until I found some original Shimano replacements. However, I’ve found some hoods in a very similar in style and fit, so they are going on for now.
Some new inners and black outer cable will give the brakes a smooth feel again. The top tube cable clips are the original Shimano Dura-Ace fittings that came with the bike.
The new lever hoods are an ‘ok’ fit, not brilliant, but ok. You can see that they don’t quite fully cover the body of the lever. But they are really supple and slip on and off easily with some talc. So I’m going to tape the bars with levers in place but with no hoods, then slip the new hoods on. When I tape the bars, I can make sure that the gap is covered.
Brake Lever Setup
I’m sure everyone will have their own way of doing this. I prefer to follow how I was taught. I set up each bar and lever combination in the same way for every road bike I build, not just SBDU. This sets a starting point – a baseline for setup. Any adjustments can be made (if needed) from that baseline.
- The bottom of the bar is raised slightly from the horizontal
- Loosen the brake lever just enough so that it is still tight but able to move slightly
- The tip of the lever should sit on a straight edge that extends from the base of the bar
- A straight edge across the tops of the levers will help gauge levelness compared to the bar
- The straightness of the lever (in or out) can be checked between two fixed points
When everything looks right, pop some wheels in and sit on the bike. There is no better way to check how the levers feel in your hands, and how the reach/bar/stem/lever adjustment is working.
Don’t tape the handlebar until you are happy with your setup.
Cotton tape is THE ONLY type of tape I wrap from top to bottom. Every other type of tape should go bottom to top. This is typically what happens when tape is wrapped top to bottom. The pressure of your hand pushing down the bar will eventually roll the visible tape edge and start to unravel the wrapping. This is how SB8851 arrived, an SBDU bike that had only done 200 miles but the tape was already ruined.
With cotton tape, start at the top. Place the starting edge under the bar so it won’t be seen and place the edge of the tape neatly up to the centre ferrule of the bar, then wrap around the bar from front to back.
Wrapping tape around the lever/bar join ensures that when the hood is fitted, there is no gap between hood and bar tape. A red bar end plug finishes the tape.
Repeat the process on the other side…
People do seem to tie themselves up with cabling. Which side should the front brake be on, should the cables go in front or behind the bars, how much cable, how big a loop…
You don’t need much. I good set of cutters and a pick to open up the inner. No matter what tools you use, it is important to ensure nothing fouls the inner cable as it runs through the outer.
Deciding Which Side to Run the Front Brake
Everyone has a preference. There is no right or wrong. My preference is front brake on left – this allows the cables to run to the caliper following the orientation of most caliper arms. The image below (SB6398) shows how the cable leaves the left (front) lever and flows in an arc across the top of the stem to the correct side of the front caliper (Campagnolo Super Record).
The same applies to concealed (hidden/aero) cables. Here is SBDU SB8868 using Shimano Dura-Ace.
But not every brake caliper is setup the same. The Shimano 600 EX on SB1861 are different and take the cable feed on the other side of the caliper. But this isn’t a problem, for me anyway. I am “brake ambidextrous” – that is a term I’ve just made up, but which describes that I really do not mind which side the front brake is fitted.
I’ve been a mechanic for years (decades), and I’ve come across every type of brake style and setup. You very quickly adapt to any brake setup and any type of braking system. Regardless of what some might say, it doesn’t make much difference which side the front brake is fitted.
Once you have decided which side you are going to fit the front brake, you can go on and start to cable up the brakes – starting with the rear brake.
Why setup the rear first?
The answer is simple. The loop on your front brake takes its size from the rear brake. The front brake cable could in theory be any size, but the rear has to be a certain size to allow the bar to turn freely. So it is rear brake first. You need to allow enough outer cable on the rear so that the handlebar can turn fully to the side without pulling or binding as the bar is turned. You then setup the front outer cable to match the loop you made on the rear.
Avoid adding so much outer on the rear that you end up with a massive loop of rear brake cable. An excess of outer cable will certainly allow the bars to turn, but excess outer also adds more friction and also looks very unprofessional. You want JUST ENOUGH outer so that the bars can turn to the side, not a centimetre more.
The front brake is relatively simple. All you need to do is create a loop of outer cable that matches the rear, so that the loops are equal size and both cross over each side of the stem.
The front outer should pass in front of the rear outer – it will support the rear outer and stop it from falling forward. This is how SB1861 has been done. You can see that if the front cable did not cross in front of the rear then the rear would be allowed to fall against the back of the bar.
Cables In Front or Behind the Stem?
Some claim that all this depends on length of stem, but if your bike is the correct size and the stem is the correct size, there is no reason why you would alter the path of the cable route and pass them in front of the stem and under the bars. I’ve never had an issue with cables interfering with how I hold the bars, the cables do not get in the way (they might get in the way if they were excessively long), but setup correctly, they will be ok behind the bar. SB4059 below, showing how it is done. There is nothing obstructing your hands from using any part of the handlebar.
SB1861 is now cabled (below). The rear cable comes from the left lever and has just enough loop to enable the bar to turn to the side. The front cable matches the loop size and passes in front of the rear. Both cables pass behind the bars, one either side of the stem.
Working with Top Tube Cable Clips
SB1861 does not have any braze on stops or guides for the top tube part of the rear brake cable. Most frames without these stops/guides will use three cable clips. There are no rules governing where they should go, but try and do it with some thought for how they will appear.
The picture above shows that I’ve placed my first clip just to the left of the ‘H’ on the TEAM RALEIGH transfer. Measuring the centre of the clip to the point of the head lug comes to 5 cm.
Duplicate the same 5 cm on the rear clip…
And you probably guessed it, the centre clip simply goes right in the middle of the outer two…
Feeding the Cable Into the Rear Caliper
It is just as important that the size of the loop from the last cable clip/cable stop/guide does not form an excessive loop. There is no need. Any excess of outer cable serves no purpose, it will only add unwanted friction to the feel of the brake.
A cable that runs along the top of the tube is the simplest to deal with. It should curve slightly up and just off the top of the seat lug, resting just on the side of the seat pin. Here is how SB1861 was done.
And Finally, Finishing the Cable Ends
Finishing touches like cutting and fitting cable ends, cutting and finishing bike ribbon or setting the saddle level are areas of bike presentation that most people pick up on. So why take time to create the perfect set of cables and then abandon any idea of presentation and leave too much spare cable? I see this all the time.
With road bike caliper brakes, all you need, after the cable is clamped, is 1 to 1.5″ (at most) of cable. This is just enough to be able to fit a cable end. The cable shouldn’t extend past the depth of the caliper. Here is SB1861.
SBDU Band On Gear Lever Position
When SB1861 arrived, the gear lever position was too low. It was actually sitting on top of the down tube RALEIGH transfer. So I’ve moved the lever clamp approx 1″ up towards the head tube. On this period SBDU frame, and for the next couple of years of SBDU frame production, the braze on position of their levers placed the tip of the lever in line with the tip of the lower head lug. The levers on SB3800 below demonstrate that position.
So I have altered the position of the clamp on SB1861 to match…
You can just make out the previous position where the clamp sat on top of the ‘H’ of Raleigh. I’ve had to lift the levers approx 1″ so that the tip of the levers are in line with the lug tip.
Fitting gear cables to a non-indexed bike like this with down tube levers is very simple. There isn’t a great deal to concern you other than the loop of cable to the rear derailleur, and those cable ends.
Keep the rear loop of outer gear cable as short as it needs to be. Just a smooth curve from the chain stay to the derailleur. Both front and rear cables should be cut to the same 1″ to 1.5″ max length.
** Note **
You can see that I’ve fitted the rear hub and cassette to SB1861. This allowed me to fit the chain. Only cut a length of outer cable for the rear derailleur once the chain is fitted and the derailleur is in the correct position. If the chain isn’t fitted, the derailleur will not be in its final position.
Part Two of my SBDU SB1861 Rebuild is Done
That’s it for now. SB1861 is all done apart from wheels. I’ll be keeping the hubs and rims but replacing the spokes and tubs.
Another SBDU bike nearing completion.