2020 has been a roller coaster. It has brought some ups and downs, lots of amazing positives and sadly a couple of unexpected negatives too. In a year when the world has been turned on it’s head with businesses and families hit very hard by Covid-19, my TI-Raleigh blog has been a surprise success and confirmed it as the best source of SBDU information.
99% of this blog post will be positive, I like to keep things like that. But I’m not going to shy away from addressing a negative topic that reared it’s ugly head towards the end of the year that took me a bit by surprise. So lets start with the frames and bikes that I like to call ‘New Arrivals’.
I could not have started the year on a better footing. HK.2.76 is the very first TI-Raleigh frame to win a stage of the Tour de France. It was ridden to that stage win in TI-Raleigh’s first Tour, and had none other than Hennie Kuiper in the saddle who was the reigning world road race champion.
It’s had a hard life, but it is an original example of the TI-Raleigh scheme and it was only £84. Although it’s missing a fork, the chance to save an original example at that price was too much to resist.
The pool of original TI frames is dwindling with each year that passes but I’m happy that more and more are turning to my blog for help and advice on how to get their restoration correct. Frames like SB1038 help to add important confirmation to my blog.
Carlton Capella lugged Reynolds 753 frames are always nice to have. They only appeared for two short periods of time in the 70s at the SBDU. This one has had a very nice renovation from Chris Marshall and the black infill that picks out the lug detail is a great touch.
SB1625 is the second Carlton Capella lugged Reynolds 753 frame of the year following on from HK.2.76 earlier in January.
Yes, SB9, a single digit SB numbered complete bike in 95% original condition from the first year of production, 1974, and with that ultra rare SB TI-Raleigh yellow head tube. It had different rims, tyres, saddle and bar tape, but the frame, paint, chrome and 1st gen Super Record parts were all present and all original.
The paint and chrome have been cleaned and the parts are currently getting some TLC. SB9 is going to be amazing!
Not an SB number, but a remake by Raleigh UK to
cash in celebrate the 40th anniversary of TI-Raleigh winning the 1980 Tour de France. Everyone is entitled to an opinion on this project, I have mine which is shared with a great many people, and others have theirs, and that is all good, life is about balance.
For me to talk about this frame on my blog, I had to buy the frameset, this would allow me to confidently give an opinion and back it up with fact. My blog is all about fact, facts are the bedrock of the information I provide. I wasn’t disappointed when it arrived and opened the box, I already knew it didn’t meet my expectations of what Raleigh UK had promised. “Detail is key”, “this is like for like” was the message given to me by email by Raleigh UK – “if you buy the 56cm then you are riding the same as Joop…”.
Well all that Raleigh UK hype has been proved to be incorrect now… the detail simply isn’t there and their sizing is incorrect (even though they had a copy of Joop’s original dimensions). Maybe they should have invested more time into creating a more true and fitting bike/frame. Maybe they should have asked more informed people? Again, just my opinion!
There is no bitterness in what I say about this project – It’s an honest open review and opinion. It appears that lots of people agree with me.
I’m in two minds about what to do with this frame. Should I get a file and spend a little time fixing some things that Raleigh UK should have done then repaint it with a correct TI livery. Or should it stay as it is in all it’s celebratory glory and build it with a modern Shimano group?
Back on track with the proper stuff. SB2476 arrived after 3 months on a ship travelling from Australia. A time warp original condition Reynolds 753 Time Trial Special that featured in some of my original research when I was considering buying SB4059.
And another piece of SB frame history. SB498 featured for so long as the earliest known SB numbered Reynolds 753 frame, until recently. It is unique in that it is an original SB frame but in Bob Jackson livery. It was built at the end of 1975 and displayed by Bob Jackson at the New York Cycle show in mid February 1976… hanging from a set of scales on their display stand.
A bike that has just arrived and that needs a lot more checking and research. SBW9262 is a Reynolds 753 frame in the Castorama team colours.
The Best Source of SBDU Information
I mentioned earlier that I only want to have factual information on my blog – it helps me to only give factual information to people who ask for assistance. My collection helps because it covers so much of the production of the SBDU – models, colours, frame features etc.
I use my collection to help me read SBDU frame features. When SB1995 arrived, I knew it was an SBDU renovation but it wasn’t clear when that renovation happened. I used the details on the frame to pinpoint the renovation date to early 1983.
Out of the blue in April this year, Martin, the previous owner of SB1995, sent me a letter that he had received from Gerald O’Donovan relating to his frame. It was dated April 1983 and it’s content related to the newly renovated frame being returned.
This letter confirmed my research.
I said it in that blog and I’ll quote it again here…
“The Best Source of Information for Raleigh SBDU Bikes
I use this tag line on my blog, and I stand by it. I am a modest, quiet person, but this is an occasion when I need to shout out… there is no better, more accurate or reliable source of information regarding Raleigh SB bikes than my blog.
If you have a question about an SB frame and need confirmation, send a message or an email and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.”
That is no strings attached, absolutely impartial and free advice..!
My TI-Raleigh Blog Stats 2020
Covid-19 lockdown gave a lot of people a lot of time. My work at Recyke y’bike was unaffected (for me), as we were classed as an essential service. We remained open during the 1st national lockdown. The demand for bikes and bike repairs was insane. The entire bike industry almost ground to a halt and is still not in great shape with shortages of bikes parts.
My father in law, Ken, sadly lost his battle with Dementia in March, and a few days later, Boris announced lockdown. My wife, Karen, was forced to close her photography studio and she decided to move in with her mam. I developed a daily routine of waking up, going to work, driving home, standing in a queue for some groceries, and eventually getting home and falling asleep, repeat repeat repeat. There wasn’t much time for my own bikes or blogging. While I was busy working, my blog started to get hit after hit. There were more views and more visitors than ever before. With lockdown announced at the end of March, my monthly views doubled in April and then tripled in May and have remained like that all year. As I write, December 2020 has been the best and busiest month of the year.
The result is a 148% rise in visitors to my blog. Blog views are now in the hundreds of thousands, not just tens of thousands.
I was already having a great year and was on course to just top what I did last year in terms of visitors, but then lockdown happened, April was a bit crazy, but then May, June and July spiralled out of control.
I’ve tried to answer as many questions, emails and Facebook messages as possible. But with a very busy work, spare time has been limited.
The effect when viewed by Years, is clear to see…
I currently have 767 unread emails and unfortunately I’ve had to prioritise the SBDU content because of the limited time I’ve had this year.
Top 5 Posts (Most Viewed)
The hectic pace of work due to Covid has meant that I’ve only written 23 blog posts in 2020. However, that makes a total of 222 posts since 2012. Of all my posts, 5 have proved the most popular this year. Here they are in order of popularity…
Raleigh Frame Numbers 1973 Onward. Worksop Carlton and Nottingham Lightweight Unit Frames, Specialist Bicycle Development Unit (SBDU) and Raleigh Special Products Division
It needs an update, especially the Nottingham Lightweight Unit numbers, but this post has had the most hits in 2020. Seems plenty of people are looking to date their Raleigh bikes.
All about bringing SB9 back to the UK.
An old favourite from 2017. All about probably the best group ever, Shimano Dura-Ace 7400 and the changes through 6, 7 and 8 speed versions. Clearly still very popular as it sits at number 3 for 2020.
This is a simple page listing every single bike and frame in my collection with links to view every blog post about every frame or bike.
SB Frame Number and Frame Detail Timeline – SBDU Ilkeston TI-Raleigh Specialist Bicycle Development Unit
This is possibly the most viewed post over the years. I wrote this in March 2016 and it had a few updates in that year. However, it needs a big update now. It is still a great timeline and still 90-95% accurate but as different frames appear, it helps me to finesse the small detail of when different features first made an appearance and likewise, when they disappeared.
I’ve never once talked or written about costs. This is the amount of money it takes to just have “My TI-Raleigh” available online. This has been my thing all along – I do this to share information, not to make money.
I recently read a comment, I can’t remember where it was, but someone had mentioned that I must be getting enough from the blog, meaning income; I think it was in connection to me buying TI40-192. So here is a very brief balance sheet…
Running costs include items such as:
- Domain Registration
- Domain Mapping
- WordPress Plan
- WordPress Plugins
- Email Package
These are the basic elements of simply having the online presence, website functionality and to be able to communicate with my ‘TI-Raleigh.com’ domain email.
A typical yearly cost to run this website based on those elements listed above is £414. I’m just about to enter my 10th year so by this time next year, my expenditure will be £4000+
I could choose to do this at a lower cost, but as I keep saying, this is not a commercial enterprise – I do this because I want to. My expenditure does not include the huge amount of man hours spent responding to requests for information or researching, drafting, checking and publishing site content.
In 2016, I signed up to Word Ads, a basic scheme administered by WordPress that places a couple of small ads on my site. I received my first pay out earlier in 2020. It was approximately £73 once the currency conversion was done from the $100 amount for 4 years worth or Word Ads. I earn approx $2 per month from the Word Ads scheme.
Total Expenditure = £4000+ Total Income £73
If anyone still thinks I do this for the money, I hope those figures are clear enough to show that I don’t.
The Positive (Good) Bits
Every email or contact generally starts with an appreciation of the work I do. It’s great to read about how my work is helping people to understand their bikes or projects.
“Thank you Neil. That is a lot of information and very valuable also”
Wow, thanks for that essay”
“Great website and blog! Thanks so much for all the time you’ve spent compiling and sharing this fantastic resource”
“Thank you, thank you, thank you for your insights and for your time”
That is a small handful of comments just from December 2020. There are so many more from that month and more over the entire year. I really do appreciate the time any one takes to write to me, that is why I try my best to reply with all the information they need as soon as I can. I only wish I had more time this year to reply to more.
The Negative (Bad) Bits
Being online comes with it’s drawbacks, it’s inevitable. Sometimes it is people who don’t like you or what you say, sometimes it is just random trolls with random comments and random axes to grind. Regardless of what form the negativity comes in, I’ve learnt to let it glide over me. It comes with the territory. Folk with a keyboard and the anonymity granted to them by the internet can easily get carried away.
Over the years it has just been off the cuff remarks or comments and I don’t dwell on them. But 2020 took a different turn.
I clearly upset a small handful of keyboard warriors on RetroBike with my review of the TI-Raleigh replica. One thread spiralled… the moderation on that forum is definately reactive rather than proactive. I think this is the thread, eventually the moderators closed comments. Click >> HERE <<
I ducked out early on in the thread when it became clear I was banging my head against a wall, there is more to life than arguing online. But it then developed into a full on attack of the blog and bike, SB4059. I think they had a problem with my critical detail about the replica and they picked up on the transfers on SB4059 – which are wrong, I know they are. If they only took the time and effort to actually read my blog they would have seen that I’ve talked about the poor repaint of SB4059 and the incorrect transfers on many occasions. I wrote this in September 2019…
“The Future? Is there anything more to do to SB4059..? Yes there is, maybe a couple of bits and pieces. But the main thing I need to do with SB4059 is correct something that I had no control over.
SB4059 needs a repaint!
SB4059 had been recently painted when I bought it. Although I’ve corrected a few transfers, it still has an issue with the down tube and seat tube transfers. The paint is thick, you can see this on the frame ends – thick paint and thick clear coat, the worst type of renovation. Even if I picked the transfers off and replaced them, the overall quality of the finish needs sorting.
In the future this bike will be painted and complete.”My TI-Raleigh September 2019
Funny thing is… they then started using my blog to measure transfer dimensions, trying to get good images at the right angle to try and measure to the mm so they could create their own transfers. All they had to do was ask!
Moral of that story for me is avoid Retrobike in the future, it’s like being back in the school yard, one protagonist and several who want to be in the gang who play up to the bully. I think I once told him that his Raleigh wasn’t 753, maybe he has never got over it?
And then came another surprising bit of covert negativity. This time, from within the Raleigh world…
I’ve recently been removed, unfriended and in some cases, blocked, from some TI-Raleigh and Carlton groups and pages. I have clearly upset these guys. It’s a shame they decided to take this action. Maybe they don’t like my open, honest opinions or perhaps they don’t like that I share my knowledge? Maybe they have issues with my blog’s popularity? I have no idea.
So it’s done and gone, 2020 is over, I’m not hanging around, I’m not dwelling on these guys. It’s 2021 and time to move on.
2021 will bring the same and more, it’s January 1st and I’ve already answered some messages! 2021 is my 10th year of blogging. I don’t think I will ever match the stats I achieved in 2020, it was an unprecedented year. Hopefully vaccines work and we get back to normal. I’ve missed setting the Sat Nav and going on a journey to pick up something new.
I’ve got plans for more bikes and frames (hopefully). More blogging and positivity, sharing of information and opinions. And maybe even an SBDU Facebook group, an extension of my “My TI-Raleigh SBDU” Facebook page.
Thank you to everyone who has shown support, everyone who has got in touch and everyone who said thank you.