SBDU frames and the TI colours have become hugely popular. More people are seeking to buy an SBDU frame and recreate the red black and yellow TI-Raleigh scheme. With this recent resurgence, sellers are looking to sell and buyers are readily buying. The demand for these frames is producing a seemingly never ending supply of TI painted frames. With so many looking to buy and then repaint, and so many looking to repaint and then sell, the amount of freshly painted frames I’ve seen recently by both buyers and sellers has spiralled. My concern based on what I’ve seen is that the detail of the SBDU TI scheme is in danger of being lost forever.
I’ve always kept an eye out for anything interesting and different with an SB frame number, something that might expand my collection and add a new dimension, even if that means moving outside my comfort zone of the Specialist Bicycle Development Unit (SBDU) at Ilkeston. My initial interest, and basis of the collection and blog was always Ilkeston built frames, but this moved on when I got my first SBDU Nottingham frame, I now have 3 Nottingham built SB frames, SB8851, SB8868 and SB8945. Today things have moved on again with the arrival of SB9529.
The year was 1984. I was only 14 and riding a beat up Raleigh Grifter around the estate. My parent’s shed was my workshop and I was kept busy fixing the bikes for all the local kids. My own bikes were fitted with names such as Sturmey Archer, Simplex, Huret and Weinmann. At the same time, unknown to me, two giants of the cycling world were about to go head to head for market supremacy. In the red corner, fighting out of Italy were Campagnolo, the makers of beautiful looking and precisely engineered components that graced the bikes of the professional peleton; they were up against Shimano in the blue corner, the Japanese corporation often only known for freewheels, hub gears and fishing reels.
It was just another night in front of the television when an email dropped into my Inbox regarding an SBDU frame, this is a situation I’ve been in a few times now. Another frame with a case of mistaken identity came up on my screen, actually, this time it was more a case of confused identity. A frame that looked like a Panasonic/Weinmann but with the name of Wes Mason emblazoned on the tubes. After a couple of emails a deal was done and the frame was with me two days later.
Following the change of cables on SB4059 there is now only one thing that I need to do, one more thing to sort out, one more thing that has bugged me the most about this build over the last couple of years. The one thing I’m talking about just happens to be SB4059 itself! Yes, the frame that all the bits hang from.
Every new addition gets a good clean and although it was already looking quite good, SH377T still needed a bit of work. Wet oil and grease on the surface of a tube will attract dirt and dust, and that is all that was covering this frame. When a frame is clean I can measure and document it. SH377T is a curious frame and I’ve looked forward to getting to this stage in my process.
It’s been a busy week! First came SB4933, an SBDU 531SL frame with beautiful chrome and exquisite new paint. Following on quickly came SH377T, Steve Heffernan’s Reynolds 753 pursuit frame. And finally, to end the week, GH6175 has just arrived on the workbench, the second Raleigh frame of the week without an SB number. GH6175 is now my second TI-Raleigh Team track frame and joins the 1978 frame of Jan Raas, JR178T.
eBay… it is a place I try to avoid. I like to find bikes and frames that haven’t had much exposure to the internet. eBay links containing interesting vintage bikes are shared across social media, and before you know it, the item has been seen by thousands and hyped up to a point that the auction escalates and bidders get into a frenzy pushing the prices up beyond anything sensible. I enjoy the hunt, searching and discovering SBDU bikes that have been hidden away. But I do keep an avid eye on eBay and every now and again a little gem crops up to pique my curiosity. SH377T was listed with no reserve and a low starting bid so I saved it into my ‘Watch List’ thinking it would go the way of so many others and spiral out of control… but it didn’t!
I’ve started a few blog posts recently with the words “I received an email…”; and this story is the same. Late on a Sunday evening I received a couple of emails with several images attached and then an email summarising very clearly what the frame was and what seemed like a comprehensive history. “Would you be interested in buying the frame?” My response was “Yes”, and after arranging to meet up, SB4933 came home with me.
What would you consider rare about the Specialist Bicycle Development Unit (SBDU)? I’ve heard people say that SBDU Reynolds 753 frames are rare… are they, or is that just perception? Defining something as rare really has to be done carefully, and in relation to the context of the subject. The way things are perceived is not always the way things actually are.
If I ever get the time and opportunity, I’ll take bikes into my wife’s photography studio and pick up the camera to capture the details of these frames. It’s good to get them into an environment where there are no background distractions, the focus is purely on the frame. Because SB3505 is in it’s original livery and in excellent condition, it had to have a turn. After a final polish it was placed on the background, in front of the studio lighting, waiting for its turn in the limelight.
The SBDU seemed to stop stamping their H reference on frames towards the end of 1979, meaning the frames coming out of Ilkeston at the beginning of the 80s would only have the SB frame number stamp and nothing to identify a frame as somehow different. I guess from this point on, the only reference to a specific build or geometry would be shown on the paperwork and build sheets that followed the frame and fork through its production, eventually ending up in Ilkeston’s records. If your frame does have an H reference then you still really have no idea what the ‘H’ was all about unless you have original documentation; that is why I try and measure, document and figure out all my frames.
I’ve been itching to bring the original paint on this frame back to life ever since it arrived last week. And even though SB3505 is already in great condition, it never fails to amaze me how well these frames respond when I give them a wipe with paint renovator and some polish. After successes with other frames in the last couple of months, I had a feeling this one wasn’t going to disappoint…
The process of purchasing SB3505 was super smooth… a late Friday evening email, additional images on the Saturday, deal done on the Sunday morning, packaged on Sunday evening, dispatched and collected on Monday and delivered by lunch time on the Tuesday… A lovely bike at a good price! Packaged together with the Reynolds 753 frame and fork was a Campagnolo Super Record headset, BB and Pista cranks. SB3505 has taken its place in the collection.
It’s been a busy week. Two SBDU frames have been received, unpacked, documented and blogged. SB1500 was intriguing, it didn’t need any clean up at all, I’ve left it exactly how it arrived; the story with that frame was amazing. While I was blogging about that frame, SB5084 was sitting in the corner crying out for some TLC, so with a couple of days over the weekend, I got the polishing cloths and rust treatment out in a bid to try and banish a decade or more of neglect and decay.
I have several frames and bikes in my SBDU collection that constantly vie for top spot. Should top spot go to JR178T, my Jan Raas frame? Should it be SB632, the earliest known Reynolds 753 SB numbered Track frame; the Beryl Burton connection on that frame alone should surely make that a contender? What about the bike that started all this blogging, SB4059, my immaculate 1980 Team Pro 753, or how about SB6398, a time capsule of an original bike with a 753R SBDU frame and a complete Campagnolo Super Record 50th Anniversary Group. Then there is the rare SBDU 753 Dynaflite with Ovoid tubing, SB4409. But what about SB664, an early Carlton Capella lugged Imperial tubed 753 frame, that is also a possibility.
It is a constant battle! And now another frame is fighting for top spot… SB1500, my newest arrival, this has so many possibilities that give it the right to be up there with all the others too.
I’ve been searching and looking to expand my collection into new areas for as long as I’ve been collecting these frames. Up until now I’ve accumulated a good selection of the types of frame that the Specialist Bicycle Development Unit (SBDU) produced. I’ve got beautiful examples of Road, Track, Time Trial and Randonneur. I even have one of the most rare frames produced by the SBDU, one of their ‘Specials’, a 753 Dynaflite. But some types have been elusive! An SBDU Cyclo Cross frame is one type that just doesn’t seem to exist… but I’ve finally managed to find one.
Sometimes my plans for builds go smoothly and sometimes those plans stall and start to back up. I started the rebuild of SB1861 a little while ago when I brought some gleaming shine back to the original paint. But since then, I’ve had a few new frames join the collection, and they jumped straight to the front of the queue. SB518, SB8851 and SB664 have all arrived, they’ve been photographed, documented and blogged about, so now it is time to clamp SB1861 back into the work stand and get this original 1977 SBDU bike back on the road.
After working out that SB664 was built from an early type of Imperial Reynolds 753 tubing, I wanted to use the calipers and metal rule again to try and figure out what type of use the frame was built for. Was the geometry designed specifically for Road or Time Trial; the outward appearance such as the frame transfers suggest that it is probably an SBDU Time Trial frame. SB664 is an early SB numbered 753 frame and was probably ordered in first part 1976 or even in late 1975. Reynolds 753 was brand new, it had only just been shown to the public in trade shows and it wasn’t widely available outside of the TI-Raleigh team. So what was this frame designed to be?
In the beginning there was Metric Reynolds 753 tubing, and then later in 1982, a new Imperial Reynolds 753 tube was introduced. The new tube, called 753R, had different diameters, different gauges and was slightly heavier than the original Metric tube. And that’s how it was always known… Metric 753 before 1982 and Imperial 753 available after 1982. That seems quite straightforward doesn’t it?
There is no long winded waffle from me on this post, at least that is the intention… it’s hopefully just a short introduction about a new addition to the collection. There WILL be many more posts about this frame; this frame could fill my blog with new content for an entire year. It has some rather special and unique combinations of features that I have not seen on any other Specialist Bicycle Development Unit (SBDU) frame.
Finding bikes built by the Specialist Bicycle Development Unit (SBDU) that aren’t what they appear to be is part of the appeal of bike hunting and collecting for me. These are bikes and frames are hiding in plain sight, often with other builders frame transfers or paint schemes. They are flying under the radar, going unnoticed, and masking their real origins. SB8851 is a prime example. It is fitted with Dave Quinn transfers and came with a story that it was ordered from and built by Dave, but a closer look the at those frame features gave it away.
Back at the beginning of May, I had a weekend of frame repairs! SB4409 had new transfers and a bit of clear coat, while SB6560 had new gear lever bosses brazed into place. Before I tidied up and put the files away, I thought I’d squeeze in one more project; SB632. This is a special little frame that has had a modification at some point in its life to add a gear hanger and increase the thickness of the rear track ends to accommodate road wheels and gearing. This is the first step to restoring SB632 back to how it was originally.
When did the Specialist Bicycle Development Unit (SBDU) at Ilkeston close and relocate to Nottingham? What frame number were they up to at that time? Those are just two of the many questions that surround this seemingly mysterious unit. I’ve been searching for the answer to these questions for as long as I’ve been researching the unit. Late last night, a friend sent me a link to an SBDU bike that may finally answer at least one or maybe both of those two questions.
After selling one of my frames a few years ago (SB447), I promised myself that I wouldn’t sell another. These frames are sought after and I get lots of requests to part with them, but I decline them all. My frames form a very important collection – they document the materials, styles and features that Raleigh’s Specialist Bicycle Development Unit (SBDU) used throughout the lifetime of the unit and I’m close to having an example of most of these styles. However, I had a frame that was a duplicate of another and so I took the opportunity when it came to swap it, with the intention of enhancing my collection.
There has always been lots said on the subject of Reynolds 753, and that doesn’t surprise me. This tubing had such an impact on the sport of cycling; the frames and their riders were breaking records before anyone even knew 753 existed! 753 frames are still sought after 40+ years following their introduction. You can’t go a day without the subject of 753 cropping up on the internet and the online debates and discussions mean that there are always stories and different opinions. But are these stories real and are the opinions accurate? What is truth and what is myth? What are these stories? Have I done enough research and accumulated enough data to either prove or debunk them?
I’ve been itching to take this bike to pieces and to get my first good look at the detail of this frame and today was the day. I purposely haven’t taken many photos of the stripdown process as my hands are usually too oily and dirty to handle the camera, Karen would not be happy if I got oil and grease on the camera kit! But don’t worry, there are still lots of images and there will be lots more when I come to put this little bike back together.