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.
Bikes do not get more original than this! Original owner, original paint and original components. After a 500 mile round trip, SB1861 is on the workbench.
SB1861 dates to late 1977/early 1978 (there will be more on the date in the next post); it is built from Reynolds 531 Double Butted tubing with all the features you would expect for this era 531 SBDU Ilkeston frame. Original frames like this are so important for confirming paint and features on my SBDU timeline.
It is Easter and I am loving the amount of time I’ve had in the workshop this weekend. I’m getting stuck into a couple of projects. Today is the turn of SB6560, a 531c 1984 Services des Courses frame that needs a small frame repair. I prepped the frame for this repair a few weeks ago and now have some time to finish the job.
The Easter weekend has given me some free time so I decided to work on a couple of projects. SB4409 was the first frame to get some attention. It’s been sitting in the workshop for a few weeks while I continue to look at the amazing profile of these unique 753 oval tubes. The colour has grown on me too and it is now time to return the transfer scheme back to original.
Over the last couple of years the amount of people seeking anything painted black red and yellow has spiralled. So many Raleigh frames are getting a fresh coat of paint and transformed into the colours of the TI-Raleigh team. Some are done well while some are… well, some are just really lacking. Looking to copy the TI-Raleigh scheme is not necessarily a bad thing, after all, the TI-Raleigh team are legendary in cycling and the colours are famed. But for me, I’ve always celebrated the history of the SB bike and the craftsmanship of the unit more than the team and the colours. After all, the TI-Raleigh scheme was just one of the many options produced by the SBDU. So should you preserve, restore or renovate your frame?
I thought I had moved away from using tubs, but I had second thoughts about them after I decided to rebuild the wheels on SB5794 with some MAVIC GP4 rims. So using GP4 rims and having no choice, I’ve been dragged back into the process of prepping rims and tubs, and the smell of rim cement is floating around the workshop while I’m picking dried cement from my finger tips! The memories are flooding back…
It’s been a little while, but SB5794 is finally getting the wheels that it deserves! When I initially built this bike I just used the set of wheels that came with the 6207/6208 600EX group when I bought it; those wheels had Shimano 6400 7 speed hubs (I fitted a 6 speed cassette to be compatible with the gear levers). The wheels also had later period MAVIC MA40 clincher rims, and I always intended to bring the wheels back to period spec by using some old MAVIC GP4 rims I had from a previous bike, with some correct spec 6207/6208 hubs I had picked up. Fitting these hubs will complete the group set, and it will be nice to experience tubular tyres again… Won’t it?
This is post number two looking at new arrival SB632, and I’m measuring geometry. How will this frame measure up? What size is it? How long (or short) is it? What angles does it use? What is the bottom bracket height? Does the fork clearance affect the frame geometry and size? More importantly, will the geometry give me any clues to enable me to pinpoint what this frame is? Lots of questions needing lots of answers!
Oh, and this is also my 100th published TI-Raleigh SBDU blog post! A small milestone that I’m very proud of.
It’s not often I write a quick blog post, but this is just too exciting to wait for a full and detailed review – so here is a short teaser of what just landed in the workshop! This is a really amazing and rare SBDU frame – there will be more to write on this one in a little while, but for now, I’d like you to meet SB4409, a 1981 753 Dynaflite.
Sometimes my frames come to me without any signs of originality meaning that I can’t accurately identify them. There is seldom a known history to accompany a 2nd hand frame. SB7121 was a classic example of this. I bought it on a whim, based on a basic description which indicated that it was probably a Reynolds 753 frame. The frame number dated it to 1985 and it had a hand painted finish with ‘Wheel Craft’ frame transfers, but underneath the paint, it was 100% an SBDU. I wrote an initial blog post on the frame but always wanted to come back and dig deeper and take a proper look into what it was.
I’ve been working through my collection of frames, and next on the list is SB6560, a 531c Services des Courses 1984 frame in the ’84 team Panasonic Raleigh colours. I’ve moved this up the list as I really want to get a Panasonic schemed bike built to fit in with the Raleigh Banana (SB8868) and TI-Raleigh (SB3800) that I have built in the last few months.
This post isn’t necessarily about the SBDU, but I thought I’d write it as I get asked regularly to confirm seat pin sizes, or to try and decipher what an SBDU frame might be made from based on the seat pin and tube size. After collecting several SB frames over the years, I’ve seen lots of different seat pin sizes used in Reynolds frames. I have seat pins ranging from 26.6 to 27.4 – and 753 frames with 4 different size pins. That demonstrates just how varied their tube gauges were. So here is a little post that lists some of the most common seat pin sizes and the associated Reynolds tube gauge (wall thickness).
To say that I’m happy with how 2017 has started is an understatement! My first SBDU bike for the year is built and it is stunning. My 753R Raleigh Banana is complete; and it has been such an enjoyable build to do. From getting the 753R SBDU frame looking its very best with new transfers, to working with probably the greatest group set ever made, Shimano Dura-Ace 7402, it has been a joy to work on this bike.
I’ve been collecting a few items for this build since getting my hands on the frame in December last year. It’s been a bit of a stretch as Christmas has drained funds, but I now think I’ve got all the components needed to get this built. I’m not putting myself through the ordeal of going for a period correct team build. Instead, I’m going for all the things that I love in bikes and bike components. This means I will actually come close to team spec, but retain some freedom to tailor the build for the parts that I like and the overall look that I prefer.
** This post was updated in June 2017 and can be found at this link **
My attempt to define a date timeline for SBDU frame numbers was published in July 2016 and has so far stood up to the test. That blog post hopefully provides some substance and reasoning behind my opinions and shows why I think SB numbers fall into specific years. I wanted to add reasons and facts to back up my theory, I didn’t want to add another random list of numbers to the numerous internet lists that already exist. I found two important periods difficult to define, one of them was the end of the SBDU at Ilkeston. So have things changed since that post was published?
Where do I even start to describe how much of a great year 2016 was? And how on earth am I going to try and beat it in 2017? I remember I had exactly the same feelings at the end of 2015 – that year had seen me double my readership over the previous year. But 2016 has seen so much more! I’ve had record breaking days, record breaking weeks and record breaking months – so how am I ever going to live up to that! That is the dilemma facing me as I start the new year.
I don’t think my blog would be read by as many people if it wasn’t for the images that accompany each post. I might be in the studio with a full frame DSLR, back drops and lights, or in the workshop with just an iPhone and window light, but wherever I am, I try to cover everything I do with at least one image.
It’s been a couple of years since I first wrote a little about the ‘H’ reference number. This is the reference you sometimes see under the bottom bracket of an SBDU frame. Well since then, I’ve dug into the SBDU data, written a couple of timelines and become a bit more clued up on that ‘H’ letter.
The time is 9PM on Thursday 15th December 2016 and my SBDU obsession has recently added the latest frame to my collection. The collection currently totals 17 SBDU frames and bikes. When I look at these frame and bikes it amazes me how many times I can break them down into different sub-categories, or smaller, more specific collections. So out of these 17 frames and bikes, what smaller collections do I have…