It’s just over six years since I fastened the first component to this frame and four or five years since I completed the first build on a long road to making this the best example of a restored TI-Raleigh Team Pro 753 that I could make, and now the time has come to take SB4059 apart. Yes, I am taking it apart to make it even better. Each step in building SB4059 has added a bit more accuracy and detail. Then a little while ago I blogged about fitting some NOS black Campagnolo brake cables, which meant that there were only two more items stopping this bike from being perfect, they were the top tube and Reynolds frame transfer, transfers that have really bugged me since day one of the journey.
Having a large collection of SBDU frames means that I’ve accumulated most of the various features that they built with. Fork ends are one such area of the frame design where I have an almost complete set, ranging from the earliest 531 frames produced at Ilkeston using Campagnolo 1010/A, through to frames produced at Raleigh’s Special Products Division using their own ‘RALEIGH’ stamped ends.
eBay! Love it or loathe it, every now and then it does serve a purpose.
Personally I loathe it and while I’m definately not a fan, it has actually accounted for a small amount of my new arrivals. I do prefer to collect frames that fly under the radar but sometimes you see a frame that is too nice and too special to ignore. So I watch the bids and try to figure out where an item’s price is going and what, if anything, it could add to my SBDU collection. On balance, SB9000 had more positives than negatives. The benefits I’d gain for my collection outweighed the one big negative which was that it had been viewed by thousands online and I clearly wasn’t the only bidder who wanted it.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
I take all my new bikes apart! It’s what I do. There will always be a ‘Strip down’ blog post.
I don’t want to be riding someone else’s problems. Every nut and bolt gets separated and checked and greased and re-assembled. It means that when I ride a bike, I already know all about it and any issues it might have, I don’t want any hidden gremlins spoiling the ride.
It’s amazing what you can find on your doorstep. SB6398, an SBDU 753 with a Super Record 50th Anniversary group set was hiding less than 20 miles from me; an amazing bike, in my size too. So what do you think were the chances of finding another SBDU 753 in my size, this time in TI-Raleigh colours, within 20 miles of me? Well the chances were good, it has just happened. Say hello to SB3800, a 1980 Team Pro 753.
This is the post I’ve been most looking forward to writing and also fearing with equal measure… Reynolds 753 was a tube set that took the bicycle world by storm. It had unrivaled strength while being ultra light and thin for a steel tube. It is probably the most mis-understood tube set and the one that has the most stories connected to it.
I’ve wanted to write this post for a while, and I’ve tried to start and structure it a few times, but it has been difficult getting to grips with the scale of the subject. There was often either too much conflicting information or sometimes a complete lack of information about Reynolds tubes. Hopefully I’ve got a good grasp now, although it has still taken longer than expected to get all of this out of my head and crammed into a short, informative and hopefully coherent blog post.
Frame details…, it is all about those little frame details… Frame details are hard to change. They are individual elements, fitted to tubes and formed into a frame when the torch melts the filler. Paint and decals are not the same, they can change over time, fooling you and misleading you with a different story… the frame detail should always tell the real story.
The SBDU at Ilkeston used a range of different frame and fork details over the life of the unit. The amount of different details they used means that this post may turn into an epic. I did consider splitting it into 2 smaller posts, pre and post 1980, but as this is ultimately a timeline post, I wanted it to be unbroken, and to start and complete in one go. Hopefully, it will be helpful for anyone doing research into their own SBDU frame. I’ll also try my best to fit dates and years in as I go. If you are a fan of the SBDU or simply need to know these details, then please stick with me. I learnt so much while researching and writing this post, hopefully I can pass this information on to whoever wants to read further!