“Never assume with the SBDU”. That is a phrase I say a lot. It is a mantra I repeat when I’m assessing SBDU frames and bikes. Winding the clock back to 1978 you would think it was safe to assume that the Reynolds 753 tubing type on your frame would be Metric diameter. But remember the mantra, “Never assume with the SBDU”, “Never assume with the SBDU”, “Never assume with the SBDU”.
Recollections are a funny thing. Could you remember details or be precise about a specific date from maybe only a month ago? Could you remember a detail from ten years ago? How about four decades ago? Memories become fuzzy with the passage of time. The brain forgets, and confusion prevails. So what can I figure out about this SBDU Reynolds 753 frame based on the slightly fuzzy information I have?
It was a Thursday evening a couple of weeks ago, and as usual I was sitting in front of the laptop, half watching TV half browsing the internet, when a flashing notification from a new email caught my eye. A quick scan of the first line and reading the words ‘Raleigh 753’ grabbed my full attention.
“I have a c 1977 Raleigh 753 frame made for me when I was researching The Penguin Book of the Bicycle (1978)”Martin Gray
I’ve been collecting for years. I can go for what seems like a lifetime without a new addition while at other times I seem to have new frames coming through the door every week! But while I’ve been busily collecting, I’ve never actually done much with these beautiful bikes and frames to show them off.
I guess it’s a passion… it didn’t start out like this and I never intended it to be like this, the blog just grew quietly, and then it gathered pace, and then it snowballed and before I knew it I was helping people around the globe. I was learning stuff and then sharing everything I knew about TI-Raleigh’s Specialist Bicycle Development Unit and the frames they made. It’s taken over any spare time I have but it comes with it’s own problems.
SB518 is the third frame I have lined up this year to be painted in the TI-Raleigh colours (it’s nice to start the year with a plan). This is a solid frame and has no issues or rust, it needs no frame work and is perfect for a renovation. By the time 2020 comes around I should have this paint scheme well and truly sorted!
I have a few 2019 projects to complete and this is the second such project that happens to be a track frame and the second that needs to be brought back to it’s original TI-Raleigh appearance. The first project I mentioned for 2019 was to repaint JR178T, my Jan Raas frame. SB632 also has a famous name linked to it. Not only is it linked to one of Britain’s most famous cyclists, it is also, so far as I am aware, the earliest known SB numbered Reynolds 753 track frame.
Back in March 2018, a short but interesting email dropped into my Inbox…
I am the son off Roy Schuiten.Rob Schuiten 24th March 2018
I recently found a time trial bike off my fathers. I want to share some pictures and thoughts with you.
That was it, short and sweet, but I was intrigued and answered…
Every now and then I spot something slightly different, something that I struggle to identify but which has the potential to be something nice, maybe even special. Usually I might be the only one to spot it which normally gives me the luxury of a little time to do some research. On this occasion though, several others had also spotted the same frame, so with a growing queue of people forming and all asking me questions about it, I had to commit on a hunch and buy it.
I haven’t written many ‘New Arrival’ posts this year after slowing down my collecting habit and being a bit more picky, so it really is nice to get a new frame on the workbench. An astute eBay bid, a couple of messages followed by a few hours drive and SB8200 was in my hands. This new frame is from 1986, making it a late Ilkeston built frame that appears to follow the spec of the SBDU Randonneur.
Frame weight… it’s often talked about, requested and used as a measure to try and determine tubing type. From my own experience I can see several factors that affect final weight and I frequently see through my own documentation process that frame weight can be very random and time and again I see that it can be impossible to correlate frame weight to frame size to frame tubing.
SB6560 arrived in terrible condition with missing gear lever bosses and poorly applied transfers. It is a frame that has always been overlooked and put on the back burner while other projects came in and took over. Underneath the skin however, it is a lovely 531c SBDU Services des Courses frame that now deserves to hit the top of the project pile!
This isn’t intended to be an Internet resource of Raleigh frame numbers! If you are reading this for anything other than SB number sequences from the SBDU then please make sure you corroborate my information with other resources.
This blog post covers a basic background of things I’ve learnt about Raleigh frame numbering systems during my own research over the last few years, from the introduction of ‘W’ numbers at TI-Raleigh’s Worksop Carlton factory in late 1973, extending through to the late 1990s and Raleigh’s Special Products Division. The only numbers I’m confident about are the Specialist Bicycle Development Unit (SBDU) SB frame numbers at Ilkeston. Some of this blog post, especially the late 80s / early 90s is what I will call ‘work in progress – thinking out loud – still formulating things in my head‘ type of work, there just aren’t enough bikes available at the moment to provide more accurate detail.
Time Trial frame? Road frame? Or a bit of both? What exactly is it?
SB7393 came with a story that it was built and used for time trials and ridden by a junior. I was also told by Rob, the previous owner, that it was a “lively” ride! It looks like a conventional SBDU road bike, but then again, SB time trial frames can look like conventional road bikes too; and with vertical and horizontal ends as options on both types, it is ultimately down to geometry to unravel the puzzle.
I’m gradually working my way through the snagging list on SB4059, all those little jobs that I know about and that require attention are slowly getting done. Not so long ago I swapped the original Campagnolo grey outer brake cables for original Campagnolo black alternatives, and I also updated some of the frame transfers so that SB4059 correctly reflected the 1980 TI-Raleigh scheme. This time I’m repairing the threaded seat lug so that I can fit a correct and original SBDU threaded bolt.
When you have a get a good look at the paint on SB7393 you can see that it isn’t the best. Although it is all there and from a distance it looks ok, there are one or two areas of rust, the paint is dirty, flat and covered in previous brushed on rust treatments with other paint drips and garage related debris including several cobwebs. I was sure when I bought this bike that I could breathe some new life into it. This is the first step…
Now that Eroica Britannia is out of the way and work on SB4059 is complete (for now), I can turn my attention to looking at SB7393. This is a complete Reynolds 531 Professional SBDU bike that I bought a couple of weeks ago. Each part of this bike could cause problems, and now was the time to open the toolbox and see what was in store for me.
It has been a long couple of days but I’ve finally completed this small and difficult project to bring SB4059 up to spec in terms of a 1980 period SBDU TI-Raleigh transfer scheme. Deciding to go for it and wreck the paint on a perfectly good frame meant that there was no going back. Thankfully my patience and care have paid off and SB4059 is done!
I think I must have been slightly bonkers to start this project but the desire to get SB4059 looking correct was too much! That morning when I took a knife to the clear coated transfers left me with a lot of work and once started, I had no option but to continue. And it is all because the person that renovated my frame all those years ago didn’t do their research. The moral of the story… if you are going to do something do it right and do it once.
Another email, another road trip, another bike.
I was sitting with my feet up on holiday at the end of May, just relaxing and watching the boats go by on the Norfolk Broads, when I received an email asking for a valuation on a bike. After a few more emails and some shared pictures, I ended up agreeing to buy it. SB7393 is an original paint SBDU bike built with Reynolds 531 Professional tubing and spec’d with a great selection of parts… and best of all, it is my size, 57cm.
Following on from my previous blog posts about SBDU fork ends and seat stay caps, here is another short post in a series I’m writing about individual areas of SBDU frame design. This time I’ve chosen to write about gear levers, or more precisely, where they are positioned on the downtube. I’m quite sure that many people have never even considered this, after all, they are just levers mounted on a tube. And let’s face it, who actually does think about the small stuff like this… apart from me!
Sometimes when I see a bike that someone else owns I feel a little pang of jealousy, I can’t help it. And that is exactly how I felt nearly two years ago when I was first sent images of SB6827. The images were of a beautiful SB bike, it was original, the red paint was gleaming and all the Super Record parts were in perfect condition – I was then told that it had never been ridden and my jealousy feelings went off the scale.
You probably think seat stays are quite boring, why on earth would I devote a blog post to the two narrow tapering tubes on the back of a frame? Well as you hopefully all know by now, I do like my details, especially the small details! The various designs and subtle differences in seat stays can tell me a lot about an SBDU frame, even the frame age and tubing type.
I currently have six or seven or maybe even eight or more projects and builds happening at the moment. But lots of projects means lots of money, and that is something that is thin on the ground at the moment. Shhh… I’ve been saving for something rather nice so my funds have been temporarily diverted! As well as a lack of available funds, there has also been a lack of nice warm weather – it seems like it has been such a long winter. It’s been so cold and snowy which has meant the garage where I normally apply a little bit of paint has been out of bounds until now. But spring seems to have sprung, the weather has turned and as there appears to be a touch of heat in the air, it is time to divert some of my attention back to my SB6560 project.
I wasn’t planning to do this job today, it just happened. I’d been thinking for the past week about how to tackle the task of removing the transfers from SB4059… the problem is that they are sealed under a good layer of thick glossy clearcoat. While I was standing in the workshop, contemplating what to do, I decided to pick up a sharp blade and couldn’t resist having a sneaky pick at the corner of a transfer, just to see if I could break the seal of the clearcoat and get the blade under the vinyl… and that was it, once I had started I just couldn’t stop. And now there is no going back!
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.