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?
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.
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 not got much to write in this post as the pictures will hopefully say everything. This Raleigh Banana has been an awesome bike to build, a real blast from the past. I took it to the studio today to capture it looking its best…
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.
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 build is moving quickly! I found an amazing condition Dura-Ace 7400/7402 series group set from the late 1980s almost immediately after getting my hands on the frame. And when I say amazing condition, I mean absolutely astounding condition. This is an almost perfect Dura-Ace 7402 8 speed group with down tube levers and single pivot SLR brakes. I can’t wait to build this bike!
Sometimes I don’t need to go searching for frames, sometimes frames find me. A few nights ago, a frame popped up on my screen, just a few photographs and a small description. It was a Raleigh Specialist Bicycle Development Unit (SBDU) frame, built in their Nottingham unit. It is a very similar frame to the SB8945 frame that I picked up a few months ago. Sometimes the decision to buy a new frame doesn’t take long to make, and even though I’d just seen a few non-detailed images, I contacted the owner and bought it. It was in my collection a couple of days later.
All of the 50th Anniversary parts that I’ve carefully and patiently cleaned over the last couple of weeks have been re-united with the SBDU Ilkeston 753R frame that they came from. I’ve had a few things on lately so it has taken a little while to get focused on this build again, but all the prep and cleaning has meant a quick and painless build.