I’ve planned before and never got there, I’ve bought a ticket before and never got there, but this year I actually did get there. Karen and I booked up, bought tickets, sorted parking, arranged an Airbnb nearby in Buxton, packed the van and headed out on the three hour trip from Newcastle to Eroica Britannia.
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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).
** 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?