It’s been a busy week. Two SBDU frames have been received, unpacked, documented and blogged. SB1500 was intriguing, it didn’t need any clean up at all, I’ve left it exactly how it arrived; the story with that frame was amazing. While I was blogging about that frame, SB5084 was sitting in the corner crying out for some TLC, so with a couple of days over the weekend, I got the polishing cloths and rust treatment out in a bid to try and banish a decade or more of neglect and decay.
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.
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.
Sometimes my plans for builds go smoothly and sometimes those plans stall and start to back up. I started the rebuild of SB1861 a little while ago when I brought some gleaming shine back to the original paint. But since then, I’ve had a few new frames join the collection, and they jumped straight to the front of the queue. SB518, SB8851 and SB664 have all arrived, they’ve been photographed, documented and blogged about, so now it is time to clamp SB1861 back into the work stand and get this original 1977 SBDU bike back on the road.
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.
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.