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.
I don’t buy from eBay that often, but I still keep watching the listings for these hidden gems. A little over a week ago this bike popped up in one of my searches…
SB8851 was listed as a Dave Quinn hand built 753 frame and it certainly had Dave Quinn transfers. However, it looked very SBDU’ish. It also had some really nice parts fitted to it, a few Campagnolo Record pieces, Suntour Superbe Pro derailleurs and Modolo brakes. No one else was bidding so I waited till the end of the auction and entered the opening bid… a few seconds later that opening bid was also the winning bid and it was mine!
SB8851 is actually an SBDU Services des Courses (SDC) frame, built with Reynolds 753R tubing and dating to 1988. The big problem was that postage wasn’t offered, so after a little chat with the seller, we agreed a time and date for me to travel down to North Wales and collect it. Sometimes you have to be prepared to travel to get what you want.
On a rare, spare weekend, I got up early on the Sunday, had a cup of coffee and set the the postcode into Sat Nav. It told me that I had 287 miles to reach my destination and it would take me 4 hours and 48 minutes. A round trip of 574 miles and hopefully taking no longer than 10 hours if I added a couple of quick breaks during the drive! The roads were good to me and I was back home by 8PM with a bike, a pizza and a bottle or two of beer…
Without wasting any time, the bike was on the workbench the next day. It has a strange mix of parts, some quite new looking and some, such as the wheels, that look like they’ve been used before. The frame apparently only covered 200 miles before the owner bought a car and said goodbye to his cycling days.
The frame is in original paint and the Reynolds frame and fork transfers are also original. The Campagnolo Record chainset and Look pedals look really clean. The crank arm has some slight shoe rub, but the pedals which normally get scratched and scraped, are just a little dirty, they definately haven’t seen much use, this matches with the sellers story.
The brake levers are Modolo Kronos, a favourite with time trialists. The bars are Cinelli 67-39 PISTA. The Pista bar would be something more at home on a Track bike, but any type of bar is usable for any type of bike if the shape and drop are what the rider is looking for. These were possibly fitted to this bike for the round shape and depth of drop.
I’ve included images of the bar tape for one reason… and that is to show what can happen when bar tape is wrapped from the top of the bar to the bottom, especially on shaped bars like these. The edge of the bar tape is left exposed and your hand grip and body weight pushes against the tape and causes it to loosen. I always tape from the bottom to the top to prevent this problem.
The derailleurs are Suntour Superbe Pro. These are excellent quality and work really well, and they are very light too. Wheels are made up of Campagnolo Record hubs with Mavic GEL280 rims. The Continental tubs don’t appear to have had much use.
A couple of things I noticed about the bike were that the adjustable cup and lock ring on the Record BB didn’t look right; the cup appeared to be sitting too far into the frame and the lock ring wasn’t fully attached. The Record headset also had a lot of movement but felt stiff when turning the bars. Something wasn’t right…
This model of chainset has self extracting centre bolts which are great for easy crank removal. However, they require a 7 mm allen key which you won’t find in many standard allen key sets. Once the cranks were removed, the problem with the adjustable cup could be seem clearly. And the problem was explained when I took the bottom bracket out of the frame…
Sadly, whoever fitted this bottom bracket has, for whatever strange reason, used two different sizes of bearings, one correct and one too small. The smaller bearing has forced the adjustable cup to screw in too far to remove the slack that these bearings would have introduced. If this was a ‘professional’ bike mechanic they should be ashamed. What I found in the headset should mean that the mechanic should be sacked. The reason the headset was loose but also felt rough was due to the lower bearings being fitted upside down.
The person who fitted this headset and BB clearly has no mechanical ability. Thankfully I don’t think this bike has been ridden since this work was done so the bearing surfaces haven’t been damaged. This is why I strip every bike I get.
It doesn’t take long to strip a bike and once a bike has been completely taken apart, I bag up every part and store them away until I get time to clean them.
I’ve now got a mini SBDU Nottingham collection. SB8851 is my 3rd Nottingham frame (future blog post alert just there)! I also have SB8868, a 753R SDC in Banana colours and Dura-Ace 7400, and SB8945, another 753R SDC which I have a future plan for. SB8868 and SB8945 are both 753R and both take a 27.4 mm seat pin; this frame takes a 27.2 mm pin. All three have the beautifully contoured Cinelli ‘spoiler’ bottom bracket shells.
I think I’m going to have to devote an entire section of my blog site to Nottingham SBDU frames!
SB8851 is stamped on the BB and fork column. It is also stamped with the size of 54.5 (centre of BB to top of seat lug). This frame is too small for me, but I’m a collector and I’m always looking for bikes and frames to add to my collection. I bought this frame because is was so new… or at least claimed to have only been ridden for 200 miles and I wanted that in my collection.
That story may well be true as the inside surfaces of this frame are immaculate, they are clean and free from dirt and corrosion.
The inside of the BB, inside the frame tubes and the condition of the fork column are like new. The only marks on this frame are from storage and from where someone has slipped with a bottom bracket spanner. I don’t think I’ve seen a cleaner ‘used’ frame… and I’ve seen thousands of frames!
The frame has Shimano vertical frame ends and Shimano fork ends. The fork crown is the Cinelli SCA – I love the style and shape of these aero crowns.
Before I stripped this bike, I put it on the scales and the weight came in at 19.2 lbs. That weight, combined with certain items of the spec indicates to me that this was probably used on a few time trials before being put into storage for 28 years.
This frame deserves to be a Raleigh, it isn’t a Dave Quinn, it needs to have the Raleigh livery, and I have some replacement transfers coming from H Lloyds. I also have a spare, period correct, Raleigh head badge to fit to the head tube. I’ll give the frame a good wipe over with Paint Renovator, treat those little areas of surface corrosion and then give the frame and fork a polish before fitting those transfers.
I have a plan for all of my frames, but sometimes those plans take a long time to fulfil. My plan for SB8851 is to add to the Campagnolo Record parts already with the bike and build it with a full group – that may take some time as parts such as Delta brakes don’t come cheap. I have a period Super Record 753 SBDU and a period Super Record 50th Anniversary 753 SBDU, so I’m hoping to add a 1988 period Campagnolo Record equipped bike to that mini collection.
I can’t wait to get those Dave Quinn transfers off!