Blog General Topic SBDU Ilkeston SBDU Nottingham

For the Love of the SBDU. Building a Collection and Writing a Blog

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.

Yes, little old me, actually talking to people all over the world. It’s a commitment. Running my blog is hard work, it consumes so much time. I didn’t have a clue that it would turn out like this way back in 2011, I was just a guy with a frame and a thirst for knowledge.

I don’t really write personal posts. I’m not an open book or social butterfly. My mam once told me I was “as deep as the ocean”. I don’t open up very often, or even at all, and I keep my thoughts to myself. But something just got to me earlier and I felt the need to write some words.

Every day can be a challenge. The internet is a weird and wonderful place. It can also be a very strange place. SPAM can consume a blog and spam comments are a curse, they come in by the 100’s. But sometimes hidden deep inside the spam are real comments, so I spend time reading spam just to make sure that I can sift out your comments and requests and respond to them.

Every day can be a challenge. The internet is full of experts. My data and the posts I write are questioned on a seemingly daily basis but so far, everything I’ve written has proved time and again to be correct. It can sometimes take as little as 30 minutes to hammer away at the keyboard and publish a post… more often though it takes much longer. It can take months to write a blog post because my posts can be quite technical and detailed, that requires a high level of accuracy and that requirement for accuracy takes a massive amount of time, research and fact checking.

Every day can be a challenge. I have contact through my blog, contact through comments, contact through my email, contact through my TI-Raleigh Facebook page and contact on personal messenger. I can spend hours replying to emails and messages… but I try and answer them all. I try my best to answer everything as well as I can. The vintage bicycle world can sometimes be a secretive place – maybe people think knowledge is power and they don’t like sharing, they want to keep their knowledge to themselves – that’s not me, I’ll happily talk for hours.

Every day can be a challenge. So why do I do it?

It all comes back to the passion. A passion that drives me on to do what I do.

The last couple of months have been hard. Regular challenges can take their toll on even the hardiest, and the feeling of it all being a constant one sided ‘take’, and the feeling of being taken for granted has been hard to suppress recently.

I actually took my TI-Raleigh Facebook page and this entire blog offline earlier. I came to a point today where those daily challenges got too much. I had a feeling that it was becoming all ‘take’ and no ‘give’, and even though it can sometimes feel a lot like that, the passion and the desire to share what I do made me flick the switch and bring it all back online again.

My collection and my blog mean everything to me, they are both part of my life now. That might sound silly, but it’s true. The frames and bikes I own have helped to provide the knowledge and that knowledge fills the pages of my blog – my collection has enabled me to do everything I do. Without my collection there is no blog!

So I’m going to work on those feelings and continue to quash the daily challenges and continue to share what I learn. If you want to know something then just ask, I’ll continue to answer. I never expect anything in return but it’s so nice when it happens and helps to make my efforts feel worthwhile.

Anyway, enough of all that, let’s back to blogging!


  1. I have to admit to being a taker. I just love reading this blog which takes me back to my serious biking days in the 70s. I relate to everything you write so please keep it up. Kenn

    1. Hi Kenn

      There is always another side to the public side of anything, like a duck, everything graceful on top of the water but paddling like crazy underneath. For all those that do appreciate, there are masses who don’t.

      You give with the comments you leave. Comments are great feedback to receive, it is always nice to know people are reading what I write, and even better to know that it takes people back. The feelings behind this particular blog post are about the constant drain for knowledge, the tap always seems to be switched on but very few give back… even a simple thank you is difficult to come by sometimes.

      But I just like to share so I’m determined to continue.

    2. Your blogs are truely insightful and very much appreciated .I thoroughly enjoy your detail and passion for the SBDU.
      Don’t be discouraged, stay course.
      I Look forward to more,

  2. Dear Neil, I use your given name because after all these years quietly reading and watching, I feel that I’ve gotten to know you… a tiny bit. I really liked this post and I empathize muchly.

    Earlier this morning, I got my Raleigh down from the wall to pump up its back single (goes down over a few days – not worth bothering with while it’s spending most of its life as a hanger now). Mine is one of the gold-coloured frames, SB2873, which you have taught me was likely built in 1979.

    I’m currently considering trading up from my 5 y.o. carbon-framed, 105-equipped racer to something a bit newer, a bit brighter (I have my 61st birthday approaching!!), and it occurred to me that my beloved old Raleigh is now worth a lot more than I paid for it. I reckon this is partially thanks to your encyclopaedic blogs, partially due to the passage of time and the fact that old codgers like me, with a bit of disposable income for toys and hobbies, are fond of collecting the best of the old bikes from “the good old days”.

    So there I was, looking at “Sir Walter” – I confess, that’s what I call my Raleigh – and I was calculating the size of the contribution it could make to the price of something new, and flash, and fast, and …. plastic. But after reading this blogpost, I’ve come to my senses. Phew. Thank you, Mr McGowran. We love these old Raleighs because they represent the very best of British steel bikes from that era, and we’ve ridden some (in my case – just the one) and we know that they are something special, something that is very very difficult to put a $$ value on.

    So Sir Walter is back on his lounge, waiting for another calm, sunny day and a phone call to a couple of mates…
    and I’ll just make do with a cheaper new plastic racing bike, for riding with the gang, in whatever weather Albany Western Australia decides to throw at us.

    thanks again for all your educational posts, and keep riding.
    Peter G Morris
    Western Australia

    1. Thank you Peter, you brought a smile to my face and “Sir Walter” made my wife chuckle.

      These old bikes should spend their retirement in a nice warm lounge and taken out for exercise occasionally, they deserve that. They’ve worked hard and survived. All too often though they are simply traded as commodities, hauled around the internet, bid on by speculators and transported around in boxes and vans.. for what..? For a few months appreciation before a new piece of shiny steel catches the eye and the trading process starts again.

      Thanks again for making me smile, please say thank you to Sir Walter too.


  3. Neil,

    Just wanted to say your blog is one of my favourite places on the web. It takes me back to my youth to a time when I fell in love with and lusted after these bikes with their iconic colouring. I’m still lusting after one and maybe someday..
    In the meantime your blog fills a painful void. Please persevere and thank you for all the effort you put into this.


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