Sometimes I feel the Raleigh Gods look favourably on me and send cool bikes my way. It’s either that, or it’s my dedication to a decade of blogging and networking to get my name out there that does it. Whatever it is, pictures of Alan Oakley’s Raleigh Dynaflite fell into my email inbox, and I muttered a little ‘thank you’ as I scrolled through the images.
There is so much I want to put into this blog post. Sometimes my brain fires off thoughts and works at a pace that is too fast and I struggle to organise the many ideas in my head. I call it Blog Fog, and it can get so bad, it actually prevents me from writing a single word as I simply don’t know where to start. Sometimes I just need to throw words onto the page and go through them, tidy them up, organise them and read through it a million times before hitting the publish button!
Anyway, I’ll try and go through this post as logically as I can, but please forgive me if it jumps about and wanders around.
What’s it all about
It’s all about this bike.
There are two things I know about this bike…
- It’s a rare Raleigh Dynaflite, with ovoid tubing and a Reynolds 753 transfer
- It belonged to Alan Oakley – yep, the guy who designed the Raleigh Chopper
There are several things I don’t know about this bike…
- I don’t know if it was built for Alan, or if he just acquired it from the SBDU
- I don’t know if this was actually a production frame
- I don’t know when it was built, it has no frame number
This was way back in June 2017, and technically it was by me!
A message had been posted on the old Yahoo Team Pro group at the end of May 2017 by a guy selling Alan’s five remaining bikes on behalf of Alan’s widow, Karen. I sent him an email enquiring about the TI 753 bike. His reply was very interesting…
Hi Neil,Reply to my initial enquiry
Thanks for the message. I’ve actually looked through your website as you are the only other person I know who owns a Dynaflight! I bought Alan Oakleys prototype dynaflight off Karen in a lovely light blue with campag super record on it! It’s too big for me but the history blew me away.
That was the first I’d heard about Alan’s Dynaflite, a prototype in light blue! That bike however, wasn’t for sale, as he had bought that from Karen. I think the remaining bikes were heading to auction and I knew my thoughts on price for the TI probably wouldn’t be enough. I’ve either lost the emails or the thread went cold as I have nothing more until just over a week ago.
Four years to the month since that first contact, an email dropped into my inbox. Same guy; he was thinking of selling the Dynaflite and wondered about a price. When a bike like this becomes available you need to be decisive. I told him I was interested and offered a price. And that was it, in less than a week, he had delivered the bike in person.
A little about Alan Oakley
I guess there may be some who don’t know who Alan Oakley is. I wouldn’t really say that I knew him, I knew of him. So there will be many more better sources of information out there. I knew Alan as the man who did the initial sketch of the Raleigh Chopper, I think back in 1967. That is the bike I remember so much from my childhood, but also the bike I never had (and have still never had). It was a bike that was iconic in the 70s and remains iconic to this day.
The bottom image is Alan Oakley and Gerald O’Donovan, in Gerald’s office at SBDU Ilkeston. They are discussing the costs for a change to the tubing profiles of the Raleigh Dynaflite. That image is a ‘still’ from the following video about Alan (this may not be available in all regions).
That video should give you a good insight into who Alan was and what he did.
Comparing with SB4409 (1981 753 Dynaflite)
The story goes that the SBDU produced approx 25 Dynaflite frames (there were almost 10,000 frames with an SB number). The figure of 25 may be true, but there is no way to verify that. However, whatever the true figure, to now have 2 Dynaflite frames is amazing, and Alan’s might even be something that little bit more special too.
At first glance, they look the same. Get up close and give them a careful check and there are differences in almost every area of these frames.
SB numbered 753 frames, up to a point, normally had drilled ends. I have a comprehensive guide to SBDU frame ends available here. SB 753 frame ends weren’t always drilled though. Like many SBDU features, they apply to maybe 95% of frames but there are always exceptions. Drilling was an embellishment rather than a necessity, it was very much a design feature for aesthetics and had no practical purpose.
SB4409 has the Shimano SFR frame ends, with the period drilling feature of 7 holes, this later became 5 holes, before disappearing completely. Alan’s frame has no drillings, in a period when they would normally be expected (if it was a production frame).
Both ends of the seat stays are different between both frames.
Top attachment (seat binder bolt)
Starting at the top, where the seat stays meet the seat binder bolt. On the ‘stamped’ frames I’ve seen, such as SB4409, the seat stays are straight, from the the frame end all the way to the binder bolt. On Alan’s frame, there is a slight curve, a deviation away from straight.
I’ve only seen this slight curve on one other Dynaflite, which I’ll show later in the post.
Bottom attachment (frame end)
I’ve seen 2 different styles used on the Dynaflite frames I’ve seen. SB4409 and Alan’s show both styles. SB4409 is tapered and the stay tapers to the size of the frame end, almost merging to the same size as the end. On Alan’s frame, there is no taper and no merge, the seat stay is a uniform width and overlaps where it meets the frame end.
Seat tube length
There is an obvious difference between SB4409 and Alan’s Dynaflite. It is the amount of seat tube that extends past the top of the top tube.
Alan’s seat tube is cut flush with the top tube. SB4409 extends approx 10mm past the fillet. Some stamped Dynaflite frames have different seat tube clamp arrangements, while SB4409 has a plain tube, others have a modified and cut down lug forming a ring around the top of the tube.
Seat tube transition from round to oval
Dynaflite frames accept a standard round seat pin. The seat tube then transitions from round to oval, you can probably see that change in shape in the images above. However, these 2 frames do this transition differently. Alan’s frame has a sharp abrupt tube change just below the Reynolds frame transfer – this leaves very little round tube for the seat pin. The change is so sharp, it almost creates a step in the tube.
SB4409 has a more gradual change of shape from round to oval, there is less of an abrupt change. The transition also starts lower down meaning that more of the seat pin can be inserted.
Seat pin size
The single bit of round tube on this frame (the small section for the seat pin) is Metric diameter, 28.0mm. On a standard Metric tubed Reynolds 753 frame, the 2 x normal size seat pins are 27.0 or 26.8mm, depending on tube gauge.
SB4409 is 26.8mm – I’m not actually sure if 27.0mm was available on Dynaflite as there are so few examples to check and verify.
The seat pin and tubing diameter of Alan’s frame is very different and not standard at all. It is fitted with a Campagnolo Super Record seat pin marked as ’27’, but the frame isn’t 27.
The seat pin size becomes obvious when you remove it from the frame.
The seat pin has been machined from the base of the flutes. The length of machined pin that fits into the frame is just the right length to fit into the round section before the tube profile changes.
The upper, standard part of the pin is 27.0mm but the altered machined section is 26.4mm.
Bottom bracket cable guides
At some point, a time during 1979, the SBDU moved gear cables from above to below the bottom bracket. The previous routing used brazed cable guides on top of the shell. This changed, and the SBDU used 2 simply ‘cuts’, or slots, in the underside of the shell. As SB4409 is a time trial frame, with a single gear lever boss, it has a single slot.
Below is an image showing the layout of this type of slot/guide on an SBDU road frame using a front and rear derailleur (SB4005).
Alan’s Dynaflite is different. It uses 2 x pipes; enclosed guides that the cable must thread through. I’ve seen approx 1000 SB numbered or team frames, I’ve seen show frames and some rare SBDU frames but I can’t think that I’ve seen this style on any original paint SBDU frame before. My Cyclo Cross frame, SB5084, has a semi enclosed single cable guide.
The SBDU introduced the 2 x slots from approx the start of 1979.
Bottom bracket shell diameter
This is such a small detail, and I wouldn’t have ordinarily looked for it, but my eye caught the detail of how much the fixed cup overlapped the BB shell.
A typical BB shell has a diameter of approx 40mm, and there is no overlap of the fixed cup. These Dynaflite frames clearly don’t use a standard BB with sockets, but they have the same thread and take the same bottom brackets as standard frames. Because the shell on Alan’s frame appeared to have a smaller diameter, I measured and compared it to SB4409.
It’s a small difference, but it is there. SB4409, on the RH side above is approx the std 40mm shell width I’d expect.
Tube joins and profiles
A Dynaflite is all about the tube profile and shape and how those tubes are joined together. Alan’s Dynaflite is very different to SB4409. I’ve already briefly mentioned the shape of the seat tube and how it transitions from round to oval, but there are other differences I’ll mention now.
When Hilary Stone wrote about the Raleigh Dynaflite in the ‘Design Classic’ section of Cycling Plus, he wrote about the Keith Bontrager/Ross Shafer style reinforcement gussets shown on the Dynaflite example he featured in that article.
The same reinforcements can be clearly seen on SB4409, and I’ve seen the same on other Dynaflite frames.
Alan’s Dynaflite has no reinforcements – each tube is joined by a fillet with no other support.
It is only small, but the top tube and seat tube on each frame are different. The top tube on Alan’s bike is thinner and taller. The seat tube on Alan’s bike is also thinner and has a slightly different front profile.
The leading edge profile is incredibly difficult to pick up with the camera, so I’ve wrapped some white paper around the tube which helps a little to show an edge that the camera can see.
This is Alan’s bike…
This is SB4409…
SB4409 almost comes to a blunt point at the front of the tube, whereas Alan’s frame has a clear smooth curve.
Here is a graphic I created attempting to show the difference. These shapes are a representation of the cross sections of each seat tube.
SB4409 has a biaxial top tube, it is ovalised in 2 different directions. A similar type of biaxial tube to Columbus Max, but in reverse. With SB4409, the top tube is taller at the seat tube than at the head tube, but wider at the head tube than at the seat tube. It is a small profile change compared to the obvious Max profile, but it is there. The sketches below attempt to show these shapes.
The top tube on Alan’s Dynaflite is a uniform, tall thin oval shape, along the entire length of the tube.
Every part of the frame on Alan’s Dynaflite is different to my other Dynaflite (SB4409), and different to other ‘stamped’ Dynaflite frames that I’ve seen. Here’s a short list of the differences I’ve written about above.
- Frame ends
- Seat stays
- Seat tube length/extension
- Seat tube oval transition
- Seat pin size
- BB cable guides
- BB shell width
- Tube joints
- Tube profiles
Most of this bike is a mix of Campagnolo Super Record/Record but with the addition of a Shimano Dura-Ace chainset and front derailleur with Weinmann brake levers. The bars are Cinelli with a Cinelli Record (1R) stem. A Cinelli Unicanitor saddle sits on top of the Super Record seat pin. The rims are Mavic Record Du Monde De L’Heure.
The perishable parts seem to have perished long ago. The Clement tubs and brake lever hoods are beyond saving and the black cotton bar tape is damaged in sections.
A minority of the feedback and comments I receive are negative towards the Dynaflite. Personally, I don’t care, I could stare at this bike all day long and marvel at the engineering and thought that was going into this project, which is now over 40 years ago. It’s not just about the tube design, but also how these tubes were joined. A huge amount of skill was required to build these.
“The tubes were mitred accurately and a ring of the normal Silver Flo 66 was bent to shape, very free flowing used for the lugged frames, and placed INSIDE the tube. It was then “teased” out with the torch until a sparkle of the silver solder appeared on the outside. After the joint had cooled, ArgoFlo was used which was a very pasty LOWER TEMPERATURE silver solder. As the name implies it had an element of gold in its make up. It was then possible to build up the significant fillet without melting the initial Silver Flo 66. Yes 753 could be fillet brazed by a builder with enough torch talent.”Mike Mullett – SBDU Workshop Manager (1978 – 82) and Dynaflite Frame Builder
There isn’t a frame number on the frame or fork.
The only visible stamp is a ’59’ on the fork. The ’59’ doesn’t quite match the frame size, which is 58cm ctc (60cm ctt); I’m not sure what it relates to. The stamp is also a smaller and different font to the normal SBDU frame number style. This style and size of stamp does occasionally appear on SBDU forks, but not in relation to frame numbers.
The Campagnolo Super Record rear derailleur has a date code of PAT78, and the Dura-Ace chainset has a date code of DH. Those letters reference August 1979.
I don’t normally put any credence into dating bikes by their parts, I’d rather establish dating evidence on the physical frame, or photographic evidence, not just a replaceable part bolted to the frame. Parts are often changed and upgraded for many reasons. However, I’m reasonably confident that these parts are original. The bike hasn’t done many miles. There wouldn’t have been a need to change much, if anything, on this bike.
Based on parts alone, I’d estimate a build date of mid to late 1979. Well before my 1981 SB4409.
Other early Dynaflite appearances
New York Cycle Show February 1980
This bike below appeared in the NYC show. The NYC shows were typically held in the February.
The keen eyed among you may have noticed the same type of Dura-Ace chainset and front derailleur. This bike is a mix of frame features from Alan’s bike and SB4409. It has a similar seat tube and BB guides to SB4409, but the seat stays are the same as Alan’s.
(Image Credit – Both images belong to Dale Brown who runs the Classic Rendezvous site and the associated discussion group.)
Milan Show November 1979
No pictures this time, but a write up of the November 1979 Milan show that appeared in Bicycling magazine in March 1980.
(Credit – Extract from velo-pages)
The sentence that interests me is…
Several manufacturers displayed ultralight, super-streamlined bikes with (at various times) aluminium adhesive-joining tubes, oval Reynolds 753 steel tubing and all sorts of streamlined components.Fred Delong Bicycling Magazine
Could that late 1979 “oval Reynolds 753” bike be Alan’s?
This Dynaflite is like no other Dynaflite I’ve seen – not that there are many to compare it to! It certainly has the feeling that it isn’t a production model (like SB4409). The machined seat pin and 26.4mm diameter is definately not a standard production method or size.
The lack of any relevant frame stamps make it impossible to date, but it could be mid to late 1979.
There will be more to come as soon as I know it…