Very early Saracen, or is it?

MisterBin

Dirt Disciple
I recently bought this bike, which on first glance looks like any old mid 1980's frame with some nice components on, but on closer inspection the frame looks like it might have some interesting history to it.
The most obvious identification mark on the frame is the rear brake hanger / cable stop, which is identical to the ones on the “first generation” Saracen and F.W.Evans bikes. I've not found anything else like it on any internet searches (and I've been doing a lot of searches) , and it appears the Saracens soon went to a single piece hanger (which would make sense given the additional production steps for the 3 piece hanger compared to a single piece). Therefore I'm 99.9% certain that this is a Saracen frame, or at least was made late '83 / early '84 in the “Saracen factory”.

I've stripped off the paint under the bottom bracket and the only numbers are a post code.

The components that aren't obvious early '90s replacements are date coded 1983:

Suntour sealed hubs are May '83
Suntour Mountech front mech is July '83
Diacompe 980 canti arms are October '83
The outer chain ring is a Sugino and looks like an '82/'83 AT (the inner rings are Ritchey, not sure how to date these. The cranks are Shimano DX so part of the early '90s upgrade/refurb)
The crazy SR MTE-100 seat post has a “D 84” code so appears to be a bit later, April 84? A bit of a curve ball but could have been swapped in a shop or something.

Now it gets interesting. There are a number of features on the frame that don't fit with the 3-piece brake hanger bikes that I've seen on here (e.g Breezerboy's Evans and UncleJack's Saracens, among others)

1. The frame has bosses for a portage strap and pump brackets behind the seat post. These may be optional extras or part of a higher specification model? (I have seen a later ('85 ?) single piece brake hangar frame with portage strap mounts http://deadrats.co.uk/gallery-1980s-sar ... m-cruiser/ )
2. There are cable guides on each side of the head tube for the gear cables. (a similar, but simple tubular, guide is on the later Kili Flyers, but they don't have lugged head tubes and have a single piece rear canti-hanger.) Again this could be to differentiate a higher spec model , however...
3. The gear cables are routed above the bottom bracket with Campagnolo braze on cable guides. All the early Saracen/Evans bikes I've seen have the cables go under the bottom bracket.
4. The seat stays do not have braze ons below the canti hanger for a pannier rack.
5. The chamfered end tops of the seat stays are concave like UncleJack's bikes but do not have any brand name stamped in them.

Now, the Saracen advert that appeared in June 1984 (http://www.retrobike.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=16983 ) shows a bike with no pannier braze ons and the rear gear cable appears to run along the top of the chain stay, so it looks like it has the cable guides on top of the bottom bracket. I don't know what the lead time for a magazine advert would have been in 1984, so how long before June they would have had to photograph a bike. Did the very first Evans/Saracen bikes have cables routed over the top of the bottom bracket and have no pannier mounts ? Is the advert bike (and perhaps mine) a “pre-production” one, before they settled on a design for series production ? Did Saracen make a few bikes before the Evans “partnership” sold through other outlets? Did Saracen (or Brian Staples's company that went on to become Saracen) make mountain bike frames for other outlets that weren't branded as Saracen/Evans ? (bit if supplementary info here about the birth of Saracen:http://www.classiclightweights.co.uk/bu ... lders.html . It mentions Staples re-badged some Japanese bikes early on, but I've looked at various '83 Japanese bikes/catalogues and none have the distinctive brake hanger. An '83 Shogun is a very similar bike though)
The final bit of the mystery is the paint. The frame has been painted with what looks like Dulux gloss at some point, but under this is a “proper” coat of “egg yolk” yellow. There is yellow over-spray inside the head tube. There are no decals anywhere. It is said that the first Saracens were either black or red, and the Evans bikes silver. It's quite possible that someone has stripped it and resprayed it yellow perhaps when it had it's early '90s "upgrades". If so how likely is it that all traces of the original paint would have been removed ? When factory sprayed how much over spray would end up in the head tube/bottom bracket etc, and would survive sand blasting when repainted ? I'm still in the process of stripping off the old paint to see what I can find, (and waiting to get a tool to knock the head set cups out and an old-fangled bottom bracket spanner) but so far there is no evidence of anything other than yellow.

I'm probably going to go with a black respray unless a good reason it was originally yellow turns up. I'm not too sure what to do about decals, it's most probable it's a Saracen so I'll probably go with that (UncleJack, if you're watching where did you get the decals for yours? Gil ?) I'll then replace the obvious non-original parts and ride it.

So there you have it. Feel free to add any information or suggestions you might have, hopefully we might learn more about the dawn of UK MTB manufacturing :) If you think it's something other than a Saracen can you “show your working”, as I said previously I've looked at a lot of '80s mountain bike pictures and while some frame details are common on lots of other bikes of the period the 3 piece brake hanger seems to be unique to the Saracen built bikes. (I'm aware of the Dave Yates Vulcan, that is slightly different, I'm pretty sure this isn't a Dave Yates :) ).

Oh, and has anyone contacted the modern Saracen company to see of they have any archive information that might fill in the gaps around this very early period, GrahamJohnWallace perhaps?

Photos:
rb-IMG_1505.jpg


Rear brake hanger:
rb-IMG_1518.jpg


Head tube cable guides:
rb-IMG_1540.jpg


Above bottom bracket cable guides:
rb-IMG_1532.jpg
 

Cavalier

Retro Guru
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A Saracen made Evans sold on this forum a few months ago with that delicate looking rear hanger so that definitely seems the most logical conclusion.
There's a forum member here by the name of 'Stanny' whose dad used to own Saracen so he could be worth looking up.
Good detective work so far by the way!
 

drcarlos

Retrobike Rider
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Do you have a shot of the seat stay bridge? My old 87 Kili flyer shared the headtube braze-ons that stop the cables scuffing the frame but it also had what looked like a dice in the middle of the round tube that I haven't seen on any other frame. Mine was a handmade lugless 531 bluemels frame in the last year that they were still produced in the UK, the frame production I was told moved fully overseas in 1988 I was told.

Carl.
 

MisterBin

Dirt Disciple
Hello Carl, do you mean like on this one: http://www.retrobike.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=225478 ?
That has a "square" bit in the middle of the seat stay bridge and has the head tube cable guides, but the cable guides and cable stop are both simple "tubes" , whereas my bike has a fancy guide with a circular bit cut out the middle, and all the cable stops are spherical. The later bikes were also fillet brazed or welded rather than lugged like mine.
Here's a pic of the seat stays showing the bridge, end tops and brake hanger:
crop-IMG_1541.jpg
 

MisterBin

Dirt Disciple
Thanks Videojetman.
Stanny has been in touch and says he once had a blue '84 Conquest, so the Black, Red or Silver (Evans) palette isn't 100% strict. As it looks to be some sort of limited run or one off anyway I'll probably keep it yellow and use black decals.
 

Dare

Senior Retro Guru
Which ever bike this is it really looks high quality and definitely worth saving!
Are you going to start soon; I am really looking forward to see what you will do with it.
 

MisterBin

Dirt Disciple
I've already started :) The bike is stripped down and I'm currently removing all the paint from the frame. This is taking a lot longer than anticipated because Nitromors no longer contains anything resembling paint stripper. I wanted to "manually " strip the paint rather than just send it off to be sand blasted and resprayed in case there was any "evidence" to it's origins under the old paint.
 

MisterBin

Dirt Disciple
I'd given up on finding anything other than yellow paint and then during today's stripping session a tiny sliver of gloss black over grey primer appeared from under the yellow! This adds to the evidence that it is a Saracen built about the same time as the one in the Bicycle Action magazine advert was made. Plus it's good news because they look way more cool in black than it would in yellow :D

black%20paint.jpg
 

MisterBin

Dirt Disciple
I had time this weekend to finish the forensic paint stripping and it's thrown up a few more questions than it's answered :?

It's definitely Reynolds 501 because "REYNOLDS 501" is just visible on the top tube and seat tube.

The pump pegs look like they've been brazed on using a different "solder", or what ever it's called, to the main frame. It looks much more "silver" than the brassy colour of the main frame parts. The brazing on the cable guides each side of the head tube may or may not be different, it's hard to tell, but one thing that is evident is they have not been put on at equal height and the brazing doesn't look as high quality as the rest of the frame.
The extra bosses for the portage strap again may or may not use the same brazing solder but what is evident is they are different to the bottle bosses - they have a wider "wall", and the one under the top tube is not central under the tube.

So it's highly likely these parts were added after the frame was manufactured, possibly after it was sold and when the frame was stripped of its black paint to be painted yellow.

Now the really weird bit. As mentioned previously, all the early Saracens I've seen have the gear cables going under the bottom bracket, except for the one photographed for the June 1984 Bicycle Action advert. Close inspection of this frame revealed that the frame originally had the cables running under the bottom bracket. You can make out brazing marks where the cable guides were brazed to the under side of the BB tube, and also see where the cable stop on the under side of the chain stay has been ground off. The cable stop on the top of the chain stay is different to the ones on the down tube and looks like it is the type supplied with the Campagnolo cable guide braze on set. What is also odd is that two of the "rear" cable guides are used each side above the bottom bracket rather than the longer front mech one that would normally be used in this arrangement. (here's what the set looks like: http://velobase.com/ViewFramePart.aspx? ... p;AbsPos=0

So, more questions. Was it some sort of "prototype" thrown together at Saracen ? Or more likely, was it "upgraded" by someone when they resprayed it yellow ? But why change the gear cable runs ? If the guide under the bracket or the chain stay cable stop had been damaged I would have thought it would be easier just to replace the damaged part.
We'll probably never know, so it's off to the painters to get repainted black. I'm keeping the extra "features" because they're part of its history and I'm not sure what "original factory spec" would have been anyway.

Photos:
Reynolds marking on seat tube
BareFame_ReynoldsSeat.jpg


And top tube
BareFrame_ReynoldsTop.jpg


Brazing marks where cable guides were under BB
BareFrame_BB.jpg


Different bosses for bottles and portage strap
BareFrame_Bosses.jpg


Chainstay cable stop ground off
BareFrame_RearBoss.jpg


Wonky cable guides
BareFrame_wonkybosses.jpg
 
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