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Date of Manufacture for Bicycle Components

[Atom] [Brooks] [Campagnolo] [Dia-Compe and Weinmann] [Huret] [Maillard] [Normandy]
[Nitto] [SR (Sakae)] [Sachs-Huret] [Shimano] [Strong] [Sansin] [Sunshine]
[SunTour (Maeda)] [Sugino] [Tange] [Williams] [Dancing Chain] [Saddles]

 

The date of manufacture of a bicycle's components can often be used to determine the date of manufacture of the bike itself. Some bike parts have a date code cast or stamped into the piece. This clearly is when the component was made and not when the bike was made, but unless the component or bike manufacturer had lots of stock lying around in inventory, the date should be a fairly good indication of the year of the bike. At least it would be the earliest date that the bike could have been made. Of course, all this assumes the bike has the original component.

The most likely components to be original are the stem, handlebars, seatpost, and brakes. The rear derailleur freewheel/cassette and chainwheels are probably the first to be changed on a bike. On a vintage bike in excellent condition (that apparently had a lonely existence in a garage) all of the components likely are original. As the wear on a vintage bike increases, the greater the likelihood components are not original, either through replacement of worn parts or through component swaps. Swaps can take place early in the life of a bike as the proud new owner upgrades to new or used components of higher quality. Swaps also can be made as the bike falls out of favor, or is being sold, where the higher quality components are traded for lower quality ones that the owner had onhand. (Don't all cyclists have boxes and boxes of old components in their garage?)

Most early Treks (1976 through about 1980) were sold as framesets. The components were added by the local bike shop or by the buyer. New components often were used. Components also could be swapped from an existing ride to the new frameset. This makes dating the components an interesting archeological investigation, but one not necessarily related to the date of the bike.

A date code is marked on most or all SR seatposts. Trek owner Larry Osborn made this observation, and suggested this as a supplementary way of dating a Trek (and other bikes as well). Fueled by this first realization, and with the help of other bike folks, Larry and I have sorted out other codes (a project still ongoing). Especially useful, and challenging to sort out and verify, was the Shimano code. Also gathered on this page are date codes decoded and generously provided by others.

For Treks, the SR date markings are especially important. Virtually all of the Treks not equipped with Campagnolo or Shimano Dura-Ace components, started life with some grade of SR seatpost and may also have SR stems, bars or cranks. Even those equipped with Suntour Superbe components usually had SR seatposts.

Many components are marked with size descriptors in addition to component manufacturer's date codes. For example, the back of cranks are usually marked with crank arm length in mm, typically in the range of 165 to 185. Seatposts are marked with outside diameter, also in mm. For old Treks, 27.2 is the most common, but for other bikes the diameters can range from 25mm to 33mm.

Derailleur Dates in "The Dancing Chain"

The rear derailleur can often be dated to a year or two by referring to the book "The Dancing Chain - History and Development of the Derailleur Bicycle", by Frank Berto, 3rd edition 2009. The Appendix gives dates of initial manufacture for the vast majority of derailleurs made from 1920 to 1999.

Request for Information

This component dating discussion is a work in progress. If you have confirmation of the date codes, or corrections or additions to the codes, please contact me.

Other manufacturers of bicycle components have date marks on their pieces. Unfortunately, many of these are coded, and require some additional knowledge to understand the code. If you know of other components that are marked or coded that can be added to this list, please let me know.

A NOTE ABOUT ATTRIBUTION: The information on this page is copyrighted. Feel free to quote small parts of the information on this page, but copyright law requires Vintage-Trek.com be listed as the source of the information. In this website, we credit the people involved in the understanding of these codes. Their work must not be stolen. (Naturally, for information provided by others, such as for the Campagnolo and Williams codes, the original source should be cited.)

Atom

Atom pedals and hubs use the same date code as Maillard.

Campagnolo

The dating of Campy components (hub lock nuts, rear derailleurs, and cranks) is described at the bottom of Chuck Schmidt's excellent Campagnolo timeline:
http://www.velo-retro.com/tline.html

Dia-Compe and Weinmann

Thanks to Ben Weiner for sending the following information about Dia-Compe and Weinmann brakes.

Ben writes: "Brakes and brake levers often have date codes on them. Weinmann and Dia-Compe calipers usually have codes on the back of a caliper arm. This can be simple like "0784" (month 07, 1984) or a clock-type, with year in the middle and a ring of numbers with a tickmark pointing to the month."

"Dia-Compe road levers usually have a code stamped _inside_ the lever. Pull the lever and look inside the top of the lever arm for a code such as "1084." Dia-Compe extension levers (yuck) also tend to have date codes on the side that faces the brake hood. I have a set of Dia-Compe mountain levers where if you pull the lever all the way, a piece of the lever is exposed, which has a clock-type date code. Dia-Compe cantilever brakes don't appear to have a date code, but supposedly the 981, 983, 986 brakes were first introduced in 1981, 1983, 1986, etc."

Following Ben's lead - I checked three sets of Dia-Compe G calipers and all have the four-digit date code on the back of one of the arms. The two sets of Dia-Compe brake lever bodies I checked had the four-number date code stamped inside the lever body (I couldn't find any markings on the levers themselves). However, a Gran Compe set of calipers had no markings.

Huret Derailleurs

Huret front and rear derailleurs often have a four-digit date code. The first two digits are the week of the year. The last two digits indicate the year. For example, 1182 means the 11th week of the year 1982. Preliminary data indicate this code began in the late seventies and extended at least through the late eighties. The latter part of this period was for Sachs-Huret derailleurs, after the purchase of Huret by Sachs.

Maillard Hubs and Pedals

Maillard used an open dating system for their hubs and pedals. It is of the form NN NN. The first pair of numbers is the numerical week of the year, 01 to 52. (Thanks to Erik Frey for providing this information). The second two numbers are the year of manufacture (e.g. 84 for 1984).

Nitto

We are trying to sort out the manufacturer's date code on Nitto handlebars and stems. On one end of the bar is a two letter date code, in the form L • L (letter dot letter). The data so far suggests the first letter is the year, with Q = about 1983, A = about 1993 and P = about 2008. The second letter indicates the month, with January = O (oh) on to December = Z.

If you have Nitto bars for which you know the year, please send me (skip@skipechert.com) the letters. Better yet - if you know the meaning of the letter code, please let me know. There are date codes on some Nitto stems. If you have a stem with a code, and know the year of the bike on which it came or the date it was bought, please let me know. Our thanks to all who submitted codes.

Nitto Year Code

N
O
P
Q
R
S
T
U
V
W
X
Y
Z
1980
1981
1982
1983
1984
1985
1986
1987
1988
1989
1990
1991
1992
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
K
L
M
1993
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005

Nitto Month Code

O
P
Q
R
S
T
U
V
W
X
Y
Z
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

 

Normandy Hubs

Normandy used a date code system similar to the one used by Maillard. It is of the form NN NN. The number pairs are spaced about 10mm apart. The first pair of numbers is the numerical week of the year, 01 to 52. The second two numbers are the year of manufacture (e.g. 71 for 1971). One hub was marked in a slightly different format: "R 10 of 79". However, the meaning of the digits appears to be the same as above.

This code was used on hubs that were stamped (incised) with information on their barrels. It includes the "Schwinn Approved" Normandy hubs. The code was used on hubs in the 70s and early 80s, but may have extended beyond this range.

The Normandy Luxe Competition hubs we have seen have no stamped information, but were marked with gold or red stickers on their barrels. Unfortunately, these hubs apparently have no date codes.

Our thanks to Marty Walsh for pointing out the date code on Normandy hubs.

SR (Sakae Ringo and Sakae)

Code 1

Below the insertion mark on SR seatposts (and Sakae posts) is a stamped mark, such as F-84. The number is the year of manufacture and the letter appears to be the month of manufacture. In the example, the "F" indicates the sixth month, or June.

Steve Mann reports a mid 70s SR seatpost which is marked with a date code of the form 76.9, where 76 is the year and 9 is either a fractional year or the ninth month of the year.

Most SR right crank arms also have an open date marking, either stamped or cast into the arm. The date is on the back side of the arm near the spider of the crank, typically of the form of the two-digit year above a letter, apparently representing the month.

An SR Custom crankset, reported by Alan Burnett, has the back of one arm marked only with a 1 and the other arm with a 2. This crankset came on a 1982 Trek 412. Alan suggested, like for Campy crankarms, these are the last digit in the year; i.e. 1981 and 1982.

Mike Marro reports the crank arms marked "SR Motobecane" (no other model name) on his Motobecane Grand Touring has the following:
Left arm: 77 J (in a circle) (Oct 1977?) and a 3
Right arm: 78 I (in a circle) (Sep 1978?) and a 1
Mike writes: "This might discount the idea that the stand alone numbers represent the year seeing mine have a year code stamped additionally with the numbers." Does anyone have a similarly marked set of SR cranks?

SR stems usually are marked with the same date code. It appears near the insertion mark. An exception is the SR Royal stem, most - or all of which, have no code.

Most (all?) SR handlebars have the date code stamped near one of the ends of the bar.

Code 2

Rodney Dickinson has identified two other forms of SR date codes. He writes: "Earlier bikes with SR cranks seem to have a different numbering system, like (9-6) or (8-10), which do not have an obvious match. I recently learned of the Japanese Showa calendar, which might provide the answer. For example, Showa year 49 was 1974, hence (9-6) would be 1974-April. Showa year 48, stamp (8-2) would be 1973-February."

Code 3

Rodney continues: "Another problem arises when presented with a date stamp like (23/9C) or (I3/10). These could be the in-between years of transition between the Showa and Western calendar. Need more samples."

Sachs-Huret Derailleurs

Some, if not all, Sachs-Huret derailleurs have an open dating system stamped on the back of the derailleur. Kirt Murray noticed a 0785 date code on the back of his Sachs-Huret Rival rear derailleur mounted on an 1985 Trek. The first two digits are the week of the year. The last two digits represent the year of manufacture, in this case 1985. (Date codes were also submitted by Clive Marks and tony37.) This is the same date system used by Huret before being acquired by Sachs.

Shimano

Shimano components have a two letter date code, in the form XX, where X is a capital letter. A friendly Shimano representative told me the code is not public but he was able to answer some of my questions. One letter is the month, the other is the year. He thought all Shimano components use a common code. Some Dura-Ace seatposts are stamped with a two letter code of the form X-X, where X is a letter. The Shimano representative believed this is the same meaning as the more typical form XX.

The date code is stamped (or cast?) into the component and appears separately from other markings. It is easy to confuse the date code with the alphanumeric model number (e.g. "HB-6500" marked on an Ultegra hub). The code is on the outer flange or the center shaft of hubs, on the backside of crank arms, below the insertion mark on (at least some) seatposts, and on chainwheels. On crank arms, the letters may appear as about 3mm tall and enclosed in a circle. On at least some rear derailleurs the date code is stamped on the inner face of the outer part of the cage. On at least some headsets, the code is stamped on the underside of the fork crown race, and it is visible when installed.

The first letter represents the year and the second is the month, where A is January and L is December. For the first letter A is 1976 and the letters proceed sequentially from there: K is 1986 and Z is 2001. Year 2002 restarts with A.

Shimano Year Code

A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
K
L
M
1976
1977
1978
1979
1980
1981
1982
1983
1984
1985
1986
1987
1988
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006 
2007 
2008 
 2009
2010 
2011 
 
 
 

N
O
P
Q
R
S
T
U
V
W
X
Y
Z
1974
1975
1989
1990
1991
1992
1993
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001

Shimano Month Code

A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
K
L
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Here are some observations regarding Shimano dates (provided by Tom Marshall):

1. "Front derailleur codes are generally on the frame side of the inner cage plate.

2. "Bottom bracket codes are on the outside of both cups and on the spindle."

3. "Down tube shift lever codes are generally on the backside on the SIS hub."

4. "Codes for STI road levers are generally cast into the medial side of the body. You should be able to see it by peeling back the hood from the handlebar end. On some models there may also be another date code on back of lever's tip."

5. "On dates which can be read backwards (upside down) Shimano underscores the date code."

6. "The 1992 code "Q" has a backslash (\) through it to distinguish it from the 1990 code "O" (Oh).

7. "Pre-76 hubs appear to have a single year letter code (without the month designator). A hub I have has a Y which I assume is 1974, which matches my estimated age for the hubs."

Ben Weiner pointed out a very useful site concerning Shimano components. For each component model, it gives the years in which that model was sold. These pages are through the efforts of the Specialized Technology Committee of the Allgemeiner Deutscher Fahrrad Club: http://www.fa-technik.adfc.de/Hersteller/ It is in German, but years and model designations are effectively in English. If you like, use the web site translation function on the AltaVista.com web site.

Shimano/SunTour Freewheel This interesting note was sent in by a site visitor:
"A 1970s, Shimano 5-speed freewheel (15-24t) has code "RA" stamped near one of the spanner pin holes on the face of the locking plate. "R" for Shimano would be 1993, but "R" for Suntour would be 1975, therefore I suspect this is a Suntour made freewheel, but labeled "SHIMANO 3.3.3.". There is also an "S" stamped separately on the face, perhaps standing for Suntour?"

This nice piece of detective work means that if a Shimano (or other) date code seems to provide the wrong year, look carefully to see if another manufacturer might have made the part.

Strong Seatposts

Seatposts made by Strong typically have a two-digit numerical year date stamped into the post below the insertion mark.

Sugino Cranks

Sugino has used at least six codes for their cranks. The codes appear on the inside face of each crank arm.

Why does Sugino have so many codes? Is it a result of Sugino subcontracting out the manufacture of some crank models at various times? The subcontractors may have used their own dating systems, as changing to a standardized Sugino system would add extra cost and perhaps confusion at the subcontractor's plant.

Code 1

Beginning in the early 80s, a stamped code of the form LN or LNN was used, where L is a letter and N is a number. We believe the letter is the year code, where A is 1981 (or 1982 or perhaps 1980), B is the next year, and so on. The N or NN is a number from 1 to 12, representing the month. This system was used on model AT cranks, commonly used by Trek in the early 80s.

A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
K
L
M
1981
1982
1983
1984
1985
1986
1987
1988
1989
1990
1991
1992
1993

N
O
P
Q
R
S
T
U
V
W
X
Y
Z
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006

Code 2

In the 70s and perhaps earlier, a stamped code of the form NN-N or NN-NN was used. We believe the initial NN is a year code with 46 = 1971. The number after the dash is a month code. This code was used on Mighty Comp models. Andrew Chadwick reports having a Sugino Maxy crankset with a variation of this code: "The dates are stamped "49.5" on the inside of the right crank arm, and "49-5" on the inside of the left. The former is definitely a period/full stop/decimal point, and the latter is definitely a hyphen." The right hand (crank maker) does not know what the left hand is doing?

Tom Marshall (T-Mar) provides this description of the NN-NN Japanese codes: "The Sugino codes with format NN-NN appear to be based on the Japanese Imperial Calendar. Whenever a new emperor took the throne, a new era was officially declared. On December 25, 1926 Emperor Hirohito ascended to the throne and chose the the name Showa (radiant peace) for his era. It ended on January 07 1989 when Akihito took the throne and the Heisei (peaceful accomplishment) era began. Thus 1926 is year 01 of the Showa era, 1927 is year 02, up to 1989, which was Showa year 64 and Heisei year 01."

"I stumbled across this when I was trying to decipher the 47-12 and 48-1 codes on the Sugino crankarms from a mid-70's CCM Mistral. It seemed pretty obvious that it was a YY-MM (year- month) format, but the years were skewed. A little investigation into Japanese culture turned up the logic in the preceding paragraph and when applied to my cranks, the manufacturing dates became December 1972 & January 1973. This was a perfect fit for the Mistral and seemed to apply to all the Sugino cranks I examined thereafter. The Japanese Imperial Calendar may well be the basis for date codes on other Japanese components."

Code 3

A third set of codes (or no date code at all) was used on at least some GT and VX cranks. There is a round mold mark with three numbers in it. There also may be a cast-in code of a number and perhaps two letters.

Mike Marro reports an April 1985 Nishiki Sport (made in Taiwan) with a SUGINO VT Crank.
Here is what is stamped on each arm:
Left Arm: VT (in circle) / 532 (in circle with one dot) / Sugino Japan 2 / 170
Right Arm: 524 (in circle with four dots) / Sugino Japan 1 / 170

Could the 5 mean 1985? Any ideas?

Code 4

A forth code method was reported by Mike Swantak. His ’83 Centurion Le Mans 12 has a Sugino GT crankset, with the two letter code GC. This would appear to follow the method used by Shimano, where the G indicates 1982 and the C indicates March. This is supported by Dan Carlsson of Sweden, who writes: "I have a Sugino GS crankset with the codes "GC" stamped on the inside. This seems right, 82 March; I believe the crankset is from an 1983 year roadbike."

Mike Marro reports on the Sugino GT crank on his April 1983 (Serial # verified) Fuji Royale II. Each arm is marked with a GC 2. I think it odd that all three Code 4 reports are apparently March of 82. In the GC 2 case, could the 2 indicate 1982? More data needed.

Code 5

The code has these characteristics:

  1. It is of the form L-N or L-NN (where L is a letter and N is a numeral).
  2. The letter indicates year, where F=1976, G=1977, H=1978, I=1979, J=1980. This year estimate is probably accurate to +- 1 year. The code may extend to before and after these years.
  3. The number, N or NN probably indicates the month of the year, ranging from 1 to 12.

Information supporting these characteristics is given below.

  • Elisabeth Thomas-Matej reported a code of I-3 (1979, month 3) on the left crank of a Sugino "Tourist" crank on a 1979 Centurion Super LeMans. The I-3 is cast into a raised circle on the back of the crank. Also on the back are the letters: SUGINO FORGED JAPAN 170.
  • A 1981 Schwinn Le Tour Tourist equipped with a Sugino Super Maxy Crank was reported by Rich McCarthy. It was marked J11 (1980, month 11) on both crank arms.
  • A 1978 Gitane equipped with a Sugino Super Maxy crank marked H-9 (1979, month 9) was reported by Christoph Jansen. The Shimano components on the bike date to 1978.
  • Tim of vintagelotusbicycles.com reported a 1980 Lotus Excelle with a Sugino Super Maxy Crank marked J-7 (1980, month 7).
  • A 1980 Panasonic Sport has I-12 (1979, month 12) stamped on the inside of the crank arm. No crank model name, just "Sugino" within an oval. Reported by Zach van Schouwen.
  • A Sugino Maxy crank with a code of G-5 (1977, month 5) is on Fraser Docherty's Nishiki Olympic from 1977 (serial number starting KK indicating US market year 77).
  • The Sugino Mighty crank from Bob Klein's 1979 Centurion Semi-Pro is marked F-11 (1976, month 11).

Code 6

Reported by Tom Sustarich. He found a Sugino Maxy triple crank marked 76-1. This would appear to be an open date of 1976 - January.

NOTE: If you have a bike of known year with a Sugino Crank with one of the above codes, or any codes, please send the information to me.

Sansin Hubs

Many Sansin hubs use a a two-letter date code. The code is stamped near the center of the hub body. The first letter represents the year. We believe A is 1984, B is 1985, and so on. (Is this correct? please let me (Skip) know.) As with Shimano, the second letter is the month code, where A is January and L is December. Sansin and Sunshine hubs were made by the same company.

A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
K
L
M
1984
1985
1986
1987
1988
1989
1990
1991
1992
1990
1993
1994
1995

Sunshine Hubs

Many Sunshine hubs have an open dating code, of the form NN NN. The code is stamped near the center of the hub body. The first two numbers represent the month of the year; 01 for January, 12 for December. The second two numbers are the year of manufacture (e.g. 84 for 1984).

Sunshine and Sansin hubs were made by the same company. One Sunshine hub was marked only with an A, on a bike made in 84, which matches the Sansin year code.

The "5345" marking on early Sunshine hubs may be a model number. I (Skip) have Sunshine hubs from 1972, 73 and the late 70s that all have that number. Others have reported the same. Mike Marro reports having Sunshine hubs on his April 1983 (Serial # verified) Fuji Royale II marked "5345 C" (a rear hub ) and "5345 R" (a front hub). Could the C indicate rear model and the R front? My earlier hubs have no such letter marking.

SunTour (Maeda)

SunTour derailleurs have a two-letter date code. On rear derailleurs the code is stamped on the back side of the inner parallel arm. On front derailleurs it is stamped on the back side of the inner cage.

The first letter represents the year. Larry Osborn and I believe O (Oh) is 1972, V is 1979 and A is 1984. As with Shimano, the second letter is the month code, where A is January and L is December.

SunTour Year Code

N
O
P
Q
R
S
T
U
V
W
X
Y
Z
1971
1972
1973
1974
1975
1976
1977
1978
1979
1980
1981
1982
1983
 
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
1984
1985
1986
1987
1988
1989
1990
1991
1992

SunTour Month Code

A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
K
L
Jan
Feb
Mar
APR
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
DEC

The earliest Suntour derailleur I have found with a code is marked OF. A rear derailleur marked OD (corresponding to April of 72) was reported by Leighton Walter. I have a bike that dates from between 1970 to 1972 that has the original SunTour derailleurs. These derailleurs do not have date codes on them, so I believe the coding started sometime between 1970 and April of 1972.

Tom Marshall writes: "Maeda/SunTour freewheels appear to have a date code, format LL, on the outer cover plate, adjacent to one of the pin holes. The original freewheel from my 1974 CCM Tour de Canada is stamped PA. I assume P =1974 or possibly 1973). This seems to mesh with the derailleur codes above."

Shimano freewheels made by SunTour - see Shimano/Suntour Freewheel above.

An interesting exception to the Suntour date code pattern is reported by Ian Hillerud. He writes: "I have a 1983 Trek 760 that I purchased 26 years ago. The date codes on the Superbe cranks are B11 (drive side) and B8 (left arm) which corresponds to 1985 from the Suntour table - I believe that these cranks might have been actually produced by Sugino in 1982. (There are both obvious and subtle similarities between the earlier Superbe cranks and the concurrent Super Mighty Suginos.)" The Code 1 for Sugino Cranks would decode Ian's cranks to B = 1982, 11 = November, and 8 = August.

According to Frank Berto's excellent article "Sunset for SunTour" (see citation below), SunTour did contract out the Suberbe cranks to Sugino.

"Sunset for SunTour" published in the Proceedings of the 9th International Cycle History Conference by Van der Plas Publications, 1999. The article can be read online here: http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~hadland/page35.htm . The article also is included in the book "The Dancing Chain" by Frank Berto.

Tange Forks

Tange forks have a date code on the steerer tube. There are two forms of the code:TANGE.N.L and TANGE.NN.L The single numeral is the last digit of the year. This form of the code was used from 1980 to 1989. In the second form, the two numerals are the last two digits of the year. This form was used first in 1990 to differentiate it from the 1980s code. The letter is the month of the year, where A = January and L = December. For example: TANGE.0.C. is 1980, March.

A "Big Fork" on a 1992 Trek 970 mountain bike was marked:

TANGE.91.F
MADE IN JAPAN
CR-MO

This code indicates 1991, June (info. provided by Mags Adams-Aston).

In addition to making excellent bike tubing, Tange provided fabricated forks to various bike manufacturers, including Trek in the early to mid 80s. Some were made from all Reynolds 531 tubing. John Thompson, expert Trek framebuilder in the 80s, wrote: "Reynolds fork and rear triangle assemblies were made for Trek by Tange in the early to mid 80s, for the 500 (Reynolds 501) and 600 (Reynolds 531) series models only. The 700 series frames and forks were built entirely in Waterloo."

An example of a 531 fork made by Tange was provided by Barry Scott in a Classic Rendezvous posting. The steerer tube of his fork was stamped:

TANGE.0.L
REYNOLDS 531 BUTTED

The 0.L decodes to 1980 December.

(BTW - A tip the hat to the late Hiro Tange, one of the better individuals in the bicycle business.)

Williams (Great Britain)

See the Williams components dating information provided by Hiliary Stone and shown on the Classic Rendezvous web site.

Derailleur Dates in "The Dancing Chain"

The rear derailleur can often be dated to a year or two by referring to the book "The Dancing Chain - History and Development of the Derailleur Bicycle", by Frank Berto, 3rd edition 2009. The Appendix gives dates of initial manufacture for the vast majority of derailleurs made from 1920 to 1999.

Saddles

Brooks Saddles

The following information was provided by Tony Colegrave, Brooks expert, saddle repairman, and custom leather saddle fabricator.

Tony writes: "Date-stamping on Brooks' cantle plates (the large piece of metal at the rear of the saddle) started in late 1958, when Raleigh took control of the Company, and I think that I can remember seeing a stamp for as late as 1990. The date codes each covered a period of three months (i.e. only the first four letters of the alphabet occur), and, although commonly seen, were not invariably used - Professionals of the period, in particular, are frequently found without such stampings when it is pretty clear that they have not been re-framed at a later date (a factory service that the Company ceased to offer in the very late 'eighties)."

Tony continues: "The earlier stampings on the underside of the leather were simply 'batch codes', for quality and stock control purposes, and would have been well understood by the workforce at the time, although they were almost certainly never recorded. In the historic sense, they bear no relation to dates of production, and even the talents of Bletchley Park would be severely tested to produce any coherent pattern, I imagine - it would make the deciphering of the Enigma Code a 'walk in the park' in comparison, especially as there's now little chance of us capturing a submarine containing an undamaged Brooks Code Machine?"

The date codes are in the form of NN, the last two numerals of the year, and A for Jan-Mar, B for Apr - Jun, C for Jul - Sep, or D Oct - Dec. During the early part of the the 1958 - 1990 period, the dates codes were stamped (incised into the metal) in the middle of the cantle plate near the "Made in England" text. In the latter part of the period, the code was stamped between rivets 5 and 6 (i.e. on the right hand side as you sit on the saddle).

The current method of date coding Brooks saddles is a colored stamp on the underside of the saddle, with a number for the year surrounding a letter for the month.

The "Evolution of Brooks Saddle Badges" is presented by TheHeadbadge.com. It provides a rough way to date a Brooks saddle.

Plastic Bicycle Saddles

Plastic bicycle seats often have a date code molded into the underside of the plastic core of the seat. The mark is made up of a circle with the first letter of the month (in Italian or just a number) around the edge, with the two-digit year code in the center. An arrow points to the month the product was made. (Thanks to Grant McLean for this observation.)

Those saddles without a code on the underside may have the code molded into the top of the plastic molded core, hidden by the seat cover. However, finding the code may be hard on the saddle. ;-)

 

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