Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Re-visiting my Centurion Professional

Well, it's well into 2015, and I've only posted a bit about the proposed changes on the C&O Canal.  To try to get back into the swing of things here, I thought I'd re-visit a past post about one of my bikes, specifically my 1978 Centurion Professional.  You can read my first post about it here:

One of My Favorite Bikes

Now, over the years I have tried to learn as much as I can about this bike, and the brand in general.  There's not a huge amount of concrete information out there, sadly, but I have managed to piece together some things from various sources, notably a thread on Bike Forums:

Centurion Serial Number Database

Among the things I've learned...

Apparently, the Centurion brand started out as an early effort by Raleigh to have some of their lower end 10 speeds built in Japan, specifically the Grand Prix model.

Mitchell Weiner was a California bicycle sales agent. In 1969, he got involved in a project to help Raleigh Industries of America import a Japenese copy of the Raleigh Grand Prix. The corporate parent, TI-Raleigh, nixed the plan, and Weiner was stuck with 2,000 bicycles painted in Raleigh Grand Prix colors, including the pin stripes. So he stuck Centurion labels on the bicycles, and sold them at a profit. This lead to the formation of Western States Imports, which imported Japanese bicycles and sold them to dealers at lower wholesale prices than comparable Raleighs or Schwinns.

Berto, Frank (2012). The Dancing Chain, 4th ed., San Francisco: Cycle Publishing/Van der Plas Publications

 I also learned that the first version of the Professional model was made by Acer Mex, better known for the Windsor brand in the US.  In fact, the early Centurion Professionals were essentially Windsor Professionals with different decals.  Like the Windsors, they were more or less a "knock off" of a Cinelli, complete with Columbus tubing and Campagnolo components, both from Italy. A nice example of that can be seen here:

Sometime around 1977, production of the Professional moved to Japan, and the bikes changed significantly. The frame tubing was now from Tange, and components were a mix of Sugino, SunTour, SR and DiaCompe. This is the version I own, and it's a beauty.  Until recently though, the only information I had about the model was a pdf file from the author of the Centurion page on Sheldon Brown's site:

Then a few months ago, a fellow on the Classic Rendezvous list posted a for sale listing for an early Centurion brochure.  After looking at a scan of a page or two, I knew that contrary to his thought that it was from 1975 or 76, it was most likely a 1977-78 brochure, as the photos and specifications were an exact match for mine!  Needless to say, I bought it on the spot.

It's great to finally have some official company documentation on the bike, especially since such info seems to be pretty scarce for the brand.  There are only a few catalog scans out there online, including this from 1979 on Velobase and this from 1984 on Sheldon Brown's site.

The picture at the top of this post is the 1977-78 cover, featuring "my" Professional.  Below is the specification page.  The remainder of the pages can be seen on my Flickr site:

Centurion Catalog 1977-78

And photos of my bike are here:

1978 Centurion Professional

If you have more to add to the Centurion story, please comment below.  You could also join my Yahoo group dedicated to the brand:  Centurion Bicycle Fans.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Well, after a lot of public input, the C&O Canal has revised their proposal for changes in the fee structure for the park. On the one hand I know many folks are relieved and pleased to not have to pay in most situations, I'm concerned about whether or not the revised plan will solve the park's financial problems to the degree necessary.

The press release follows:

Press Release: C&O Canal NHP Revises Fee Proposal

HAGERSTOWN, Md. - Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park (C&O Canal) is revising its proposal to increase and expand entrance and other fees park-wide. Last month the park proposed expanding fee collection to include charging a park-wide recreation fee. At this point, we’re midway through robust public meetings. Having heard concerns over the proposal for new fees, the park has decided to rescind its proposal to expand fee collection.
The park is still proposing to moderately increase existing entrance, campground and pavilion rental fees only at park locations where fees are currently collected. 
“We have seen the great passion we all share for this park displayed over the course of three public meetings and have three more scheduled. At this point we’re modifying our proposal and will continue public dialog,” Superintendent Kevin Brandt said. 
After this revision, the proposed entrance fees that would become effective no sooner than May 1, 2015 are as follows:
Park Annual Pass:
-Current: $20, Great Falls, MD only
-Proposed: $30, Great Falls, MD only

Per Vehicle Pass: 
-Current: $5/vehicle for 3 days, Great Falls, MD only
-Proposed: $15/vehicle for 7 days, Great Falls, MD only

Per Person Pass:
-Current: $3/person for 3 days, Great Falls, MD only
-Proposed: $7/person for 7 days, Great Falls, MD only
Motorcycle Pass:
-Current: $5/motorcycle for 3 days, Great Falls, MD only
-Proposed: $10/motorcycle for 7 days, Great Falls, MD only

The park is are also proposing to increase fees for campgrounds and picnic pavilions. Comparability studies have been completed to determine rates. The proposals are as follows:
Drive-In Campgrounds: 
-Single Site Rate: Current: $10 per night, Proposed $20 per night
-Group Site Rate: Current $20 per night, Proposed $40 per night

Hiker-Biker Camping Sites:
-Current: No Charge, no changed proposed
Picnic Pavilion: Carderock Pavilion
-Monday-Thursday: Current $150 per day, Proposed $250 per day
-Friday-Sunday & Holidays: Current $250 per day, Proposed $350 per day

To provide comments on the revised fee increase proposal, go to: The public comment period will remain open until February 22, 2015. 
The park will continue to hold public meetings as follows:
February 9, 2015, at Hancock Town Hall, 126 West High Street, Hancock, MD from 6:30-8:00 PM
February 11, 2015, at Storer Ballroom at the Shepherd University Student Center, 210 North King Street, Shepherdstown, WV, from 6:30-8:00 PM
February 17, 2015, at Brunswick City Park Building, 655 East Potomac Street, Brunswick, MD, from 6:30-8:00 PM

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

National Park Service proposing increased and expanded fees for C&O Canal

NOTE: Meeting location has changed:  Washington Waldorf School, 4800 Sangamore Road, Bethesda, MD is the new location.  Time is still 7:00pm, Thursday February 5th.

Readers know of my love for the C&O Canal… I think it is without a doubt one of our greatest natural resources here in the DC/Maryland area. Well, as many of you may know, the National Park Service is proposing increasing and expanding fees for users of the  Canal. Public comment is being taken online as well as at public meetings. The nearest meeting to us is at Glen Echo next Thursday, February 5th at 7pm. If you have thoughts or opinions on this matter, please contribute! More info at the links...

C&O Canal Proposal

C&O Canal Fees meetings and input

Thursday, February 20, 2014

One bike leaves the herd...

 Yes, I've actually decided to part with one of my bikes.  Readers of this blog might think "wait, I don't think he's ever written anything about this bike before"... and you're right... aside from a passing mention or two, I haven't really said much about it. Which goes a long way to explain why I'm passing it on to my best friend (who also has the Fuji Allegro that used to be mine).  I've had the bike for a number of years, but honestly wasn't riding it all that much, so when my best friend said he was looking for a lighter, faster bike than the ones he has, I suggested he give some thought to this one.

The bike is a 1978 Raleigh Professional, a bike that I had eyed a lot when I was a teenager in the late 70s.  I never had that kind of money back then though, so it wasn't until a few years ago I finally got my hands on one.  It's a handsome bike, and a very nice riding one, but over the years I found I was riding it less and less.  Part of the reason was the "sewup" tires which are trickier to mount and repair than conventional tires, but I also found the "race" orientation of the bike just made it one that I rode less often than my more "general purpose" bikes.

Like most better racing bikes of its era, the Pro was equipped with Campagnolo components, the Nuovo Record group to be exact. Very nice stuff, just about top of the line back then... the only thing "better" was Super Record, with some titanium bits in the mix.  Solid, reliable, and beautiful, these old Campy parts were beyond my reach in '78, but I've since owned several bikes set up with them, and I have to say, while folks used to modern indexed shifting systems and integrated shift/brake levers might not appreciate them, they work great and hold up for years.

That being said, my buddy had said he was looking for something a bit more modern, so after some thought and consultation, I put together a more modern mix of components to suit his needs.  First, we decided on indexed bar end shifters, as he was accustomed to that shifter position from his other bikes. Shimano derailleurs and an eight speed cassette sprocket cluster on the rear coupled with a Velo Orange "compact double" crankset on the front gives a nice, practical range of gears and smooth, easy shifting. 

Brakes are a nice set of Tektro dual pivot sidepulls... much more powerful than the original Campy Record brakes.  Finally, the wheels were built up on Shimano Tiagra hubs, using double butted stainless steel spokes and Mavic Open Sport rims, for solid but light wheels.  Last but not least, we mounted Panaracer Pasela tires, a favorite of mine, in 28mm width, for a nice balance of speed and comfort.

My friend has only had a chance to take a short ride on it so far... we got a major snow storm a few days after he picked it up... but based on his first impressions, he's going to like this bike a lot.  Light and nimble, classically styled but with modern updates, I think it's a winner.  I'll let you know how it works out in the long run as he gets more opportunities to ride the bike this spring.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Real Snow!

 The last couple of winters here in the DC area have been non-events as far as snow is concerned... a flurry here, a dusting there, and all of it gone too soon for my tastes.

But last night through tonight, we've finally gotten some real snowfall!  Not sure exactly how much right here, but around 10-12" would be my guess.  It's a pretty wet snow, and we had a spell of rain during the day today, so it's heavy and soggy, but still pretty.  It's changed back to snow now in the evening, so who knows how  much we'll ultimately have.

It's not quite up the levels of Snowmageddon a few years back, but it sure is nice to finally get some real snow.

Some more photos here:

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

New kitty!

That's right, there's a new kitten in my life!  Folks may know I've had my little buddy Tybalt (who just jumped on the track pad and did a little editing I had to undo) since 2005, when I adopted him from a shelter as a kitten.  I'd been thinking of getting him a sidekick for some time now, as he spends a fair amount of time alone. Just before Christmas, my girlfriend and I stopped at a shelter in Maryland, in search of a companion for her parakeet... and while we were there, we checked the cat room.  Lo and behold, there was a very handsome little tabby, similar to Tybalt, but with distinctive markings. He'd just come in that morning, and they'd named him Tiny Tim, in honor of the holidays.  A few minutes spent getting acquainted, and next thing you know I'm filling out an adoption application!

The application was approved pretty quickly, given the holidays... but then trouble reared it's head.  The poor little guy had come down with an upper respiratory infection and had been moved into the "sneeze room" at the shelter.  The next several weeks were a bit of a nail biting time, waiting to hear he was well enough to be neutered and leave the shelter... and every week being told "maybe next week." At one point the shelter staff even brought up the possibility of euthanizing the little guy if they couldn't get him better!  Luckily after a trip to a vet's office and yet another round of meds, he was deemed well enough to get neutered and leave, so we headed to the shelter as early in the day as we could get there and scooped him up and took him to my girlfriend's place.  She offered to foster him while he finished getting well, as my vet said I shouldn't introduce him to Tybalt and my apartment until he was better.

There's a bit of a devilish look in this shot...
So for now he's recuperating under her care, and is getting to know her two dogs, Rumba and Pogo, a little bit.  The dogs have been really good with him, more curious than aggressive, and he seems to not be intimidated by these very large creatures he's now among.  He's definitely feeling better, and eating better.  And showing all the typical kitten behaviors I had forgotten since Tybs was little.  The other night I was slowly drifting off to sleep, when I felt him leap from the foot of the bed to near my chest... then next thing I knew I was looking at the underside of a flying kitten, moments before he landed on my face!  Too funny, and too cute.  I can't wait to bring the little guy home to meet Tybalt... here's hoping they hit it off well!

Handsome boy!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fuji Finished and Fun!

I've been meaning to post about this for a while now, but time seems to slip away faster these days.

A few days after my last post about my old Fuji, it was finished, ready to ride, and on its way with us to the Outer Banks, where we spent a week relaxing, walking, swimming, flying kites and biking.  It was a wonderful time, and I plan to write a bit more about that and post some photos soon.  No, really... soon!  :-)

For now though, I wanted to bring the Fuji tale up to date.   Here's a photo of it on the Outer Banks:

Finished and on vacation on the Outer Banks!

Turned our pretty sharp-looking, better than I had expected for a 36 year old bike that had sat neglected in a shed for many years.  Of course, it took some work to get her looking this good, but under the grime and dust the paint and chrome were in surprisingly good shape.

So, how is she set up? What are the parts?

First, you have a 1977, 25" Fuji S-10S frameset, lugged and brazed from double butted high tensile steel tubing. For the true geeks out there, it's got seat and head tube angles of 73 degrees, long chain stays, and a healthy amount of fork rake. I haven't measured everything, so I can't nail down truly accurate numbers, but it's got a front end geometry known as "low trail", which should make it handle front loads better than many bikes.

The other original bits and pieces are the crankset (with rings changed to 34x46 to better match a modern rear sprocket cluster and the more mellow riding I plan to do on it), both derailleurs, and the brake calipers. They all took some work to clean up and get working smoothly, but they're certainly good enough parts to use.  Crankset is a Sugino Maxy, which was an entry level alloy crank with "swaged" spider instead of a once piece forging, and I might swap it out for something fancier at some point. The derailleurs are typical SunTour of the era... VxGT rear, and SL front (with SunTour's "backwards" spring action, which takes some getting used to again), and the brakes are the classic DiaCompe centerpulls, which have always worked great, and have even been re-introduced in the last few years.

I was originally planning to keep the original 27" wheels, figuring they were good quality wheels, but the amount of corrosion on the spokes and nipples made me leery. So we went with a 700c set I had around with a 7 speed cassette hub, with a 13 - 30 tooth cassette to give me plenty of range. Tires are my favorite Panaracer Paselas in 32mm width (might put 35s on there eventually). At the front end I've got Velo Orange Porteur handlebars, Nitto Technomic stem, Dia Compe Guidonnet brake levers, and SunTour Power Ratchet Bar Con shifters, long a favorite of mine. For a saddle, I decided to try out a Brooks Champion Flyer that a customer graciously gave me when he found it didn't work for him.  It's sitting on a basic Kalloy Laprade seat post... inexpensive and reliable.  Oh, and the pedals are MKS Touring pedals, a nice wide pedal that works well with or without toe clips.

Accessories are minimal at this point.  SKS Chromoplastic fenders...again, inexpensive and reliable, and they look good too.  A Carradice Nelson Longflap saddlebag to carry my "stuff"... it's amazing how much you can cram in those.  I've hooked a couple of Planet Bike blinky lights on the bag, and mounted a CygoLite Expilion 700 on an Origin8 light mount that screws into the dropout eye and provides a short tube to take the light's handlebar mounting clamp.

All in all, I'm very happy with how the bike has turned out.  Thoughts about changes or additions?  Sure, but isn't that true with most bikes? I'm planning to add a Velo Orange Porteur rack to the front for hauling groceries, etc, and maybe a rear rack or saddlebag support of some kind.  Maybe a kickstand, as they can be handy sometimes, though I generally don't use them. I'd like to put something other than black bar tape on at some point, but it's not pressing. I MIGHT try swapping the wheels out for 650B size (smaller diameter rim, which would allow a fatter, cushier tire), but that would also mean changing the brakes and the fenders, and I'm not sure I want to do that.  We'll see... it's partly a matter of curiosity to try that wheel size on one of my bikes.  For now, it rides great as it is.
Here it is again, parked next to Christy's Velo Orange Mixte. Note the similar setup!