|CENTURION: THE EQUIPE CENTURION COAXES A WINNER OUT OF ITALY
The following first appeared in Bicycle Guide (April 1985: Vol. 2, Number 2) - Pages 44-47. Written by Christopher Koch, transcribed by Ashley Wright.
There is a hard lesson to the learned when a cyclist makes that
first memorable pilgrimage to the sport's mecca, Europe. During
those few squirmy hours of sleep in coach class, our intermittent
dreams are filled with visions of thousands of happy Italians and
Frenchmen teeming over the narrow, picturesque roads of Europe on
their fancy racing bikes.
Upon arrival however, we find that most of the Cioccs and
Gueciotti's of our dreams are either strapped to the back of
Francesco Moser's team car, or back home in our dentist's basement.
The bikes of Europe are functional and inexpensive. The occasional
racing bike you see straining under the bulk of an overweight
Italian is usually a mongrel. "You might find a basic racing frame
with a Stronglight crank, Campagnolo derailleurs and an Ofmega
headset --whatever they can get their hands on," says Alan
Goldsmith, founder of the mail order house Bikology and a design
consultant for Centurion.
In this respect, Goldsmith's latest creation for Centurion, the
Cinelli Equipe, is a true European racer. It is a fascinating
melange of functional Italian componentry (with only three items
from Campagnolo) attached to a luxurious but unpretentious frame of
The bike has, by industry standard, a royal lineage. Goldsmith,
whose list of credits at Centurion includes the Comp TA --an
aesthetic and marketing triumph --made a pilgrimage to the old
country two years that most of us can only dream about. He stayed
two weeks with Cino Cinelli to talk bikes and learn how to make
olive oil (Cinelli has left most bicycle business dealing to his
son Andrea, and concentrates on experimental bicycle designs and
his olive groves). Cinelli's firm is responsible for some of the
more innovative designs in the bicycle world --he worked on
Francesco Moser's hour record bike with a team of scientists --and
his name is attached to what may be the world's most expensive
Goldsmith's visit, while pleasurable, was aimed at business,
however. Centurion wanted a high-end bicycle to throw to the eager
materialists of the so-called "yuppie" market, so Goldsmith was
sent to Europe to find food for the trunks of America's BMSs and
Porches. The American appetite for fine European machinery and the
mystique of Italian bicycles drew Goldsmith to Cinelli as if by
divining rod. "We wanted to associate ourselves with the most
prestigious company available," says Goldsmith. "Cinelli was the
Negotiations were carried out in a style frighteningly similar to
that of the Paris Peace Talks. The principals spent two years at a
vast oak round table struggling over the size of the Cinelli name
on the bicycle, among other things. (Judging from the rather small
size of the Cinelli decals on the downtube and chainstay, it would
appear that Centurion has a more skilled stable of diplomats.)
At long last, however, Cino agreed to set up a factory for
manufacture of the bike frames. According to one source, space in
"another bike company allied with Cinelli" (he would not specify
which manufacturer) was leased, and Cinelli personnel were
installed to supervise production. Goldsmith claims that the
Equipe is on the same level as Cinelli's own esoteric masterpiece
because it incorporates Cinelli's famed investment cast lugs and
bottom bracket. Goldsmith also attests to "state of the art"
computerized jigs that hold the Equipe frames in place during
Judging from the results, Goldsmith's claims seem justified. The
frame is a jewel. The lug work is absolutely flawless, and the
transition between seat stay and rear dropout --a small but telling
sign of the amount of care put into construction --is as smooth as
any production frame, Italian or otherwise, that we've seen. The
dropouts have been carefully chromed so that quick releases won't
chew up the surface, and the head and downtube lugs are also
tastefully shiny. One of the BG test riders' favorite features of
the frame is the panoloply of useful braze-ons. There are two water
bottle bosses and a pump peg --a combination crucial to long rides
on hot summer days. It's hard to understand why this combination
hasn't caught on, while that useless, ubiquitous front derailleur
braze-on (unfortunately present on the Equipe) is turning up on
$300 club racers.
Despite its steep angles, the bike does not feel overly stiff, and
it tracks as if running in a slot. Steering is conservative --
responsive without being twitchy and skittish --thus making this a
good candidate for the beginning racer, triathlete or sport rider.
And that's the market that Goldsmith and Centurion are looking at.
But in order to sell the bike to the trathlete crowd, its price tag
had to be below $1000. To bring costs down, Goldsmith decided to
chuck the tried and true Campy gruppo strategy. "We evaluated the
components on cost and value per part," he says, "and we believe we
have the best combination, a far better value than could be
achieved with a specific gruppo in that price range." The choices
may also have had something to do with the fact that Cinelli is a
member of the Primo group, an Italian cooperative of bike parts
manufacturers who look out for each other. The members of the group
come as no surprise when looking at the bike: Ofmega, Columbus,
Vittoria, Universal and Regina.
Goldsmith's knowledge of what makes a bicycle work is evident in
the choices he has made for the Equipe. Spend your money where it
counts, and save where it doesn't. The drivetrain is solid --Campy
Nouvo Record derailleurs, the quiet, smooth running Regina CX
freewheel and the solid, well-finished Ofmega Mistral cranks. The
only complaints we have in this area are with the chain and pedals.
Centurion has provided a Regina Oro Record chain instead of the CX
chain, and the Record model does not mesh particularly well with
the freewheel. Ofmega's pedals, which are made of a hard nylon
compound, are not very rugged --the bearings worked loose on the
The wheels are functional and attractive, yet do not cost much to
build. The Miche (pronounced Mee-kee, according to Goldsmith) hubs
can pass for Campy if you don't look closely; the residual
roughness in the races should disappear in a few hundred miles. The
Fiamme Hard Silver rims are attractive and have that chic grey
anodizing that every wants these days.
In fact, the only telling cost cutter here is the Gipiemme seat
post, which is ridiculously short at 195mm. The meaty Universal AER
brakes are serviceable, although not as smooth as their Campy
cousins. The Vittoria Nuovo Pro tires are beautifully made and
durable. And of course, Cino's bars, stem (the top of the line
1/R) and seat are state of the art.
Since Centurion has lowered the price of the Equipe from $995 to
$785 (due to the plummeting value of the Italian lire, according to
Goldsmith) we find the bike hard to resist. It's not the flashiest
Italian bike around --it's offered only in industrial grey with a
purple Centurion sticker --but look closely and you'll see one of
the best crafted and finished Italian frames now on the market.
With a few inexpensive component modifications, this bike ride like
one of those $1500 Italian specials. Prego, Cino!
Italian designs are wonderful, in part because they please the eye
so, and in part because of the way they make you feel. Ferrari's
seat. Olivetti's typewriters. Ducati's big twins --each makes you
feel as if it were custom tailored.
Italian bicycles carry this legacy well. As usual, Koch summed it
up neatly in the midst of a long test ride. "On most bikes, I feel
like I'm sitting on top," he said, "but on an Italian bike I feel
like I'm sitting down inside it." Exactly! Centurion's
collaboration with Cinelli has created a form-fitting bicycle which
retains that elusive quality only the Italians seem to be able to
summon so effortlessly. Here is a bike that is immediately
comfortable and urges you to ride it long and hard.
Complaints? I don't like the pedals much, and the brakes need a lot
of fiddling and lubrication to bring into shouting distance of the
Italian standard. And this bike is so restrained, so formal. I'm
enough of a traditionalist to think that all Italian bikes should
be painted Ferrari red. But that's my problem, not Centurion's.
-- Ted Constantino
SPECIFICATIONS: 1985 CINELLI EQUIPE CENTURION
Men's Cinelli 12-speed racing bike (1984\85; one year only).
Color : "Titanium silver" (4 primer\finish coats, 1 clear coat).
Serial Number: None. "60" (size c-c) stamped under BB.
MSRP: US$995 (1984\85 dollars; 2007=$1,962).
Introductory price: US$790 (1984\85 dollars; 2007=$1,558).
Columbus SL(SP) "Cylex" CrMo steel frame and fork.
Campagnolo dropouts (chrome), seatpost binder bolt,
double water bottle braze-ons. 126mm rear spacing.
Total weight: 21lb, 2.5oz
Frame without fork: 5lb, 1.0oz
Fork only: 1lb, 10.5oz
Front wheel only: 2lb, 6.5oz
Rear wheel only: 3lb, 6.0oz
Record "Giro D'Italia" bar (64-42cm) and stem (120mm).
Volare unicanitor suede-over-plastic saddle.
Full set of investment cast lugs; sloped fork crown; bottom
bracket shell; seat and chain stays, and brake bridge. Fork
crown, head lugs and drive-side chain stay are chromed.
Campagnolo Nuovo Record derailleurs and downtube shifters.
Universal AER side pull brakes and levers.
CX-S, 6-speed freewheel with 13-14-15-17-19-21 cogs.
Record chain (wide-spaced; 108 links, drilled).
Mistral cotterless alloy crankset (170mm; 144mm BCD).
Mistral chainwheels (52\42).
Mistral bottom bracket (70mm\36x24); alloy spindle (118mm).
Sintesi composite platform pedals; toe clips\Binda straps.
Fiamme Hard Silver 700C tubular rims (340gr; 36-hole; eyelets).
Miche Competition quick-release hubs (36 hole; stainless spokes).
Vittoria Nuovo Pro tubular tires.
Gipiemme seatpost (27.2mm).
Cinelli logos (new style) embossed on bar and stem, fork crown,
seat and seat stays, rear brake bridge and under bottom bracket.
Other markings include: a "Cinelli Equipe" decal on down-tube
just above shifters and on left chain stay; an "Italia: Made in
Italy" decal high on seat tube.
Centurion decals on down-tube (left and right), and a Centurion
"C" decal badge on head tube.
Columbus tubing decals on fork ("FORCELLA ORIGINALE") and frame
("TUBI RINFORZATI GARANTIZI"; "ACCIAIO [dove] SPECIALE"; "COLUMBUS").
Columbus SL tubing as described by Columbus: "All-purpose, high-
performance tube set for road races over even terrain. Double-butted
tubes; cold-rolled fork blades." "Cylex" steel Weight: 1925g
Centurion was the trade name for road bikes imported by the
Canoga Park, CA, based Western States Imports (WSI). In 1984\85
WSI and Cinelli joined forces to produce a limited number of
high-end "project bikes," which were co-branded Cinelli\Centurion.
This bike was produced for one year only.
An advertisement in the December 1984 issue of Bicycling
Magazine, introducing the Cinelli Equipe Centurion, states:
"The frame is designed by Cino Cinelli and production is
coordinated and supervised by his staff."
The ad also states that that the suggested retail price was
$995.00 (1984\85 dollars; 2007=$1,962) with an introductory
price of $789.95 (1984\85 dollars; 2007=$1,558).