The Simplicity of Vintage Cycles

Vintage Bicycles Done Proper :: Portland, Oregon

1976 Centurion Semi Professional

Some builds come together nearly instantly. Others, like this 1976 Centurion Semi Professional, take months to materialize. A combination of sourcing different, rare and specific parts plus a heavy course load at the University took its toll on this project. In fact, it almost took a year.

1976 Centurion Semi Professional

1976 Centurion Semi Professional

When this bicycle was acquired I knew it had serious potential. But it was going to take a little work. Keeping that in mind, I understood I would have to sacrifice a speedy restoration and be OK with settling in for the long haul. As expected, certain items took much longer than anticipated to sort out, such as attaining appropriate shift levers, drop bars, and properly polishing certain components. Tack these tasks on along with a full load of graduate level courses and this slowly slides into a 10-month project.

1976 Centurion Semi Professional

A major part of my delay for this build hinged from my desire to harmonize the components of the bike. Purchased from the previous owner with a set tried and true Suntour bar end shifters, I felt it necessary to bring her back to original, factory-equipped downtube shifting glory.  The challenge became clear as although standard Suntour Power Shifters are not necessarily rare, the anodized black models were. Plus, anodized black groupsets of that vintage seemed to only be found on the Centurion Semi-Pro model. Luckily, a friend in Canada provided these to me off of his Centurion as he moved to bar end shifters (Go figure!). However, for his generosity, I am eternally grateful as the search had already spanned months and without him, likely would have continued.

1976 Centurion Semi Professional

The graceful and somewhat rare SR Royal seatpost and stem both came equipped with the bike. The smooth, brushed steel finish was soft and elegant but I wanted it to blend flawlessly with the aggressive, sharp angled chrome lug work. These items, along with the drop bars, were wet sanded and painstakingly hand polished to a mirror shine.  I believe the hours put into these laborious task was worth the extra effort as it assists in giving the cockpit a finished and cohesive look.

1976 Centurion Semi Professional

1976 Centurion Semi Professional

What I am most surprised and impressed with, however, is the braking system. With nearly all of my builds, I tend to update the brakes in one form or another as I feel the difference between vintage and modern component technology can be a significant jump for both ease of adjustment and brake safety. However, to my appreciation, the Dia-Compe Gran Compe setup is a magnificent system. The levers are mated up perfectly with Velo Orange metallic braided cable. It looks fantastic and breaks up the “blackout” of the hoods, levers and bar tape. The housing also harmonizes with the rest of the metal bits and lugwork. I also found it to be some of the strongest pulling cable and slickest housing combos I have found. 
To finish off the brakes the Gran Compe calipers are outfitted with NOS Scott/Mathauser salmon pads that will nail the Semi-Pro to an instant dead stop, if I choose so.

1976 Centurion Semi Professional
1976 Centurion Semi Professional
1976 Centurion Semi Professional

What I love the most on this bicycle is the frame. It is clear to me that care, time and thought went into its creation. There is attention being paid in many areas, some so subtle that an owner may discover them weeks, months or even years later.

1976 Centurion Semi Professional

I also love how solid this bicycle is. It has a sturdy, well built intangible that just feels pronounced when you climb on. 
The last element I can’t not mention when speaking of the frame is the paint. Photographs do help convey but the creamy, pearlescent metallic baby blue paint is simply stunning. I really treasure the hue. I only wish I could see the other color that was offered during the same period (creamy, pearlescent orange!). Also, although hard to detect, the gold pin striping was also a factory addition. I felt it necessary to touch up the lugwork lines to get the pop I know the original creators were going for.

1976 Centurion Semi Professional
1976 Centurion Semi Professional

The Centurions of the late seventies may not have been as worshiped as their Italian counterparts, but what they lacked in following they made up for in artful, well built, cost-effective bicycles. That is why I will continue to tip my hat to the magnificent builds that were coming out of Japan during this legendary era.

1976 Centurion Semi Professional

Color: Pearlized Cobalt Blue with gold pinstripes
Frame Size: 54cm (C-T) seat post & 54cm (C-C) top tube
Frame/Drop-outs: Tange Champion Cro-moly double butted steel
Fork: Tange Champion Cro-moly double butted steel
Drop Bars: SR Sakae Custom Road Champion; Deda Nastro Per Manubrio bar wrap with black tape
Stem: SR Royal
Saddle: Avocet Touring I
Seat Post: SR Royal
Crankset: Sugino Mighty Competition; 52/42, 171mm
Front Derailleur: Suntour Cyclone (anodized black)
Rear Derailleur: Suntour Cyclone (anodized black)
Shifting Levers: Suntour Power Shifters (anodized black)
Brake Levers: Dia-Compe (anodized black) with Cane Creek hoods
Brake Calipers: Dia-Compe Gran Compe; Scott/Mathauser pads (black alloy casings); Velo Orange metallic braided cable & housing
Freewheel: 5-Speed Suntour Winner (13/15/18/21/24)
Chain:
SRAM PC870
Hubs:
 
Suntour Sprint Sealed Bearings
Wheels: Araya 27″ x 1″, 36h; Suntour skewers
Tires: Panaracer Pasela; 27″x1-1/8″
Pedals: MKS Unique Royal Road (anodized black)
Special Features: Chrome wrap-around seat stays; Exceptional chromed lug work; Fully chromed frame/fork under paint; Suntour GS dropouts; Single eyelets front/rear; Single bottle mount

1976 Centurion Semi Professional

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15 comments on “1976 Centurion Semi Professional

  1. Camel City Cycles
    November 26, 2013

    Gorgeous…..freaking gorgeous. Centurion is the most underrated bicycle brand of all time, in my opinion.

    I’ve got two early 80’s Centurion Pro Tours in the works as well as a 1978 Super Elite. The finely shaped lugs, wrap around seat stays, fully chromed frames, and high quality Japanese components make these some of the nicest bikes you can find at a yard sale or on craigslist for less than a days wages.

    You did an amazing job with this one, it was well worth the wait I’m sure.

    • Josh C.
      November 26, 2013

      I would agree with your assessment of Centurion being underrated. I also feel like a few others could certainly make that cut, such as Panasonic, Lotus, Univega and yes, even the late 80’s Schwinn’s (although they were made by Panasonic). The Circuit was a mix of Columbus SL & SP and most other models had higher quality tubing as well along with a blend of impressive components and very fine paint jobs.

      However, I digress. We are talking Centurion and they also made a very, very fine bicycle. I hope to one day have a Semi-Professional that fits me and possibly even a Pro-Tour. Both legendary machines. You should be happy you have acquired one!

      Also, thanks for the kind words. I appreciate it!

  2. Johnny
    December 27, 2013

    That cleaned up beautifully! I think Centurions are great bicycles and I once had the opportunity to get one like this on craigslist and passed it up because I waited too long. Great bike!

    • Josh C.
      December 28, 2013

      If I had a dollar for all the lookers I passed up and wished I hadn’t. Such is the game of purchasing used and/or vintage bicycles, I suppose! Keep looking, Johnny. Centurions, and others within that same category, are still out there for reasonable prices.

    • Maria
      March 20, 2014

      Well, you certainly got your money’s worth. It would be hard to tell who made the frame, and it doesn’t relaly matter. It appears to be a pretty standard TIG welded steel frame of good quality. The components are also good quality. The shifters, although they are friction, are Suntour power shifters, one of the best designs ever, I had a set on a bike I used for years for commuting with never a problem. Those older non suspension mountain bikes are very versatile. They make good commuters, and can even be converted for use as touring bikes. Very rugged and simple to repair. This will make a great winter bike

      • Josh C.
        March 20, 2014

        This bike was a nothing but a pleasure to work on for many of the reasons you mention, Maria. The components were all solidly built and needed nothing more than a good cleaning and maybe some touch ups.
        Although, John, the new owner, didn’t sound like he would be making it much of a winter rider, but who knows? He chimes in comments often so perhaps he’ll give us an update on how much he stretched its legs these last few months.

  3. Terry Purdy
    June 7, 2014

    Hi, Just saw this page and you did a great job on your Semi-Pro.

    I bought a 1976 Centurion Pro from my brother in 1977. It’s all original except I had it powder coated lavender after I go tired of looking at the scratches I put on the original orange paint. Mine has pretty much the same components except mine are all silver/chrome and have cutouts and holes drilled in the chain rings to make it lighter back in the day.

    I’m finding not many of the Pro’s and Semi Pro’s exist today. Mostly Pro Tour and down the line is what you see. By the way I did own a Pro Tour but sold it 20 years ago.

    My Pro is shown on the Centurion thread at Bike Forums about a year ago.

    • Josh C.
      June 7, 2014

      Hi Terry,

      Your Centurion sounds like one classy ride.
      I would agree with you on the availability of Semi and Pro’s out there. They are becoming a bit elusive. I would also say the same for the Pro-Tour. They are also a becoming challenging to find, but then again, I’m not on the serious hunt for one. I’m simply observing the market.

      Thanks for your comments and visiting the site!

      • Terry Purdy
        June 7, 2014

        Thanks, for the quick reply. I forgot that my bike originally came with tubulars and I put on Rigida clinchers on it the first year I had it.

    • Tim
      January 13, 2015

      Terry – which specific Centurion thread is that on? I too own a Centurion Pro, and would love to see pics of yours.

      • Terry Purdy
        January 18, 2015

        My Centurion Pro is shown on Bikeforums.net on the “Centurion serial number database”. It was pictured under my handle “feetdry” on 10/7/2012 . It is #1645 of that thread.

  4. Tim
    January 13, 2015

    Lovely bike! Those Semi Pros of that era are gorgeous. I have a ’77 or ’78 Professional that has a lot in common with it, but some differences as well. Also, just so you know, based on a spec sheet someone shared with me about the Pro and Semi Pro, it seems the Semi Pro came with EITHER the down tube Power Ratchet shifters you have on yours now OR the SunTour barons it had before, so there’s a good chance those were original.

    Blog post about my Professional:
    http://spokesofawheel.blogspot.com/2010/08/one-of-my-favorite-bikes.html

    Photos of my Professional:
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/43828356@N00/sets/72157604257636170/

    • Josh C.
      January 14, 2015

      Thank you for the comments, Tim and after perusing images and the story of your Centurion Pro, I echo the same sentiments back to you! Your Pro is in absolutely sublime shape. Plus, I have a strong affinity for orange frames. What a gem! A Pro would be a dream to own. I hope to one day have the chance.

      Your comments regarding the option to have bar end or downtube shifters is new to me, however, I could see that being the case. The shifters that came on the Semi-Pro were quite old so stating they were stock would make sense. However, I am pleased with my choice to move to downtube shifters as I feel like bar end shifting is more suitable for touring bicycles. That’s just my personal preference, however.

      I do appreciate the bit of Pro/Semi-Pro trivia! If ever you find that spec sheet, please do pass it along. I would be interested in seeing that in print and possibly posting it to the build page above for posterity.

      Thanks for the post!

  5. Peter
    April 8, 2015

    Hi,

    I’m the original owner of a Centurion Semi-Pro. I bought my bike in 1976 for $525.00 Canadian. It was (is) a pearlized brilliant orange colour. It was a beautiful bike. I have ridden it for 36 years. I would put approximately 350 km on it every week. Every few years I would overhaul it and re-grease the wheel hubs and the crank-set. That would take some time, as I would have to be very careful not to loose the ball-bearings, and to repack them in the original order.

    Unfortunately, last year the rear dropouts failed, (on the derailleur side) a small piece of the chrome dropout fractured, which means the rear wheel cannot be attached to the bike. I am hopeful that someone who is an expert welder or frame builder might be able to repair the (stress) fracture, but I am not sure if it can be repaired…

    If you have ideas or suggestions regarding possible repairs, I am all ears.

    Regards,
    Peter

    • Josh C.
      April 8, 2015

      Hi Peter,

      What a treat to hear that you are the original owner of one of these fine machines. I applaud your consistent usage over the years and your careful upkeep. However, even the best frames, over decades of use, will loosen and/or break at certain points of structural deficiency. As sad as it is to see the damage, be pleased to know that you certainly got your money’s worth out of the frame!
      As for repair, at this point, it would certainly be easy to part ways but again, bravo to you for continuing your relationship with your Semi-Pro. As you mentioned, a professional would need to take a close look at your frame. The first thing to start with is where you are located in Canada. Unfortunately, I am not well versed in local frame builders outside of Oregon but I am certain you can find a number of qualified professionals in your province. This type of question is best suited for the fine folks at the Classic and Vintage forum (http://www.bikeforums.net/classic-vintage/). There are a number Canadian members so no matter where you are located, odds are there is another member that can give you a suggestion on a local frame builder.

      On a side note, if you ever do feel the need to part ways with your old pal, please do let me know. The milky, pearlescent blue is gorgeous but I have a tremendous soft spot in my heart for orange bicycles.

      Thanks for the post and I wish you luck on your hunt, Peter!

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