80’s Vintage Centurion Elite R/S

Odette got me a 1998 Litespeed Classic for my birthday in 2016 and I got her a 2000 Litespeed Tuscany for hers.  As I stripped the Shimano 105 components off the Tuscany frame in order to build it up with a Campagnolo groupset, I started thinking about what I could do with those 105 parts.


The friend Odette got the Classic from was moving out of town and had a girlfriend who didn’t have a bike – he was planning on getting one for her.  I thought I might be able to put something together so that he could take his time in figuring out what bike she really needed.  Alternatively, Odette’s college roommate had moved to Seattle a year ago and we’d been talking about biking with her, but she held back because her bike wasn’t suitable, so maybe I could build something that she could borrow for a while.

It occurred to me that I had this 80’s vintage Centurion that was set up as a single-speed which I’d only ridden a couple of times in the last year.  I knew that it had a derailleur hanger so why not turn it back into a geared bike using the components from the Tuscany?  The frame was light but Tange steel is quality tubing so it ought to be a fun ride if I put it together right.

I measured the seat tube and figured that the frame size was 52 or 53cm – likely too big for either the roommate or the girlfriend – but still a good project.  I stripped it down and everything came off easily and nothing looked to be in bad shape.  the frame had some spots of surface rust but no dents that I could see and nothing that looked concerning.  The threads all seemed to be intact.

I took the frame and fork to Seattle Powdercoat and had them sandblast it and paint it black with 80% gloss.  They did a really good job.  I mounted the hollowtech octalink bottom bracket and it fit and went in just fine.  The cranks went on like they were made for it.  Brakes were similarly not an issue.  I had ordered a Chris King 1″ threaded headset and waited to install the fork (and handlebars and brifters) until I could put that in place. The bearing race on the fork wouldn’t work with the Chris King headset and the one with the headset wouldn’t fit on the fork – so I filed the shoulder off of the fork and went with the one from Chris King. (Maybe a case of an ISO crown race and a JIS fork?)


I took off the wheels with the single speed rear hub and decided that I’d spring for something kind of sexy.  Velomine had a wheel set with H Plus Son deep-section rims on Shimano 105 hubs in black for a price that was less than what I’d pay for a wheel set built on used hubs at Recycled Cycles.  The cassette from the Tuscany looked like it still had some miles left and it went on easily – I didn’t have any tubes with stems long enough to work with the rims, though.  I mounted a set of Gatorskins I’d taken off of Will’s bike because they had flat spots. They still had flat spots when mounted on the new rims.  I replaced the Serfas tires on my Rodriguez with cross tires in anticipation of a tour on gravel and I used the Serfas tires on the Centurion  – but I had to wait until I could get tubes with 60mm stems to work with the deep-section rims.


The Centurion had originally come with downtube shifters – the pair of them mounted on a single braze-on in the middle of the downtube.  As I started thinking about cables I realized that I needed clamp-on cable stops which I ordered from Amazon in silver.  When I mounted the front derailleur I discovered that the clamp that fit the Tuscany was too big for the Centurion, and Recycled Cycles sold me a braze-on adapter clamp that they only had in black – meaning that I had to order another clamp-on cable stop so that it would be black, too.  I had to use a spacer from some old set of brakes to make the bolt from the Shimano clamp work with the braze-on adapter. It seemed to me that the cage ended up positioned too far inboard, but until I got the brifters installed I couldn’t really resolve that.  I ordered a problem solvers shifter boss cover for the downtube braze-on from Vello Orange.

The brakes hooked up easily although I probably left too much housing on the back brake.  With new true rims they adjusted really closely.  The shifters were a different story…

Where more modern frames run the shifter cables under the bottom bracket (presumably to get a larger radius bend) the Centurion frame had metal guides brazed onto the top of the bottom bracket.  This arrangement should  add some protection for the cables, but at the expense of tighter bends.  I figured that it couldn’t hurt to put some teflon cable housing liner in the guides to reduce friction, and as long as I was buying liner I got enough to sheath the whole section of bare cable figuring that would protect the paint on the frame.


The shifter boss covers I got to put on the braze-on where the down-tube shifters had mounted didn’t look right to me, so I ended up with just a leather washer and a flat headed bolt instead.


I threaded the cables though the shifter levers and cut housing to length and inserted barrel adjusters, then threaded the cables through the liner and the guides and hooked them up to the derailleurs.  (First I had to figure out which shifter  went to which side.)  When I got done the front derailleur wouldn’t shift into the large chainring and the back one wouldn’t shift at all.  I fiddled some, but all I had to work with was the attachment of the cable to the derailleur and I knew that after loosening and tightening a few times I’d need a new cable.  Eventually I got the back derailleur to move, but it felt like there were no ratchets in the lever.  I was a running out of time to get the bike finished for a promised delivery over Memorial Day, so I hauled it in to Recycled Cycles for a consultation.  They observed that the cable housing was cut too long, the way I’d routed it to be underneath the bar tape didn’t help, the ferrule at the frame end of the back housing section had crimped and was a problem – and most likely the end of the cable on the right brifter wasn’t seated.  They said that they would be able to squeeze it in over the weekend so I gratefully left it to them.

While screwing up the shifting I had also put a new battery into the flight deck and set the wheel size for 700 X 28,  I downloaded an instruction manual and figured out what button was supposed to do what, but the selectors on the brifters didn’t seem to work and I didn’t have time to figure it out before dropping the bike off at the LBS.

On Monday I got a call from the LBS asking if it was okay for them to replace the bottom bracket because it was too long and causing the front derailleur not to work.  I said okay, that I’d expected an issue with the positioning of the derailleur, and we had a discussion about hollowtech and hollowtech II.  (Later I got a call back saying that I didn’t need a new bottom bracket after all – torquing the cranks down a little more got everything lined up where it needed to be.)  I went by the next morning and picked up the bike along with a couple of inner tubes and a couple of valve extenders.  They had the rear axle shoved all the way back in the dropouts so that the wheel rubbed, but that was easy to adjust.  I got it home and fiddled with the brakes and tightened the headset locknut.  I took a small ride and noticed that the bars weren’t straight but that it shifted just fine. I loosened the headset (and then figured out that I needed to loosen the stem) got the bars straight, and tightened everything up.  I tightened the brakes good and tight but decided not to shorten the housing runs.  I taped the handlebars noting that the spiral on the left went the opposite way from the marks left by the previous wrap.  I checked the chain and saw that the gauge wouldn’t go in even on the 75% side.  I put on some cheap platform pedals without toeclips and rode to the grocery store for lunch.  The bike felt good to me.



I spent some time fiddling with the flight deck – I got it to display speed but the buttons on the brifter didn’t seem to work.  I realized that I’d mounted the cyclemeter on the left side of the bars and that if I were doing it right it should probably go on the other side.  I switched sides and Odette got some more of the settings fixed but the mode button on the brifter still didn’t seem to work.  (I counted teeth on cogs and determined that the cassette was 12-13-14-15-16-17-19-21-23 but couldn’t figure out how to set the flightdeck to those values.)



I swapped out pedals for a set that work with my shoes and I rode the bike for 35 miles (including a good climb) and was happy with its performance.  I felt that the handlebars were tilted down too much and corrected that, but otherwise I didn’t have any complaints.  Then I took my pedals off and replaced them with the cheap plastic platforms.

Here is the as-built configuration:

1984 Centurion Elite R/S
Bicycle Type Road/sport

Frame & Fork
Frame Construction: Lugged steel
Frame Tubing Material: Tange Champion 2
Fork Brand & Model: Centurion
Fork Material: Tange Steel

Component Group Shimano 105
Brakeset: Shimano 105 5500
Shift Levers: Shimano 105 5500 (Flightdeck)
Front Derailleur: Shimano 105 5500
Rear Derailleur: Shimano 105 5500 9-speed
Crankset: Shimano 105 5500 53/39
Pedals: generic platform
Bottom Bracket: Shimano original Hollowtech (Octalink)
BB Shell Width: 68mm
Rear Cogs: 9-speed, 12 – 23 teeth
Chain: Shimano
Seatpost: SR Laprada (aluminum)
Saddle: Selle Italia Mundialita
Handlebar: Sakae SR Custom Road Champion
Handlebar Stem: SR Custom
Headset: Chris King 2Nut (1″ threaded)

Hubs: Shimano 105 5800 (32 holes)
Rims: H Plus Son SL42 (42mm deep, machined sidewall)
Spokes: DT Swiss 2.0
Tires: Serfas Seca 700×28

 I cleaned the bike up after the ride and stamped my initials on the bottom bracket so that there was some identifying mark since the original serial number was hidden under the powder coat.  (The original serial number, which is now illegible, is N4G7424.  My mark is JPS2016.)  Here’s a couple of photos:

About Centurion serial numbers: the story I heard was that at the beginning of the ’70s the guy who represented Raleigh in the US ordered 2,000 bikes from Japan for the American Grand Prix but wasn’t allowed to sell them as Raleigh – so he put Centurion decals on them, made a bunch of money, and started a new brand.  At the end of the ’80s the Yen tanked and like everyone else he moved production to Taiwan, consolidating the road models into his Diamondback mountain bike line. (Here is the Wikipedia version.)  Based on the algorithm in this Bikeform thread, (which is repeated by Wikipedia) the N4G7424 serial number on this bike equates to a manufacture date of week 13/14 of 1984.  That sounds right based on the catalogue and everything else I know about the bike.

Here’s a gallery of photos taken right after my ride.  These photos don’t show any decals – I did order Centurion decals (in yellow with gray outlines) for the downtube, a yellow “C” namebadge and a Tange Champion sticker for the top of the seat tube.  The bike should also have had a “Japanese quality – designed in America” decal at the base of the seat tube, but VeloCal didn’t offer one of those. They were supposed to be shipped in ten days, but three weeks later I inquired and got this response:

Hello Jerry,

I’m glad you asked! Your decals are in the queue to be custom printed today and should ship by tomorrow. You will receive an email from us when they ship. :-)

Moral to the story is don’t buy from VeloCal if you have any other options.  (They showed up the day after I delivered the bike so a few days later I mailed them




Six months later I got the bike back as it was too big for the girlfriend.  Shortly after that Will finally got the Copenhagen Wheel he’d backed on kickstarter and needed a bike to mount it on.  It went on easy and seemed to work just fine.  After riding it a few times he complained that the front shifter was stuck (and the handlebars were slipping down) and left it for me to adjust while he was out of town.  I found that the rear derailleur cage was fractured and that the shifter for the front derailleur had just been jammed too hard.  I surmised that the issue was that the chain from the Tuscany was simply too short for that frame.  I put a new chain on, installed an Ultegra 10-speed rear derailleur from the Ibis tandem, and took the flight deck off of the bars.  As far as I could tell everything was working when I returned it to him.


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