A very striking bike entered my life when I liberated a grubby, but very, very solid Centurion from a yard sale (along with a 1974 Raleigh Sprite – which, to my delight, was in showroom condition!) At first glance, I thought the Centurion was going to be way too big for me, but after riding it around for a bit I was pleased to discover that it’s actually a very comfortable fit for me.
Somewhere along the way a Schwinn generator, headlamp, and tail light had been mounted – all of which worked surprisingly well; the headlamp was startlingly bright. But I couldn’t get past the huge areas of missing paint on the tubing though – bare metal was showing and it was way beyond the look of “charming patina!”
I’ve cleaned up and polished all the components (which appear to be 100% original, by the way…right down to the tires.) The original cotton bar wrap had never had a shellac coating applied and was in pretty good condition.
I’d read on Lovely Bicycle! that shellac resulted in a very comfortable grip surface and that with subsequent annual coats, the wrap would last virtually forever. I confess that I had my doubts about the “comfort” of shellac, but I was intrigued with the look and the tradition. The first application sucked up a lot of the amber shellac I purchased for the task, but as noted in the various online references on the subject, the subsequent coats went on more quickly and much more thinly. My bars have seven coats and I confess that I’m glad to have decided upon adding shellac. Those initial misgivings about the surface comfort were – happily! – misinformed, and the feel of gripping the randonneur style handlebars is very natural. It’s not as cushy or as pliable as modern cork and it certainly doesn’t feel like the 1970’s-era thick foam grip. It just feels … right.
The lights and generator are pretty heavy and I decided not to re-install them when I built the bike back up again after the repaint and application of decals. Shortly after the build up, I ran across a set of vintage Peugeot fenders which fit the look I was going for perfectly – it’s amazing how often such things transpire by fortuitous happenstance! I have a modern NiteRider lighting system that can be swapped between bikes and I’m now considering racks, handlebar bag and choice of saddle to transform this into a solid touring/randonneur machine.
Here is the Centurion right after the initial shakedown ride. The fenders were added later.