Ride Report: 1984 Centurion Turbo

What an incredible morning! Not a cloud in sight, there’s only a slight breeze and the Weather Service is calling for a high of 84. However, when I left for my ride this morning, the thermometer had only reached 69… simply marvelous riding weather, and a great day to  take the Centurion out for a second, longer and faster ride. (Yesterday’s initial shakedown ride was a short five mile run through town.)

Even after weeks of triple-figure heat wave, the flooding that we experienced along the Missouri River still remains in many fields along the river bottom highways.

My “proving ground” is a lengthy stretch of nearly abandoned highway that runs parallel to the Missouri River. Stretching across river bottom land, this orphaned section of Old Missouri 210 provides me with a very flat twelve mile loop of relatively decent pavement. Cyclists like this segment because the majority of traffic chooses to bypass the flats in favor of the four lane “new” Missouri 210. There are eight miles of rolling hills coming out of town from the west, dozens of miles of steeper climbs as cyclists leave the old highway behind and head north, and a couple of long slogs up hills to the east before bottoming out again onto mile after mile of flat river bottom highway. I like to ride the twelve mile loop, back to back three or four times when I’m doing intervals, or when I just want to see how fast I can ride. This plan works exceedingly well when the winds are down. With almost no windbreak along Old Missouri 210, headwinds can also prove to be quite brutal. One half mile section runs beside a bluff which acts like a wind tunnel: with only the slightest provocation from Mother Nature, this wind tunnel can alternatively shoot a rider through the channel at astonishing speed, or nearly halt a bike in its tracks.

I decided to bring along my mid-80’s era Colnago for comparison riding today. The plan was to ride four twelve mile loops, alternating between bikes on each pass. I reasoned that this way I might get warmed up on the first loop so that subsequent passes would provide me with a fair platform for comparing the two bikes. I need to reach some conclusions about the Centurion Turbo: Do I keep her in the collection or not?

Here are the notes for my ride reports:

Yesterday’s route: Five miles of moderately flat terrain with some slight incline; mostly good roads with some occasional rough pavement.

Today’s route: Twenty-four total miles of very flat terrain on mostly good roads and occasional rough patches.


Prep: The wheels needed to be trued prior to my shakedown ride; gears and chain needed lubrication. As delivered, the downtube shifters were very stiff so  I replaced the cables – with minimal effect on shifting. Because the D-ring was verytight I was forced to use pliers to loosen the tension. (Very likely, the shifters will need to be taken apart and cleaned, however they are moving much more smoothly now – especially under load.) I noticed immediately that the position of the downtube shifters is different than on  my Freschi, the design of which has the most intuitive positioning I’ve experienced. On the Centurion Turbo I keep reaching slightly too high to shift because I am used to reaching for the Freschi shifters. I noticed that the rear wheel may need to have the hubs overhauled and feel the chain probably needs to be checked for wear before too many miles are added.

Acceleration: On my initial ride I felt the Turbo had very nice acceleration, moving out of the low starting gears rapidly and settling into the higher gears in fairly short order. My inaugural ride was relatively short, so I didn’t have any prolonged riding at speed, but easily moved from stop to 20+ mph. However, the Turbo won’t hang with a bike built for sprinting. The Colnago, for instance, accelerates much faster and seems to really be built for speed. The front fork of the Colnago is more aggressively designed and the overall geometry seems better suited for speed than the Turbo: I sit much higher on the Turbo, while I am closer to the ground – like a Porsche or Ferrari – when astride the Colnago.

Tracking: The Turbo tracks nicely, holding a line over rough pavement. Steering isn’t twitchy at all, but not quite at the same level of line tracking as the Paramount which is the best I’ve ever experienced. The Centurion tracks much more like a touring bike than a racing bike. In comparison to the Colnago, which is much twitchier  and only requires the tiniest of gentle nudges to move off track or to carve out a corner, the Turbo likes to hold a line; for tracking, it’s kind of like my Shogun, only with speed. There wasn’t a lot of opportunity for cornering – especially fast cornering. Using an empty lot for short sprints and tight 180 degree turns, the Turbo seemed to carve comfortably. However, these weren’t at speed. Further open road testing will be needed to assess cornering capabilities.

Comfort: I like the feel of this bike almost as much as I do the Paramount. A longer stem extension feels better to me – something I wish I had on the Paramount actually because the Paramount’s 3ttt is rather short. The bars definitely need to rotate downward so that the drop position is rather more flat than angled. The current position is simply not comfortable for any length of time. Further open road testing is needed before I can make any real judgement about ride comfort, but I will likely need to micro-adjust saddle height, etc.

Saddle: Perhaps I’m just used to the fit of the Selle Regal, but I found the fit of the Selle Italia Turbo somewhat mundane. If there is any wiggle room, I’d like to push the saddle back as well.

Pedals: These worked fine. I rode yesterday in Carnacs and today in vintage racing shoes with cleats. Over the short distance, the pedals functioned smoothly and provided ample platform for my foot.

Brakes: I was able to stop quickly and the original pads are – surprisingly! – still supple and grabby, though beginning to squeal. I suspect that if I take her down a long hill and use the brakes a lot I will be able to cut through the top layer of glaze and the pads will be fine. I adjusted the brake fit prior to riding and the lever tension is just about where I like it to be. The levers and hoods fit my hands comfortably. I did not brake from the drops however because of the poor handlebar positioning.

I did not make any climbs or descents this morning but once the adjustments are made I will take her out to see how she rides under those further conditions. One further note: this bike feels very lightweight during a ride. One online resource I located indicated a maximum rider weight of 175 lbs for Tange Champion No. 1 tubing, which leaves me feeling a bit apprehensive at 190.


3 thoughts on “Ride Report: 1984 Centurion Turbo

  1. Kent says:

    I had an ’84 Turbo that I carelessly left with a brother when I moved across the country. Mine was exactly like yours except it was black and I had replaced the original brake levers with Dia-Compe “aero” levers.

    I loved that bike and it was a big mistake to leave it behind! It was “downsized” in my brother’s move and it’s gone now.

    If you ever decide to eliminate your Turbo from your collection, let me know. Great bike!

    • Kent, this one probably won’t be leaving the collection for a while. I always regretted selling my original first Centurion; even though I probably won’t put in nearly as many miles on the Turbo as I do the Paramount or Shogun, I’m really enjoying getting out on the road with this “time capsule” … it’s the only bike I’ve got that is entirely original, and riding it sure brings back memories of that first Centurion… a little glimmer of the past!

  2. zac says:

    long ago you wrote this but I found it interesting. I think you did very well by getting this. Your position was clearly not correct and likely you were not giving yourself the best test. The tubing being #1 is the same in strength as Columbus SL and you have nothing to fear about it being strong enough. Also you might like to know that the bicycle was made by Panasonic for Centurion. And next to the Cinelli/Centurion Turbo, it was just about tied for the nicest Centurion. The Equipe is the Italian Cinelli and most don’t know its a pure Cinelli and was even more Cinelli than the Cinellis at the time due to Columbus purchasing Minelli. Anyway the Turbo is every bit what you said and you don’t need to put new bearings in, simply pop the seal on the bearings with a exacto blade and put a tad of grease in. This is common on classics that sat for a while, simply refresh the lubricant. Get the seat flattened and lowered like your other ride and I bet its as good as any. Its a road bicycle, not a crit bicycle and was the best of Japanese production bicycles which put the death nail in the strong hold of Italian bicycles ownership of the top spots.
    I would certainly get better tires and you could really improve the bicycle with wider rims with less spokes and 25c Pro 4 Michelins for example. Your is real sharp, I have the same bicycles, showroom condition, but much smaller in a 53 size. Thanks, Zac

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