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Centurion Cinelli Equipe in disguise

Bike tags: Road bike | 62cm | c-record | Centurion | chorus | more tags >>
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62cm Columbus SL

Cinelli

Columbus SL, Campy C Record

Campy C Record hub, Campy Sigma Strada Chromium rim

Campy C Record hub, Campy Sigma Strada Chromium rim

Campy Croce D'Aune 53/42

Selle San Marco Rolls, Gipiemme 27.2

SPD, SRAM

Campy Super Record F/R derailer, The Croce D'Aune Delta brakes was recently replaced by vintage Chorus Mono Planar calipers

NB: This frame is now for sale!! Go here
An interesting bike. A previous owner seem to have spent a fair sum on a fine paint job and decal work, complete with clearcoat and re-chrome. It is certainly professionally done and looks amazing, but unfortunately it completely disguises the fact that this is one of those limited production Centurion Cinelli Equipe's from 84-85, and not a Super Corsa.
After corresponding with other Equipe owners and doing some google research, I have learned that the Equipe indeed was a high class racing machine and not in the least needing to be dressed up as something else. Alas.

Of lately there has been several lengthy debates evolving on various internet forums regarding the 'Centurionelli', or the Equipe, a 1984 offering from Centurion that allegedly had several ties to Italian frame shops and Cinelli. Even in the posted comments below are some interesting perspectives. Given that I almost certainly own an Equipe, the one shown here, I lean towards the research done by A. Winthrop which paint prettiest picture of the origins:

Hi,
.
There are no real answers to the questions surrounding the
Cinelli Equipe Centurion's origins. Jim Cunningham of CyclArt
and I discussed this in email several years ago and he
also put forward then his theory that the Equipe was made
in Japan of Cinelli frame components of the day (ie. 1984
for sale in the 1985 model year). He conceded then that
this was only his theory.
.
Long after my initial correspondence with Jim, BF's T-Mar
pointed me to a double-page spread advertisement in the 1984
December issue of Bicycling Magazine introducing the
"Cinelli Equipe Centurion", its formal name. This ad states:
"The frame is designed by Cino Cinelli and production is
coordinated and supervised by his staff." To my knowledge,
this is the only statement about the Equipe's origins in
print and it is open to interpretation.
.
It could mean that Cino Cinelli himself was persuaded by
Western States Import, Centurion's parent company, to design
and spec the bike, with his staff overseeing production. Or
it could mean that Cino Cinelli designed the bike only in the
sense that all bikes coming out of his former shop in Milan
were designed by him and that in fact his old shop, no
longer owned by him, did a deal with WSI, and WSI was just
using Cino's name in the ad copy.
.
I don't know if either is true, but tend to go with the first
interpretation because if what was stated in the Bicycling
Magazine ad was false or misleading, it would have been
quickly exposed as such and WSI\Centurion would have suffered
a huge and embarrassing black eye. I doubt they would have
been so stupid as to take such a high-profile, public risk.
.
As for country of manufacture, I respectfully disagree with
Jim that the Equipe was simply assembled in Japan of Cinelli
frame components and built up with Italian parts. I spent
15 years working as a journalist in Asia during half of
the '70s and all of the '80s and I learned enough about
foreign trade to know that there was no way a bicycle made
in Japan could arrive on US shores and be distributed across
the country without it being clearly marked "Made in Japan"
for all to see. All Centurions except the Equipe were
marked "Made in Japan" clearly, but the Equipe is clearly
marked "Made in Italy." The "Made in..." mark is US law.
.
To me, the open question is not what country produced the
Equipe, but what shop in Italy did. I haven't a clue but
accept T-Mar's speculation that it was NOT Cinelli's old
shop. Perhaps a former subcontractor of Cinelli's?
.
One thing for sure is that, whichever shop produced this
bike, their paint work was nowhere near as good as that
done by whatever Japanese manufacturers were turning out
other Centurion models at the time. One only has to compare
the steering tubes of an Equipe and one of any of the Japan-
made Centurions to see the difference in detail. Pull the
fork on any '80s Japan-made Centurion and you will find the
paint on the steering tube from crown to headset thread is
of exactly the same quality and finish as that of the
paint on exposed frame surfaces. In sharp contrast, the
Equipe's steering tube is mostly raw steel, splattered
with what looks like overspray from the fork blades.
The Equipe's exposed painted surfaces are also nowhere
near as durable as those on any Japan-made Centurion of
of '80s.
.
Attention to fit and finish was why Japan's car makers were
eating the lunch of European car makers and this success was
carried over to the bicycle industry. Had my Equipe been
produced in Japan, its original paint would be at least as
good as my middle-of-the-road LeMans RS. But it wasn't and
it isn't, IMHO.
.
Shortly after T-Mar gave me a heads up on the December '84
Bicycling Magazine ad, I pointed Jim to it because he had
a nice Equipe for sale at the time. He ran to his ancient
pile of Bicycling Mags, found the ad and was kind enough
to send a copy to me, which I have at hand now.
.
Original specs for the Equipe are also listed in the ad.
They appear via a link in an earlier post of mine in this
thread. The Equipe's frame markings are also detailed.
.
So that's all I know or think I know about the Equipe.
I'm all ears(eyes) to anyone who can document more about
the Equipe's origins. Until then, it's all just speculation.
.
PS - Another factor weighing against production in Japan,
I think, was simply the cost of shipping tubesets and
components from Italy to Japan for assembly rather than
just assembling all in Italy and then shipping direct
to California, et al, for US distribution. Japan's
exporting costs were increasing by 1984 because of a
strengthening Yen vs the US$, to the point where I doubt
the difference in labor-intensive production costs
between more-costly Italy and Japan would have justified
the additional expense of packing\shipping Italian-made
tubesets and components and than repacking\reshipping complete
bikes again. Profit margins in the highly competitive
bicycle industry of the '80s would have been too thin
to support these additional logistical costs, I suspect.
.
It is interesting to note that there were actually TWO
decal sets that appeared on the Cinelli Equipe Centurions.
One you can see on JunkYardBike's Equipe in this thread.
The other you can see on my Epuipe. The former echoes
Italy's colors; the latter are in hideous lavendar. Jim's
custom decal set for this bike is very nice indeed and
is especially tempting for those of us with the lavendar
DT decals. But ugly as they are, I keep mine as they are
part of what makes this bike unique. The poor paint
work and the mostly exposed steel of the steering tube
are also, sad to say, part of what makes this bike
unique.
.
But the Equipe's nicely thinned head lugs have no ugly
file marks showing through the chrome as on many Cinelli
SCs so that's a plus. Some '80s SCs don't have chromed
lugs, according to the late Sheldon Brown's article on
Cinelli. That's a plus for the Equipe too. :-)
.
The long term plan is to straighten up the Campy components from the current wild mix of eras to C Record/Croce d'Aune/Chorus, which would be somewhat consistent with the age.

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The Equipe discussion....

As an Equipe owner, of course I prefer the official "Cinelli Equipe Centurion" designation, which mnakes it sound like I can afford a Cinelli. A Super Corsa just went on the Bay for 2100, so that would nice if true.

The discussion regarding the frame/bike's origins is great, and informative. We may never truly know, but my knowledge of industrial trends during the era, "just in time" manufacturing, and the economies at play support the frame at least, and likley the bike as a whole, built in Europe, labeled with the horrible lavender Centurion items (that are sooo Centurion) and imported to the states.
I enjoy not knowing, nearly as much as I'd enjoy my bike if it just fit me.

I've learned a lot just from this bike's post.

Two things...

First, your statement, "...there was no way a bicycle made in Japan could arrive on US shores and be distributed across the country without it being clearly marked "Made in Japan" for all to see" is not always true. Bianchi made a number of bikes in Japan during the Piaggio era, a slew out of "Bianchi labeled" Columbus Aelle and Aelle tubing. You would be hard pressed to find a large "Made in Japan" label on every frame. That being said, I might lean toward the Italy origin, too, at least for your sample. In addition, I just wanted to reassert that you're bike is almost assuredly not all Columbus SL due to the size. Those that used Columbus went to Columbus SP or at least an SP (or sometimes even Reynolds) mix in this range for strength in the larger frames 59/60 and up. The SL and SP stickers were exactly the same at this time.

Cinelli Equipe by Centurion

If it's an Equipe, it's SL tubing. It certainly looks to be the Equipe. The only Japanese anything on the Equipe were the decals on the down tubes and head tube.

I'm sure you've been to the Centurion page, so I don't need to fill you in on the components. Your bike is what Centurion should have done to start with. My all-OEM Equipe (saddle in storage after a NOS one went for 240 on eBay) is pretty but not beautiful like that.

CyclArt did a couple for folks, I wonder if they did this one? The group was Campy NR, but I think the frame is the heart of the matter and you can outfit it any way you want; it's still an Equipe.

Beautiful bike, and one of a rare bunch. I know of 8, this would make 9, plus a couple of frames floating out there. I covet a 56cm, and would trade my pristine 52cm frame in a heartbeat for one the right size to re-do. Killer.

RobbieTunes

Cinelli Equipe by Centurion

You can make that 10 of these. I am the original owner of a 60cm Equipe I bought brand new. It's a great bike that I am in the process of restoring.
And all the information that came with the bike indacated that it was made in Italy.

Rich

Restoring an Equipe..

Rich,

I'm getting into mine, now, have it completely apart.
I'll send you a PM, I've got some questions. Jan's bike got me over the doubt hump to go ahead and do it.

Thanks,

RobbieTunes

Not this one...

Thanks for the thought Robbie.

Yes, we at CyclArt have painted many a Centurion Equipe. Almost always the frame comes in with the request that we repaint with Cinelli decals. In recent years, they often arrive with counterfeit Cinelli decals to put on them. Several times we have had the bikes come in already repainted with Cinelli decals. In these cases the customer always has bought them thinking they got a "real" Cinelli.

We are seeing many, more misidentified frames now than in years past.

So, we give them the "good news / bad news". The bad news is; the frame was not made by Cinelli, and we will never decal one as such. The good news is; on a side by side comparison, especially with the paint off, the Centurion is lighter and considerably better crafted than Cinellis of that era. Very nice frames!

The other issue with these frames is that the lavendar colors decals that were so fashionable in Japan when these were made don't play well anymore. (I'd have vetoed that color choice for the US market even then!)

The paintwork is unremarkable and low gloss. Decals are not clearcoated and so are oftern deteriorated. So, while we COULD, we've never refinished one of these frames in the Silver/lavendar colors either!

My suggestion for those who have brought these frames in for refinishing, is that we paint the frame any color they like; say a nice Cinelli Sunset Orange perhaps and apply a custom decal set I designed and print to order. The decal set plays up the Cinelli relationship and plays down the Centurion, without misrepresenting what the bike is: So most these frame we've refinished have the custom decals. Others have opted for orignal decal in different colors or something entirely custom.

I'm new on this forum and I don't know how to post photos yet, but if anyone is intersted, I have photos of some of the frames we have refinished.

Feel free to contct me directly, I certainly can email the photos. I don't know if this forun notifies me of responses in this thread or not...

Thanks!

Jim Cunningham
President
CyclArt,inc.
www.CyclArt.com

CyclArt....

Jim,
I've seen a couple of photos of the Equipe's you've done, and they are exactly how I'd do them, if I was talented and capable, both in design and carrying out the idea. They are nice.

It's no surprise to me the lavender made it onto the Equipe. Centurion could spec out some really pretty frames, and then notch 'em down a step with the fonts and colors.

Go figure. Someday, I'll send you a frame, I hope, to get it my way.

I appreciate a person of your stature commenting on the brand.

RobbieTunes

SL?

I'm not so sure. I've almost never seen a 62cm bike in SL alone. Almost every manufacturer moved to the heavier SP or a mix of SP above 59, this for strength in these large sizes. They used the same Columbus sticker for SL and SP back then. They might have used some of the frame in SL but SP was usually seen in the DT and/or ST. Seems SLX allowed them to move to slightly larger sizes without resorting to the rather robust SP.

thanks for the comments

Wow, you're into these Centurions, RobbieTunes. Somebody paid 240 for a saddle! This makes some of my own more extravagant acquisitions almost justifiable.

Glad you can confirm my suspicions. I just went to your page and compared our frames, very similar. I've always found that the DT bottle bosses are very low, looks to be the same on yours. Do you know the total # of imported Equipe's?

After discovering the true origin of this frame I was initially somewhat disappointed (as a newbie I believed the seller who had labeled it as a Super Corsa). It was a local CL sale, so I almost wanted to take it back. But then I discovered how fun and exciting it was to ride, and it DID look mighty good, despite the misrepresentation. Now I'm speculating that this maybe is as fine a frame as a Super Corsa of similar vintage, and certainly more rare.

Anyway, just did 50 miles on it yesterday afternoon, and had a good time. I'll keep an eye out for a 56cm for you.

Are the Japanese Centurions fine bikes? I'm currently watching a 48cm Le Mans on eBay for my son's birthday present. The price is going up, and I am not sure about where to put my limit.

Cheers, Jan

Equipe and Centurion

Jan,

Yes, I do like the Centurions, especially the models designed with competition in mind. I don't really consider the Equipe part of the line, as it only shared the Centurion decals, and nothing else. The Equipe is only stamped with the frame size on the bottom bracket, and that is about 3-4cm less than how the bike generally rides. Mine is a "50," but rides like a 52-53.

I know of 9 Equipe's that exist, so maybe there are a couple dozen out there. Import figures I don't have. They were very expensive relative to other bikes at the time, and ugly compared to their Italian Super Corsa cousins.

Japanese Centurions, at one time, were much better known, especially the Ironman. I still remember when they came out, and I wanted one, but settled for a Trek. The Centurions were known, at least the mid to upper level models, for excellent componentry and frames for the price. From the Lemans up, they didn't mess around, even with a couple of high-end touring bikes. Their paint quality was better than most of the pack, which is why they're worth having today.

The Tange frames and upper level components set them apart, especially the Ironman Master models, with the Shimano groups that became Ultegra. They say the Carbon Ironman had Dura Ace, but I simply have never seen one that didn't have Shimano 600.

The Lemans has always been an excellent value, a frame right there with the Ironman models and smooth, reliable components. I enjoy my two models, especially the 1984. In 1983-1985, the Lemans, Turbo, Comp TA, and then Ironman models were superb for the price, and I think many still are.

That 48cm went where I thought it would, and the recent Ironman in about the same size was a buy in itself. I've tracked Ironman bikes for the last couple of years on eBay, and they all average 0 or so, with shipping, which is a great price if the condition is good for a bike of that quality.

I'd probably not buy anything lower than a Lemans unless the condition was pretty good and the price right. I'm spoiled by the models I do have, and there seems always to be a Lemans or an Ironman for sale. The Lemans mixte is one of the best mixte models out there, too.

Good luck, and I'll keep you in mind with any I see. I can never get the small ones in, and could have sold a ton of 50-54cm models by now. I'm out of the market for a while, building an aluminum bike and looking for a Centurion Facet, the only aluminum model they made.

I'd like one of each in steel, carbon, and aluminum by Centurion. I guess they realized the price of titanium would be too high to try.

I know the bikes pretty well, and can help with repair/restore/rebuild questions if the need ever arises. I envy your Equipe and it's certainly a jewel.

tubing

I'm betting you it's not Columbus SL either. It's more than likely Columbus SP due to the large size as most were moving to SP above 59 for strength (sometimes including 59). It could also be a mix of SL and SP ie SP in the downtube etc. Regardless, it's a nice bike for sure, with or without label quandary. At least it's not a label issue that's totally without merit! I know it's probably dictated by your need but that beast would look oh so much better with the stem lowered.

Super

Intelligent.



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