1904 Centaur Featherweight Tall 28″ Frame
THE CENTAUR FEATHERWEIGHT IN ‘CYCLING’ MAGAZINE:
We illustrate the new cross-frame put on the market by the Centaur Company. It is claimed by using two smaller diameter tubes as shown in the illustration that while not increasing the vertical rigidity it gives a considerable increased lateral stability as regards the forepart of the frame, and the fact of the tubes being continued through to the fork ends materially strengthens the back part. The new frame weights only 5 lb. and is thus much lighter than an ordinary diamond frame machine. The Centaur Company anticipate that their roadster mount made in this style with brake and guards will scale only 25 lb. complete. The lady’s on similar lines with gear case included, will come out between 25 lb. and 26 lb.
In its prime, the Centaur was the world’s most expensive bicycle, packed with unique features. The company’s ‘Featherweight’ was the world’s leading cross frame design, beating Raleigh’s recently-introduced ‘X Frame’ hands down on weight and performance. Observe the twin chainstays, duplex front forks (their style adopted by Beeston Humber) and unique Bowden rear brake made especially for Centaur to mount on the cross tube.
In the 21st Century, the unique Dursley-Pedersen has quite rightly been boosted to the top of the bicycle collector’s list of must-have items. Luckily, there are enough surviving original Pedersens to satisfy collectors’ cravings, with the model also reintroduced in the 1980s as a modern replica to provide a practical alternative for regular use. But the Centaur Featherweight outclasses the Pedersen in design, style, practicality and collectibility. The example featured here is the largest size made, an imposing 28″ frame.
1904 Centaur Featherweight
Sturmey Archer Three-speed Gear No 49640X
Frame No 95844
Spring frames were all the rage at the beginning of the century, and this machine was designed with twin cross tubes that allowed the frame to flex under use, the Featherweight therefore being considered both a spring frame and a cross frame.
In the early years of British cycle manufacture, gilt transfers (decals) were applied to each bicycle rather than a metal badge, denoting the company, the model (and sometimes also the shop that supplied it). This rare surviving Centaur Featherweight has a feature very rarely observed: in addition to its surviving head transfer, it still displays the original transfer fitted to the seat tube, the ‘Feather’ transfer.
I’m not sure of its actual age. The Centaur marque enthusiast suggests 1904. Comparing its frame number to my other Centaurs would make it around 1905. Another Centaur enthusiast thinks 1906-1908.
This very rare survivor is an impressively tall 28″ frame model. A pleasing feature of this wonderful original unrestored example is its original transfers (decals), on the headstock and seat tube. It is in transit to me at present and I’ll update photos and details after it arrives. I’m not yet sure of its age. They were introduced in 1902; the company ceased trading in 1909, and unsold models were retailed by Humber until WW1, though according to the 1913 catalogue these examples had detail differences such as brazed-on brake fittings. The frame number is underneath the original paint so it may require forensic examination.
1903 CENTAUR CATALOGUE
Centaur also marketed a ‘Featherbed Featherweight’ (below) which was essentially the same machine as above, but fitted with special wide rims and 2″ Dunlop tyres.
STURMEY-ARCHER ‘MODEL X’ THREE SPEED GEAR: No 49640X
CENTAUR PATENT BOWDEN RIM BRAKE
1905 CENTAUR CATALOGUE: LIST OF OPTIONS