1909 Resilient Royal Centaur
1909 Resilient Royal Centaur Roadster
This rapid steed which cannot stand
Follows the motion of my hand
An iron Centaur we ride the land
This Resilient Centaur has so many unique (and interesting) features that it’s not easy to take it all in at first viewing. A new design of ‘Diagonal’ frame was introduced in 1909: It consists of the ordinary diamond frame with the addition of two diagonal stays running straight through from the top head lug to the back hub. These stays are not in the same plane as the main members of the frame, thereby avoiding vertical rigidity, but are outside, and on each side of it thereby giving increased lateral strength. The Twin Chain Stays are also noteworthy, as is Centaur’s unusual patent Spring Seat Pillar. Any of these features would be significant on their own. However, this Resilient Royal is also blessed with an option, introduced in 1909, which outshines them all …the Centaur Spring Fork.
The Spring Fork was no doubt a result of the company’s motorcycle design programme. Previously Townsend, Thos & Sons, the Centaur Bicycle Co was founded in 1875 by George Gilbert and Edward Mushing, at West Orchard, Coventry. The company produced one of the earliest examples of a full diamond frame from 1889 with the steering head of the early pivot type. Duplex chainstays were introduced in 1896, together with duplex seat stays, on some models. The business was incorporated by 1897 as the New Centaur Cycle Co Ltd with a 10% dividend paid in that year, 7% in the following year, but none in the next three years. The Centaur cross-frame was introduced in 1900 and called the ‘Featherweight’, priced at £25, and the catalogue provided that the bright parts could be silver plated at no extra cost. It was distinctive in having twin tubes from the top head lug through the rear fork end. The front forks were duplex, being formed with tube that had a figure of eight section. The first Centaur motorcycle, in 1901, sported a 3hp Humber engine and, by 1904, they used their own engines. The company was taken over by Humber in 1910, who continued to use the Centaur name until 1915. The Resilient Royal model was therefore only offered for one year by the Centaur Cycle Co, and the Spring Fork was dropped after Humber took over the company name.
THE CENTAUR SPRING FORK
CENTAUR No 2 HANDLEBARS + BALL HEAD & HANDLEBAR ADJUSTMENT
CENTAUR STEERING LOCK
As mentioned elsewhere, a ‘steering lock’ is not designed to prevent theft, rather it stops the handlebars turning so that the cycle can be leaned against (for example) a tree without falling over. Above the steering lock is disengaged; below it is engaged. It’s a good idea to disengage it before riding off…
THE SMITH SPRING SADDLE PILLAR
BROOKS GENTS B90 SADDLE, SIZE 2
STURMEY ARCHER ‘X’ THREE-SPEED GEARS
1909 CENTAUR CATALOGUE
I first saw this bicycle in 2008, and was struck by it immediately – love at first sight, as they say. It was owned by a friend who offered it to sell it to me; unfortunately I could not afford it at the time. Then, soon after, he decided to keep it. A year later, I came across this New Centaur Co oiler. I generally only buy accessories for bicycles I own, but I made an exception in this case in the hope that one day I’d get the bicycle to go with it. It seems to have worked. A customer asked me recently which was my favourite bike. When I hesitated to answer (the reason being I knew that’s the one he’d want to buy!), he asked ‘If there was a fire and you could only save one bike, which one would it be?’ Again I didn’t tell him. But it would be this one.
The oiler has this inscription on the other side.
I rarely restore cosmetically. So the Centaur has just been rubbed over with an oily rag before servicing it ready for riding. This machine is so well-appointed already, I see no need to overload it with accessories and fittings. So I’ve added only my scruffiest ‘ding dong’ bell. I hope to get plenty of road work in before winter is upon us.
ROYAL PAVILION, BRIGHTON
The Royal Pavilion was purchased from Queen Victoria as a result of the Brighton Improvement (Purchase of the Royal Pavilion and Grounds) Act 1850. This magnificent royal pleasure palace is the crowning glory of a city already blessed with a wonderful architectural heritage.
The Royal Pavilion, conceived as ‘a monument to style, finesse, technological excellence and above all pleasure,’ is only suitable as a photographic backdrop for certain vintage bicycles. ‘Royal’ models would seem to be the most appropriate. Manufacturers who had a ‘Royal’ line included Centaur, Premier, Sunbeam and Rover. Starley can be seen at the Royal Pavilion in 1887 in the picture below.
The Pavilion’s own personality tends to overwhelm a photo unless a bicycle possesses some unique qualities of its own. But the Resilient Royal Centaur must have been designed with the Pavilion’s criteria in mind …because this bicycle is also a ‘monument to style, finesse, technological excellence and above all pleasure.’
BENSON VETERAN CYCLE RALLY, 1st July, 2012
This year, I rode the Centaur on the Benson. It performed admirably. I discovered an interesting design fault: it is impossible for the front brake to work with the sprung front forks. Although they pull on efficiently, when the front fork springs it releases the brake! I was told by a fellow Centaur owner that this front brake style was a Humber design rather than Centaur. Centaur was taken over by Humber in 1909, so we can only speculate whether the bicycle was unsold stock at the time of the takeover or if the customer preferred the option of a Humber front brake.
The unusual front lamp is an ‘X Rays’ manufactured by Adams & Westlake of Chicago, USA, and fitted with a British lamp holder bracket.
ADAMS & WESTLAKE Mfg Co, Chicago, USA
The company history started with a collaboration on 21st October, 1874 between John McGregor Adams of Londonderry, New Hampshire and William Westlake of Cornwall, England. They formed Adams & Westlake Mfg Co in 1857 in Chicago as a railroad supply and hardware manufacturer. The company became a top manufacturer of the 1800s, making (among other things) camping stoves, railway lamps, brass bedsteads, aluminium windows, cabinet hinges and travel trunks. They added cameras and cycle accessories to their product list in the late 1890s, and exhibited at the 1896 Grand Cycle Show at the Grand Central Palace, New York.