Sunshine Pro-am Hubs vs. Ofmega Gran Premio

Front hubs – Sunshine Pro Am on the left.

Rear hubs, Sunshine Pro Am on the right.

I recently needed to build a wheelset for a bike with 122mm rear spacing.  That meant that I could re-use its original Sunshine Pro Am hubs (spaced at 120mm on the rear), taken off the original tubular rims, or select a NOS hub set of similar quality and from the same era (mid-1970’s).  This might expand my hub choice options, because I could probably more easily locate a 126mm rear axle set, which the rear dropouts can easily accept without having to spread the rear triangle.

I ended up locating a 1980 NOS Ofmega Gran Premio 6200 hubset, with low flanges and 32 holes front and rear.  I had previously restored a few bikes that featured Ofmega components, so was familiar with Ofmega’s quality.

Ofmega Gran Premio 6200

Both sets were similar in weight, with the Ofmega set being only slightly heavier, probably due to the longer rear axle and fewer holes in the flanges. To verify my initial impression of the quality of Ofmega components, I researched the history of the company and discovered that its beginnings are murky at best.

According to VeloBase, the Italian component maker was founded by Mario and Dino Perotti sometime in the 1960’s, when they obtained patents for various bottom bracket designs.  It is posited by the disraeligears site that Ofmega had a relationship to the OMG Company, which in turn may have included the Gnutti brand in its portfolio.  By 2006, Ofmega appears to have finally shut down, although the exact date and cause of its demise is unknown.  For better or for worse, Ofmega is best known for its colorful and strangely shaped rear derailleurs, which evoke derision or amusement, depending on your perspective.

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Sunshine/Sansin’s history is similarly opaque.  I had believed that Sunshine was somehow part of Maeda and SunTour, but I wasn’t sure.  After a number of failed English language Google searches, I tried searching on Yahoo’s Japanese search engine, and came across a Wikipedia post (in Japanese) that I used Google translate to read, then took a picture of the brief entry, shown above. This confirmed that Sunshine was indeed a division of Maeda industries, a company with a very long history going back to 1912. This lead me to focus on what Maeda was doing in the 1970’s when my Sunshine Pro Am hubs were made.

From there I discovered that Howie Cohen of West Coast Cycles (and creator of the NIshiki brand in cooperation with Kawamura of Japan), was instrumental in encouraging Japanese component makers to bring high quality bicycles and components to the US market. Howie has passed away, but a website dedicated to his work lives on.  Howie had personal relationships and went cycling with many of the leaders of Japan’s cycling industry, and successfully convinced them that Americans were sick and tired of riding our heavy one speed balloon tired clunkers.  He turned out to be right.

I ended up deciding to re-use the bike’s original Sunshine Pro Am hubs, which I built using Velo Orange 650b rims.  I had a set of Grand Bois 32mm tires that I had originally planned to use for another project which never materialized.  The tires were relatively easy to mount, although it did take a few inflation/deflation attempts to seat the tires correctly on the rims.  As you can see from the above photos, the highly polished V-O rims look quite fine.

I’m glad I went with the Sunshine hubs – this is my new (old) 1975 Centurion Pro Tour, converted to 650b.  I will share more about the conversion in an upcoming post, but let’s just say for now that I am having a blast riding this well-handling and beautiful old machine.

A Job Well Done

1929 Griffon wheel hub overhaul

Spending precious time maintaining and overhauling stuff that already exists and can be replaced with something new and shiny is considered a waste of time in current U.S. culture.  Why not just buy whatever you want on Amazon and be done with it?  Then, your free time can be spent on other time-wasting activities that do not involve brain power, pride of workmanship, and plain old satisfaction in a job well done.  Instead, no analysis is given to the environmental cost of throw away technology, not to mention the cost to your creativity and skill set.

Mid Century Mercier Meca Dural bottom bracket and spindle

Even if you are not a Buddhist, you may be able to appreciate the joy one can derive from honoring the work of one’s elders.  Every time I overhaul a vintage bicycle I am overwhelmed with enthusiasm and respect for the work of those innovators who came before me.  Bicycle lore, including engineering concepts and technological breakthroughs,  was well established by the early 20th century, a fact which will shock many cyclists today.

Simplex bell crank actuated rear derailleur

Derailleur design, frame geometry, tubing construction, hub generators, gear ratios, and many other concepts were worked out long ago, and very elegantly. Modern components focus only on simplicity for the cyclist rather than on something which will endure over the ages.

A 1941 Goeland owned by Annie Laurin

Vintage components were designed to last over decades of use.  That’s what makes my job so restorative to my soul.

1975 Centurion Semi Pro

This evening as I walked into my shop I smiled with joy at the classic machines I am privileged to ride, including this 1975 Centurion Semi Pro.  Tomorrow will be a dry day here in Pdx, and I’m looking forward to my bicycle commute – and smiling because I don’t even know which bicycle I will choose.  Working on all these wonderful vintage bicycles is an honor, and I hope, a job well done.

Welcome Home, Centurion

Here is lovely 1975 Centurion Semi Pro.  It has been well preserved over the decades by its original owner, and I am now the proud steward of this extraordinary machine.

As readers of this blog already know, I have been on a decades long quest to replace my crashed 1976 Centurion Pro Tour, a bike which was my only bike for over 20 years, and upon which I logged over 40,000 miles including tours of the Pacific Northwest, the San Juan Islands, and Canada, as well as serving as my daily commuter.  The Pro Tour was my original all-rounder.

So, when I saw this baby blue 1975 Centurion Semi Pro on eBay, I knew I would be honored to shepherd this bike into its next phase.

When the bike arrived, I unpacked it like a toddler with a new toy, and when I found these interesting frame transfers, they confirmed the information provided by the seller of the bike (who was not the original owner, but who sold it on their behalf).  The first human to ride this Centurion was a member of the US Cycling Federation (now known as USA Cycling), and had ordered the full Dura Ace upgrade for this bike, as well installing racing tubulars instead of the 27″ clincher rims offered as standard equipment.  The original owner was also a member of the League of American Wheelmen and had added these black and white racing flag transfers to the top tube.

While the bike clearly had a documented racing heritage, I was puzzled to find the Dura Ace crankset mounted with a chainguard.  And, you’ll note that the rings are not in racing configuration, but are a compact set-up with 52 teeth on the large ring and 39 on the small ring.  Both rings are Shimano Dura Ace.  Don’t forget to notice the lovely Dura Ace front derailleur.  The Dura Ace upgrade included:  the front derailleur, the anodized brake calipers, the drilled levers and the crankset:

These Dura Ace components are in amazing condition.  The drilled levers look new, but are given away by the gum hoods which have long ago lost their resilience.  The brake calipers are beautifully anodized.  The Dura Ace crankset with its 172.5 arms is in equally amazing condition, considering its 43 years in service.

I enjoyed seeing this unusual Huret wrap around chrome cable guide which provides shifter cable routing on both sides of the frame. This bike has zero braze-ons.  While it is built with Tange Prestige #1 tubing, during this era braze-ones were rare, and most needed accessories and cable guides were handled via clamps.

SunTour Mighty ratcheting downtube shifters

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Shimano Crane GS drilled long cage derailleur

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SunTour GS chromed dropouts with single eyelet and adjuster screws

The drivetrain consists of SunTour ratcheting Mighty shifters mated to the Dura Ace front derailleur and a Shimano Crane GS rear derailleur.  The Crane would be needed to handle the 52/39 rings up front.  The dropouts are by SunTour, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything as lovely as these fully chromed SunTour GS dropouts.  Their unusual shape made me look up this component in the SunTour catalog.  You’ll note that the design pushes the dropouts inward toward the hub.  I wonder if this simplified mitering the rear stays.

The pedals also provided a surprise – they are very rare Barelli Supreme pedals, with the optional alloy cages.  According to the site Classic Lightweights, these pedals “were considered the Rolls Royce of pedals. The spindle was made from Nickel Chrome Steel and they were machined for accuracy at the bearing surfaces and they came with a life time guarantee”  That, and the other component upgrades help to explain why this bike weighs in at 22 lbs.

The upgraded wheelset consists of 27″ Super Champion Competition tubular rims laced to Sunshine Pro Am low flange hubs.  A new set of Pararacer 20mm tubulars were installed as part of the deal.  I’m not sure how well the new tubulars were glued, so I will probably install a clincher wheelset on hand for this bike’s first test ride.

The bars were upgraded to 3TTT, mated to a Cinelli stem.  The original SR seatpost looks beautiful with this Cinelli leather Unicantor saddle.  Unicantors were the first plastic base saddles of this era.  I haven’t ridden one before and look forward to trying it out.  You’ll also note the Centurion’s impressive, chrome wrap around seat stay.

This Semi Pro has the following SN:  M5J00027.  Consistent with all Centurion frames I have encountered, and as documented by others, the first letter indicates the frame builder, but no one knows who that is.  Since both my 1976 Pro Tour and this 1975 Semi Pro start with an “M” I will guess they were both built by the same manufacturer, probably Japanese.  The second numeral is a “5” and that indicates the year built – 1975 – which is consistent with the bike’s components.  Another way to date a bike without a reliable serial number is by the components.

Some readers might wonder about the photos in this post.  For the most part I used my Panasonic Lumix mirrorless camera, but I also brought out my Leica Digilux 2 for some of the photos seen here.

I look forward to venturing out on this extraordinary bike, and will keep you posted on our progress.

And, here are some related technical and historical documents:

1978 Centurion catalog (the 1975 catalog does not seem to exist online) – vintage centurion site – http://vintage-centurion.com/literature/centurion-catalogs.shtml

1975 Shimano Dura Ace – disraeligears site – http://www.disraeligears.co.uk/Site/A_Complete_Line_of_Shimano_1975.html

1976 SunTour catalog – Velobase site – http://www.velo-pages.com/main.php?g2_itemId=12472