Barelli Supreme Pedals

These pedals were included in my recent purchase of a 1975 Centurion Semi Pro.  The pedals were new to my knowledge base and were not only lightweight and beautifully made, they also spun more smoothly than any other pedal I’ve ever handled.  With a name like Barelli, I had assumed these were probably made in Italy.  But, upon closer examination you can see from the above photos that these pedals hail from Great Britain.  Taking to the internet for a bit of research provided some background on this one-of-a-kind component.

According to the site, Classic Lightweights UK, these pedals were first introduced in the 1970’s by Cambridge cyclist and engineer Geoff Chapman.  They were featured at the Milan Cycle Show in 1977, and offered at 47 pounds sterling which included a lifetime warranty.  I can’t think of any bicycle component made today that carries a lifetime warranty.  While the 1970’s were different times, offering a such a warranty back then was also unusual, especially for a component subject to as much abuse as the lowly pedal.

Barelli Supreme Aluminum Pedal Cage – catalog insert

Barelli Spec Sheet

While these pedals were typically offered with steel cages, my set has lovely aluminum cages which show very little wear.  The catalog shown first above, indicates that after their initial introduction, Barelli offered these lightweight cages, which brought the total weight for the set of pedals down to an amazing 336 grams.  The second spec sheet shown above is most informative in regard to the bearings, which according to the Barelli catalog are “Deep grooved ball races, giving double thrust and vertical load bearing.  Each bearing is completely sealed independently with special lubricant to ensure free running and reliability, requiring no maintenance.”  With that intriguing clue in mind, I decided to disassemble one of the pedals to see what’s what.

But before doing that, I  noticed that the spindles, which are nickel-chrome steel and still look new, have English left and right hand designations – “L” & “R” and an additional designation on the reverse side:  “D” and “S”.  French designations are given as “D” and “G”, so this has me puzzled.  And, these are not French threaded pedals.  Is this a reminder that the left hand side is reverse threaded?

The dust cap came off easily with a 14mm wrench.  Underneath was not what I expected to see.  There was no cone and spacers.  Instead, a locknut which came off with a 7/16 drive revealed a set of seals, strongly resembling a sealed cartridge bearing assembly.  Since I did not want to disturb the smoothness and perfect adjustment of these 40 year old pedals, I put everything back together for now.  After all, the catalog says “maintenance free” – and that appears to be right.  While I would love to use these pedals on any of my current bikes, they are designed for toe clips, which I no longer use.

One idea is to use them with half-clips which are not so difficult to engage while commuting.  Even without toe clips, one could still flip them around at stops to ensure your shoe is in the proper position, but the Barelli cages don’t have a tab that many other toe-clip pedals have which are designed to make it easier to flip the pedals to the upside.  Even so, it’s tempting to just give them a shot and see what I think, sans toe clips.

1989 Bridgestone MB3 vs. 2018 Rivendell Appaloosa

I’ve been riding my accidentally acquired 1989 Bridgestone MB3, and my newly built up 2018 Rivendell Appaloosa for about the same amount of time, over the same terrain, having put several hundred miles on each bike.  That’s enough saddle time to work out kinks as well as develop riding preferences.  I put together both bikes earlier this year, using vintage components, with an emphasis on SunTour. The MB3 was a complete bike as purchased, so I re-used the components that I liked such as the Ritchey/Shimano wheelset and the Deore derailleurs, but replaced the cantilever brakes, levers and bar-mount shifters with SunTour components.  I also set aside the Deore bio-pace triple crankset and replaced it with a drilled Stronglight 99 double.  The Appaloosa was purchased as a frame, along with a new 650b wheelset.  The rest of the Appaloosa build consists entirely of vintage SunTour components, with the exception of the porteur bars and brake levers – both supplied by Velo Orange.

Since both bikes shared the lavender anodized Nitto stem (now on the Appaloosa), as well as the creative influence of Grant Peterson, it seems fair to make a comparison between these two machines, separated by three decades.  I built up both bikes to serve as daily Pdx commuters on my hilly route, and to be errand bikes and grocery getters.  I have also used both bikes for weekend jaunts over mixed terrain.

1989 Bridgestone Frame Geometry Table

1989 Bridgestone Specs

Rivendell Appaloosa frame geometry

It’s nice to have these frame specs for comparison purposes. Rivendell specs do not mention wheelbase length, whereas the Bridgestone specs refer you to a separate table. Wheelbase length is one of the most significant differences between the two bikes – 104 cm vs 112 cm.  If you need to haul your bike inside a building or home, the 112 cm wheelbase on the Rivendell makes for a difficult task involving bashing the bike against stair landings and hallways.  But, if you live in a Downton Abby mansion with wide staircase landings and huge entryways – the Rivendell is for you!

Brake bridge and stay clearance are not reported.  Standover height, the most misused and misunderstood spec of all time is provided by Bridgestone as well as Rivendell, failing to mention that top tube length is the correct way to determine the best bike for your human body.  I have also noticed that while early Rivendell frames sported Peterson’s much touted and desirable low BB heights, modern Rivendells have the most negligible BB drop – 66 mm for my 51 cm Appaloosa frame.  That is the kind of drop that would qualify a vintage bike for a 650b conversion, except that the Appy is already designed for 650b!

Both bikes use the vintage Suntour cantilevers that I installed.  The Appy has the champagne colored version, while the Bridgestone has the XC Pro black model.  Both brakes worked well once the intital set-up torture was complete.

SunTour Cyclone rear derailleur on the Appaloosa

Vintage SunTour Sprint Crankset – 48/39 – on the Appaloosa

Stronglight 99 with drilled 42/32 rings – on the Bridgestone Mb3 build

Original Shimano Deore 7 speed cassette and rear derailleur – Bridgestone MB3

I set up the gearing on the Bridgestone to be a little lower than the Rivendell, as I thought I would use it for more serious hauls of goods and groceries.  The gear inch range for each is as follows: Bridgestone:  28 – 87 gear inches; Appaloosa:  31 – 104 gear inches.  I haven’t used the big gear on the Appy, and that means that it might be better to alter the gearing down a bit. Both gear inch ranges are adequate for the riding I enjoy.  So in that way both bikes are comparable.

The ergonomics of both bikes are very similar, with an upright position and easily accessible shifting –  SunTour barends on the Rivendell and SunTour bar mount shifters on the Bridgestone.

Both bikes are also similar in weight – with the Rivendell at 29 lbs and the Bridgestone at 28 lbs.  While I love riding light weight machines, I know that for commuter bikes it is difficult to achieve weight savings.  A bike that is set up to haul stuff can easily weigh 28 – 30 lbs.  For me, 29 lbs is the cut off point for enjoyment.  So, both bikes are also comparable in the weight categaory.

I love riding both bikes, but the Bridgesonte MB3 edges out the Rivendell.  It is a very nice handling machine – more responsive than the Appy, and the shorter wheelbase makes it easier to accomplish the tasks that I require: moving the bike onto Max trains, hauling it up stairwells, and riding it over a variety of terrains.  The MB3 is actually slower than the Appy, so that is my caveat:  different criteria determine different results.  The Rivendell Appaloosa is a strong, relaxed monster of a bike, but it is also a very comfortable and competent machine.  The Bridgestone MB3 is a wonderful example of the quality and riding characteristics that were unique to the 1980’s but may still apply to today. Vintage Mountain Bikes make for very nice modern day commuters, and the Bridgestone MB3 is no exception.

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