1902 Centaur Featherweight (Hub 2-Speed Gear)


featherweight centaur


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. 1903 centaur featherweight 2

1902 Centaur Featherweight

with Hub 2-Speed Gear

24″ Frame

28″ Wheels

Frame No 75573

Brooks ‘Model B10’ Racing Saddle

Centaur Aluminium Chaincase

This rare early Centaur Featherweight cross frame needed a serious amount of work when I bought it. I felt its restoration was of historic importance, not just because it’s a rare top-of-the-range machine, but also because of various interesting features:

The aluminium chaincase (below) was available for an extra £1, and only supplied to the Featherweight, which was already one of the country’s most expensive bicycles at one shilling short of £20. (The 2012 equivalent would be over £2000).

The Hub Two Speed Gear was the state-of-the-art speed gear of its day.

According to Brooks catalogue, their ‘B10 Racing Saddle’ was 10/- 6d.

As reported in the cycling press of the day, the Featherweight is a fast lightweight machine.







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.














My bottom is already guilty of snapping rare old leather saddle tops over the years. Such is the rarity and value of this early Brooks B10 Racing Saddle that I’ve had to remove it from the Centaur to keep it safe while I ride the bike.





























1903 hub two speed

In the 1905 Centaur catalogue’s list of options (‘Specialities & Deviations’) above, the Manchester Hub Two-Speed Gear was an option for Centaur, at an additional £2 5/- In 1902, when this Centaur was made, the same gear was known as the ‘Hub Two-Speed Gear’ which was the leading speed gear until being superceded by the Sturmey-Archer Three Speed. Below, you can compare the Hub Two Speed Gear with its patent. The patent applicant was Walter Goodbrand, who was chairman of the Hub Two Speed Co.

The first effective hub gear was patented by Seward Thomas Johnson of Indiana, USA, in 1895. It housed the epicyclic mechanism in a drum adjacent to the drive sprocket; engagement of either gear gave a fixed wheel condition. William Reilly was the inventor of a two-speed hub that was similar to Johnson’s, but had a hollow axle. It was patended in 1896 (6062), and put into production in 1898 by the Hub Two-Speed Co. An additional 1899 patent (22,342) was for the toggle chain familiar on most hub gears.

Reilly’s contract with the Hub Two Speed Co gave the company the rights to any of his future gear inventions, which became a point of contention between them and led to his departure: he went to work for Royce, a Manchester electrical engineering company and forerunner of Rolls-Royce. Incidentally, because Reilly was under contract to the Hub Two Speed Co for all future inventions, he could not put his own name on further patents. Instead, he got a colleague James Archer to sign his patent applications. On 2nd August 1901, Archer submitted a patent for ‘improvements in variable gearing.’ This three-speed patent was accepted on 12th June 1902. Henry Sturmey, owner of ‘The Cyclist’ magazine, submitted his own three-speed patent eleven days after Reilly’s, on 13th August 1901. When Frank Bowden of the Raleigh Cycle Co put the new three-speed gear into production, it was Reilly’s gear, but was named the Sturmey-Archer.

Observe the toggle chain on the nearside. The mounting step for a bicycle is normally an extension of the axle. But the Hub Two-Speed links to the nearside rather than the offside, so the mounting step is brazed on, forward of the axle. (The first pattern Sturmey-Archer three speed also had a left-hand toggle chain).

centaur two speed hub gear   (Text suffers from OCR text recognition)     hub two speed gear



I rode it on the Benson Veteran Cycle Run in July 2014

1902 centaur benson

1902 centaur benson veteran cycle run 2014 copy



Hub Gear Info and illustration – thanks to Tony Hadland, from his excellent book ‘The Sturmey-Archer Story.’