1911 Centaur ‘Lightweight’ Roadster

There are perhaps some few firms in the trade who occupy larger factories than the Centaur Company, and turn out a larger number of machines per annum, but there is not one which has done more towards the development of the modern bicycle, or which has consistently held its place in the very front of the industry.

– R.J. Macready, in The Irish Cyclist magazine

Formerly Thos. Townsend & Sons, the Centaur Bicycle Co, of West Orchard, Coventry, was established in 1876 under the direction of Edmund Mushing and George Gilbert, the latter formerly of the Coventry Machinists Co. Mushing was responsible for marketing and administration (later Managing Director); Gilbert was the design engineer. With many innovative design features, the company was one of the pioneers of the cycle industry and they started developing motorcycles and cars by the turn of the century (although the cars did not go into production).

Below you can see Edward Mushing driving a 1904 prototype Centaur car. His wife is sitting behind, and next to Mr. Mushing is Henry Tricket, the car’s designer. They are passing the Shoulder of Mutton public house, in Grandborough, about 15 miles from Centaur’s Coventry factory.

Edward Mushing died in 1910, and the company was taken over by Humber, who discontinued the Centaur name in 1915, during WW1, though it was brought back after the War for a cheaper range of Humber bicycles.




1911 Centaur ‘Lightweight’ Roadster

(Specification No 5)

American Export Model

24″ Frame

28″ Wheels

New Departure Coaster brake

Frame No 156048

(Now sold)


This 1911 Centaur was purchased in the 1950s or 1960s by the Californian cycle shop West Coast Cycle. The company was owned by Leo Cohen, whose policy was to buy secondhand old bicycles in case parts were needed for repairing other machines. This particular machine was obviously not needed for parts donation, as it remained inside a storage container until 2012, when it was removed from there by my friend Howie Cohen. Howie had started working for his dad’s business in 1957, aged eighteen, and continued in the cycle trade until he retired.

A New Departure coaster brake is listed in the British Centaur catalogue as an optional extra, costing 6/- on top of the sale price of £8 15/- though I assume it would have been a standard fitting for a Centaur sold in America. A pull-up front brake is also fitted.

I bought the Centaur from Howie in 2012 and rode it for a while before storing it. I recently took it out of storage and had it serviced. It’s ready to ride.




































































Centaur car photo and info – http://www.conferencehmc.co.uk/downloads/Motoring_Moments.pdf