The Dia-Compe levers you're using aren't 287-V's, are they? Probably not, but just in case they are, those are designed for linear pull brakes (v-brakes), they won't work well with other types of brakes. Also, regarding the return springs, do you know if the brakes spring back well without the cables attached? If so, it must be something with the cables; if not, it's the return springs on the brakes that are causing that problem. I give mine a couple of shots of pure silicon lube at the pivots every few months, too, to keep the action smooth.
Like you, I've had excellent luck with centerpulls. My current everyday road bike has them, they're 1983 "Schwinn Approved" Dia Compes with Kool Stop salmon cartridge pads for v-brakes and Shimano Exage aero levers. I honestly couldn't ask for better braking performance, and the reach is pretty much unmatched-
Last edited by well biked; 07-26-07 at 09:39 PM.