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  1. #1
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    Updating a 1983(?) centurion elite rs

    I am buying what I think is a stock 1983 Centurion Elite RS to use as a commuter. The six speed back wheel is very heavy, and my 9 speed freehub wheel fits easily in the dropouts. Since the downtube shifters are friction, I am wondering if I just put a nine speed chain on the bike will it shift properly? Is there anything else I need to consider?

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Andrew R Stewart Andrew R Stewart's Avatar
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    Friction shifting a rear 9 speed cog set can be a bit touchy for some riders. The closer cog to cog centers make the trimming the der much more sensitive. Not impossible, just finickier then with the wide cog to cog spacing of a 6 speed. The other discovery will be how the wider ring spacing of the crank will deal with the narrower (then designed for) chain. The chain will have a greater likelihood to ride the tops of the inner ring's teeth before dropping down and engaging the ring fully. The nuances are too varied to fully predict. Why don't you try it and see then repost your findings? Andy.

  3. #3
    bike whisperer Kimmo's Avatar
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    I'd put a light front wheel on before I'd put on a light rear wheel.

    And yeah, I gather you have to be pretty good with a friction stick to be happy shifting 9s like that. Suntour Retrofriction would prolly be best.

    I reckon more folks should update old bikes... go the whole hog, I say.



    Kimmo's Hillman rat rod on velospace, the place for bikes

  4. #4
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    Thanks guys, I wondered about the size of the chainring teeth but didn't think about spacing or finickiness. I didn't want to waste a shimano chain pin if there was no way it would work, but I may give it a try. My skills with friction are rusty, last used in '99, and then only five speed! The front wheel is not overly heavy and the bike itself is reasonably light, the freewheel is a boat anchor though. Nice upgrade Kimmo, this bike will be a commuter, one that I don't want to put a lot of money into besides what I need to make it functional.

  5. #5
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    Kimmo, I assumed your bike was a work in progress given the lack of rear brake, extreme seat angle and what I thought was a primered fork; after reading your description on velospace, I now know better. No back brake??? I ride a fixie with no back, but I can't imagine a road bike.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Bill Kapaun's Avatar
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    I've used an old cottered double crank from an early 70's 10 speed with 9 speed chain with no problems, although maybe the teeth were worn enough? (it had 165mm arms that I wanted to try).

    When I initially upgraded my 86 Rockhopper to 9 speed, I still had the friction thumb shifters.
    My shifting actually got MUCH better as I progressed from 7 to 8 to 9.
    It was just a matter of ergonomics for me.
    With 7, I pushed the lever, then pushed it a bit more and then a bit more to shift. 8 was one less push. With 9, it was usually just right with the initial push.
    YMMV.
    Things went to hell when I got the second bike with trigger shifters. My friction shifting skills abandoned me.
    Kind of the scenario where a man with one watch knows what time it is. A man with 2 watches is never sure.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by 5matt View Post
    Thanks guys, I wondered about the size of the chainring teeth but didn't think about spacing or finickiness. I didn't want to waste a shimano chain pin if there was no way it would work, but I may give it a try. My skills with friction are rusty, last used in '99, and then only five speed! The front wheel is not overly heavy and the bike itself is reasonably light, the freewheel is a boat anchor though. ....
    Last year I built up an old steel frame with a modern 8/9/10 speed hubbed wheel. I bought a set of the Gran Compe ENE shifters (equivalent versions available from Velo Orange, Ben's Cycle, and other places) which are pretty well regarded retro-friction ratchet type shifters. I think they're based on the Suntour shifters everyone likes and function the same as the Dia compe version which look a little different.

    I used the bike with three different wheels I had on hand or borrowed - one each with 8, 9 and 10 speed cassettes for grins.

    The friction shifting was OK with the 8 speed - it worked well, it didn't take long for me to "remember" friction shifting and the shifts stayed in place.

    The 9 speed seemed OK at first - I was able to hit the shifts pretty well, but there was a tendency for inaccuracy because of the fine spacing needed. Most of the time it worked fine, but a lot of times it required some trimming/fiddling to get it, and sometimes the gear would ghost shift soon after I thought I had the shift made. This isn't a huge deal when riding alone, but if riding with others, it might be a serious problem. 10 speed- yea, you can shift it, but it's tough to get smooth and quick and accurate.

    If this bike were an "island", I might have set it up with 8 speed wheel and friction shifters . But I didn't own any 8 speed cassettes and have several 9 speed, and two other 9 speed bikes, so compatability won out.

    I got a set of 9 speed indexed Shimano downtube shifters from ebay and they really work well with the 9 speed Sram and Shimano cassettes and it's fun to ride a downtube shifting bike with indexed shifters. I "grew up" with friction shifting and used it from the early 70s until the mid 90s. I get the retro-grouch thing, but indexed shifting is just so much more fun and easy (for me).

    The indexed shifters weren't cheap, but worth it for this particular bike expecially considering I already had cassettes and didn't have to buy a new 8 speed one. You might find 9 speed indexed Shimano bar-end shifters for quite a bit less. on ebay.

    I believe you can also find pretty cheaper 8 speed indexed downtube shifters. If you don't mind buying and setting up an 8 speed cassette wheel, the spacing's the same for the rear triangle. But if all you want to do is switch in an existing 9 speed wheel, I'd look into finding some indexed DT or BE shifters, I think you'll be frustrated with friction shifting that many sprockets.

    Good luck!
    Last edited by Camilo; 04-16-14 at 01:25 PM.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Grand Bois's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kimmo View Post
    And yeah, I gather you have to be pretty good with a friction stick to be happy shifting 9s like that. Suntour Retrofriction would prolly be best.
    Retrofrictions were made by Simplex. Suntour made ratcheting Power Shifters.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Homebrew01's Avatar
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    I use a 1980s crank with a 10 speed chain. Works perfectly.
    Bikes: Old steel race bikes, old Cannondale race bikes, less old Cannondale race bike, crappy old mtn bike

  10. #10
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    Thanks for all the input, I'm going to give the nine speed a shot, but bike needs some work before it is rideable. I'll report back.

  11. #11
    bike whisperer Kimmo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grand Bois View Post
    Retrofrictions were made by Simplex. Suntour made ratcheting Power Shifters.
    Okay, retrofriction without a capital R - same mechanism, innit?

  12. #12
    bike whisperer Kimmo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 5matt View Post
    Kimmo, I assumed your bike was a work in progress given the lack of rear brake, extreme seat angle and what I thought was a primered fork; after reading your description on velospace, I now know better. No back brake??? I ride a fixie with no back, but I can't imagine a road bike.
    The frame is a placeholder for a larger one; I'll reconsider the aesthetic when it comes along.

    Hopefully the next frame will be amenable to a recessed-nut brake; despite the fact I barely use the rear since I switched from American to Euro routing a year ago... this bike's made me realise it's nice to have there anyway.

    Still, there's the interruptor instead... on a bike with this much drop, it's a great thing to have. Got used to it real quick; I kinda miss it on my other two bikes.

  13. #13
    bike whisperer Kimmo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Camilo View Post
    The 9 speed seemed OK at first - I was able to hit the shifts pretty well, but there was a tendency for inaccuracy because of the fine spacing needed. Most of the time it worked fine, but a lot of times it required some trimming/fiddling to get it, and sometimes the gear would ghost shift soon after I thought I had the shift made. This isn't a huge deal when riding alone, but if riding with others, it might be a serious problem. 10 speed- yea, you can shift it, but it's tough to get smooth and quick and accurate.
    I'm sure you'd find there's unused lever travel on almost any friction lever if you're using a Shimano derailer - it should be quite feasible on most shifters to increase the depth of the cable groove with a hacksaw blade or something, reducing the diameter and requiring more lever movement for a given amount of cable pull.

    It'd take a few goes of trial and error to maximise the leverage without going too deep and running out of cable pull, but I reckon it'd be a very worthwhile mod for 9 or 10s.

  14. #14
    Senior Member OldsCOOL's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 5matt View Post
    Thanks guys, I wondered about the size of the chainring teeth but didn't think about spacing or finickiness. I didn't want to waste a shimano chain pin if there was no way it would work, but I may give it a try. My skills with friction are rusty, last used in '99, and then only five speed! The front wheel is not overly heavy and the bike itself is reasonably light, the freewheel is a boat anchor though. Nice upgrade Kimmo, this bike will be a commuter, one that I don't want to put a lot of money into besides what I need to make it functional.
    Freewheels are very heavy. I'm finishing a build on an '88 Cannondale Criterium Series that has a lightweight Vuelta wheelset and cassette. The good news is that cassettes give incredible versatility with friction shifters. If you dont like the 9, go with a 7 or 8.

    OT....I have an '80 Elite. Cool bikes. Mine has tight road race geo.
    Having a flat tire as part of the total cycling experience is highly overrated. Knowing how to fix one quickly is not.

    '85 Trek 460 road racer

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  15. #15
    Senior Member Grand Bois's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kimmo View Post
    Okay, retrofriction without a capital R - same mechanism, innit?
    Absolutely not. It's a completely different mechanism. Retrofrictions do not ratchet.



    Simplex held a patent on the retrofriction design, so nobody else could make them. Retrofrictions with other brand names on them were actually manufactured by Simplex. That does not include Suntour. They went with their power shifters. I have multiple examples of both, in including bar end versions. I prefer the retrofrictions by far. The levers holds exactly where you put it, not at the nearest click to where you want it.
    Last edited by Grand Bois; 04-17-14 at 06:53 AM.

  16. #16
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    Not arguing, just posting some info on the shifters I mentioned earlier - both are available many places, some together, ususally separately. Both are knock-offs of Suntour, and are compared to the Simplex shifter:



    Description: These are copies of the Suntour Micro ratcheting shifters and one ofthe best shifters of all time (only the discontinued Simplex retro-friction are slightly nicer).


    The Dia-Compe ENE shifters are copies of the Suntour Micro ratcheting shifters and one of the best shifters of all time (only the discontinued Simplex retro-friction are slightly nicer).

  17. #17
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    I've got a 9-speed bike that I shift with friction barcons. Works fine for me. I don't find it finicky at all.
    My greatest fear is all of my kids standing around my coffin and talking about "how sensible" dad was.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Grand Bois's Avatar
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    A demultiplicator relay will reduce cable travel. That's what it's designed to do. It's another Simplex product. I'd use one if I was going to do 9 speed friction.

    Last edited by Grand Bois; 04-18-14 at 10:03 AM.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Cross Creek's Avatar
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    I shift a 9spd with friction (Rivendell by DiaCompe) and have no problem with it being finicky. Of course, I didn't learn to ride with index shifters, and haven't used them much since they came out, so friction is second nature, but I'm sure anyone could learn the technique pretty quickly. The spacing is close, and I'd probably draw the line at 9, but it's perfectly functional.
    Cross Creek

  20. #20
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    I use friction shifters with a 10spd rear and a 80's front crank. All nice a smooth (much smoother than before). Only problem is that there are no ramps or pins on the old crank so up shifting to larger gear takes some practice.


    Univega Competizione by edfungus, on Flickr

  21. #21
    Senior Member Grand Bois's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by edfungus View Post
    I use friction shifters with a 10spd rear and a 80's front crank.
    What do you use on the rear crank?

    Just kidding.

  22. #22
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    haha, a turbo boost for some assistance....

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