Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Jaguar Project (part two)

I started reassembling the machine today. This is the fun part. First , pack the headset bearings, then put the forks back on the frame. Get the front and rear wheels hung, flip it over and put it on its feet. Pack the pedal crank bearings, and put the chain wheel back on. The crank threads turn backwards so you always have to think twice when you go to adjust the bearings.There's no instruction manual for these old bikes, but then again, you don't really need one. These are simple machines. Anyone with a glimmer of mechanical aptitude can work on one. Nonetheless, it is an axiom of all machines, that they come apart easier than they go back together. There are hundreds of parts to one of these things and every one of them goes exactly in one place, and it goes there in exactly the right order, or you have to stop, go back, and disassemble. None of it is really hard, but you do have to pay attention.
Mount the gooseneck, and handlebars, and it's beginning to look like a bicycle again, but this is the easy stuff. The Jaguar is a three speed, and there are tanks, racks, light, horn, fenders, and levers to mount, cables to route, adjustments to be made on both brakes, and the shifter.

I didn't get it finished today. In a way, that's an accomplishment. In years past I would have caught the burn, and worked all night until the bike was finished, or I was too exhausted to tell a wrench from a hammer. Today I took my time, solved a couple or three minor problems, and quit while everything was going OK. So now- well- at least I'm here in the den after a bath and a meal, and not out in the garage in the cold and dark on an obsessive burn to finish the project TONIGHT! I've mellowed just a little over the years.

Taking that job with the utility company had been a bad move. At first it sounded like a very cool gig- out all day driving around the city, going house to house servicing simple machines. Work at your own pace...
It sucked, and I hated it. But it gave me the opportunity to search around in damn near every neighborhood in the southeast corner of Los Angeles County. You see- I had this picture in my mind's eye. I'd get a call at some old house, and back in the corner of the garage, behind a bunch of junk would be that mint old tanker, and I'd ask if the guy would want to sell it and... Over a year went by. I didn't find shit. By this time I'd moved out of La Habra, and rented a house nearer to where I worked. Some of the other guys at the base knew I was looking for old bikes, and once one of the guys actually spotted one, and got me a phone number. Another letdown. It was a girl's bike from the sixties, a Hollywood, or a Starlet, I think. Anyway- it was a middleweight bike with chrome fenders. At least it had a front carrier, a half tank in the frame, and a fancy four reflector rear rack. But it wasn't what I was looking for. I already had one girl's bike. Nonetheless, something told me to buy it anyway. Besides it was cheap. By that time I'd pretty much given up on the idea that I was ever going to find some rare gem of a bike when I was out on a service call. It never did happen. I just gave it up, and quit looking altogether.

There is a thread that runs through a lot of new age baloney, but that also shows up in more respectable spiritual practices- The thread goes something like this: When you pray, or wish intensely, or imagine a thing that you wish to come to pass, you create a sort of energy in the cosmos. But that energy does not get released until you stop the imagining, wishing, praying. You know the old story- as soon as you quit looking for a mate, you find the love of your life. Maybe there is some truth to it. It seemed to play out in the Great Bike Hunt. As I said, I never did find a really great old bike when I was out on a service call. The first true classic Schwinn quite literally came my way when I stepped out my front door to go to work. It was trash day. I opened my front door, and the first thing I saw was an old guy rolling up on a bike to search the trash for aluminum cans. He was on an ancient bright red girl's Schwinn. Full balloon tires, tank, rack, light, chainguard, fenders, trussbars, all intact. Did I say bright red? Both tires, and everything in between- right down to the spokes and chain was brush painted barn red. I bought it on the spot for fifty bucks.

Jaguar Project Part Three


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