Monday, January 4, 2010

Jaguar Project (part four)

I went out yesterday, and put ten or twelve miles on the Jaguar. This was the first real ride I'd taken on the bike in years. I mentioned earlier that the old brake shoes were hard, and the shifter is a little touchy. Nothing I can't live with. And the other little repair jobs held OK, too. The headlight lights, the beeper beeps, and the handlebars are firmly clinched in the gooseneck.

And actually riding the bike? Like I said, I put maybe a dozen miles on it yesterday- not exactly a marathon, but it was enough. The Jaguar was supposed to be a 'sportier' model full dresser- thinner tires, a little less sheet metal, three-speed hub. By contemporary standards the Jag is "sporty" in the same way a 1961 Ford Falcon is a "sporty compact car". A dozen miles on my two year old, 21 speed comfort bike is no effort at all. A dozen miles on the Jag is a lot like work.

When you take an old Schwinn apart, you realize that you're dealing with an antiquated technology. There was no planned obsolescence in the design. You didn't buy a Schwinn, wear it out in a year, and just get a new one. Everything on the bike is solid, over-engineered, infinitely adjustable, and durable as a hammer. But all that durability and style has a price. It is steel on steel, and unapollogetically heavy. It's a bike built to take years of hard use at the hands of the Great American Boy.

I'm sure that this was the first time in its fifty year history that this bike had been taken down to nuts and bolts. And I have no doubt that the Jaguar will be good for another fifty years of service. No part of the bike was worn out or unserviceable. Except for the gooseneck.

The gooseneck.*sigh*
This was one of those slightly unnerving incidents where hard reality cuts into the soft edges of memory. But then again, this stuff happened in 1980. Thirty years ago. Anyway- The gooseneck on the bike is not the one that was on the bike when I bought it. I do remember that the old one didn't hold the bars tight, and that it cinched down with a nut and bolt rather than just a bolt, threaded into the gooseneck itself. But I don't remember swapping out the part. At any rate, the gooseneck that I have is correct for the bike (I checked), and that's what really matters. Nonetheless, it still didn't hold the bars tight so I had to shim it up with a piece of aluminum cut from an old license plate.
And, as I try to piece the rest of that year or so together I find a lot of stuff that seems pretty clear until I try to focus in on it, and then...
And why is it important? The part is important, because the object of the game is to get your 1961 bicycle back together with all the correct parts. Similarly, I want to get the story of those bikes correct, because it is my story as well. And now, with the Jaguar complete in both the present, and in this narrative of events passed, I'm moving on to the second of these three machines up for overhaul: the 1950 B-6.
The B-6 is the flagship of my little fleet of bikes. And as with all of these old bicycles of mine it took a near miracle of coincidence to complete the bike. But I didn't find the B-6 through any sort of amazing coincidence. I bought it from a shop, out of a desperation that had nothing to do with bicycles.

Jaguar Project Part Five


No comments: