Here’s a new arrival, a one-owner bicycle purchased by the widow’s husband in the late 1960’s. “My husband rode it maybe three times before he decided he was over it,” she stated, “over it” likely meaning the Gitane specifically, since the couple had a pair of Schauff folding bikes that looked well used.
The Gitane, on the other hand, was fresh as a proverbial daisy. That is, except the foil seat tube decal, which had been squashed in a repair stand at some point. When I asked how the decal could have been mauled she said, “He used to have it tuned every so often, just in case.”
A fairly comprehensive search turned up zero decal replacements; no originals, no remakes. …And then the other night I was sitting, watching the scrub jays badger Marmalade, our large tabby when it occurred to me that I might have a few lying around myself. A concerted hunt in the official repair area/cramped half basement and lo and behold, I discovered not only a few various Gitane decals, but indeed a whole shoebox full (I need to get better organized). In the mass was a shiny new seat tube decal, all sassy and red.
So, you might be thinking I titled this write-up because the bike is now so fresh it looks like it came out of a time machine. A little perhaps, but the real impetus was the decal I noticed on its drive-side chainstay, “email luxe polymerise”. Email? Really?
A quick translation turned up “polymerized luxury email” which is obvious nonsense. A little further down the rabbit hole I found a bicycle forum that stated the term referred to the type of paint used. There were also other funny posts about similar Gitanes having the same strange decal.
In the end, I guess I’ll have to believe the paint story for many obvious reasons, not the least of which is, if these bikes had traveled to the future you’d think they would have benefited from it somehow. If anything, 1960’s/70’s French bikes with their heavy tubing, cottered cranks and onerous components were a step backward.
I recently pulled this prewar Schwinn New World from storage to have the paint matched for another restoration here at the shop. While it was out I thought I’d photograph it and give it a little air time.
Bike folk don’t seem to pay much attention to prewar American lightweights. They just don’t attract the attention of their balloon-tire siblings, mere moths amongst the pretty butterflies that were all around them back then.
In an era where beauty trumped everything, lightweights stood out as bikes you could actually ride, though. I’m a huge fan of the balloon-tire era; one glance around the shop and you’ll see that, but you won’t find me riding more than 10 miles on one. As I said, I’m just a fan of the aesthetic, not a slave to it.
There are a few other 80+ year old lightweights of one make or another hanging around here. I’ll try to post them as they either go out on rides or are getting work done.
A final note: I’ve seen many a bike with their registration plate still attached to it, but I’ve never seen one with this low a number.
Older lightweights like this Schwinn New World have traditionally played second-fiddle to balloon-tire bikes. Without tanks, lights, or any other fancy sheet metal goodies, they aren’t as showy and thus don’t command the attention of their weightier siblings.
It’s a shame because they are really wonderful bikes; easy to ride with great styling. This is the first one we’ve run across in gray; blue and black being the more popular colors. It also came to us with a duplicate rear wheel, complete with Schwinn large-flange hub.