Urban Velo

Schwinn Cutter Review

The announcement of the Schwinn Cutter has been one of our most popular posts, and with good reason. People are interested in this bike; an inexpensive take on the singlespeed trend aimed at an in-touch yet frugal consumer. A true entry level bike aimed at the enthusiast rider, this $329 MSRP bike is pretty well suited for what most city riders are actually after, and far better to get around on in traffic than any laid-back hybrid on the market.

Let’s cut to the chase of what this bike isn’t. It is not a race bike, nor a lightweight one (26.75lbs as pictured, without pedals). It is not a good candidate for pricey upgrades and is best left pretty much stock. Far more impressive is what the bike actually is; a roughly $300 reliable and serviceable bike. Perfectly suited for commuters and city riders who for one reason or another do not have the inclination to spend more than a few hundred bucks on a bicycle ridden for utility rather than performance, the Cutter is expected to be locked up outside and put away wet time and again.

For reliability, a singlespeed drivetrain is unparalleled. With a straight chain and no derailleur the drivetrain is quiet and seemingly lasts forever. Chains don’t break, and chainring and cog teeth don’t wear as quickly as on a geared bicycled. As long as you don’t mind the noise, you can practically go without lubricant on this drivetrain and it’ll still go. Getting over the mental block of not shifting is the hardest part of falling in love, besides the steepest of hills a singlespeed bike is at best marginally harder to ride. The stock 46×18 gear on the Cutter is very reasonable.

The Cutter has an oversized high-tensile steel frameset and unicrown fork sharing the geometry of the more upscale Schwinn Madison; nothing special, but everything reliable. And frankly, cheap steel bikes typically ride pretty well for what they are. Parts are inexpensive as expected, but serviceable. The 36 spoke singlespeed wheels (no fixed threading) and Kenda 28c tires are a good choice for city streets, and the flat bar and upswept 1″ threaded stem (with removable faceplate!) that is actually shipping with the bikes yields a realistic, comfortable position. Two water bottle mounts, a quick release seat binder and a set of fender mounts front and back round out the practical package. Chain tensioners are an especially nice touch for the intended user who will find them very handy for positioning the wheel.

Parts oddities that are a dead giveaway for the price point include the non-replaceable 46t chainring and 110mm spaced singlespeed rear hub. I wouldn’t worry about the chainring, as singlespeed road rings take exceedingly long to wear out. As for the wheels and the BMX standard 110mm rear spacing, don’t worry about it either. Even if you want to upgrade to a nicer singlespeed/fixed wheelset with conventional 120mm track spacing spreading the frame to fit is really of no concern. Truly the only component I’d consider upgrading out of the box would be the single-pivot brakes. but even these work sufficiently well for most.

The Schwinn Cutter is the ideal bicycle for many folks, either as a primary bike or a secondary commuting or polo set of wheels. If you’re looking at the Cutter and instantly thinking “upgrade!” you’re truly barking up the wrong tree – save your cash a bit longer, buy a bike for a couple hundred dollars more and get a frameset much more worthy of ongoing purchases. This is a cheap date, better than Red Lobster is throwing good money after bad. If you’re looking for a reliable and serviceable bicycle a step up from the department store garbage more in touch with today’s city riding, this is it. Available in 4 sizes, S-XL, the Cutter is going for about $300 right now and comes as a mostly blank canvas and a sheet of decals.

If this is your first “adult” bicycle, do it. You can’t go wrong, you will have fun.

Visit www.schwinnbike.com for more information.

34 Comments

  1. sabDecember 8, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    i saw one of these locked up by union square the other day, i don’t think i’ve seen such wide handlebars before, i know we have this short fetish going on but really, the handlebars are absurdly long. the name is just a suggestion of what you need to do to the handlebars.

  2. JPDecember 8, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    The one element overlooked on this bike is the quick-release seatpost lever. You might want to drop a couple bucks on a bolt-on seatpost biner if you still want your saddle to be there when you come out of the store.

  3. BrianDecember 8, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    I wasn’t aware of the 110 spacing in the rear. Kinda oddball…

  4. tim zDecember 8, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    besides the chainring and the 110mm rear wheel spacing, i’d say this bike looks (on the surface) like a deal for around 300 duckets. i just watched breaking away again on saturday and i think it’s cool that schwinn came out with this bike. if i knew someone looking for an entry level single speed i’d probably refer them to this bike because it’s so damn cheap.

  5. tim zDecember 8, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    polo bike?

  6. The New GuyDecember 8, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    I just put new Easton A70 handle bars on mine and it looks pretty cool. I bent the rear wheel so now Im running a Salsa Delgado XC rim with a Surly flip flop hub, riddin fixed oh yeah….. The 120mm hub was not an issue the mechanic at the shop pulled the rear open 5mm on each side “not much”. Rides straight and still strong. Honestly for the price its not a bad bike, better than some Craigslist fixie bargin and is respectable. I get mad props when I ride in the city. I saving up for either a steam roller or a cross-check for the summer I didnt think I would like bikes this much but its nice. Im also running Forte’ campus clipless pedals.. Hey beats roller-blades. i snapped a few shots. i will try to get an account with a photo site…

  7. GenghisKhanDecember 9, 2008 at 12:05 am

    Great to see an affordable single speed being put out by an American icon.

    http://www.singlespeedrevolution.com
    Ride One or Ride None!

  8. RaiynDecember 9, 2008 at 2:54 am

    I’m no fan of Hi-ten (wally world) steel, but for a “people’s bike” this ain’t bad.

  9. r sDecember 9, 2008 at 11:25 am

    i bought one of these as soon as they came out and ride it all around Austin every day. great bike, and people ask me about it all the time. i have to say that I hated the stock flat bars (which were very wide), so i switched them out for some Titec Malone road bars i bought used at a bike shop and added some Tektro brake levers. eventually, will probably switch out the brakes, pedals, and put a new seat on it but overall, for the price, it’s an amazing bike and will replace parts as the need arises. solid, reliable, no-frills city commuter. looks cool too (i chose to leave all the decals off the bike, so it’s solid matte black).

  10. AlDecember 9, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    Very Good review.
    The Pic above is exactly how I received the bike from my LBS (no freakin pedals!)

    The bottom bracket was total crap and the cranks barely turned.
    I looked at the spanish mech n he shrugged.
    I looked at the LBS owner and he said thats the BB it came with.

    For a well functioning bike the BB and the Brake Calipers are
    what I would replace straight off the bat on the CUTTER.

    The steel bars (25.4mm) are heavy, cut’m down.
    The Seatpost also 25.4 has a rail clamp that looks like its from the 1920s!
    I replaced both for cheap at a bike shop that stocked used parts.

    I found the Saddle surprisingly comfortable but I havent ridden the bike for
    more than half a hour so…

    For people wondering about the extra decals, it comes with old school decals in the same style
    found on the 07 MADISON (google it!) in metalicred/white, silver/white, and flatpink/white

    Also I believe it is available in XS size.

    The reviewer is correct, if youre thinkin Upgrade, STAY AWAY FROM THE CUTTER.
    After Id basically replaced everything on my Cutter it weighs about 23lbs now (SS)
    and rides pretty sweet But its been quite the money pit.

  11. AndrewDecember 10, 2008 at 9:55 am

    Pretty unfortunate that the rear wheel doesn’t contain threading for a lockring to run fixed. :(

  12. JonathanDecember 23, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Have kept it stock stock stock, only dropped the stem low, chopped the bars down to 17″ (from, like, 28″ — that was comical) and slapped some black Oury grips on. Fun fact: matte-black electrical tape can run anywhere on the frame where you’d expect to suffer dings or scratches (locking to street signs, etc.), and it’s practically invisible. A perfect color match.
    Operation-wise I’m only unhappy w/ the top tube’s length (short) in proportion to its height (tall). I got a Small frame, for 5’3″-5’6″, but I’m 5’7″ and for comfort would want the stem to jut out farther over the front wheel b/c my arms feel like they want to be further forward. But for commuting 40 min I have no lower back pain. Longer rides I’d be a little gun shy…

  13. bradDecember 23, 2008 at 4:27 pmAuthor

    On the subject of the bars being overly wide; they aren’t. They do not meet the latest fashion standards of having bars so narrow your thumbs overlap, but the stock bars on the Cutter are of the usual flat-bar width, around 22-24″.

  14. Curtis HensonJanuary 7, 2009 at 6:24 am

    I test road the CUTTER, once and just feel for it, so i bought it. It will be my daily rider. I gave away my old bike, it would of cost me about so about $150.00 to fix a 15 year old bike. Over all i am very happy to have ran into the Cutter. I just can’t wait to get my full suspension off of lay away ONE MORE PAYMENT and i will be complete, YA!!

  15. Black & Gold Sprints - Beta Testing a Success at Urban VeloJanuary 10, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    [...] thanks to Schwinn for the matching Cutter bicycles, and to OpenSprints for developing the [...]

  16. BLK MRKTJanuary 13, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    I will post pictures when i get one. I can’t wait getting schwinn cutter, sooner!

  17. JEdFebruary 17, 2009 at 10:42 am

    hey guys, i am looking into the cutter, but am tempted to spend a couple hundred more for a bike of better quality. does anyone have any suggestions as to what bikes I should take a look at? I hear IROCYCLE has some pretty affordable set ups. thanks for your help

  18. TomApril 18, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    Just picked up my yesterday. Great bike for the price. Got mine for $299 Fast and perform well around corners. Im satified that’s all it count.

  19. JasonApril 19, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    Just bought this at Performance today (for a steal), after reading this thread. I am a mt biker (FS and hardtail) and was shocked at how impressive this bike was. The gearing is pretty good for road riding (my MT hardtail is a SS), it was real quiet and road smooth. Pretty good Kenda tires for this price point. I think the bar width was fine. Cut them down if you must, but not as big of a deal as people made out. Seat was a killer, for me, and the grips are weak. The brakes aren’t the best, but who uses brakes??? Bike looks sic murdered out too. Get one if you are deciding!

  20. shawnxvxMay 1, 2009 at 1:52 am

    got mine not too long ago for $275. only complaint i have is no fixed threading on the stock wheelset and my seat post seems to have a pretty mean creaking. i put on some nitto tt bullhorns, alien pedals, and a pair of cheap alex rims laced to formula flip/flop hubs as well as a 16 tooth surly cog and took off the brakes. certainly worth the money and was a great deal. it has since been replaced with a charge plug. definitely purchase if you are looking at your first road bike. you will not be disappointed.

  21. JavaHackMay 24, 2009 at 1:35 am

    I just bought one earlier this week and was impressed… Overall. The frame sizing that Schwinn uses is completely out of whack. I’m 5′ 11″ and “according to the manual” I should be on a large frame but the medium fits perfectly. If you’re gonna be doing track stands and such be forewarned that the overall wheelbase is short and you’ll easily bump your clips with the front wheel if the crank is at 9 or 3 o’clock. Shop I bought from changed it right away to a fixed gear (no freewheel burnin’ here). Only changes I’m planning on are bullmoose bars. I left it decal free and love the stealth look about it. Definitely worth the price.

  22. natronSeptember 1, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Could anyone tell me how much room there is on this thing for slightly wider tires? I’d like to be able to rail trail with it if possible.

  23. craigApril 27, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    getting caught up in the fixed crowd just kinda happened i have an older japaneese 10 speed and i was about ready to convert it but then i ran across the cutter and it was about the same price as converting it to single speed so yea hell yea i love the fact i ran across the cutter

  24. (A)May 2, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    craig
    April 27, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    getting caught up in the fixed crowd just kinda happened i have an older japaneese 10 speed and i was about ready to convert it but then i ran across the cutter and it was about the same price as converting it to single speed so yea hell yea i love the fact i ran across the cutter

    Man, I did the same thing, I was saving some dough to convert an old road bike into a fixed gear, and after months of shopping every now and then for parts to make my budget I came up to the cutter in a store, 300dlls including some extra grip tapes and bullhorn handlebars, sturdy and reliable. I also changed the saddle since the one included is not very comfortable and I kinda want to remove the decals. I very satisfied.

  25. Dan MKEMay 18, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    I bought this at Ben’s for something to use for work and commuting but not racing or tricking and I have only a few complaints.

    Bars suck, got rid of them right away for bullhorns.

    The bottom bracket needs dust covers or something but it was complete shit after riding in the rain all day and now I have no money to get that replaced. looks like i’ll have trouble

    seatpost clamp is stupid. got rid of that for a bolt. otherwise its a perfect fit for my height

    Little bit heavy.

  26. nevetsJuly 11, 2010 at 11:04 am

    I just purchased a 2009 Cutter from a local bike shop.

    Two words to describe it… Love it !

    yea, there’s fancier bikes out there but for someone just starting back into riding, it’s perfect for me.
    I too left the stickers off.
    I added a Trek flare 7 light for the back and a led headlight for the front. So far so good!

  27. John EvansJuly 12, 2010 at 8:08 am

    Like nevets, I also just bought a 2009 Cutter. Like nevets, I just love the thing. I am a broken down, middle age former triathlete that hasn’t ridden in years. When I rode before, I had to change into riding clothes, change shoes, inspect my bike, make adjustments, all before I made one pedal stroke. The Cutter ia a totally different experence. I just jump on and ride. It makes me feel like I did when I was twelve crusing the neighborhood on a Sting Ray.

    I got the bike for $250 new. I just don’t think you can find a better bike for the money. Hills are a little tough, and I feel humbled when some guy blows by me on a carbon fiber road machine. But, when I stop at a coffee shop, and I see that road dork clomping around with his latte in his bike shoes and spandex, and I am wearing sneakers and street clothing, I can’t help thinking the Cutter is just a better riding experience.

  28. henrySeptember 3, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    I just picked up a 2010 for $240 new and like it except that it is white (all they had). I swapped the bars for bullhorns, added real pedals and took off the brakes. I’m looking for a beefier stem and neck. Any suggestions?

  29. santa clausDecember 4, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    yp santa is commn to town with bikes

  30. MarcJanuary 18, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    Sorry to bump this up, but I just bought the Schwinn Racer which is about $100 cheaper than the Cutter. Everything that was said above about the Cutter is true of the Racer. It is nice, cheap bike that gets the job done. I bought it for only $199 from my LBS. It is one fun, snappy ride. The bars are bit wide for a SS, but I like them that way, it makes it easier to get leverage when climbing hills imo. I am not fond of the grips, and I prefer a threadless fork/stem than a thread one. However, the saddle is surprisingly comfortable, and I was surprised to find that the pedals are not nylon or plastic, but are made of steel. This really a quality bike for the money.

  31. John EvansMarch 13, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    As a follow up, I have put a least a thousand miles on this bike and it has not failed me once. I would like to make a couple of observations.

    I never expected to be doing distance (30-50 miles) on this thing. Thus, I was totally caught off guard when I got my first flat about ten miles from home. Invest in a seat bag, a tube and wrenches. Park makes a tool that is a tire iron and a wrench in one. You will also need a small wrench for the chain tensioner.

    I have the 09 model and the handlebars are pretty wide apart. While I initially thought they were too wide, I know appreciate the additional leverage when climbing.

    While I love the bike and have not regretted the purchase for one second, this was a total impulse purchase. If I had done some research, I would have bought a different bike. I think there are better single speed deals out there. Nashbar is selling the Madison for about $300. SE has a couple of cool models that may be better deals. The Trek Earl is also pretty cool. That being said, if this is the bike you want, you will not regret the purchase. This is by far, the most fun bike I have ever owned.

  32. Patrick BMay 18, 2011 at 10:55 am

    I purchased the Schwinn “Racer” model for $199 (last year’s model). The Racer has a kick brake in the rear. I like the bike a lot. Very comfortable ride. Changed the saddle out for my long-time friend, my black brooks. I got three flats in the first month and discovered that there was no rim tape. The rims are very deep so there was pinching going on as well. Put some quality cloth tape in there and haven’t had a flat since. Also, I think the caliper brake (this one has only the front brake given that the rear is a kicker) is pretty good for what it is; no flex or give. I put on high quality, softer shoes, and adjusted the brakes to be closer to the rim and she stops very effectively. I get compliments on the bike all the time. If I was to change one thing, I would get one of those Sturmey-Archer Duo-Matic two-speed kick-brake hub (comes in black), and since I’d be lacing up some new wheels I’d probably use black Mavic Open Pro’s. I figure that the wheel could come with me to my next bike. Some Dutch bike manufacturers are beginning to use the Duo-Matic hubs.

  33. JoeOctober 8, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    This bike is somewhat of a let down as is the shop from where it was purchased. It belongs to my son who bought it about 2 1/2 years ago and has had more repair work and replacement of tires and inner tubes than I would have ever expected. Parts just disappear. Bolt-ons that should be secured with thread lock compound, are not. I wonder if Schwinn has had proper quality engineers at the Chinese factory to check into this. The shop has so far not been of much help. Only one employee has given me any useful information. It is sad that they don’t seem to back the main product line that they are marketing. I’m writing this just before making one last attempt to get some satisfaction in making right a time and cash investment that keeps on and on. And for the reader that wonders if I am a capable mechanic, the answer is that I’m an industrial arts teacher. So, yes. Having owned Schwinn bikes when they were made here in Chicago, as clunky as they may have seemed, the low cost of outsource is not worth the poor quality in workmanship. Too bad.

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