Schwinn Madison Impressions, Part 2
After some weather, travel and mechanical setbacks, I’ve finally had the chance to put some miles on the Schwinn Madison that came in a few weeks ago. Firstly the mechanical – as mentioned in the initial impressions, the OEM stem stripped out upon installation and required a replacement from my personal stash, compounded by the overly short steerer and lack of spacers under the stem limiting fit options. For some time now I’ve been a fan of flat bars for most city riding, and since the drops on the Madison were too low for my tastes anyway, I ended up pulling the stem/bar from another bike. Like most complete bikes, the stock pedals are nothing to write home about and I opted to use my own set.
With some miles pedaled I can say one thing with confidence; it rides like a bike. I happen to be partial to relatively cheap steel bicycles, and this Schwinn rides as expected on that front. Between the short 985mm wheelbase and 250mm high bottom bracket it has the maneuverable “track bike” feel that so many have fallen in love with on the street. This is countered by the road-bike long chainstays (410mm) and 73.5deg headtube angle, neither of which beat you up like shorter and steeper combinations tend to. That beautiful fork rides as expected – predictable and less forgiving than a curved blade.
I hate to harp on it, but I really do wish and steerer tube wasn’t cut so short, and on the show floor this factory oversight would be a deal breaker for me. It’s really a shame for how nice of a fork it is. Schwinn tells me that a few of these did make it onto the market, and anyone with an affected bike can go through their dealer for a new fork with an appropriate length steerer. Even with a riser bar, I’d still prefer to get those bars higher by a few spacers.
Like many track-geometry bikes, the Madison suffers from toe overlap even in the Large size. Overlap is something that can be dealt with however, as anyone riding a smaller frame surely knows. A tilt of the pedal here or there when moving forward from a trackstand is all is takes to prevent slow speed disaster.
As expected from the build up, the drivetrain and wheels perform well. The seemingly standard Formula track hubs ride great, have real tracknuts to prevent wheel creep when tightening them down, and history proves feature quality threads that don’t strip out with a properly installed cog. 170mm cranks make sense for the bike size, and the 48 x 18 gearing yields a sensible 70.1 inch gear. This happens to be my chosen fixed gear, and is around where many people find themselves comfortable – a welcome change from most stock fixed gears featuring gears tall enough for the track and nothing else.
Out and about, the bike proves to be a head turner. The blue and chrome combo goes together nicely, complemented by the retro styled decals and low profile rims. Soon enough I’ll get around to fitting fenders in there on the much appreciated eyelets and hope to get some long spring-time miles down before writing a final wrap up of this sub-$600 complete bike.