Urban Velo

Schwinn Madison – Testing Round Three

David HoffmanFor the past six months I’ve been riding a funky old Firenze GL-5000 from the late ’70s or early ’80s. It’s heavy, cheap, and came with fabulous chromed steel rims that make stopping more of an act of faith than a guarantee. So when Brad here at Urban Velo offered to let me continue testing the Schwinn Madison first reviewed here and and then a little bit later here , I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

I did a couple of things to set the bike up for my daily commute and usual riding around Marin County, CA for work. I put an average of 150 miles a week on my bike. I started with a good set of lights – a Planet Bike Blinky 7 for the rear, and Cannondale Foresite Plus for the front. In order to keep the clean, cable-free lines of the bike, and be able to log the miles that I put on to it, I installed a Cateye Strada Wireless Cyclometer . Pedals are Shimano combo SPD/Platform for both serious hauls across the County or a trip down the street in my work shoes.

After an initial 50 miles on the bike, I’m reminded with every turn of the pedals what the difference between a cheap, big-box low-end consumer-grade bike and one with quality components and tight tolerances is. The Madison is a joy to ride. I had very little to do to set it up for me; Brad is a bit taller, so some seat and stem adjustments were in order. I centered the brakes, and noted that the rear wheel is just slightly out of true. This could be due to a harsh journey across the US from Pittsburgh, PA to Pacifica, CA. At any rate, it will be easy to correct. Finally, I flipped the rear wheel so that it is set up as a single-speed as opposed to fixed. I’m a guy with mild arthritis in my knees heading unwillingly in to middle age – so I plan to do as much riding with my knees intact as possible.

The ride is actually quite forgiving due to the Cro-Moly frame. The supplied Schwalbe Lugano 700 x 23C tires make for great road riding, but aren’t so good for the rutted and pitted streets of rural Marin County. The supplied San Marco "Ponza Lux" saddle is stiff and light. So far so good, but I suspect that for rides over 30-40 miles I may be wishing for something with a bit of gel in it to take pressure off of the ol’ baby maker. The brakes are quick and responsive and can be easily dialed in with the supplied barrel adjusters.

For the first week of riding, my overall impressions are of a competent, stable bike that rides as well if not better than many in the $400-$600 range. I’m finding that the 48/18 gearing provides a comfortable 15-20 mph at moderate cadence, and isn’t too strenuous on all but the most challenging uphill slopes (here is where the SPDs really do their magic). I managed to hit about 27 mph on a long, slightly downward run. For faster urban riding, a 16T rear cog might be just the ticket. More to come as the miles roll on…

13 Comments

  1. MarrockJune 17, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    Does it come in black? ;)

  2. Shiny FluJune 17, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    I love my Madison. The first 2 days I rode it, people were actually coming up to me and saying ‘beautiful bike’ which has now prompted me to do the ol’ electrical tape over the tubes- still rides beautifully and to me, still looks great. I’ve found that the steering is snappy enough to avoid being doored but definitely stable enough for when you get a bit lazy in the body english department. And by the sounds of things, you’ll be loving it too!

  3. JPJune 18, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    How objective can this review be when Schwinn has a Madison ad on your home page? Just wondering.

  4. Urban JeffJune 18, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    The reviews are objective enough to openly criticize the advertisers. From the initial review:

    “While the crown is a really nice touch at this price level, the steerer is cut far too short leaving not even a single spacer under the stem and no room for height adjustment. Schwinn assures me this is a pre-production oversight, and that bikes on dealer floors have a longer steerer and a few spacers.”

    “I thought the stem looked especially cheap, and I was right. I stripped out one of the stem clamp bolts upon installation.”

  5. David HoffmanJune 19, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    To answer Marrock’s question about color… For now, the bike only comes in blue – which according to Schwinn is officially called “Old School Blue”. The 2009 will be available in two colors – though they didn’t say which two they would be at this time…

  6. Collin FJuly 16, 2008 at 11:51 pm

    The two colors of the 2009 Madison are going to be…
    1. taxi yellow
    2. black/yellow

  7. IrmaAugust 19, 2008 at 12:38 am

    In your review, you mentioned the long trip from Pittsburgh to Pacifica. Is the Madison made in Pittsburgh? Or is it Chinese?

  8. David HoffmanAugust 19, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    The Madison is made in China. However, I haven’t had reason to complain about the build or part quality in the several months that I’ve had it.

  9. TiberculosisAugust 20, 2008 at 11:56 pm

    I have an 08 Madison and I love it. If it weren’t for this review I think I would have been stuck with the bad fork/steerer. This is the only place I have ever seen this problem brought to light. I actually had to print out this review and take it to my shop to get them to call Schwinn about it. Sure enough, Schwinn said a new fork was on it’s way, overnight even!

  10. bradAugust 21, 2008 at 9:22 amAuthor

    Irma – Just about every bike under $2000 these days is built in the East (Taiwan, Chain, Vietnam etc.) Many of the more expensive ones are built there as well. Some day I’ll write an editorial about how the most experienced welders in the world are in Taiwan, and that yes the bikes are made by hand.

  11. MatthewOctober 13, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    It looks like a couple of changes were made to the 2009 Madison. Kenda 28C tires versus Schwalbe 23C on the 2008. Also the crankset on the 2009 is FSA Vero Track versus Truvativ Touro Track. The price only went up $30. Is the FSA crankset lower grade than the Truvativ? I have a lot to learn about bike components so any help is appreciated.

  12. Seattle RiderDecember 11, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    I love the madison, i do not like the handle bars so I cut them in half, for easy riding through cars.

    Problem is, it is such an affordable bike, it seems everyone in town has one now.

    http://photos-h.ak.fbcdn.net/photos-ak-snc1/v867/249/6/507877209/n507877209_1056295_434.jpg

  13. 61 YEARS YOUNG PLYMOUTH RIDER, DEVON, ENGLANDNovember 21, 2011 at 7:27 am

    i HAVE BEEN RIDING MY SCHWINN MADISON FOR ABOUT 6 MONTHS; 30 – 40 MILE OUTINGS WITH THE CLUB, 15MILE DAILY COMMUTE, GENERAL SHOPPING. 48-18. WHAT CAN I SAY OTHER THAN SHERE SIMPLICITY AND MAGIC.YES, SOME OF THE HILLS IN DEVON ARE ‘CHALLENGING’ BUT THAT IS OUTWEIGHED BY THE FUN AND FITNESS OUTCOMES. OH YES IT LOOKS COOL!!

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