Schwinn Madison – Testing Round Three
For 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…