Urban Velo

Schwinn Madison Impressions, Part 2

schwinntall.jpg 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.

schwinnstem.jpgI 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.

schwinnoverlap.jpg 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.



  1. MarrockMarch 24, 2008 at 10:43 am

    I think you lost me with the straight fork.

    Any chance of that being changed by the company in the future?

  2. JoshMarch 24, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    Looks much better with the flat bar.

  3. Bill O'GradyMarch 24, 2008 at 6:06 pm


    Don’t know where the fault lies (my pc, your pc, related servers), but this entry is illegible (gray print on a black/gray background?). Still looking forward to reading it!

  4. Urban JeffMarch 24, 2008 at 9:33 pm

    The problem is the background image for the main part of the blog failed to load on your computer. I’ve seen it take a long time, so I’ve switched the main background to a lighter color in hopes that this won’t be a problem for folks with a slow internet connection or whatever.

  5. Lazy Bike CommuterMarch 25, 2008 at 8:41 am

    I’m just glad they put braze ons on it….when they first came out you couldn’t mount a frickin water bottle.

    I don’t know who wants to ride a bike and doesn’t ever get thirsty (track bike this makes sense, on anything not made strictly for the velodrome it just seems like fashionable idiocy).

  6. ThomasMarch 25, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    Got mine yesterday. So far I like it but I think I’ll end up going with straight bars as well. Can anyone let me know how I can tell if I’m affected by the short steerer oversight and how to get it replaced? I had fenders installed at my LBS. I’ll post pics if anyone shows interest.

  7. rickMarch 29, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    This is what Colnago says about curved vs. straight fork blades.

    From their website…
    Why does Colnago use a straight blade fork design?
    Colnago’s straight blade fork was born in 1987 in collaboration with Ferrari engineers during a discussion about cold setting fork curvature. Ernesto Colnago and the Ferrari engineers discovered that while the curved fork didn’t absorb road vibrations and shocks, while the straight bladed fork did. From that testing, Colnago’s PRECISA fork was born, and subsequently, many of Colnago’s competitors adopted a straight blade fork.

  8. Shiny FluApril 24, 2008 at 10:39 am

    Just some background: Redline 925 Vs. Madison and living in Berlin fenders are rather handy with all the rain.. just wondering what fenders will you be putting on and how’s the clearence?

  9. ThomasMay 1, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    Shiny Flu.
    Here are a few pics of mine with fenders. I used SKS ChromoPlastics, clearance is tight but they look great!


  10. CrowleyMay 3, 2008 at 9:04 pm

    Hi Thomas,
    A quick stop at your local Scwinn dealer will tell for sure whether your steerer is a “shorty”. The steerer is the cylindrical portion of the fork that extends upwards through the head tube and meets with the stem (hence your bars). A longer steerer will protrude further through the head tube. This allows one to adjust the height of the stem (hence the bars.) Oftentimes a manufacturer will place a few spacers (imagine a ring or two on your finger) under the stem to occupy the space when the stem is in it’s highest position. These spacers are not functional simple aesthetic. If ever you wished to lower your stem (hence bar height) you’d remove your stem, slide one (or more) of these spacers up and off the steerer and then reinstall your stem. Too low? Loosen the stem and slide it up a tad. A shorter stem disallows this height adjustment. My understanding is that the Madisons with the shorter steerer had no spacers under the stem. The remainder had two representing about an inch and a half (3.75 cm) of adjustability. Seeing as you’ve replaced your stem and bars you may recall removing these if you did the wrenching yourself, they’re not evident in your snapshots. Whether any of this is of significance to you depends on your satisfaction with your bar height. If all is well there you need not be concerned. In fact your Maddie will be lighter by a few grams and will have a cleaner appearance. If ever you wanted a higher bar you could simply install a riser bar.
    I find your modifications highly appealing. Do enjoy it safely.

    Best wishes,

  11. Schwinn Madison - Testing Round Deux - Urban VeloJune 17, 2008 at 6:27 am

    [...] 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 [...]

  12. JakeAugust 29, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    I have a Madison and I love it soooo much. I’ve recently been interested in track racing and I was wondering if anyone knew if it was track legal or not.

  13. TommyDangerSeptember 16, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    I just ordered my Madison yesterday. This bike looks really clean, and I am really excited to start riding it. I am planning on riser bars as well. I really like the way this set up looks. As far as track legal goes, I was under the impression that you couldn’t have drillings for brakes to be on track, but I could be misimformed.

  14. bradSeptember 16, 2008 at 2:44 pmAuthor

    Nah, you can have drillings for brakes and race on the track. You just can’t have brakes. Plenty of track bike have brake holes for road training, even some super high end ones.

  15. ThomasOctober 7, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    I had my Madison on the Dick Lane Velodrome near Atlanta, GA this summer. No problems; Lot’s of fun!!

  16. seanNovember 6, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    Just bought the ’08. Anybody know how to strip the fork w/out ruining the chrome?

  17. Mad-isonNovember 30, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    I’m about to pull the trigger on an ’08 Madison for $360 at Performance in Boulder. The indoor velodrome will be up and running here soon, and this will work fine for goofing around on the track. Meanwhile, I’ll start using it as a commuter, since I haven’t ridden fixie in a long time. In fact, the last time I did it was at the aforementioned Dick Lane velodrome in Atlanta, complete with uphill/downhill straights and a creek through the infield. Did they ever fix the huge hump in the middle of the first banking? You could almost catch air!

  18. danAugust 5, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    I emailed Schwinn about the fork and they said to take it to my local schwinn retailer. Which I did. They called Schwinn and they said that Schwinn does not replace the fork.

    I then emailed Schwinn back and sent along this link where it says they know about the short fork and will replace it.

    The Schwinn rep said:

    “Thanks for the email. It’s true that we do not replace the forks on the Madison. I’m not sure who the author of the article spoke with here but it seems that the information is either outdated or incorrect.”

    I say… BOOO! my fork is so short I’m afraid to ride it never mind change the stem and switch to risers like I want to do.


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


City Reports