Drive My Bike

Mounting a Rear Rack on a Schwinn Midtown

Wow, there has been a huge response to the article I posted a few days ago about my Costco Schwinn Midtown bike! Some of you have asked about the accessories I’ve added to my bike, so I’m going to start a series of posts highlighting each of these things.

I’m going to start with the Rear Rack and how I mounted it, because that was somewhat of a challenge, and I almost took my bike back to Costco because I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to make it work. Reader Bill commented that he took his bike to a local bike shop and they told him that it was not possible to mount a rack on his Midtown. Well, it certainly is possible, and here’s how I did it…

The rack that I use is an Avenir like this. When I bought this rack I didn’t have a clue what I wanted or needed, I just told the guy at the shop that I was going to start commuting and needed a rack. He only carried this basic Avenir rack but said it would probably work. Now that I’m a bit more experienced I would probably purchase a rack that is a bit beefier like this, but I’ve carried a good bit of weight in my panniers when doing grocery runs, and haven’t had any problems. Here is a good side shot…Side View of Avenir Rack on Schwin Midtown

The difficulty in mounting this rack on the Midtown is that the bike has rear suspension, and no mount points, so there isn’t a “standard” place to attach the rack braces. You can’t attach the braces to the seat post, because the rear suspension lets the back end move up and down, separate from the seat post, so the braces would be unstable and would probably even bend with normal riding.Schwin Midtown Rack Brace Side Detail

The Avenir rack came with mounting screws and some clamps that had some rubber insulation on them, but they were too small to fit around the frame tubes, which at that point in the frame are approximately 1″ in diameter. I took the clamps to my local Home Depot and asked if they had anything like that. The first guy I talked to didn’t have a clue, but the second guy took me right over and showed me some insulated clamps like this. I tried those, and the first set I bought were too small, so I went back and got the next size up, which I believe were 1 3/8″ inner diameter. I honestly don’t remember the exact size, so if you want to save a trip back to Home Depot, buy a couple sizes and then take back the ones you don’t use. Also, I thought those clamps were in the plumbing department, but Bill commented that he found them in the electrical department. Here is a photo detailing the clamps…Schwinn Midtown Rack Brace Clamps When attaching the braces to the clamps I did have to bend the braces a good bit. The braces are made of aluminum and are not difficult to bend, and the instructions actually say that it is normal to have to bend and adapt them to different frames. The main part of the bending was removing some of the twist that the braces came with, so that the ends of the braces would match the angle of the clamps on the frame.

The bottom support legs of the rack are screwed directly into the frame, using the topmost of two holes adjacent to the rear wheel mount. I used the mounting screws that were included with the Avenir rack, and the frame holes are threaded, so I did not need to add a nut on the back. BE SURE TO CHECK THESE SCREWS REGULARLY! When I took this picture this screw had backed itself about halfway out, and was quite loose! I had actually been thinking that I should check them for tightness, but had not made it a priority, so I’m glad I had to take this shot or I’m sure the rack brace would have come loose in the middle of my commute. I will probably add a lock washer or some Loc-Tite to make things a bit more permanent.Schwinn Midtown Rear Rack Foot Mount

That’s pretty much all there is to it. I spent most of my time figuring this out and getting the right clamps, so the time spent actually doing the mounting was less than an hour. Hopefully this will help those of you that have purchased a Schwinn Midtown and need a rear rack. If this article is helpful then I’d love to hear about it, so please leave me a comment, and if you have problems or come up with better ideas then I’d love to hear that too.

A One Horsepower Solution

Folks in a dental office in Arlington, WA decided to find an alternative solution to get to work once prices hit $4 per gallon. Most of them owned horses, so they decided to ride their horses to work!

The dentist, Dr. Keith Leonard, often rides his bike to work, and wanted to encourage people to find alternative means of transportation. He issued a challenge for people to get to the office without their car in the month of July, and is even awarding T-shirts to those who do so. He recently had his bike stolen, and is considering installing a bike rack at his office so that employees and patients can have a safe place to keep their bikes while there. Way to go Dr. Leonard! If more independent professionals did things like that it could really make an impact on our vehicle driven society.

Here’s the article if you’d like to check it out. They have a few pictures of the ride.  I did note that there were a couple of bicyclists in their group, along with all the horses. As a bicyclist I would think you would want to be careful about drafting in that situation. 🙂

Have a good day!

My Bike: Schwinn Midtown from Costco

When I started thinking about this bike commuting thing, of course the first thing that popped into my mind was “What am I going to ride?”.  I hadn’t owned a bike in at least ten years, and I didn’t really have any idea what I needed to start bike commuting.  A few days later I happened to be at Costco, and noticed that they had a couple of bikes available, one of which was the Schwinn Midtown, which they called a “comfort bike”.

Schwinn Midtown from Costco

I certainly wasn’t familiar with what a “comfort bike” was, so my first impression was that it sounded like the kind of thing I might buy for my mom. I knew what a “cruiser” was, and this bike had some of the curved lines of a cruiser, but then it also had things that made it look more like a mountain bike. After doing some research about what kinds of bikes were common today, I came across the term “hybrid”.  A “hybrid” bike is basically a cross between a road bike (similar to the “ten speed” I had in high school) and a mountain bike (the grown up version of the BMX bike I had in sixth grade). A hybrid is often considered to be a great commuter bike, because it is a bit more rugged than a road bike, with wide tires and upright handle bars, but it is still designed to ride on pavement more than dirt. I learned that sometimes hybrids are also called “comfort bikes”. Mystery solved.

So, now that I knew what a comfort bike was, I decided to shop around a little bit to see what other options were out there for commuting.  I read plenty of things that warned me about buying a “department store bike”, but when I looked at this model that Costco was selling, it looked like it had been upgraded quite a bit.  I checked with some local bike shops, and found some very nice commuter bikes in the $400-$600 range, but I wasn’t ready to make that kind of investment since I wasn’t sure I’d stay committed to this commuting idea. The Schwinn Midtown at Costco was $220, which seemed like a pretty good value, and I knew that with Costco’s generous satisfaction guarantee I could return it if I had any problems.  So I took the plunge and bought one…

That was about two months ago, and since then I have put almost 100 miles on my Schwinn Midtown.  I have added numerous things to make it more commuter friendly, and it now looks a good bit different than it did originally.  A couple of weeks ago I pulled up behind another bike commuter at a stop light and noticed he was also riding a Schwinn Midtown.  I said hello and commented on our bikes, and he did a double take before he recognized they were the same.  “You’ve got fenders!”, he exclaimed.  “Yeah, and a few other things also”, I added.

Rear Rack

To the basic Midtown I’ve added a rear rack, a front fender, a rear view mirror, a headlight, a water bottle, a seat bag, and a lock. Improvised Rack Brace Mounts I had to get creative with the rack mount, since the bike has full rear suspension, and doesn’t have standard mounts on the frame to attach the rack braces.  I found a couple of rubber lined plumbing mounts at Home Depot, and after bending the rack braces a bit I was able to get a solid configuration by using the plumbing mounts to fasten the braces to the rear frame right below the shock.  Solving this problem was very satisfying, as the rack was the first thing I added to the bike, and it was a great way to “make it mine”.

UPDATE: Go here to see how I mounted the rack on my Midtown.

UPDATE: Go here to see how I mounted the front fender on my Midtown.

UPDATE: Go here to see how I solved some flat tire issues on my Midtown.

I have searched to find more information about the Schwinn Midtown, but it is not listed on Schwinn’s website, and I have only found a couple of articles mentioning this model.  It is common for Costco to get manufacturers to create exclusive items only sold by Costco, so I am assuming that is what Schwinn did with the Midtown.  I certainly don’t know much about quality bike hardware yet, but it seems to me like the hardware on my Midtown has been upgraded and is of good quality.

So far, it has been a good bike for me to get started.  The only problems I have had are the few flats on the rear wheel that I have blogged about, but I haven’t had any more flats after my last repair.  My only other negative has been the weight of the bike, because it is not light.  I’m used to riding it now, but I’ve looked at some more expensive commuter bikes and have been amazed at how much lighter they are.

If I had it to do over again, would I buy another Schwinn Midtown for my commuting?  Probably not, but only because I now know that I’m committed to bike commuting, and I know more of what I want, so I would be willing to spend a bit more than before.  I would probably look for something more along the lines of a road bike built for touring, and maybe next year I can do that, but for now I’m happy with this bike, and I’m sure I’ll put a lot more miles on it before I get rid of it. If you are looking for a very reasonably priced bike to get started with your commuting, then you might want to head down to Costco and take a look at the Schwinn Midtown.

What about you? Do you have a Schwinn Midtown, and if so, do you like it? If not, what did you use to start bike commuting?

More Crowded Today
June 24, 2008, 8:52 am
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I left about 10 minutes later than usual today, and I noticed about twice as many people out riding.  I don’t know if it was the time difference, or what, but there were a whole lot more bikers on the road today, and most of them looked like commuters.  It’s encouraging to see more people bike commuting on “my route”, which is a fairly main road.  I waved at a couple of the riders that I could make eye contact with, and almost had a few seconds at a light to chat with a guy coming up behind me on a mountain bike, but before we could stop the light was green and I turned to make a quick stop at McDonald’s for a couple breakfast burritos to eat at the office, so we both sped away.

I don’t think it is just that I am more aware since I am riding now, because other people tell me they see more bikers as well.  The gas prices just keep going up, so I would think that more and more people will start bike commuting.  Have you noticed more bike commuters lately?

For you tennis fans…
June 19, 2008, 3:05 pm
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Here’s a pedal powered tennis ball launcher, made from recycled bike parts! The problem I see here is that the guy on the bike is a sitting duck for that return shot. I noticed he is wearing his helmet though, so he is practicing safe tennis ball launching. Enjoy!

If you’re interested you can find out more about this project from the builder’s website

Darn Flat Tires!
June 18, 2008, 8:53 am
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I have experienced two flat tires within my last five rides.  I hope that ratio doesn’t continue!  The worst part is that the holes in the tube were in similar places both times… on the rim side of the tube!  This means they weren’t caused by road hazards, they were caused by something on the rim.  The first time I visually inspected the rim, and ran my fingers around the area, I couldn’t feel anything that would cause a flat.  This time, I actually removed the rubber strip that covers the spoke holes, and inspected everything again, but I still didn’t see or feel anything obvious.  I did take a file and smoothed over ever spot I could find that looked that least bit suspicious, so I hope that will make some kind of difference.

One of the frustrating parts was that when I put everything back together and pumped up the tire… I heard air leaking again… and realized that my patch was not holding.  Argh!  So I took everything apart again, and just replaced the tube completely.  I now have two leaky tubes that need patching… but I don’t trust those “stick on” patches that I was using.  I’m going to buy an old school glue on patch kit, and then I’ll fix those tubes, and keep one with me as a spare.

Both of these flats were on my rear wheel.  I weigh around 200 lbs, and I carry a pannier that is loaded with about 15-20 lbs of gear, which means my rear wheel is carrying most of that weight.  I’ve been very careful to make sure that my tires are at the correct pressure, and I’ve even tried to keep that rear one filled about 5 lbs over spec since I’ve noticed the rear tire seems to compress down a lot while I’m riding, especially up hills.  I really don’t think these were pinch flats, because they both were a single distinct hole, and both on the rim side.  If this keeps up I’m going to try one of those heavy duty tubes to see if that will make a difference.

Do any of you out there have any flat tire wisdom to share?  Have flats been much of an issue with your rides?  Do you carry an extra tube all the time?  Have you had success with those “stick on” patches, or do you use the old school glue on kind?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

UPDATE: I think I fixed my tire issues. Go here to see the solutions I ended up with.

NBC Today Show: Bike Commuting Increasing
June 16, 2008, 1:59 pm
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Jim Langley caught this very cool clip from NBC’s Today show that talks about how many people are bike commuting these days.  Good catch Jim, and great blog!

A Couple Good Rides
June 16, 2008, 9:40 am
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If you’ve read my last couple of posts you probably realized that I felt like I really blew myself out on my ride home last Tuesday night.  It was the first time I’ve ridden that late at night (midnight) and I was also really tired from the events of the day.  What suprised me most was how much that challenging ride negatively affected my desire to ride.  I was going to ride to work on Friday, but I bailed out at the last minute and went back to bed for a little more sleep.  I was in a slump and had to figure a way out…

So, yesterday (Father’s Day) I realized I needed to make a run to Home Depot and the grocery store, and I decided to ride my bike.  This was a pretty major challenge mentally, because the start of that route is a pretty steep uphill climb, and then the rest of the route is a mild uphill.  I decided to go for it, as much to prove that I could do it as to just get a good ride in.  The beginning of the ride was tough, but not as tough as I expected it to be.  I got my shopping done, and then enjoyed the benefits of a downhill ride all the way home.  Awesome!  I was out of my slump!

This morning’s ride into work carried on the good vibes that I had stirred up yesterday, and I even shaved a few minutes off my standard ride time.  Woo hoo!  I’ve got another evening meeting tonight, which means another nighttime ride home.  Hopefully I can keep the good vibes flowing for that ride tonight.

Is this slump thing normal?  Have you experienced a kind of ebb and flow in your joy of riding?

A Bit Of A Slump
June 13, 2008, 2:13 pm
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Well, today is the first day that I backed out of bicycling to work after I had planned and prepared to ride.  I packed and had everything ready to go last night, but I was really tired when I woke up this morning, and I made the mistake of not getting up right away when the alarm went off.  Instead, I stayed in bed and pondered how tired I was and how tired I had been on my last ride. For me, once I start thinking about getting up, instead of just doing it, I’m pretty much not going to do it.  So, I rolled over and took advantage of an extra hour of sleep since I wasn’t riding.  I will say that the extra sleep was nice, but I think I woke up feeling more tired than when my alarm went off, so I don’t think that extra hour helped much.

I really do want to go riding though, so I will try to get a ride in this weekend.  I was really, really tired after my late night ride on Tuesday, and I think I kind of blew myself out.  It has been good to take a few days off from riding to work, but I need to get back at it.

I assume that most people go through times like this when they struggle with getting back to bike commuting.  Have you had times like this?  How do you deal with them and crawl out of your “slump”?

Is $5 per Gallon The Tipping Point for Bike Commuters?
June 11, 2008, 8:59 am
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A recent survey about commuter pain reveals some interesting opinions…

“At the time of the study, gasoline was at a national average of $3.67 a gallon. At a price level of $3.50 a gallon, 9% of respondents said they would consider changing their commuting habits… an additional 22% said they would seek other commuting options if gas hits $4 a gallon, and if prices make it to $5 a gallon, a total of 66% of drivers said they would look for new ways of commuting.”

Wow… it sounds like $5 per gallon is the magic price point when most people will say “Enough!” and start to actually do something different for their commute.  Based on the way things are going it doesn’t sound like that will be very far in the future.

What about you?  If you already commute by bike then why did you start bike commuting?  If you are not a bike commuter what would it take to make you consider becoming one?