Drive My Bike


Tire Issues With A Schwinn Midtown

If you’ve read my previous posts, then you probably realize that when I started commuting with my Schwinn Midtown I had some problems with flats on the rear tire. Based on recent comments from readers, it seems that many of you out there also have had flats on your Midtown, and you have struggled to repair those flats so that you can get back to your riding. With that in mind, I figured I would discuss some more of the things I’ve learned as I’ve worked on my Midtown, and what I’ve done to deal with my tire issues.Rear of Schwinn Midtown

The Basics

I’m not going to go into the details of actually fixing a flat tire because there are plenty of other places that will do a much better job of teaching you than I ever could. I would recommend that you check with your local bike shops and see if any of them offer a free bike maintenance clinic. I attended such a clinic at my local REI store, and it was a great help. You can also find plenty of great videos on YouTube that will give you some good advice.

When you are dealing with a flat tire, one of the first things you need to do is to figure out what caused the flat.  Did you run over some kind of road hazard, like glass, or a thorn, or a piece of sharp metal? Did you have your tire pressure too low and hit a bump, like a curb, so that the inner tube got pinched against the rim, which caused a “pinch flat”? Or is your tire just flat and you have no idea what caused it?

In my case, the rear flats were not caused by a road hazard, and did not seem to be pinch flats, which are usually on the sides of the tube. In both cases the leak in my tubes was on the inside edge of the tube, where the tube is against the rim, a few inches from the valve stem. I am still not sure what caused those leaks, but I think it might have been similar to a pinch flat, but caused by the tube going against the spoke holes in the rim ,which was enough to rub a hole in the tube.

One of the next things to think about when dealing with flat tires is whether you can repair the inner tube, or if you need to replace the old tube with a new one. In my case, I tried to repair the tube twice, but the hole was in a spot where the rubber had a bump in it, and I also used the new press-on patches, instead of the old glue-on kind. As soon as I put the tire back on and pumped it up, I heard the sound of air leaking and realized my patch wasn’t holding. Argh!

My Solutions

So here is what I did to remedy my problems…

1) I replaced the rear tube with a heavy duty tube with Slime in it. I have read mixed reviews of Slime, and it seems like people either like it or hate it.  I was pretty desperate to find a solution, so I tried it, and I have not had issues. I don’t know if it is the Slime, or the heavy duty tube, but I haven’t even had to add air to the tire at all since I replaced it a couple of weeks ago. If you don’t like Slime, then there are plenty of other tubes out there. Just be sure you get a 26 inch tube that’s about 2 inches in diameter and has a Schrader valve. The tires on the Midtown are 26×2.00 so a 26×1.75-2.25 Schrader valve tube will work just fine.

Tire Size for Schwinn Midtown

2) I made sure that all of the spoke holes on the rim were nice and smooth. There is a rubber strip, like a big rubber band, that goes around the rim, and sits between the metal rim and the inner tube. It is there to cover up the holes and protect the tube. I removed that strip, and then checked each of the spoke holes and cleaned them up with a file to make sure they were nice and smooth, then replaced the strip, and put everything back together. That took a bit of work, and I’m not sure if it made a difference, but as I said, I was desperate. Reader Jon Grinder, an experienced bike mechanic, also recommend replacing the rubber rim strip with rim tape which is thicker and tends to stay in place better than the rubber strip. I have not done this yet, but it sounds like a good idea, and I’ll probably do so at some point.

3) I make sure that my tires are at the proper pressure every single time I ride. The recommend pressure for the tires on the Midtown is 40-65 PSI. I actually fill my rear tire a bit more than that to make up for the extra weight that I have over the rear tire when I carry stuff on the rack. Do this at your own risk, since you are exceeding the rated pressure once you pass 65 PSI. The other important part of keeping the tires at the right pressure is to have a good pump with an accurate pressure gauge. I have an air compressor and it was easy and fast to fill my tires with it, but I found that I was having a hard time keeping the pressure consistent. I went to REI and got a Serfas floor pump and it was a great investment. Now I hook the pump up and check the pressure before I ride, topping the tires off if needed. It only takes an extra minute or two, and the peace of mind is worth it.

Tire Pressure Ratings for Schwinn Midtown

Extra Long Valve Stem

If you replace the original tubes on the Midtown, you will quickly realize that the stock tubes have an extra long valve stem. The picture on the left is the stock Midtown tube, and the picture on the right is a normal tube.Extra Long Valve Stem on Schwinn Midtown

When you install the standard tube in the Midtown rim you will notice that the valve stem just barely sticks out of the hole in the rim. Again, the picture on top is the stock tube, and the picture on the bottom is a replacement tube.Extra Long Valve Stem on Schwinn Midtown

Getting the shorter valve stem to go all the way through the rim is a bit of a challenge, and the best way I found to make it work was to pinch the SIDES of the tube and tire, which helps push the valve through the hole. My first instinct was to push directly behind the valve stem, but this was difficult, and didn’t accomplish much. Instead, squeezing the sides of the tube seems to extend the valve stem farther into the hole. Once you get the valve stem through the hole then you can put the cap on to hold it in place while you finish installing the tire, or better yet, put a valve extender on the valve stem.Valve Extender on Normal Valve Stem on Schwinn Midtown

Getting the pump to grab on to the short valve stem can be a challenge, especially when the tube is completely empty, so I picked up a set of valve stem extenders from a local auto parts store, and now filling the tube is easy again.

I did look around a bit to try to find tubes with a long valve stem, and I haven’t been able to find them anywhere. At this point, I don’t really consider it to be a problem, because I’m confident I can make a regular tube work.

It has been at least two weeks, and probably 75 miles of riding, since I took the actions described above, and I haven’t had any more issues with flat tires on my Schwinn Midtown. Hopefully this information will help those of you that have experienced similar challenges, and get you back on the road again.

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Putting a Front Fender on a Schwinn Midtown
July 2, 2008, 1:01 pm
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In the quest to make my Costco Schwinn Midtown more “commuter friendly” one of the things I wanted to add was fenders. I took my bike to a local bike shop and asked if they had fenders that would fit. They found a front fender that would work, but didn’t have a rear fender that would fit. The Avenir rear rack I’m using has a solid section in the middle that provides some rear fender functionality, so for now I’m content without a rear fender.

The front fender I am using is an Apex Mountain Bike fender and it was not very expensive. It is plastic, with a bendable aluminum bracket for mounting.Apex Front Fender on Schwinn Midtown

Mounting the fender on the Midtown was very easy, as the front brake bracket has a hole in the middle that is a great fender mount point.  The back of the brake bracket is hollow, so you have to align the fender bracket carefully to make sure it is straight, but it is secure once you tighten the fender mounting screw (included with the fender). I did have to bend the fender mount so that is was properly aligned with the tire and didn’t drag at all,  The fender mount is aluminum and is designed to bend to fit, so this was also very easy.  Here’s a detail photo of the fender mount…Detail of Apex Front Fender Mount on Schwinn Midtown

Mounting this fender was a piece of cake compared to the challenges I had with mounting the rear rack, and it only took about five minutes. I haven’t ridden my Midtown in the rain yet, so I can’t vouch for the effectiveness of my fender solution, but I feel more prepared than having no fenders at all.

If this article helps you out then I’d appreciate a comment to let me know.  Have you found a different fender that fits on the Schwinn Midtown? If so, then let me know so that I can share it with everyone.



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.



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?