Drive My Bike


Need More Space Than A Backpack Or Panniers?

Does it always seem like you need just a little more cargo space on your commute? Well maybe something like this is the answer…

CamperBike

A friend sent me this link to Kevin Cyr’s site, and at first I laughed, but then I realized how serious he is. Go to his site and take a look around. This guy has some interesting ideas on mobility and habitats. He’s also got some nice paintings.

This summer I’ve been using a backpack for my cargo since I’ve been riding Jake’s speedy road bike. The temperatures are starting to drop though, and that means packing a lot more clothing to stay warm, so soon I’ll be going back to my trusty Trek with a rack and panniers.

Yes, the Trek is a lot heavier than Jake’s road bike, and the fully loaded panniers make it even heavier… but I bet it is a lot lighter than Kevin’s camper bike! 🙂

Advertisements


The Unsung Hero of Bike Commuting Equipment
August 8, 2008, 12:47 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , ,

I just got back from riding my bike over to a local fast food place to pickup my lunch. That got me thinking that I should tell you about one of the pieces of equipment I use that has become absolutely indispensable… my Bungee Cargo Net for my rear rack.Bungee Cargo Net on Rack

I don’t use it all the time, but whenever I need to carry something that won’t fit in my panniers, or that needs to be carried a certain way (like the take out plate of food I just got back with), I fasten it to my rear rack with my cargo net. It is made of bungee material, so it stretches to conform to whatever you are trying to hold.Bungee Cargo Net

It has 4 plastic hooks at the corners, so with a bit of creativity you can fasten almost anything. I have used it to carry my lunch, my floor pump that is about 3 feet long, two 12 packs of soda, and a few other oddly shaped things.

Mine is a Delta Cargo Net II that I purchased from REI, but there are similar ones available elsewhere.

If you don’t have one of these, I would encourage you to purchase one. They are not very expensive, and I have come to consider mine indispensable. I leave it wrapped around my rack when not in use, and I can attach my panniers without even removing it. It is always there when I need to carry something, and I consider it the unsung hero of my bike commuting equipment.



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?