Drive My Bike


I Forgot My Anniversary

(No, not that anniversary. If that was the case I wouldn’t be celebrating.)

Yesterday, June 1, 2009, was my one year anniversary as a bike commuter.

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I had been looking forward to my one year bike commuting anniversary, but the day came and went, and I completely forgot. I had a good commute and didn’t think twice about it until this morning.

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since I started on this adventure. In some ways it seems like just yesterday, and in other ways it seems like I’ve been doing it all of my life.

A lot of things have changed in a year:

  • I hadn’t ridden a bike in at least 20 years, but now it drives me crazy if I don’t ride a bike every day or two.
  • I went from zero bikes to three bikes. I didn’t know much about modern bikes, so I started with a simple comfort bike from Costco, a Schwinn Midtown. I don’t ride that bike much anymore. Instead I also have a mountain bike that is my main ride, which I rebuilt by myself. I have tried to learn as much as I can about modern bike technology, and I have continued to upgrade that bike, my Trek Antelope 830. Currently I am also babysitting a really nice high-tech road bike for a friend, and I ride it on a regular basis. (Hey, Jake told me I needed to ride it, so I just have to.)
  • I was so out of shape that I thought my first few rides were going to kill me, but now the 5 mile ride to the office is barely a warm up. I have lost about 15 pounds, and I’m in the best shape I’ve been in years. I also usually take an intense spinning class at our gym once a week, and I’ve even been pondering riding a century (100 mile) charity ride this summer.
  • I used to think those bicycle riders on the side of the road were a bit weird. Maybe we are, but now I’m one of those guys on the side of the road. I even own a couple of pairs of spandex shorts. Yikes! (My kids still aren’t comfortable with the concept of dad in spandex shorts.)
  • When I first told people of my plans to ride my bicycle to work, they usually told me I was crazy. Now most of those same people tell me how much they respect that I bike commute everywhere. Most of them say they wish there was a way they could do it, but then they offer up the standard list of excuses. A few seem like they might be thinking about it though, so we’ll see what this next year brings.
  • And on, and on, and on… the changes are too numerous to note them all.

What a difference a year with a bike can make. This has been a wonderful, life-changing experience. One of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time.

If you are thinking about starting to ride a bike again… go for it!

Maybe next year we can celebrate our anniversaries together.

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Another Poll: Do You Use A Bicycle Mirror?

One of the first accessories I bought when I started bike commuting was a mirror, and I immediately became dependent on it…

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When I bought my first bike, a simple Schwinn Midtown comfort bike from Costco, it was not setup for commuting, and I went to a local bike shop for some advice. One of the first things he recommended was a Blackburn Handlebar Mirror. I bought it, and within a couple of rides I was immediately used to it being there. If you drive a car, and regularly check your side mirrors, then using a handlebar mounted bike mirror is very natural.

When I finished rebuilding my latest bike, it dawned on me that I didn’t have a mirror. The Trek came with end bars on the handlebars, and metal plugs on the ends of the handlebar tubes, so it would take some work to install the same Blackburn mirror I have on my Midtown. I was at the store looking at options, and I decided to try an inexpensive helmet mounted mirror. Installation was a snap, as it just fastens to your helmet with some double stick tape. I had heard that helmet mirrors are nice because you can get a wide field of view by turning your head to aim the mirror at what you need to see, so I was anxious to try this new mirror out. My first ride with the helmet mirror was on my Midtown, and I really had to fight the urge to just look at the handlebar mirror. It was kind of tricky to get the helmet mirror adjusted and aimed right, and it felt really strange to look up and to the left to see what was behind me. I’m happy to say that as I’ve ridden the Trek more I have gotten used to the helmet mirror, and it works reasonably well. I wouldn’t say I have a favorite at this point, because the experience with the two kinds of mirrors is very different, and I think they both have their positives and negatives.

So, that brings me to another opportunity to ask you what your preferences are when it comes to bicycle mirrors. As before, I’d love your comments as well as your votes.

Thanks for your feedback!



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?