Frugal Living, Retirement 
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We Bought Schwinn Midtown Bikes

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Schwinn 26This week, my wife and I went to Costco and picked up two bikes that we’d been looking at for quite some time. Some cycling purists would say that you should always get a bike from a local bike shop. While I agree that the personal service at a local bike shop is far better than at Costco (no explanation necessary), the reality is that there are two reasons we are getting these bikes and neither involve hardcore mountain biking or racing.

First, our little suburban area of Columbia is designed for biking. All the little shopping centers and parks and lakes are separated by an intricate network of walking and bicycle paths. On Wednesday, I rode around a nearby lake, through some paths, and popped out beside a little shopping center with a Subway to eat lunch with my wife and her co-worker. On the way back, I did some exploring and easily found the right path to take if we ever want to bike to our favorite Chinese restaurant, Hunan Manor, as well as our gym. Forget walkability scores, bikability is where it’s at.

The second reason is that I work from home and find myself doing a lot of intra-city driving to places where I am taking small roads. Why not replace the use of my car with a bike? Lower my already relatively small carbon footprint, get some exercise, and enjoy the fresh air! I’m not ready to sell my car but I’m certainly going to be using it less and less now that I have a bike.

The bikes were a good $200 a piece. While in the pantheon of bicycles, $200 is considered cheap, in the pantheon of bicycles I’d be willing to buy, $200 was about the limit. I understand that you get what you pay for and a “good bike” costs in the thousands, but I don’t know and cannot appreciate the difference. My wife doesn’t know and cannot appreciate the difference. For now, we can enjoy the heck out of our $200 bikes and then upgrade if necessary. We are acting our age financially.

For security, we bought two OnGuard Bulldog STD 5010LM Bicycle U-Locks as they were the highest rated sub-$30 lock by Scott Elder of Slate.com. He wrote about his experience trying to break into a whole bunch of bike locks and this one was the best of the bunch under $30. Again, you can spend much more for a beast of a lock (and those with $5000 bikes should buy a beast of a lock), but these should fit our needs just nicely.

Do you own a bike? Any tips or suggestions?

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20 Responses to “We Bought Schwinn Midtown Bikes”

  1. BRYCE MILLER says:

    IN 1934 I BOUGHT MY FIRST BIKE FOR 75 CENTS. IT WAS A HAWTHORNE 28 INCH, HI PRESSURE TIRES WITH WOOD RIMS AND SEVERAL BROKEN SPOKES. ALSO BROKEN PEDDLES. BUT I RODE IT A LOT OF MILES ON THE SAND ROADS OF ODESSA, TX. LOOKING BACK, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN EASIER HAD I WALKED.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Jim,
    You might want to take a look a this:
    http://drivemybike.wordpress.com/2008/07/10/tire-issues-with-a-schwinn-midtown/

    Not a big deal, but good to know ahead of time. I would recommend carrying a spare tube on each bike at the very least.

    Bike nashbar (http://www.nashbar.com/) is a good place for inexpensive accessories; fenders/racks/bags/whatever. Supporting a good local bike shop is always an option as well.

    James

  3. jim says:

    Thanks James, my wife’s bike was flat when we got home this weekend after not having ridden it in a few days… it seems very peculiar, much thanks for the link.

  4. Dave says:

    From my experience you should always carry a hand pump, tire levers, a patch kit, and possibly a spare tube if you can fit it. You can buy a small underseat pouch that fits most of it. If you are riding at dusk or early morning get some blinky LED lights for the back and front of your bike. I would also suggest an inexpensive rear bike rack. At home you should definitely invest in a decent nonportable pump. All tires lose air over time.

  5. Dave says:

    One more thing, a bike multi-tool (should have a multitude of allen wrenches and a couple of screwdrivers minimum).

  6. Lance says:

    I bike to work about 2-3 days each week (weather permitting). And being in the midwest US, weather permitting will soon go away. But I’ll take it while I can!

    My suggestion is – have fun! Maybe make it a date, and bike to an ice cream shop. Or find a back road on bike trail and enjoy the scenery. And, visit the local bike shops. They have a plethora of information. I like to carry a few tools with me in case I have any problems. A wrench and a tire pump. And, if you don’t already have them on your bike, I would add water bottle holders.

    Enjoy your new toys!

  7. jim says:

    We have “exploration dates” where we just bike around and try to find the things we normally drive to. On Sunday, we found out how to bike to our local Rita’s Italian Ices and the local chinese food restaurant we love.

    Thanks for the tips everyone! I’ll be on the lookout for a small pump, wrench, and bottle holders. Any suggestions?

  8. Jason H says:

    Being that you are using this as your around town commuting bike, I would have to second all of the suggestions made so far, but would add that you can pick up a pair of detachable front and rear saddle bags that, when coupled with a backpack, would allow you to do a most of your shopping using your bike. Sure the saddlebags might cost a bit, but if you use the bikes regularily to shop they will pay for themselves quickly.

    A good suggestion for the emergency equipment would be to stop at a local bike shop. If they turn up their nose at your bike walk out, but a good shop will help you no matter where you bought your bike.

  9. Cheapo says:

    I can’t resist,I agree Hunan Manor is great!!! Glad to hear that you are using a bike more and enjoying it. I try to bike around my area, which is pretty similar to your area. I was a lot better with it last year when I would bike to the local gym and back everyday. I tan easily and my girlfriend got annoyed, so I now try to bike later in the day when possible. I don’t own a fancy bike, but it does the job. Good tip on the bike lock, which I think I will invest in as it will replace my current cable combo lock.

  10. Chris says:

    Water bottles and the tools to fix a flat are intregral to riding a bike around town, I carry them with me wherever I go. Personally I dont use a big “break-proof” lock, I have found that a small $5 lock works just fine. I have a little bit more expensive of a bike ($1000), which I ride to classes and to work nearly every day. The reason I spent a bit more money on the bike is that I have used it on sever longer rides, such as a week long ride accross the state of Iowa.

  11. Andrew says:

    Very cool that you are getting into cycling. The technology in a $200 bike is amazing and plenty for most folks. Couple of recommendations:
    1. Get a helmet and wear it every time you ride. Like seat belts, helmets save lives.
    2. Stay off the sidewalks. Learn the rules of the road and ride responsibly. Respect traffic laws and automobile drivers will respect you.
    3. Make yourself visible. Wear bright clothes or reflective gear. Lights at dusk/night.

    Have fun, too.

  12. Amanda says:

    We love our bikes, which we got for free from my grandparents. They’re very cool, vintage Peugeot bikes from France, so we lucked out. However, had I bought our bikes, I would have gone the same route as you, maybe even bought used bikes. As a leisure bike rider, it doesn’t really make sense to have a thousand dollar bike… As long as it gets you where you need to go!

  13. jim says:

    I tried to find used but you don’t often find used cheap bikes, at least I couldn’t. You see a lot of people selling high end parts and whole bikes on Craigslist (I wonder if that’s where bike thieves go to fence stuff) and even then they were out of our budget.

  14. Amy says:

    Hi! My husband and I bought the very same bikes from Costco in December. So far, we are very pleased. When I took it to the bike shop to have the stem lowered, the guys there were impressed with the quality of it, so I guess it was a good choice. Enjoy!

  15. Cheapo says:

    In regard to the Craigslist comment made by Jim, I must agree with him. A few months ago I went to see a bike which was posted on Craigslist. It was a Mongoose mountain bike, but the bike was spray painted. It seems shady. I figured it may have been a stolen bike and the thief painted the bike to make it look different. The bike looked fugly with the cheap paint job, not did I want a “hot” bike, so I didn’t buy the bike.

  16. MoneyLint says:

    Jim, the biking pundits will always suggest you visit a local bike shop and you very well should if you plan on expanding your binking into something more than urban cruising. But for you and your wife’s needs, you may have even bought more than you needed. It’s a sharp bike and seems to fit your needs well. Good job.

    Let me know when you want to start training for a triathlon and I’ll give you some tips on buying a decent race bike… ;-)

  17. This post has been included in the 141st Festival of Frugality at Almost Frugal, going live September 2, 2008. Please make sure to link back to the Festival and or submit it to sites like Digg, Stumble Upon, PF Buzz etc. Thanks for participating!

  18. NtJS says:

    Craigslist is variable depending on your area. We were able to score a couple bikes that way where we previously lived. There was really no shortage of bikes for all price ranges. The Mrs. got a pretty sweet one for $40-50. Not knowing how much I would use it, I got a $10 bike. We still use both 3 years later.

    Bikes are great to buy used, but that is dependent on what is available. Where we live today, would be slim pickins.

    The $10 bike may get a paint job and some new parts in the future, or just sold to upgrade, but otherwise gets me around fine.

  19. Marcia says:

    We have two bikes. Mine is a Schwinn, 10 years old, from a local bike shop (it was $250). My hub’s was a little nicer, probably $400 back in the day.

    We recently started (again) commuting by bike to work 2x per week. It’s 10-11 miles, so I bike in, he drives in, I drive home, he bikes home (we work near each other, but have different schedules).

    In the process of getting our bikes up to speed, I had my gears cleaned and partially replaced. My husband has had some work done too, and considered getting a new bike. So many people kept talking about how we had to get “real road bikes” (not hybrids) because “when you ride with people who have real road bikes you won’t be able to keep up”.

    Seriously, with a job and a 2-year old, when is that going to happen? I already get passed on the bike path, and it’s easy to blame it on the bike. I am like you – we won’t appreciate the difference.

    Having tools and a spare tube, etc. is a good idea. My tool right now is just a cell phone in case I get a flat.

  20. Karen says:

    My daughter recently bought a Schwinn Midtown to ride around in her very small town with her 9 year old daughter and she loves it.


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