What is a Schwinn apologist? It’s a guy who rides a good bike that everyone else thinks is something less. And he knows it.
Call me a Schwinn apologist.
I’m sorry. I just can’t help it. For almost ten years I’ve been riding a Schwinn, and for most of that time I’ve been trying to explain it away.
A typical conversation:
Friend: “What kind of bike do you ride?”
Me: “Um, mumble mumble, Scher, er,um, Schwinn. But it’s it really good bike. Really.”
Friend’s words: “Great, sounds nice.”
Friend’s facial expression: “Right. And you have a helmet from Wal-mart.”
If there was ever a bike brand this century with absolutely no mojo, it’s Schwinn. In fact, its mojo is negative . Today’s Schwinn brand is to bicycles what Rambler is to cars. If today’s bikes had a nerd poster, there would be a red Schwinn in the middle.
Back in the day it was all the rage to have a Schwinn Varsity. It was synonymous with quality. Today, unfortunately, when we think of Schwinn we still think of the Varsity. It’s a brand that stopped evolving just after the ramapithicus.
Try this: Pick the brand that doesn’t belong: Trek, Specialized, Cannondale, Look, Cervelo, Schwinn.
Try again: Giant, Pinarello, Colnago, Serotta, Fuji, Schwinn.
We could do this all day.
So how did I wind up with a Schwinn? Impulse purchase.
It was right after Christmas. I think it was 2006. We walked into the Performance Bicycle Store in Richmond and the bike, a Fastback LTD Reflex was on special –right there on the sidewalk — with a half price sign hanging from the handlebars.
Just under $2,000 for a package that included Shimano Dura Ace drive train and brakes, top of the line FSA K Force carbon handlebars, cranks and seat post all atop Mavic Ksyrium SL wheels, and lots of other light doo dads.
The frame could have been made of cardboard, but I didn’t care. The derailleur said Dura-Ace. So what if it was a Schwinn? I’d been riding a steel bike since 1995. It was heavy and outdated. It had boring round tubes. This bike was none of that.
Riders with my ability and family budget do not get to ride bikes with Ksyrium wheels, and Dura Ace anything. I had to have it.
To be fair, it’s been a great bike. It’s taken me thousands of miles and been a trusty companion. I love to ride it, but I hate to talk about it.
The reality set in shortly after the new bike and I arrived home and I called my buddies to tell them about my find.
Me: “I just bought this great bike. It’s a Schwinn”
Me: “No really – it’s great. Dura-Ace, Mavic wheels, FSA cranks yada yada yada…”
Buddy: More silence. Then, trying to sound convincing, “How nice for you, John.”
I began to get a complex. If I rode with a new group I’d feel compelled to explain my bike away before anyone could reach their own conclusions.
“Hi Guys. Yeah I bought this on sale. Impulse purchase, you know. Good components though…”
Great way to make acquaintances, huh?
Alas, the Schwinn began to falter. The paint is bubbling around the joints where the carbon joins the aluminum. The cranks are getting a bit creaky and the saddle is worn through. Though it’s still fine to ride, I was not anxious to put more money into something for which I was always apologizing. I wanted more mojo.
After months of looking around I found the perfect bike. It’s rare. In fact it’s as rare as the Schwinn is lame.
It’s a Guerchiotti.
No. That’s ger-chee-OH-tee.
Really. It’s an Italian bike with a long racing history… No it’s really good. It has great components…
Oh, well. Looks like another ten years of explaining. At least I have a new story to tell.
(More on the “Gurch” after I’ve had a chance to ride it a bit.)