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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Schwinn Sierra: From Junk to Ride

I decided for now that enough of the Schwinn was intact and in good shape that I'd spend a couple of hours and fit it out as a rideable spare bike, even though it is has no suspension at all, and is a regular straight-top (men's style) bike, which is really hard for me to get my leg up and over.

But it is very light. Even with the little rack I stuck on there, which is cheap steel and about 2 or 3 pounds by itself, plus the Stanley light full of 12 AA batteries, I can still lift it with one hand (not with my backpack/helmet on there, though).

I stuck the original front Kenda road tire off of DayGlo Avenger on there, as it is a lot better than the disintegrating front tire it had, and the Kenda Krossroads off the Trek, which is slightly better than the Kenda Road. Unfortunately, this Kenda Krossroads has the same problem my other Kenda Kross tires had--the sidewalls are not made right, and they shed bits of rubber off the fibers, eventually splitting along the diagonal fiber lines and coming open far enough to let the tube bulge out. This one is going to need patching inside just like the other two do.

I like the tire *style*, but their QC and/or sidewall design sucks. I sure wouldn't buy Kenda tires new, based on my experiences with all the ones I have had so far, including the pair that came new on DayGlo Avenger when I originally got it as a new-in-box Columbia Comfort Bike back in 2005 (of which the front tire on this bike is one).

That front wheel has the Slime thorn-resistant pre-slimed tube in it, too, as the original thin tube in there had several patches already, and was sticking to the inside of the disintegrating tire such that I didn't trust it.

This is what it looks like with no flash, and it's lights on.

My helmet light is on, too, and it is shining at the chair's right arm. It's a very diffuse LED light, without much of a spot. Lights up stuff close fairly well, and does a decent job of lighting up reflective road signs, license plates, etc, but not the actual road.

The Stanley light *does* have a really good beam, enough so that you can clearly see it on the wall in front of the bike (only a foot away, but still)

That spot stays a spot far enough away that I can't see enough light back from it to be useful, probably about 50 feet on road surfaces, farther on lighter-colored objects and much much farther on reflective ones.

It's a point source light from a distance, and quite bright; I keep it pointed at the ground about 20 feet ahead most of the time on the roads. Farther on unlit trails/canals. It's clamped to the bars with 2 hose clamps, like my other flashlights have been, and like the little red one is clamped to the junction of cargo rack and rear triangle.

I had to replace the sheaths for the shifter cables, though the cables themselves were fine. I swapped out the freewheel cassette for the one off the Trek, as the one on the Schwinn was very noisy, and the one on the Trek was virtually silent. I'm sure the original would work better if I serviced it, but I wanted to try the bike out for a bit before it got too late tonight, and I was getting hungry.

I tested it out for a few miles tonight, going to the store and stuff, and it worked well. Only problem I had was that the "Primus" thick tube that was already in the Kenda tire in back blew a hole (slit, actually) too big for even Slime to save it. I had to flip the bike over, peel the tire off the rim, and patch it, about a mile into the trip. No problems after that.

The hole was about 1/3 of the way up from the inside circumference of the tube, and looked like it was from someone using a screwdriver as a tire-iron, but on these tires and rims it's not even necessary to do that. They easily roll off the rims when deflated, which makes for easy fixing if something goes wrong, like above. I didn't even have to take the wheel off. I didn't see the mark when I originally swapped this onto the Schwinn's rim, but I did not look that closely at it. My mistake. :(

This bike is actually a joy to ride--it is so light and is geared right that I can start up without much knee pain, as long as I am not carrying anything. Adding the backpack with toolkit, pump, etc, plus wearing longjohn bottoms & top under the jeans and tye-dye long-sleeve sweater (for warmth in the chilly evening, made worse by the breeze from riding), was enough to make it harder to ride but still better than DayGlo Avenger even without it's cargo pod and rack.

I *don't* like the lower handlebars, though, so I will have to do something about that. The stem is already most of the way up, though, so I can't get enough height from it to help. I will probably have to change the handlebars to something that reaches farther up/back.

It is quite a tall bike and is not a joy to get onto. I can barely stand astride it, with the top tube against the seam of my pants. Wouldn't wanna slip off the seat. ;-)

I also don't like the seat, which is the original Schwinn narrow hard seat. Like all of them, it doesn't fit me and it's also slippery, so I can't seem to stay on it. It's a quick-release so I will probably use my shock-post seat if it fits in this tube (it might not). That seat is wider and at least somewhat tolerable for longer rides than a couple of miles. This one is mildly painful after only about a mile and a half; I probably could not ride it longer than 5 miles even if my life depended on it. ;-)

I'm pretty sure it was actually meant to have 700C rims on there, or at least something larger than the 26" that it came to me with, as the brakes don't adjust down the rims very far--the top edges of the brakes just clear the top of the rims by a millimeter or so at their lowest adjustment, but would go at least 1/4" higher--enough to ride completely on the sidewalls of the 26" tires!

If it did have taller wheels, I would not be able to ride it, though. I would be unable to mount it without holding it sideways so far that I could not push it upright to get it going, and I would be unable to dismount at stops, forcing me to lean over on one side while staying in the saddle. I'm not sure I could startup from a stop then, as most of them are on slight uphill inclines. It certainly wouldn't be easy.

Anyway, it's a good bike.

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