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Schwinn Madison Review

Submitted by on October 2, 2011 – 8:53 pm3 Comments

In 1985 Schwinn introduced a sport bike that they named after “Madison” racing which is a team track racing event that originated at Madison Square Garden in New York.  Schwinn Madisons of that era were well made and competitive yet  they were only produced for a few years.  Today those bikes are highly sought out by collectors and racers alike.  Schwinn brought back the Madison in 2007, but it’s not quite the same bike.


While it’s conceivable you could spot a modern Schwinn Madison on the Frisco Superdrome track in north Texas,  chances are better that you’ll see one on the road or bike path around town.  With a few minor adjustments, like removing the brakes and all, the Madison would be legal on any velodrome; but it’s really intended as an urban single or fixed-gear bike.

It Followed Me Home One Day

I was in the mood for something new and wanted a single-speed.  For months I read endless reviews and manufacturers brochures as tried to narrow down my decision.  During that time I also test rode just about every bike in this class at several shops in town, yet I was still having trouble deciding which bike to buy.  Then one of the shops had a  crazy one day sale that made up my mind for me, and a canary yellow Schwinn Madison followed me home that day.

At 22.5 pounds it’s not the lightest bike in it’s class, but it’s certainly not heavy

Schwinn Madison charcoal/yellow variant

by any means.  The frame sports a track inspired geometry with a straight track fork with a brazed crown.  In Schwinn speak “N’Gauged Double Butted CroMoly Main Tubes, N’Gauged Track Fork w/ Brazed Crown” 

Whatever…

The front fork crown and tips are chromed as are the seat and chain stays.  I chose the model in yellow with black details, in 2009 the other color option was  a flat charcoal variant with yellow/gold details.  Schwinn changes the color scheme and makes other component changes such as the saddle or handlebars.  The 2012 Madison comes in a black/white/red color scheme with flat bars and a white saddle.

The Madison sports a typical 46x18t drive train and comes with FSA Vero Track Cranks.  Formula Hi-Flange Hubs are standard and you can ride single or fixed with the flip-flop rear hub.  Bright yellow AlexR-500 double wall alloy with 32 holes finish out the somewhat gaudy look.  I found the Kenda 700x23c tires to be terribly uncomfortable in a real world setting and a tip from another local Madison owner lead me to replacing the 23c Kendas with 28c tires (I bought Bontragers).  That was exceptional advice that lead to a significant difference in the comfort and handling of the ride.

For those who want to add a rack or fenders you’ll find eyelets on the front and rear.  I briefly had a rear rack on mine but later decided I wanted this bike to do nothing other than go fast (and stay light) so I removed it.  I don’t want the bike to carry anything other than myself and a bottle of water.

The San Marco Ponza saddle was perfectly adequate (and sporty)  but I had a Brooks Team Pro Classic that I wanted to use so I swapped the two.  The San Marco Ponza now lives happily on my mid-80′s Trek 400.  Tektro 510a caliper brakes and Tektro Aero compact brake handles finish off the technical details.

The brake hoods have a somewhat level profile and I often prefer to ride stretched out and leaning onto the top of the brake hoods but I found my hands kept trying to slide off the front, which made it hard to get comfortable.  So I tilted the handlebars just enough to where my hands would come to a deliberate stop on the hoods.  This was the only real adjustment I made to an otherwise pleasant ride.

freewheel on the right, fixed on the left

As previously mentioned the frame geometry is track inspired so it has a somewhat short wheelbase of 968mm, match that with a 72.5 degree head angle and you’ve got a bike with a

quick and nimble feel to it.  It’s a bike that’s fun to ride fast and the short wheelbase makes it very responsive.

Finally, the Madison has been a popular bike for Schwinn in the “urban” category and I’m glad I picked one up. As a modestly priced (2012 MSRP $585), entry level, urban free-wheel/fixed bicycle, the Madison is a respectable choice to consider.  And keep in mind they’ve been back in production since 2007  so with a little patience you can usually find a used one at a very affordable price.

- Chris

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Chris started riding a bike again when he noticed the Preston Ridge Trail being constructed across the street from his house. Since then he co-founded Biking in Dallas, has gone through countless Craigslist bike projects (some better than others) and can be found pedaling around town on a Electra Ticino with a camera in tow.

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