The Chainlink

An Ode to the Suburban (and the chance to convince me to buy a new bike)

Everybody here on the Chainlink loves an animated discussion, don’t they?

I’m a fan of my Schwinn Suburbans.  My wife picked me one up 3-4 years ago, and it is what got me started cycling again.  I decided early on that I needed to ride at least  a thousand miles before even considering a new bike.  Once the thousand miles was up, I figured I would go for two thousand.  After that, I thought it was a good idea to see how much the ride improved after an overhaul.  Last summer, I picked up a second one, potentially for parts, but it quickly turned into a spare.  By now, I have about 7000 miles on the first one, and 1000 miles on the spare.

My biggest problem?  Convincing bicycle mechanics that I actually do want to spend money on the bike, if I have worn out a part.


My favorite things:

1)      Pretty darn bulletproof.  It takes a lot to make one stop running.  In all that riding, I’ve only had one breakdown where I needed to call for the dreaded pickup.  That breakdown was all my fault, and the root causes will never happen again.

2)      Full coverage fenders and dork disc.  I work in semi-casual environment, but the bike has never damaged anything except for previously frayed shoelaces.  I really, really, like the fenders.

3)      Versatility.  I transition from road to trail, without a care.

4)      Very few worries about theft.

5)      A solid, forgiving frame.

6)      I always have a backup lighting system

7)      The vintage, cool, contrarian factor.

8)      Those few opportunities that I can sneak up on a tired group of roadies at the end of their ride, and hang with them for several miles, to their great consternation.

My problems:

1)      Five hours of riding only takes me 50-60 miles.

2)      Difficulty of finding quality replacement components, and then convincing a mechanic that replacing them is what I really want to do.

3)      Sooner or later, my knees, my riding style, and the weight of the bicycle are going to come to an unfortunate intersection.

4)      It is not exactly fun to load on a bus rack, or carry up and down the stairs into the basement of the building.

Really, the only bikes that have been speaking to me to replace the Suburban are steel touring bikes like the Surly LHT, Novara Randonee, and Jamis Aurora.  Or maybe a Schwinn Super Sport…


But I am at least tempted at the moment, and willing to carry on animated discussion with anyone who wants to convince me.

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I realize I am an exception to most bike rider rules but here is my bike evolutionary tail...

I am a hoarder and only let an old Huffy mountain bike go after moving into digs that wouldn't fit the whole I hadn't ridden it in almost a decade.

The rest of the herd has stabilized since my financial standing has basically fallen into the toilet.

The remaining wheels show the philosophy of if it still works keep doing what it needs to keep working. The Fisher Paragon has needed very little since I don't run up the miles on trails as I used to...the old bridle paths I still live near are under water much more since the DesPlaines has been allowed to run higher all year 'round than it used to (in the 60's by april the trails were dusty, now they are mud dern near all year round).

My City Bike (a Utah based company, MadWagon, that offered a limited model list but was available thru SportMart a few years ago) has gotten by with a few lever changes and replacements as needed.

The Prodeco electric assist has also only needed lever and pannier upgrades. 

BUT and this is my bragging rights... my brother ran across a Schwinn cro-moly racing frame while helping out a bike shop down in MO that was a 12speed 27" dinosaur and he sold it to me. I turned it into 700C wheels with a Shimano STS integrated shift/brake lever system 7speed rear 2ring front (actaully the front could do triples) That with some innovative stem tweeks was refitted to take the larger dimensions of my frame versus the smaller frame sized of the bike. After I finished the resize and upgrade I took that sweet wacky racer out with impressive results for me as a non-racing pedaller. While this bike has also suffered from neglect do to my inability to keep it handy for use it has always been close to my heart and if I can arrange space at hand it will probably become my commuter rather than the 50plus pound electrtic.

So the crux of the tale is if ya'll like the 'burban and parts are an issue....change it. Find cassettes that will fit to offer replacement ease, reweave the wheels to 700C's if the frame has room or if the 1/4" is not available then go 26". Derailuers might be more of an issue but there are ways including brazeon lugs to mount more modern systems. None of this will compromise the theft safety nor degrade the ride (actually 700C does ride nicer than 27" tho I might be prejudiced).

Wacky rides without going to 2meter tall or 16"front wheels are great ways to get what ya want without having to make it a target for theives and scoundrels.

I believe the beauty of the lowly bicycle is in the ability of the backyard mechanic to mold it  to their own needs.

Ride the 'burban by making it your own....



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