Review: Schwinn Loop

A change in work situation meant a change in transportation needs, so I decided to buy a new bike that was better suited to getting around the neighborhood.

The bike I was riding, a Trek Crossrip Comp, was great for my ten-mile ride to a downtown office, especially on the Springwater trail. I could just go heads down, and the ergonomic tradeoffs only came into play when I got downtown. The bike was much less comfortable for short rides of a couple of miles, especially when I was constantly mixing with traffic.

Deciding on the Loop

I decided my typical rides would be:

  • Daily 2-mile round trips to the grocery store
  • Periodic trips to Cartlandia and the Johnson Creek area
  • Weekly trips over to Woodstock
  • The occasional mixed-mode trip downtown, where I’d want to use the Max to get downtown, but use the bike to get around

In most of those cases the terrain is generally flat, but there are a few short hills to contend with in the rest.

I looked at hybrids, comfort bikes, and cruisers.

Cruisers concerned me because I didn’t like the idea of having to handle an unanticipated hill on one. Comfort bikes and hybrids seemed more appropriate. I was a little concerned about hybrids because I used one for distances a few years back and found it uncomfortable: Too much forward lean, no way to shift my grip around much despite putting so much weight on my wrists.

The mixed-mode use case was the one I couldn’t square with any of them. Having been on a crowded train at rush hour, I’ve seen how hard it can be for bicyclists (and the people around them). I wouldn’t be unwilling to do it, but I’d also seen people with folding bikes using them as part of their commute and the idea stuck in my head that it’d be nice to have a small footprint.

Still, I hadn’t initially considered folding bikes because I was put off by the cost relative to what you get. In the process of deciding that yet again, Amazon did that thing where it suggested an alternative while I was looking at a pricier Dahon, and that landed me on the Schwinn Loop. After doing some reading, I decided it would meet all the cases pretty nicely, and for a price that made it a good experiment: I could keep the Crossrip.

Getting the Loop and Setting It Up

So I ordered one, deciding that the things I was most worried about would resolve themselves in a few rides, well before the return period was up.

It arrived well packed in a sturdy box with plenty of foam padding around all the parts. I had to cut several plastic ties to unfold it and get all the wrapping and padding off of it. Everything was assembled with the exception of the right pedal. I just had to unfold the bike and tighten the clamps. A few test squeezes of the brakes were enough to get me onto the street on it, and then a ride up and down the block helped me figure out the seat height and realize I needed to index the derailleur: It was skipping gears and making some noise.

The Loop is a seven-speed with just a rear twist shifter. Adjusting the derailleur is the same as any other bike. Since I'd never done this with a new bike, I went ahead and looked up an online tutorial that explained the process. It took a few minutes, and then a spin around the block to decide I'd gotten it right.

What It's Like

The Loop has fairly narrow handlebars. They're not bad, but they're narrow and they're not adjustable. At my height, I still get an upright ride, but I wouldn't mind another inch of height on them.

It has a step-through frame, which I'm enjoying getting used to: I don't need to sling my leg over the seat anymore.

It has that single Shimano click-shifter (about which more in a moment).

It has a small cargo rack that's part of the frame itself. I attached a milk crate to it with bungee cords and realized how compact the bike is: I had to turn the carton and position it back on the rack to keep from bumping my heels on it. There's no practical way to mount my Banjo Brothers panniers on the sides without shortening their elastic cords.

It has fat, 20" tires with a lot of tread. I don't know if I understand that decision, given that these are street bikes. I'm not inclined to change them, because the bike is geared such that the tires are the least of your speed worries.

Overall, it feels very substantial. The frame tubes are thick and there's a lot of metal in the construction. When it's all unfolded and tightened down, it feels solid.

How It Rides (One Week)

I've used it for a few of my test case rides: A donut run, a trip to the closest grocery store, a few rides along the 205 bike path and into the Lents Town Center.

It's geared such that I never need the lowest gears at all. I can start from third or fourth pretty easily. The tradeoff is that it's pretty easy for me to overpower it in the highest gear. As such, I can average 10 or 12 miles per hour over a few miles without wobbling around a lot from thrashing on the pedals.

I wasn't sure how I felt about that the first few times, then I took a step back and thought about how I was treating the ride. I started slowing down to the speed the bike wanted me to go (which still left room for a nice spin on the pedals) and enjoying the ride.

I really like sitting up high. I feel like I have much better, easier visibility on the street than I have on the Crossrip.

A Word on the Seat

A lot of Amazon reviewers complained about the saddle and recommended ordering a more padded one. I've read about why that's not great for distance riding (and had kept the stock saddle on my Crossrip as a result), but decided it wouldn't be such a big deal for a grocery and donuts bike. I went ahead and ordered a Cloud 9 saddle along with the bike.

I did do a few miles on the stock saddle, and I don't think it's as bad as people say. It's more cushy than the one on my Trek.

That said, if you're not a regular biker or you're just starting again after some time away, I can see how the saddle might seem sort of hard and unpleasant. I'd recommend waiting to change it until you've put a few miles on the one that comes with the bike, especially if you're going to ride daily. Given a week or two, you might feel differently about it. If you don't see yourself becoming a regular rider, you should still hold off for a week and see what you think. I'll probably keep the Cloud 9 because it's very comfortable, but I don't think I needed it after all.

A Word on the Folding Bits

So I bought the bike because I'd be able to fold it up and take it on the Max, or maybe toss it in the trailer for camping trips. I think it's fair to say that Schwinn made a lot of its tradeoffs here.

It does fold down into a compact shape, which is great, but there's nothing to hold it all together. Grab it by just a single piece, and the others will flop around.

I've decided that's livable because I don't think it'll be going places folded up all that often. Since I secured a milk crate to the cargo rack with bungees, I'll just use them to bind it up when I'm going to fold it for travel: I won't be able to keep the crate on it folded, anyhow: I've got a folding mini-basket for the rack in those cases.

One-Week Review

Not knowing much about the folding bike market in general, I'd guess this is a three-star bike. Not as light as higher-end offerings, not as well designed in terms of its folding features. It's chunky and seems to be built more for being tossed in a trunk or stored in a small apartment than toted around for mixed-mode travel.

At the same time, it's comfortable and feels modestly zippy. I don't really notice how easy it is to top out on neighborhood streets, and I've decided to stop caring on the bike paths. When I ride it, I'm not thinking about the fact that it folds up, and it does little to remind me of that now that my milk crate is mounted correctly.

I can imagine an alternate universe where I bought a hybrid or comfort bike, and where I'd be shaving a minute or two off my rides down to the grocery store or over to Woodstock. I wouldn't have the (still speculative) utility of being able to fold the bike up before getting on the Max, or packing it into our trailer for camping trips where it'll be great for hauling a bundle of wood back from the ranger station.

30-Day Review

I've taken the Loop out a number of times since that first week of impressions and I remain convinced it's a decent neighborhood bike. My level of satisfaction with it diminishes pretty quickly for rides of over two miles out and back.

Part of that comes from taking my CrossRip out a few times, too. As much as I prefer the upright ride of the Loop for puttering around the neighborhood, there's no getting around the sense of agility I have on the CrossRip. For an entry-level cyclocross bike, it really just wants to go. Now that fall's here and it's wet, putting on my bike shoes isn't as big a deal: My sandles weren't going to work anyhow. So for rides down to the Johnson Creek area or over to Woodstock, I can see using the CrossRip more.

I still feel bullish about the Loop and still recommend it, but in narrower circumstances than I first imagined I might like it given I have a second bike better suited for longer hauls.

About the Schwinn Loop

Summary: This is an inexpensive folding bike from Schwinn that holds the frills but seems to deliver relative sturdiness. You just have to accept that it's going to get you there on its own schedule.

Purpose: Neighborhood rides of less than three miles, mixed-mode commuting on the Max.

Date bought: October 1, 2015

Good buy? So far so good.

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Updates to This Review

Added 30-day impressions, moved note on folding bike reviews to blog
November 05, 2015

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Things is © 2015 Mike Hall.