I try, about once a week, to take a day off from cycling. If I am on the road, fixie, or mtb I usually am tempted to take the long way back from work, or go to luch somewhere that adds 10 or 15 miles to my daily ride. But if I take the Schwinn Breeze, I am really not all that tempted to go long, so I chalk up a slow 6 mile day and very little workout.
This bike, the Schwinn Breeze, was a sturmy archer, rim braked, Schwinn S-6 steel rimmed bike when I got it. It was, typically, geared way to high and stopped horribly especially in the wet, it did not handle that well either, and the s6 rims (597) had few options for replacement tires. I spent some time a few years back fixing it up with a Sram 3 speed coaster braked hub, laced up to some Sun CR-18 rims in the 559 (mountain bike) size. This allowed me to put some huge 2.0 slick tires on it. The tires barely clear the fenders, but it works pretty great. I think the pneumatic trail that these tires provide improves the handling immensley, doubly so with a big load.
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I got a new laptop at work yesterday and brought it home along with a couple books and lab notebooks so I could hole up and work on some proposals. I had a fair bit og clothes in the bag as well, plus a krypto lock and a tupperware of half finished rice perched at the top. The total load was just shy of 30 pounds in the wald front basket.
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It really has a magic steering when loaded. The action is light and I don't need to wrestle it at all. It does have some tracking issues at low speeds (less than 5mph) but again, there is no wrestling, just tacking about, no sore arms, whatsoever.
It handles pretty well unloaded too. I can ride it no hands (if the headset is snug, pesky knurled headsets are hard to keep well adjusted...) which I could not do easily with the stock wheels.
Many years ago, when I worked at Kelly Bikes, I would go visiting other framebuilders to check out their shops and try to learn a bit. I visited independent fabrications and had a great time sitting down with Mike Flanagan and discussing trade secrets. This was in 1998 maybe? I think at the time, IF was making slightly more frames than Kelly, but they were tooled and employeed up to grow alot, which I think they did shortly thereafter. At some point we got talking about bike geometry and fork rake and trail. Mikes eyes got big and he got really really animated and blurted out "its all in the trail, right?". I am pretty sure I was not quite there with him yet, but it made me think.
Fast forward a few years to 2002 or so, I was in knoxville, and had just built up this Breeze, and I visited Mike at his ANT workshop in summerville and saw his burgeoning array of load carrying bikes and city bikes. We had a short discussion of the pro's and cons of fat tire handling on bikes and the impact of trail again. I was starting to really understand this from a practical point of view, between the schwinn and the raleigh twenty I had fixed up, but it was clear Mike was at another level in understanding.
Fast forward again a few years to the here and now and there is a resurgence of interest and understanding of the effects of trail and loads on handling. Thanks to the efforts of Jan Heine of Bicycle Quarterly and Matthew Grimm at Kogswell, there are lots of resources for understanding and buying low trail forks ideal for converting your old sport tourer into a haling townie.
Every time I see email discussions on rake and trail and handling, I think back to Mike Flannagan and his wild haired blurting of "Its all in the trail! Right!". Hot damn mike, you are right indeed. It is a good time to be a cyclist in america.