Thursday, May 10, 2012

Sure it looks good, but is it fast?

A funny thing about regular blogging: sometimes I look at my list of ideas for posts, open up a document to start writing, and suddenly find none of them sufficiently interesting. I’ll chalk it up to coming down with something as I think/hope that some of those post ideas are pretty good. Still, I do want to post something so I think I’ll write a review of the Schwinn 12” Roadster Tricycle, our big gift to the boys for their recent second birthday.

I’ll admit it: I was drawn to the aesthetics first and foremost. I mean, look at this thing! It has an awesome retro feel to it, a wooden running board, fantastic chrome fenders, tassels, a bell… I don’t want to turn them into hipster kids or anything, but this thing looks like it should be hanging out alongside a bunch of cafĂ© racers.

Looks only get something so far, however. We hesitated to order these online as we were unable to locate one to inspect in person. We read a few reviews, held our breath, and went in for two. Having received them, let me just say that they’re pretty great even if they do have a few flaws.


• Aesthetics. Seriously, can you find a better looking trike for under $100? The rear wooden running board is fantastic, as are all the chrome accents.

• Sturdiness of frame. The main frame is not going to bend. Hell, I’m not even sure I could dent it without a bat. It is an extremely well-made component.

• Air-filled tires. They rock (though I do wish they were whitewalls) and they seem to hold air very well.

• Low profile. In addition to looking rad, the “low rider” design—the result of too much WD40 and an amorous night between a classic tricycle and a big wheel—reduces the chances of tipping to almost nothing. It also makes mounting and dismounting especially easy for little ones.

• Adjustable. The seat has six possible positions and will accommodate a wide range of sizes. With the seat all the way up, the boys can reach the peddles well, so I suspect that the recommended age range of 2 to 5 is pretty accurate.


• Poor quality control. While the frame is extremely well made, I worry about the securing bracket for the handlebars. I have a feeling a repair or two will be in my future, and I’m certain frequent adjustments will be necessary as it is impossible to tighten the bracket far enough to prevent it from twisting a bit out of line. That might seem like an automatic deal breaker; it isn’t as severe as it sounds though it is something that I wish the company would address. Additionally, the sticker accents were applied with no eye towards quality. I had to pull one partially off to reposition it—ironically one declaring “Schwinn Quality”—and the little black and white stripe details on the fenders are applied with a similar degree of clumsiness. Having worked in manufacturing, I’m almost certain that the frame, fenders, and paint are made in one factory—one with much better quality controls—while the stickers and such are applied at another location. Schwinn really ought to seek a replacement for the second.

• Weight. This is a somewhat unfair negative in that it contributes to the sturdiness of the frame, but it still ought to be mentioned as this bad boy is considerably heavier—and thus harder to pedel—than its classic counterpart.

So my only real complaint is quality control. The boys cannot pedal the beasts, but that seems completely inconsequential as they absolutely love them all the same. “Bike, Bike! Side! Go go, side!” they call after dinner, telling us it’s time to go outside and let them scoot around on their new toys.

Time for some action shots:

The final assessment? If you have to pay over $80-sh, then it’s probably not worth it. Below that price point, I think it overcomes its primarily aesthetic quality control issues and becomes a great piece of equipment. The blue one was once on sale for $50, an absolute steal that I'm sad I missed. I’ll update this post if any issues arise and give an additional assessment after a few months. For now, though, it's a nice day out, so...

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