Schwinn are the iconic American bike brand. Like Raleigh in the UK, they have had their financial issues in recent times, but both companies are bouncing back with interesting bikes.
Schwinn’s 4 One One 1 is an unusual looking machine, but at £600 / US$600 it does have some impressive features. The name? ‘411’ is internet slang for ‘information’; it’s the number for the USA’s directory enquiries.
Its nicely detailed frame is unusual, with three narrow tubes rather than a traditional top tube, but while it adds a little weight, we doubt it impacts on performance, and any extra grams aren’t noticeable on this already fairly hefty machine. But while it may not fly through the streets like a supercharged London cycle courier, it creates an exceedingly comfortable ride, its position resembling that of a sit-up-and-beg Dutch roadster.
The Schwinn has a relatively tall head tube, a few centimetres of spacers and a raised bar. With the bar likely to be at the same height as the saddle, you have a high, safe ride and reassuringly neutral handling.
Kenda’s 40mm Komfort tyres are very comfortable and they cope with kerbs, poor roads and potholes with aplomb. Rim life should be very good too, thanks to the cable disc brakes. After years of being specced on mountain bikes, discs are becoming more common on urban machines.
They make sense; as we said earlier, they offer fantastic wet or dry braking and the wheels stay usable even with wonky rims. The tyres are fine on tarmac and not so bad on gravel tracks, and there’s clearance and fittings for mudguards too.
The 411-1 has five-speed Sturmey Archer hub gears, but the jumps are relatively large, shifts quite stiff with the thumb lever, and the drivetrain doesn’t feel smooth at all times.
The front basket is designed to take a six-pack of beer. It’s not roomy enough even for a modestly sized backpack, though it will take a lock, sandwiches or a small bag of shopping – and it’s big enough to make putting the 411-1 in the back of a car more of a hassle.
The Schwinn is big on comfort, and fine for those who prefer plushness to performance. But if your regular rides are hilly, you need to transport it by car or carry it upstairs, its weight isn’t in its favour. But it’s a lovely, comfortable ride.