Schwinn Meridian Review
Schwinn Meridian Review on May 23, 2022
Schwinn has such a rich history. I think every business student and entrepreneur should study what Schwinn did right and what led them to their demise.
Arnold Schwinn and Company was founded by Ignaz Schwinn, William Arnold, and Adolph Frederick in 1895. Their timing was perfect and they capitalized on a huge bike boom which lasted until about 1905. Sales soon fell 75% from the height of the bike boom in the year 1900. Ignaz Schwinn purchased some of the other bicycles companies, producing bicycles in the Chicago area and at the same time built a new, modern factory so he could mass-produce bicycles at lower cost. Ignaz Schwinn purchased of Excelsior Company in 1912, and in 1917 added the Henderson Company to form Excelsior-Henderson which produced motorcycles. The bicycle industry was in decline but Schwinn’s new motorcycle division thrived. By 1928, it was in third place behind Indian and Harley-Davidson. In 1920, the stock market crashed and took down Excelsior-Henderson with it. In 1933, Frank W Schwinn took over a bankrupt Schwinn. Frank designed bicycles that resembled motorcycles and called them cruiser bicycles, which were a huge success for Schwinn and still are today.
By the 1950’s, Schwinn wanted to take their bicycles to a higher level and stopped selling their bicycles to department and toy stores to only sell at professional bicycle dealers. This was the birth of the bicycle stores as we know them today where you can get advice on purchasing a bicycle, get it fitted to you and somewhere to have your bike serviced. In 1963, Frank Valentine Schwinn took over the reins of the company. In the mid 1960’s, Schwinn started selling skinny tire bikes that people called “10 Speeds”. The Varsity and Continental were huge hits for Schwinn. By the mid 1970’s, the bicycle market started to change. Imported bicycles from Great Britain, France, Italy, and Japan were far lighter and better riding than the Varsity and Continental. Schwinn was not giving customers what they wanted. Customers wanted light weight road bikes, at that time. Schwinn was also losing market shares on kids’ bikes because the Schwinn kids’ bikes sold at a premium cost in other brands. Brands like Peugeot had a better high performance image than Schwinn. Brands like Fuji and Panasonic offered consistently high quality, reasonable prices, and state-of-the-art-derailleur, crankset, and gearing designs. In the late 70’s and early 80’s, Schwinn missed out on a huge bike boom for kids wanting BMX bikes, and again, offered bikes that were not up to par with other brands, except for their model call the Sting. I raced a Sting bike for years and it was and an incredible bike, but never sold well because it was priced almost double other brands. Schwinn kind of had the image of something less than cutting edge performance racing. Edward Schwinn took over the company in 1979 and Schwinn was in bad shape.
Labor problems in Chicago and a out of date factory led Schwinn to find a new long term partner called Giant Bicycle in Taiwan, to build Schwinn bikes. Schwinn was close to bankruptcy but hit a home run with a piece of fitness equipment called the Airdyne. The Giant partnership was very good for Schwinn. By the end of the 1990’s, Schwinn was back to doing very well. Schwinn tried purchasing shares of Giant Bicycle and when they were unsuccessful, Schwinn purchased shares of China Bicycle and moved production to that factory. Giant was building over a million bikes for Schwinn. When Schwinn left Giant, Giant decided that they were going to develop their own brand and come to the United States to sell against Schwinn. Giant targeted Schwinn dealers. By 1992, Schwinn was in bankruptcy.
Schwinn was purchased by Sam Zell and the Chilmark Fund. Schwinn was purchased again in 1997, by the Questor Fund and was bankrupt again in 2001. Schwinn was purchased by Pacific Cycle which took Schwinn to the lowest cost vendor they could find to build Schwinn bikes. This was because they were going to place Schwinn in Walmart, Kmart, and Toys R Us. This is when the entire Schwinn network of dealers kicked Schwinn out of their stores and replaced the Schwinn with Trek, Specialized, Giant or Cannondale. Walmart stuck Schwinn with a half million bikes which forced Pacific to find a partner with deep pockets to cover their loans to the banks and found a furniture manufacture call Dorel in Canada. The years of bad management, not offering people want they wanted, missing the road bike, BMX and Mountain bike wave, finally lead Schwinn to producing low quality bicycles now sold exclusively through Walmart and Amazon. Schwinn had an incredible dealer network across the country and threw it all away to make a quick buck.
Frame: The front part of the Schwinn Meridian frame is made of oversize aluminum and the rear of the frame is made out of steel. The two halves of the frame are bolted together with four bolts like most brands of trikes today. Surprisingly the welds are pretty decent on the aluminum section of the frame and the welds on the steel section are adequate. Overall the Schwinn Meridian frame is far superior to most Walmart trike and Amazon trike frames. The Schwinn frame is very long from seat to handlebars, large people will like this feel and smaller people may not. Schwinn does not publish a weight capacity but the frame is plenty strong and would hold a rider up to 300 lbs. The frame is not the limiting factor for weight capacity of this trike.
Paint: The paint jobs are a little lacking in the shine department and the paint looked to be a little thin. An advantage the Meridian has is the front part of the frame is aluminum. You do not have to worry about the frame rusting, even though the paint job is lacking a bit.
Drive Train: The meridian is available in a single, three, and seven speed drive train depending on what you want. It is not possible to upgrade the trike to coaster brake due to the axle’s size.
Brakes: The front brake is a simple “V” brake and it stopped the trike with confidence. The rear brake is a band style brake that slows the trike by pinching down on a disc that is mounted to the rear axle. The brake stopped ok on the Meridian, not like the very poor quality Walmart and Amazon trike.
Seat: I think the seat is barley adequate and many people will be upgrading to a wider more comfortable seat. Your local bike shop will have a good selection of premium seats that can be easily installed on your Meridian.
Handling: I think the handling was as good as you can expect on Delta style trike. The rider is sets farther back on the Meridian compared to the Walmart and Amazon trikes which I felt were very unstable. With the long top tube and big handlebars, the Meridian does not turn as good as the Sun Traditional or Trailmate Desoto, but the handling on the Meridian is acceptable. No traditional Delta style trike handles well on unlevel surfaces. If you are concerned about stability and the chance of falling off the trike, you should really consider a recumbent. They are much more stable and efficient.
Wheels: The wheels are 26 inches. The rims are aluminum and the hubs are a low quality stamped out steel. The Schwinn Meridian trikes are notorious for breaking spokes. The rear axle is low quality and fails quite easily.
Accessories: The Meridian came with three fenders which was nice. Many other brands will make you buy their rear fenders as an option. The rear basket is larger than most other trikes, which can come in handy. But the basket is made in five pieces so it is not that durable and ratted. I am sure Schwinn chose to make the basket in five pieces so the entire trike can fit inside one box.
In conclusion: The Schwinn Meridian could be a good trike for grandma to do a lap around the block every other day. The Meridian is really designed for light duty and low usage. If you are above 200 lbs or if the trike is going to be ridden a fair amount, plan on replacing the rear wheels quite regularly because the spokes in the rear wheels break. The other issue with the Meridian is the rear axle is not very strong. Overall I would give the Meridian a rating somewhere between a 3-4 out of 10. That might sound bad but the Walmart and Amazon got a rating of 0 out of 10. The highest scoring trikes, the Sun Traditional and True Bicycle Fold and Go get a rating of 7 out of 10.
Pros: Low cost but yet some level of quality still left in the trike. More stable than some other trikes.
Cons: Schwinn bicycles are no longer being sold by bicycle dealers so finding some replacement parts can be difficult. Rear wheels will fail and you will have to replace them.
- Low cost
- More stable than some other trikes
- Decent quality
- Replacement parts can be sparce
- Rear wheels need to be replaced more frequently