Warm weather is something that the Midwest biking community dreams of all year long. We are either planning our next trip in the spring and summer, or longing for a good early fall breeze. The long winter months are spent planning, dreaming, and cross training. While our modern-day technology has made biking with friends from the safety of our basements possible, it just doesn’t have the same freedom-inducing feeling that comes with taking to trails outdoors.
No matter what type of biking you are looking to do, the thought of putting down a thousand or more dollars can often deter would-be enthusiasts from taking the plunge. It’s even harder when you are asking a newbie to buy what they might think of as a specialty product, when they are not certain they will keep up the newly found hobby.
My personal opinion on specialty products – which I’m going to lump a mountain bike into (feel free argue that with me in the comments below) – is that if you hit that sweet spot of pricing and product offering, you will catch the attention of many more consumers. Coming in at $498, the Schwinn Axum with Dropper Seatpost hits that exact price point. But how about its offerings? And how did Schwinn manage get a dropper post onto a bike that comes in under $500?
Many people may be quick to judge the product given the price, but Schwinn has packed quite the punch in quality and quantity in the build of this bike. When unboxing the Axum, I was immediately drawn to the frame. The aluminum frame felt solid in the hand while not presenting itself as unnecessarily heavy. The frame and components appeared sleak and modern – someone clearly took time to think through the shape and design of the frame and components. I’m by no means saying that you will be fooled into thinking this is a $5,000 off-road machine, but you can easily be fooled into expecting this bike to be a tier above in price. Going back to the sweet spot of pricing and product offering, the Schwinn Axum instantly feels like you got the better end of the bargain by purchasing this bike for a steal.
Schwinn Axum Highlights
- Aluminum frame
- Suspension fork – 100 mm travel with lockouts
- Mechanical, KS EXA 900i, 125 mm travel, dropper post
- 8 speed (1×8 with 11-40 cassette)
- Trigger shifters
- Front and rear mechanical disc brakes
- Alloy double wall rims
- 29-inch wheels, 2.6 inch wide
- Internal cable routing ready for dropper post
- Universal sizing – fits riders 5 feet 4 inches to 6 feet 2 inches tall
- Walmart URL – https://www.walmart.com/ip/Schwinn-29-Axum-Mountain-Bike-with-Dropper-Seatpost-Blue/494339371
One big production technique that Schwinn is using to help keep the Axum costs down is the one size fits all model. The universal sizing says that the Axum fits riders from 5 feet 4 inches to 6 feet 2 inches. I come in around 5 feet 10 inches and the bike felt perfectly fine for me. I haven’t had the opportunity to put in any three-hour rides yet but in testing, rides of 90 minutes were comfortable with no arm or neck pain that you’d feel from an improper fit. Riders on the low end of the sizing chart could potentially suffer from an arm stance pain after longer rides but each rider is different, and each rider prefers or can put up with different sizing options. You shouldn’t take my or anyone else’s word as gospel for sizing. If you are on the fence, go to the store and sit on the bike. That should give you a solid impression.
Since the Schwinn Axum is attacking the mountain biking community, the 1×8 gearing with 11-40 cassette, is nice to see. It might be a bit of a shock for folks who are out looking at bikes. As we outlined earlier, the Axum is Schwinn’s leap into the specialty product market, and the lack of a front derailleur makes for less gearing and maintenance issues for those hitting the trails (especially now that parks around our state have re-opened). This component is a huge positive for those looking into a solid bike for the trails, but could be a turn off for someone who is used to their 18 or 21 speed road bike and is looking to purchase a bike that can be used in more universal settings (may I point you to the Schwinn Vantage series?).
I had no issues with the 1×8 gearing with the 11-40 cassette, but will admit to having a bit more biking power compared to some. I think most riders will be able to handle the trails they take this bike out to, even if the grade closes in on 15%. The front and rear disk brakes worked as expected, but I did feel as if I had to squeeze the trigger with more pressure than I would have liked. I must admit that it could be that I’ve gotten too comfortable with my hydraulic brakes, and mechanical don’t have the same stopping power. At the end of the day, I never felt unsafe or like I couldn’t slow down/stop when I needed to. As I became more and more comfortable with my new companion, I found myself pushing my limits in the same way I would with bikes I’ve had for years. That is a solid testament in itself. The tires and handling also played a key role in feeling comfortable pushing it around the trails. The tires gripped onto the dirt around every turn with no sign of lost traction no matter how hard I pushed it. The extra 35 pounds of bike weight will also help with cornering, especially when the center of gravity is well thought out which I found to be the case with the Axum.
Now the big difference – and reason you might be scratching your head when you first saw the price of $498 – is the dropper post. Schwinn is also offering a $398 Axum without the dropper post. But at $100, this might be the most affordable dropper post – and it comes pre-run with cabling. For those who aren’t familiar, a dropper post is incredibly handy for trails when changing from climbing hills to attacking steep descents. Hit the lever and drop your seat up to 5 inches. It also comes in super handy if you have a friend or spouse who commonly likes to use your bike to enjoy the pond close to home and may be at a different height than you. Dropper posts can be used while riding, not requiring you to stop and readjust, and the adjusters can be located as a remote lever on the handlebar or seat post. The Axum’s lever is located on the handlebar, which to me alone makes the $100 upgrade worth it.
One final piece of the puzzle when it comes to comfort when hitting the trails is the front suspension. The Axum front suspension is pretty typical for bikes coming in under the $800 price point. The suspension does absorb shock and helps with tackling rocky terrain. I did bottom the suspension out a handful of times, but overall it felt like the suspension was on the stiff side of the house. I don’t think we should expect adjustable suspension on the Axum and if you’ve never had it, you don’t really know what you are missing. It’s just something to keep in mind if you are coming from a bike that had adjustable suspension.
The final verdict on the Schwinn Axum is incredibly positive. Earlier, I stated that a specialty product needs to come in at the perfect price and include the proper features to win over a new crowd, and I think that Schwinn has accomplished that with the Axum with dropper post. A quality built frame that is pleasing to the eye, a modern-day drive train, and a dropper post that you typically only find in product offerings with a significantly higher price tag all make the Schwinn Axum an easy recommendation for anyone looking to pick up an affordable bike for hitting the trails.