“You think that’s a Schwinn?” Brad Pitt’s doofy trainer character laughingly asks John Malkovich’s apoplectic CIA spook in Burn After Reading. The implication is that his bicycle (a Bianchi, for the record) is of finer stock. But we’ve always had a soft spot for the brand, which has a history dating back 125 years and an impressive portfolio of efficiently engineered bikes that are both affordable and stylish. The latest example? The Schwinn Axum, a new mountain bike that costs — wait for it — $398.
We wouldn’t blame you for raising an eyebrow at such a low price tag. We did too. But while no one would mistake this bike for, say, a $9,044 Specialized S-Works Epic Hardtail AXS, the Axum packs a surprising array of promising elements into its sub-$400 package. Intended for rough terrain and cross country trails, the bike boasts a light aluminum frame, a front fork with 100 mm (4 inches) of travel and a trigger-shifted 1×8 drivetrain for simple transitions.
But we’re burying the lead: for $100 more, Schwinn offers a version with a feature virtually unheard of at this price point — a dropper post. Press a lever on the left handlebar of the Axum DP and, boom, you can drop the seat almost five inches, quickly clearing it out of the way when sending into steep descents. Used properly, a dropper post can transform your riding, encouraging you to tackle more aggressive trails safely. It’s also handy if a shorter friend wants to borrow the bike; he or she can easily lower the seat a bit for normal trail riding, without an Allen key.
Both version of the Axum also feature burly 29-inch wheels with 2.6-inch wide knobby tires that should truck over everything from curbs to rocks, mechanical disc brakes for reliable stopping and internal cable routing, should you choose to install a dropper post on the standard version. That last quality highlights one of the bike’s big selling points: upgrade-ability. It’s designed to easily accept gnarlier components as a rider progresses.
The full package weighs in at a reported 35 pounds, which is nearly twice as much as the 19-pound Epic. But considering the Axum is also nearly 23 times cheaper — or 18 times cheaper in the case of the DP — it has the makings of a pretty damn frisky entry-level mountain bike.
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