16 February 2013

Another Schwinn Criss-Crosses My Life

A couple of days ago, I wrote about my first Bianchi, a.k.a. The Bike I Lost At CBGB.

As I mentioned, it had become my commuter during my first year of graduate school.  Now I'm going to tell you about the bike that replaced it--as my commuter, anyway.

As old-school English three-speeds were out of production, and European (or European-style) city bikes were unavailable in the US, the bike I bought was probably about as suited to urban commuting as any new bike one could buy at the time.

The 1992 Schwinn Criss-Cross, in its own way, was brilliant.  It came with a good-quality lugged chrome-moly steel frame. That made it a tough little bike that was still fairly nimble. While it wouldn't handle like a racing bike with sew-up tires (I owned and raced on one at the time; a post on it is coming.), I had little trouble dodging and weaving through traffic on it, even when it was loaded.  

The components that came with them weren't fancy, but they weren't junk, either:  They all functioned as well as I needed and stood up to the thrashing they took on a daily basis.  (Being young and full of testosterone, I was harder on bikes than I am now.)  The only parts I changed were the tires and tubes.  The original tires were 700C knobby tires, which I rode through the winter. However, as the bike saw most of its miles on pavement, the noise and added resistance of the tires could be annoying when there was no snow or ice. So, in the spring, I replaced them with a pair of the best urban commuting and touring tires ever made: the Avocet Cross.

Back in those days, Cyclo-Cross bikes were almost as rare as Dutch-style city bikes in the US.  So, when the tire in question came out--and, for the matter, the bike about which I'm writing--most American cyclists understood "cross" to mean a hybrid bike, or anything related to it.

The Avocet Cross tires, like the Schwinn Criss-Cross bike, suited that kind of riding very well.  What made the Avocet Cross one of the most innovative tires ever made was its "inverted" tread.  In other words, it was a grooved rather than a ribbed or studded tire. Therefore, it offered traction that was almost as good as a studded tire but with a lot less rolling resistance.  Even more important, at least for urban commuting, its rounded edges offered the kind of cornering afforded by good road tires.  

Plus, they seemed to be more resistant to punctures than other tires I've ridden.  It may have been because the tread area was thicker, so that the grooves could be cut into it.  Others suggested that the tread pattern kept at least some debris from working its way into the tread.  

Anyway, the bike served me nicely as a commuter for a bit more than a year.  Then, one day, I was running an errand in Midtown when I stopped at a traffic light near Grand Central Station. An Australian tourist came up to me and complimented the bike.   He said that a magazine--I don't recall whether it was Bicycling! or some other--reviewed it very favorably, and he wanted one to bring back with him.  However, none of the shops he checked had it. 

I took the subway home that day.  However, after paying my fare, I was left with the cost of the bike, the accessories, the tires and another $50.  Considering that I'd ridden the bike for a year, that wasn't half-bad, I thought.


  1. A lot better ending than "I left it leaning up against the front of the store for a second..."

  2. I occasionally see Schwinn Criss-Cross bikes at the Trenton Bike Exchange,where I volunteer. I'm enjoying your series on bikes from your past.


  3. Adventure--I agree! And, as much as it pains me to admit it, I actually did lose a bike that way. (Actually, I leaned it against a pizzeria.)

    Unknown--There's more to come. Interesting that you see them at the Bike Exchange. I guess I shouldn't be surprised: a lot were made and sold. They're actually quite good as commuters or utility bikes. I also imagine some people would like them for touring.

  4. I just noticed the links to "Bikes of (your) past" and have been enjoying your stories. I also want to thank you for pointing out wiggle.com as a well-priced source for Carradice saddlebags. I just ordered a Barley for my "riding in skirts" bike.


  5. Kiyomi--Thank you for your support. Wiggle is great, isn't it?

    There will be more posts on my bikes of my past. Stay tuned!

  6. That picture at the top looks just like my Criss-Cross that I bought in '92, that I still have today. I am just now searching for new tires for it. :)

  7. Anon--Your tires lasted all of those years? Wow! That the rest of the bike lasted doesn't surprise me, though.