By Stan Purdum
- A sturdy bike that moves easily
- Step-thru frame makes mounting easy
- Bike puts rider in upright, comfortable position
- Saddle has a unique storage compartment
- In frame battery provides range of up-to-45 miles
- Easy to use e-features even if you have no prior experience
- Includes headlights, taillights and integrated downtube lights for full visibility
- Key lock keeps battery from being stolen from the bike
- Front fender rubs on tire
- Matching bike size to rider size seems slightly off
Price: $1999.99 (www.SchwinnBikes.com and retailers).
How obtained: On loan from Schwinn
RBR Advertiser: No
Schwinn just introduced an all-new line of electric bikes, at three different pricing levels: the Marshall ($1499.99), the Coston CE ($1699.99) and the Coston DX ($1999.99). All three models are built on the same aluminum frame — or rather, your choice of two frames: one a standard step-over and one a step-thru that are otherwise identical. In both cases, Schwinn describes the frames as hybrids. The lineup provides a good, better, best assortment that is differentiated by battery, range and product features. All three ebikes come in size options of S/M and L/XL.
When Schwinn contacted me about reviewing one of the bikes, I chose the Coston DX in the step-thru version, which makes for easy mounting. The Coston DX is distinguished from the Coston CE and the Marshall by a larger battery (360 watt-hours versus 288 watt-hours in the other two), giving it a range of up-to 45 miles (versus 35 for the other two). It also has upgraded fenders, a rear rack and a unique storage saddle that opens like a clamshell with the hinge in the nose and has room for your wallet, phone, energy bars or a multi-tool. All three models have headlights, taillights and integrated downtube lights for full visibility.
The bike arrived in a standard bike box, but that was housed within an even larger outer box to protect the contents. It took me about an hour to unpack the bike, remove all the protective packaging and then assemble it. Schwinn provides an excellent online video to help with this process, which shows how to use the inner box in creative ways to simplify the assembly, including placing the bike back in the box with the fork hanging out to install the front fender and wheel. The one potential problem is the weight of the bike, with the rear hub motor (from CZJB motor maker) and the in-frame battery already in place. Some may find lifting it back into the box difficult. In my case, I left it outside the box and had no trouble installing the front wheel.
The only hitch I encountered was when installing the front fender. Even at the highest position, the underside of the fender rubbed on the tire, and this was before I pumped the tire up to the recommended pressure. In the end, I simply left the fender off the bike.
The fully assembled bike appeared larger than the display photo had led me to expect. There’s nothing deceptive about the photo, but the side view doesn’t convey how beefy the bicycle is, and looking at it as someone who usually rides a skinny road bike with drop bars, the upright Coston DX with a flat handlebar at first looked massive. In fact, I briefly wondered if I’d mistakenly been sent the L/XL size instead of the S/M. But once in the saddle, I found the fit to be correct. Schwinn says the S/M is for people 5’2″ to 5’7″. I am 5’7″ and the bike fit me fine with the seat post in the lowest position, so it’s likely riders slightly taller could also use this size. I had my 5’3″ daughter try the bike, and she found it too tall for her. Schwinn specs the L/XL for 5’8″-6’4″.
Despite that initial impression about the size, my first ride showed me that the Schwinn was eager to roll, and nimble in the way that a large athlete can be quick on his feet.
For that ride, just getting the feel of the bike, I headed for a local paved rail-trail. The bike offers a seven-speed gear range, with a derailleur and double-trigger shifter from Microshift. The rear hub motor offers assist levels of 0-5, with 0 being no assist and 5 being the maximum assist. On the mostly flat trail, the bike rolled easily enough that I could have pedaled its whole length without using any assist at all, just shifting the gears to accommodate the gentle rise and fall of the path. Of course, I wanted to try the assist, and when I did, I found that I never needed more than level 1 to roll at a comfortable trail speed. But it being a midweek day, I had the trail mostly to myself and was able to test all the assist levels — learning that the bike could indeed do the advertised maximum assist speed of 20 mph.
The bike also has a throttle, meaning that when I engaged it, the bike rolled without being pedaled. But I wasn’t looking for a free ride; I wanted the exercise, so I didn’t plan to make much use of the throttle. Still, it would be a good help for getting home if a rider became exhausted.
I live in Southeastern Ohio, amid the Appalachian foothills, so most of the bike rides in my area are hilly. Thus, for my next ride, I first headed for a local cemetery that sprawls over the top of a high hill and is accessed by a steep road. In fact, the graveyard provides a favorite vantage point for photographers wanting a shot of our town.
On my first climb of the cemetery road, I dropped into the lowest gear, with the chain on the 36-tooth cassette ring, and then pedaled up the road, moving consecutively through all five assist levels and maintaining a near constant speed all the way up. Noticing how handily the bike handled the climb, I then went back down (with assist set on “0” and me noting how quickly the bike descended). On the second trip up, I moved the chain to the 28-tooth ring, and pedaled less vigorously, without worrying about maintaining speed. Even with the greater resistance and less “assist” from me, the bike climbed the hill again, more slowly this time, and topped it while still in level 4. Not bad for carrying a 185-pound rider! (Yeah, I need to lose some of that.)
On a subsequent test climb, I experimented with the throttle while not pedaling at all. The throttle kept the bike moving, but as I neared the summit, the speed became so slow that I would have fallen over had I not started pedaling. That struck me as about right, for as I said before, I wasn’t looking for a free ride.
On the hilltop, the cemetery lanes are a mix of paved and gravel surfaces, and the robust 27.5 x 2.6 unbranded tires with hybrid tread performed well on both.
After leaving the cemetery, I pedaled a county road that unrolls over five hilltops with valleys in between. On the downhills, I went to 0 assist and flew down, hitting 36 mph on one of them. In each case I pedaled unassisted part way up the next climb, moving to a numbered assist level only when gravity began to bite.
In all, I rode 12 miles that day. When the battery is fully charged, the usage gauge on the display shows five bars. After my 12 miles with lots of climbing and heavy use of the assist levels, there were three bars left, suggesting that the up-to-45 miles range for the Coston’s 360 watt-hour battery might not be achievable over the terrain in my area. But then, this Schwinn is not intended for touring or racing. But it’s a great go-to steed for commuting, errand running, recreational riding, hauling a kid in a child seat and other general purposes. And it can still perform when needed for more demanding travel.
For those purposes, I give the bike high marks.
Stan Purdum has ridden several long-distance bike trips, including an across-America ride recounted in his book Roll Around Heaven All Day, and a trek on U.S. 62, from Niagara Falls, New York, to El Paso, Texas, the subject of his book Playing in Traffic. Stan, a freelance writer and editor, lives in Ohio. See more at www.StanPurdum.com.
Dave Minden says
It would be good to have bike weights. I’d also like a comparison of any ebike to it’s non-electric counterparts. Though I might see my future including an ebike, as someone who loves my beautiful modern steel road bike I’ve found a rental ebike awful to ride.
Stan Purdum says
This one was not awful to ride. In fact, it was quite nice. Of course, riding in upright posture feels different from riding a drop bar bike, but allowing for the difference, this one rolled smoothly and easily.
Throttle control ebikes (class 2, 20 mph max) are not permitted on many bike paths and trails, and are also not permitted on our bike club group rides. Pedal assist Class 1 (20 mph max) typically are, Class 3 (pedal assist, 28 mph max) less so. I added a carbon road ebike (class 1) last year to my steed (currently 2 carbon road, 1 carbon gravel, 1 steel touring, 1 steel break-away road, and the ebike). I only ride the ebike solo and at 63 it adds another dimension to my rides. My wife has an upright ebike, I tried it but prefer drop bars.