- The Phocus 1600 is a men’s road bike.
- The Phocus 1600 is heavier than most road bikes.
- The Phocus 1600 is one of the best road bikes Schwinn has made
- The Phocus 1600 may need tuning for a custom fit.
Schwinn hasn’t always had an easy road, but it has recently made one of the best entry-level bikes available. Why is the Schwinn Phocus 1600 so spectacular?
The Schwinn Phocus 1600 is a versatile road bicycle that has been around for several years. The bike is aimed at the beginning road rider. Made with an aluminum alloy frame, 16-speed gearbox, and road-styled tires, the Phocus has been one of the best values Schwinn has ever produced.
Let’s face it. Finding the right bicycle can be frustrating because there are so many choices by so many manufacturers. It is hard to know what kind of road bike to buy, let alone how to sort through the hype that the internet bombards every potential buyer with. Riding a bicycle should be fun and worry-free, without the stress of fretting about whether the bike is a good investment. The last thing you want to do is shell out more money than you should and end up with a defective product, so some serious research is essential. Let’s introduce you to one of the most under-appreciated bikes that have ever been built - the Schwinn Phocus 1600.
What Makes the Schwinn Phocus 1600 So Great?
There are many reasons why the Phocus might just be the best road bike on the market that you have never noticed. Let’s examine some of those qualities.
The frame is a standard 6061 aluminum alloy that you might find on most road bikes. While some manufacturers prefer a carbon-fiber frame to reduce weight (which in turn means more speed), the folks at Schwinn have decided to keep the aluminum frame. The alloy is rigid enough to provide good stability and durability. Carbon frames can sometimes crack or break under duress, making them the choice of many entry-level bikes. In addition, an aluminum alloy is cheaper to produce so the manufacturing costs can be contained more easily.
The bike comes in at 34 lbs, which seems heavy even for a road bike, but Schwinn knows that the weight provides better stability and increased speed on the flats. The disadvantage is that even though there is more mass for straightaways, attacking the inclines with a heavy bike is more exhausting for the rider. Schwinn decided that more people would be riding on relatively smooth surfaces than in the mountains, so it opted for a heavier bike than most road bikes manufactured today.
Of course, a heavier bike frame means a weight reduction for the rider. The max weight for the bike is 250 lbs, which means that more prominent men (you know who you are) will have to look elsewhere. (A perfect example of better weight balance might be the Trek Domaine AL series, which also uses an aluminum frame, but only weighs slightly under 23 lbs and has a total weight limit of 275 lbs). As a large rider, my Christmas wish is that Schwinn has done a little less with the frame to make the bike accessible for heavy elves like myself.
Schwinn used a rigid carbon fork for the 1400 and 1600 models. This high-quality suspension fork does a great job absorbing imperfections in the pavement. While some bikes don’t handle various road conditions well, the Phocus does. Combined with the 29-inch tires, the bike does better in places where much smaller road bikes seem to have difficulty.
The Phocus 16 gears help transition between level ground and inclines. The Shimano 2300 shifters and derailleurs make gear changes easy and smooth. The eight gears in the rear and the two in the front are controlled with paddles on handlebars. The Micro Integrated levers conveniently place shifting virtually at the rider’s fingertips. (The right paddle controls the rear disc's gearing, while the left handles the front. The plethora of gears can be a bit intimidating at first, but once the beginner discovers the right gear for the various types of terrain, the ride becomes much more enjoyable.
The Tires and Rims
The 29-inch double-walled wheel is designed for additional strength and provides the grip needed to navigate most road terrain. The 700 x 23c Kenda 196 tires are adequate for most road surfaces and seem to hold up, resisting punctures. Kenda has an excellent reputation for making good tires, and many e-bike manufacturers are turning to this company as their tire supplier. I was happy to see Schwinn deciding to include them on their road bike.
Schwinn uses Promax Alloy calipers for its front and rear brakes, which lend themselves effective maneuvering and stoppage if needed. Since road rides often compete with lots of other traffic, a good pair of brakes can make all the difference in the world. (Here is another caveat: disc brakes are becoming all the rage in bicycling, and for good measure, they are more effective than standard caliper systems. While caliper brakes are cheaper, here’s wishing that Schwinn had adopted the disc brakes that so many of its competitors are using).
The Drop Bar
I loved the 31.8 Road Drop Bar (mainly because it reminds me of the first road bike I owned). The handlebar allows for increased comfort and options. Ride like a pro if you need to by leaning down, or ride with sightseeing and comfort by grabbing the top. The drop bar gives the bike a European feel and improves its look a hundred percent.
Schwinn is a master at containing costs, and sometimes that has not worked in its favor. Since Schwinn farmed its production overseas, many bikes that carried the iconic nameplate were sub-par. (The Phocus is made in the Far East, but it bucks the trend nicely). Even though the bike is not American-made, the cost is significantly less than other quality road bikes like the Specialized Allez or the Triban RC520.
What is Wrong with the Phocus 1600?
The real issue is whether there is value for the money that a rider is investing in a bicycle. It all comes down to performance, and the Phocus does deliver. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a couple of things we would have preferred. While most of the complaints are minor, they are worth considering before purchasing the bike.
There is a Seat Issue
The Phocus has a seat issue. The available road seat is standard fare, but seasoned riders may want to swap out the original seat for something less chaffy. There are many quality, more cushioned seats on the market, and while I am partial to some padding, I found the Schwinn seat lacking a bit.
There is a Height and Weight Issue
I have already detailed the weight limitations that the Phocus 1600 offers, but the bike is best for riders under 6’-3, and while I am not that tall, I would like Schwinn to make a bike taller riders could enjoy. (Their website only offers one size, which I think is lazy).
There is a Tuning Problem
While the Phocus comes fairly well-assembled out of the box, there have been some issues with needing to have the bike tuned at a local shop. This is a good idea (a bike shop can custom-fit the bike to your size and riding habits and give the bike a good once-over to ensure everything is working correctly). But the downside is that bike shops don’t do that service for free. It will mean opening your wallet a bit further than many riders might want.
There is a Fender/Back Rack Problem
For those riders who prefer a more casual ride with fenders installed, there just isn’t that option on the Phocus. While the Phocus 1600 isn’t designed for that kind of thing, it is an entry-level road bike that should at least have the option for a back rack or fender. The bike might help get you in shape, but don’t plan on using it for anything other than riding.
There is a Recognition Problem
The Phocus 1600 is a great bike with a lot to love. Riders who have invested their hard-earned money in this bike have come away from it very impressed. So, it pains me to say that standard recreational bike riding is becoming a thing of the past.
Statistics show that recreational riding by youth ages 7 - 17 has dropped 49% over the last couple of decades. Most current sales of bicycles are e-bikes, and while the electric bike market is expected to double to 60 - 80 billion in the next five years, standard pedal pushers like the 1600 are quickly fading. Most bike companies recognize this trend and are converting to offering more e-bikes on their websites.
There was a time when Schwinn was the only brand of bicycle that Americans would buy, but overseas manufacturing and a severe image problem have plagued Schwinn for a while now.
Where Can I Buy a Schwinn Phocus 1600?
Fortunately, there is still time to purchase this great bike. Many large retailers, like Amazon, Walmart, Kohl’s, and Bass Pro, continue to carry the line. Local bike shops are excellent resources for the Schwinn product, and it never hurts to develop a personal relationship with one. (You never know when you might need some help).
For more information concerning the Phocus 1600, see the manufacturer’s website.
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About THE AUTHOR
Mountain biking is more than just a hobby for me - it's a way of life. I love the challenge and excitement that comes with it, and I'm always pushing myself to go faster and ride harder. Some people might think that mountain biking is dangerous, but I see it as the only way to live.Read More About Danny Lawson