In This Guide
In this article, we’re examining a classic type of bicycle that still retains its popularity today – the cruiser bike. The cruiser bike (sometimes known as the “beach cruiser”) is a type of bicycle that is designed for just what the name implies – cruising!
With this guide, we’re telling you everything you need to know about the cruiser bike. We’re going to start with the basics. Then, we’ll examine all the benefits offered by this type of bike. After that, we’ll get a bit more technical and examine how this bike is constructed, and the main components of its design. Our hope is to give you a comprehensive resource for deciding whether this is the bike for you!
What is a Cruiser Bike?
First thing’s first, what exactly is a cruiser bike? Basically, a cruiser bike is designed as a classic, no-nonsense bike that is suitable for cruising around. A cruiser bike puts emphasis on simplicity, rideability, and comfort.
A cruiser bike is designed so that the rider can sit perfectly upright in a comfortable position. It has a large frame, curved handlebars, and wide “balloon tires”. All of these features allow for extra stability and comfort. The seat is also big and padded, which allows the rider to sit comfortably for the entire ride. This bike can comfortably take you across various easy terrain.
Cruiser bikes tend to be quite simplistic in their design. They have a single-speed drivetrain, and coaster brakes (brakes which are activated by pedalling in reverse). This simplicity reflects the fact that this is quite an old style of bike. However, it also means that they are easy to hop on and ride, without having to worry about shifting gears and moving parts.
In terms of performance, a cruiser bike offers what you would expect. It’s a slow, stable ride. They’re easy bikes to ride, but don’t expect them to take you off-road or at high speeds. The moniker “cruising” bike stuck for a reason. They’re for people who want to take it slow and take it all in.
All-in-all, these bikes offer a smooth, comfortable ride, with a classic, traditional look. For these reasons and more, these bikes have experienced a surge of popularity in recent years.
In the next section, we’ll dig a little deeper, and look at all the factors that make the cruiser bike so appealing. So if you’re still undecided whether this bike is for you, then read on!
Is a Cruiser Bike Right For Me?
When it comes to picking a bike, there are a lot of options available. Generally, people pick a bike based on the performance that it offers. Therefore, the best way to pick a bike is by considering how you will actually use the bike. Picking a cruiser is no different.
There are a lot of features that make a cruiser bike appealing, but they are definitely not for everyone. In this section, we’re outlining the main reasons why people gravitate toward these bikes, so that you may decide whether or not they are for you:
Primarily, you want to consider how you will actually be using your bike. This is the main factor which will determine what type of bike is best for you. So, naturally, if you are in the market for a cruiser bike, you probably want to make sure that you want a bike for “cruising”.
What exactly is cruising? Basically, this type of bike was designed to go at slow speeds, and to be a nice, stable ride. The rider’s comfort is the top priority. You sit upright on a nice, cushy seat, and the handlebars are wide and spacious. This bike definitely sacrifices speed for comfort, but it’s very easy to control. So if you primarily need a bike to get places, or to tour the area at slow speeds, then a cruiser might be for you.
As with any bike purchase, cost will be a major concern. Cruisers aren’t always the cheapest bike, but they are nowhere near as expensive as high-end mountain bikes or road bikes. Cruisers have relatively simple designs in comparison to these bikes, and you can expect a price-tag to match. Generally, a cruiser will cost between $500-$1500, although there are many outliers.
Higher end cruisers tend to have more lightweight frames. These frames are often made of lightweight aluminum (as opposed to steel). Additionally, since so much of cruiser culture is centered on stylistic appeal, expensive cruisers will also tend to be more elaborate in their visual design.
A cruiser has various other features that give it that trademark “smooth” ride. The wide, balloon tires help to absorb any bumps and jolts along the way, and the wide wheelbase keeps the ride stable and secure. When people talk about “smoothness”, they’re really just referring to a stable, straightforward ride, and a cruiser bike offers both.
Another major appeal of cruisers is that they tend to be quite low-maintenance bikes. This is largely due to the fact that cruisers are so simple. They are a very classic type of bike, which means that they were developed before bike technology is what it is today. Simply put, this means less moving parts, and less things that could go wrong.
For example, because many cruisers have only a single-speed drivetrain, there is no risk of the chain faltering when switching gears. Additionally, cruisers don’t have any suspension, which is one of the most common problem-areas with a bike.
Overall, you can expect cruisers to be relatively reliable bikes. With bikes, the more moving parts, and the more intricate the design, the more can go wrong! Cruisers are easy-going bikes in both their riding style and their low-maintenance nature.
Another upside of these bikes is their ability to be customized. Cruiser bikes are largely popular because of way that they look. Therefore, many use these bikes as fashion statements more than anything. Modern cruisers are built with this in mind.
Cruisers are easy to customize to your preferences. Certain components can be easily interchanged – such as fenders, saddlebags, seats, lights, luggage racks, handlebar covers, and more! Modern cruisers are built to be customized, and you can find many parts and components that will help you style it out however you want.
A Classic Look
Building on our last point, a big reason that these bikes are so popular is because they have that classic, nostalgic look. So if this look doesn’t really appeal to you, you probably won’t want a cruiser. Because, let’s face it, there are more practical bikes out there. Bike technology has advanced since the time that the cruiser was developed. So if you’re getting a cruiser, it’s probably because you want to show off that classic style.
This should be one of your biggest consideration in whether you want a cruiser. They aren’t the fastest, and they aren’t the most advanced, but they are solid, stable bikes that give off that classic appeal. If this is what you are looking for, then maybe a cruiser is right for you.
Types of Cruiser Bikes
As with any area of bike, there are a lot of options when it comes to cruiser bikes. These options can change how the bike looks, feels, and rides. The different categories might represent largely cosmetic changes, or even differences to how the bike functions and rides. Let’s check out the major categories:
The classic “beach” cruiser is probably what you imagine when you envision a cruiser bike. Definitely the most classic of the cruiser bike variants.
The classic beach cruiser has the wide, balloon tires, the big (often heavy) frame, the big saddle, the wrap-around handlebars, and the all-around classic look. Designed for that upright, smooth ride, the beach cruiser might be what you want if you are truly seeking that classic bike nostalgia.
The low-rider is a popular variant on the classic cruiser. Designed for (you guessed it) a low-down ride. The seats are long and sit quite low to the ground. The handlebars even tilt back so that the rider can reach them. Apart from that, the design is similar to a classic cruiser, but the riding experience is quite different.
A low rider is definitely not what you are looking for if practicality is your goal. The low-ride is actually quite a bit less efficient for pedalling and for sitting comfortably. They are mainly designed for visual appeal, but that is the case with many cruiser bikes these days.
Another stylistic change to the overall look of the cruiser bike, the “Chopper” is meant to replicate the look and feel of a Chopper motorcycle. The main stylistic difference is that the wheel sits far out in front of the bike (similar to the motorcycle variety). The seat also sits down low, and the handlebars jut out high. The result is that the rider sits down-low, and even leans back a bit.
Once again, you’re sacrificing a bit of practicality for aesthetic appeal. However, cruiser bikes are often more of a fashion statement anyways.
As mentioned throughout this article, a classic cruiser bike will have a single-speed drivetrain. Because this is such a standard feature of these classic bikes, any bike that bucks this trend might as well be in its own category. And yes, you can get cruiser bikes that have multi-speed gears.
Of course, the main appeal of geared cruiser bikes is the ease-of-ride. You’re sacrificing a bit of the classic appeal and simplicity for an easier ride. The gear-shifter allows you to adjust the resistance for different types of riding, and it makes it a bit more practical to get around town.
Cruiser Bike Design
Let’s dig a little deeper and actually examine the main components of a cruiser bike. Now that we’ve outlined the general advantages and disadvantages of this type of bike, we’ll break it down piece by piece. We want to give you a full outline of this type of bike.
First up, we have one of the most important parts of a bike, the frame. The frame is particularly important on a cruiser bike, because it provides for the wide, stable ride. Typically, cruisers have that large, round, classic-looking frame. Often, it is made of steel, which makes it a heavy bike, although you can buy higher-end cruisers with aluminum frames. The aluminum makes the bike a bit lighter, but you’re also sacrificing a bit of stability.
The wheels are another distinguishing feature of a cruiser bike. They have that classic bike wheel look, with lots of spokes. Typically, the tires are 26 or 29-inch, and wide/balloon-like in nature. Overall, the design of the tires and wheels is meant to support the stable ride offered by the bike.
As you might imagine, cruiser bikes do not have suspension. This is expected of a classic bike design, but we only noted it here to draw attention to the fact that cruisers tend to lack most of the features you might expect from a modern bike. So don’t purchase one of these bikes thinking that it will rival the performance of a modern bike, or you will probably be disappointed.
Gears OR Drivetrain
One of the most notable features of a cruiser bike is the single-speed drivetrain. Although it prevents the bike from shifting speeds, it also keeps the bike simple. Many people actually enjoy this about a cruiser bike. Less moving parts to worry about, just hop on and ride!
Of course, there are cruiser bikes with gear-shifters. Often, these models will have 3-speeds, although there are other options available. Although this does increase the ease of the ride in certain situation, these really aren’t the type of bikes you should be looking at if efficiency is your goal regardless. This is why so many opt for the traditional design.
Brakes are another feature worth noting, as many cruiser bikes actually have the old-school coaster brakes. What this means is that, in order to stop, you actually have to pedal in reverse. This might be a bit of shock to some people, especially if you hop on the bike for the first time and don’t know where the brakes are. The general consensus is that this is less intuitive than a standard hand brake, but it’s also a part of the nostalgic charm of these bikes!
However, if this really an issue, there are several options for cruiser bikes that have hand brakes.
The handlebars serve an important function on a cruiser bike, but they also give it that classic look. The handlebars on a cruiser bike are long, and wrap around on either side. This is so that they reach out to the rider, and the rider can sit almost fully upright while riding. This helps to give the cruiser bike a comfortable ride, and makes it suitable to be ridden for long periods.
The seat on a cruise r bike is designed for one thing – comfort! The seats are big, wide, and soft. The cushioning is quite extensive, as the bike is designed support a rider’s weight while they sit upright.
If you’ve noticed a theme up to this point, it’s probably that these bikes are designed for comfort above all else! Everything from the upright riding position, to the stable ride, to the cushioned seat, it’s all meant to give a smooth and easy ride, which remains a primary appeal of the cruiser bike.
And finally, we can’t talk about a cruiser bike without talking about all the accessories and features that can be customized. Because style is such a huge part of cruiser culture, it ends up being the case that any cruiser aficionado can build a unique bike exactly to their liking. You can customize the seat, the handlebar covers, the fenders, the saddlebags, and more! Looking stylish on a cruiser is a primary goal, and accessories are sold to match.
Are These Bikes Right For Me?
We’ll finish this article with one question – is a cruiser right for you? It’s a pretty loaded question, and there’s no simple answer. We’ve attempted to give you all the information necessary to make this decision, but at the end of the day it’s your choice!
A cruiser bike’s main appeal is the classic look and the smooth ride. Most people who gravitate toward a cruiser will do so because they are a fan of that classic appeal. Because, to be honest, they aren’t the most efficient bikes out there. Cruisers are very much a dated bike design. So if an easy ride is your primary goal, you might be happier with a hybrid bike, which touts all the benefits of modern bike design.
But it’s up to you! We can’t deny the appeal of visual aesthetic when it comes to bike riding, and cruisers definitely have a lot of that. So at the end of the day, the best bike is really just the bike that is best for you. Our goal was to give you everything you need to consider in making this choice, and we hope that this article has helped to simplify your decision!
Last Updated on March 8, 2021 by Matthew Carpenter