Cruiser bikes, also known as beach cruisers, are a classic, comfortable, and stylish type of bicycle that has remained popular since the 1930s. With their upright seating position, wide tires, coaster brakes, and casual design, cruiser bikes are ideal for relaxed recreational riding around neighborhoods, boardwalks, and parks.
In this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn all about cruiser bicycles, including:
- What a cruiser bike is
- The history and origins of the cruiser bike
- Key features and components of a cruiser bicycle
- The pros and cons of cruiser bikes
- Different types of cruiser bikes (beach cruisers, lowriders, choppers, etc.)
- Cruiser bike sizing and fits
- Top cruiser bike brands and models to consider
- Cruiser bike accessories and customizations
- Cruiser bike maintenance tips
- FAQs about cruiser bicycles
Plus plenty of pros tips and recommendations for selecting, riding, and caring for the perfect cruiser bike to suit your style and needs!
What Is A Cruiser Bike?
A cruiser bike, also called a beach cruiser bike or coastal cruiser, is a bicycle designed for casual riding with an upright, comfortable seating position and balloon tires. Cruiser bikes first emerged in the 1930s and became popular in beach areas, leading to the “beach cruiser” nickname.
Compared to other bike types like road, hybrid, or mountain bikes, cruiser bikes stand out for their:
- Upright riding position – With high-rise handlebars and seat, the upright posture is less strenuous on the back.
- Wide tires – Balloon or fat tires provide cushioning and traction. The wide tires range from 2.125 to 3 inches.
- Coaster brakes – The pedal-reversed brakes offer smooth stopping. Hand brakes are also common nowadays.
- Comfortable saddle – The saddle has thick padding and may include springs.
- Steel construction – The steel frame and fork absorbs shocks for a smooth ride.
- Curved top tube – Creates standover clearance for easy mounting/dismounting.
- Relaxed geometry – From the swooping top tube to sweptback handlebars, cruiser bikes have a laidback aesthetic.
With these features, cruiser bikes deliver a super comfortable and easygoing cycling experience for riders of all ages. They are ideal for cruising around the neighborhood, riding to the beach, park trails, campgrounds, and other mellow terrain.
A Brief History of the Beach Cruiser Bike
Cruiser bicycles have an intriguing history that began in the 1930s. Here’s a quick look at the origins and evolution of the beach cruiser:
- In the 1930s – The desire for comfortable, easy-to-ride bicycles boomed in popularity in Southern California. Schwinn and other bike makers began producing classic cruiser bikes featuring balloon tires, making cycling more accessible.
- In the 1940s-1950s – Cruiser bikes reached the height of popularity, synonymous with laidback beach culture. Features included chrome fenders, springer saddles, and stylish frames.
- In the 1960s-1970s – The decline of cruiser bike sales as lightweight 10-speed bikes gained favor. However, they remained favorites of surfers and hot rod culture.
- In the 1990s – Cruiser bikes made a comeback thanks to booming demand for vintage-inspired bikes. Modern renditions add conveniences like multiple gears.
- Today – Beach cruisers are as popular as ever for their style, comfort, and nostalgic vibe. New customizations and variants are available.
Cruiser bikes have come a long way while retaining their signature relaxed, retro-cool style. Keep reading to learn all about the key components and features of today’s modern cruiser bicycles.
Key Components and Features of Cruiser Bikes
While styles vary, most cruiser bikes contain these essential components and features:
- Traditionally made of steel for durability and shock absorption
- Curved top tube provides standover clearance
- Available in single-speed or multiple-speed options
- 26” or 24” balloon/fat tires around 2”-3” wide
- Smooth casual tread, often with whitewalls
- Provide shock absorption and comfort
- Rear coaster brakes pedal backwards to stop
- Front and rear handbrakes common now for better stopping power
- Single-speed drivetrains simplify the use.
- 3-7 gear internal hub allows multiple speeds without derailleur
- Designed for an upright riding position
- Often larger with springs and extra cushioning
- High-rise bars position hands upright
- Swept-back curve is relaxed and comfortable
- Often with classic cruiser style grips
- Chrome fenders, racks, lights, and bells for style
- Custom saddles, grips, pedals and more
The Pros and Cons of Cruiser Bikes
Pros of Cruiser Bikes:
- Extremely comfortable upright riding position
- Cushioned ride quality from big balloon tires
- Smooth coaster brakes (or easy hand brakes)
- Relaxed, easygoing ride feel
- Simple single-speed operation
- Nostalgic, stylish retro design
- Durable and low-maintenance
- Accessible for casual riders
Potential Cons of Cruiser Bikes:
- Limited gears are not ideal for hills or long distances
- Heavier than road and hybrid bike styles
- Not designed for high speeds or rough terrain
- Coaster brakes take some adaptation from riders accustomed to hand brakes
- Less ground clearance than a mountain bike
Types of Cruiser Bikes
There are many fun cruiser bike styles to explore beyond the classic single-speed beach cruiser. Some other popular categories include:
- Feature 3-7 speed internal gear hubs
- Allow easier pedaling up hills
- Brands like Electra offer multi-speed cruisers
- Inspired by Southern California Chicano culture
- Customized with flashy paint, chrome, and accessories
- Features laid-back geometry, 16” rims, and rad style
- Mimics old-school chopper motorcycle look
- Very relaxed frame geometry and handlebars
- Distinctive frame angle under the seat
- Can feature high-rise “ape hanger” handlebars
- Electric motor assists in pedaling
- Allows longer, faster riding with less effort
- Some flex between electric and pedal power
- Models from Juiced Bikes, Pedego, etc.
- Extra-long frames for ultra-relaxed geometry
- It can come with 26” or 29” wheels
- Allows very laidback riding posture
- Three-wheeled cruiser bikes provide added stability
- Recumbent riding position with legs extended front
- Comfortable option for seniors or those with balance issues
How to Find the Right Size Cruiser Bike
Cruiser bike sizing is based on wheel size, frame size, and matching your height.
Most adult cruiser bikes come in two-wheel sizes:
- 26” wheel cruisers for riders 5’2”- 6’2”
- 24” wheel cruisers are better for riders under 5’5”
The frame size (small, medium, large) should match your height and inseam length:
- Small frames: Best for riders 4’10”- 5’6”
- Medium frames: Fits riders 5’4”- 6’0”
- Large frames: For riders 5’10”-6’2”
Visit a bike shop and test ride different sizes to find the ideal cruiser bike fit. The right size allows you to easily stand over the frame and feel comfortable reaching the handlebars.
Top Cruiser Bike Brands & Models
Many bike manufacturers produce their own take on cruiser bicycles. Here are some top brands and models to consider across various price ranges and styles:
Firmstrong Urban Lady/Man – Classic beach cruisers with coaster brakes under $200
Huffy Panama Jack/Nel Lusso – Well-rated economy steel cruiser bikes around $300
Electra Hawaii/Townie – Trendy cruisers with 3-speeds, about $500+
Sixthreezero Around the Block – 7 speeds, front/rear handbrakes, $400-600
Schwinn Huron/Monterey – Iconic brand, updated speeds/brakes, $500+
Brooklyn Bicycle Co. Roebling – Hand-built steel retro cruisers, $1000+
Shinola Canfield Sport – Stylish aluminum multi-speed model, $2000+
Republic Bike Fritz – Custom bamboo bike, eco-friendly ride, $1300+
Pedego Interceptor/Comfort Cruiser – Approachable e-cruisers, $2000-$4000
Juiced Bikes RipRacer – Fast motor-assist beach cruiser, $1900+
Rad Power Bikes RadMini – Foldable electric bike with cruiser styling, $1500+
With so many options at multiple budgets, you can find the ideal cruiser for your needs and style!
Customizing Your Cruiser Bike
One of the best things about cruiser bikes is making them your own with fun customizations and add-ons. There are endless possibilities, but popular custom touches include:
- Custom saddles – Extra cushion, springs, or stylish looks
- Grips – Silicone, leather, or specialty cruiser grips
- Pedals – Alloy platforms, reflectors, toe clips, or custom pedal kits
- Tires – Wider tires, whitewalls, or colored sidewalls
- Fenders – Chrome or painted fenders protect from mud and dust
- Racks, baskets – Carry belongings on front or rear racks/baskets
- Lights – Vintage-style or LED lights boost visibility
- Bells, horns, tassels – Personalize with fun bells, handlebar tassels, adornments
- Paint/finish – Custom repainting, airbrushing, pinstriping, etc.
- Accessories – Cup holders, phone mounts, baskets and more!
When it comes to cruiser bike accessories, anything goes! Deck out your cruiser uniquely to match your personal taste and how you want to ride.
Maintaining Your Cruiser Bike
Cruiser bikes are pretty low-maintenance. But some basic upkeep will keep your cruiser rolling smoothly for years.
- Check tire pressure – Inflate balloon tires to 40-65 psi for comfort and handling.
- Lube the chain – Regular lubrication prevents rust and drivetrain wear.
- Adjust brakes – Tune up brakes for responsive stopping power.
- Clean the bike – Wipe the frame, wash tires, etc. to prevent dirt buildup.
- Inspect connections – Check handlebars, seat, and components are secure.
- Touch up paint – Use touch-up paint on any frame chips to prevent rust.
- Replace worn parts – Check brake pads, tires, cables, etc. and swap if worn.
- Tune-ups – Have a professional bike shop tune it up yearly.
With basic DIY care and occasional tune-ups, a quality cruiser bike will offer smooth cruising for many years!
Frequently Asked Questions About Cruiser Bikes
What muscles do cruiser bikes work?
Cruiser bikes engage your core, back, arms, shoulders, and legs in a comfortable upright posture. The smooth pedaling targets the quadriceps, glutes, and calves for a gentle workout.
Are cruiser bikes good for exercise?
While not high-intensity, cruising provides light to moderate cardio exercise. The comfort allows you to go on longer rides at an easy pace for increased calorie burn and endurance.
Can cruiser bikes go uphill?
Basic single-speed cruisers can be challenging on hills. Models with 3+ speed internal hubs make moderate inclines more manageable. Electric assist cruisers also help conquer hills.
Are cruiser bikes good for commuting?
It depends on your commute. Cruisers are comfortable for short, 5 miles or less rides on mostly flat surfaces. Multi-speed models expand their versatility for commuting.
How fast can a cruiser bike go?
Cruiser bikes average 8-15 mph on flat surfaces. Variable speed models with electric assist can reach 18-25+ mph. Speed depends on the bike, terrain, and rider.
Can you do tricks on a cruiser bike?
It’s not recommended. Cruisers lack the agility of BMX bikes. Their weight distribution is designed for flat riding. But custom stretched cruisers allow laidback riding style “tricks”.
Cruising with Comfort, Style, and Fun
Hopefully, this guide has provided a comprehensive overview of what a cruiser bike is all about, from its origins and features to customization and maintenance. Cruiser bicycles offer a super comfortable, fashionable way to cruise neighborhoods, trails, the boardwalk, campgrounds, and anywhere else life takes you.
There are countless ways to personalize your cruiser, from racks to neon paint jobs. And models from beach cruisers to choppers provide options to suit every taste and riding need.
Just don’t forget the basics of safety – wear a helmet, follow traffic laws, use lights at night, and have fun cruising on two wheels!
Mahin Abrar is a passionate writer and outdoor enthusiast. As a regular contributor to Bikepics.net, Mahin shares his knowledge and experiences in the fields of biking, cycling, hiking, and camping. With a deep understanding of these activities and a keen eye for detail, he offers valuable insights and practical advice to help readers get the most out of their adventures. Whether you're a seasoned pro or just starting out, Mahin's writing is sure to inspire you and guide you on your journey.