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What are beach cruiser bikes? Should you ride one? If these are questions you’ve asked yourself, then you’re in the right place! Despite the name, a beach cruiser bike is not specifically built for riding on the beach. This style of bike is designed for stability, durability, and comfort on many terrains. The key feature that makes cruiser bicycles different than other rides, is the wider tire design and heavier weigh than a standard bicycle.
If you enjoy leisurely bike rides around the neighborhood, park, or more, you may want to learn more about this style of bike and why it may be best for you. While cruisers aren’t as versatile for terrains and environments as a mountain bike, or as lightweight as a road bike, they have several unique features that make them perfect for getting around town.
To help you understand what these bikes are, and if it’s a good style for you, we’ve gathered this guide explaining the fun and unique transportation method known as beach cruisers below.
What is a Beach Cruiser Bike?
To many, a cruiser is a simple, single-speed bike designed with big, goofy tires, a saddle seat, and a wide, loose handlebar. But truthfully, riding these bikes is so much more. This style of bicycle is designed for ultimate leisure and comfort while on 2 wheels, and there’s often a good chance you’re wearing flip-flops or a swimsuit while riding- instead of constricting lycra biking gear. Beach cruisers are designed for just that- cruising and the laid back attitude of the shore.
However, modern many modern day models take the beach cruising lifestyle to the next level, and offer added or accentuated features. Knowing your goals and needs on the road will help you to determine which features are right for you.
Cruiser bikes are different than your traditional bicycle for many reasons, including:
- Larger, Wider Tires
- Heavy Weight Design
- Designed for Comfort on Many Terrains
- Single Speed or Internal Gearing Options
Now that you understand what a cruiser bike is, let’s get into how they came about and why they’re so mainstream today.
Basic History of the Beach Cruiser
A style of bicycle used by adventure lovers around the world, cruisers were the most popular bikes in the U.S. for several decades, and many kids growing up owned one. Schwinn, the popular bicycle manufacturer, developed the first ever cruiser due to declining bike sales and it’s taken off from there.
The company wanted to make a bicycle which appealed to the younger market, and that it did. As a classic and staple piece from many childhoods, this bicycle style is great for people of all ages. These first cruisers were made with a durable frame, balloon tires, battery-powered headlights, and a faux gas tank. These early bikes are easily recognizable, thanks to that faux gas tank- and collected by many enthusiasts today.
The beach cruiser remained the most popular bike for many years until lighter, more agile bikes from Europe were introduced into the U.S. market. The cruisers became a nostalgic piece of the past. However, in recent years, renewed interest has led to a resurgence of the beach cruiser bicycle. People are falling in love with these bicycles all over again, thanks to their comfort, affordability, and stylishly hip design.
Differences Between a Cruiser and Other Bikes
There are many types of bicycles best intended for different types of cycling, such as mountain biking or long-distance riding. The most common bicycles on the market today include the standard road bike and the mountain bike. Road bikes, which are also called street bikes, are designed specifically for speed. Mountain bikes are built for stability on rough terrain.
Road bikes tend to place the rider in a forward-leaning position, allowing the cyclist to improve aerodynamics and deliver more power and propulsion to the pedals. These bikes are also lightweight and feature thinner tires, for ultimate control and speed on the road. Mountain bikes, on the other hand, are designed for use on many different terrains, which requires wider tires, a durable frame, and a suspension system. These bikes are designed for maximum movement and freedom off the road.
The cruiser is closest in design to the mountain bike, but features many different features making it an entirely different style. In fact, the beach cruiser was the early inspiration for the first mountain bikes. Both bikes have wider tires than a standard bike, along with a heavy, durable frame.
Mountain bike tires are often 1.5 to 2 inches thick, while road bike tires are typically just under 1 inch wide. The average cruiser tire is about 2 to 2.5 inches wide. These balloon tires also use less air pressure, which helps absorb bumps in the road making for a smooth, gliding and comfortable ride.
The next difference between these styles of bikes is the seat. While road bikes force you to lean forward and aren’t intended for comfortable seating, cruisers allow you to sit upright and are typically padded for long-lasting comfort. The upright position tends to be easier on your back, and allows you the ability to move around freely if you’re feeling stiff. When combined with better shock absorption, the cruiser becomes the perfect option for those with back problems, arthritis, or those just learning to ride.
Beach cruisers also have a different frame than most other bikes. Similar to a mountain bike, the frame is durable and quite stable. However, cruisers are typically heavier in design than a mountain bike.
The durable frame of a cruiser is built to withstand wear and tear and damage from minor impacts. It can also handle a lot of weight from the user, which is great for someone who wants to bring heavy gear with. You can load up your school bags, groceries, or even a surfboard on a rack without worrying about weighing down the bicycle.
What Are Beach Cruiser Bikes Used for?
The cruiser style bike was designed to be a versatile form of transportation for a variety of activities. These bicycles offer several distinct features that help make it the most comfortable option for leisurely bike rides. They have heavy and sturdy frames, wide tires, and an upright seating position. All of these features and more make them ideal for many terrains.
Here is a list of popular places riders use cruiser style bikes:
- Through Neighborhoods
- On the Boardwalk
- Along the Beach
- Through Campus
- On Solid Off Road Terrains or Trails
The wide tires with less air pressure provide more shock absorption, which is great when pedaling over a pothole or riding over a curb. Additionally, it’s great for riding over sticks, rocks, and other debris on trails.
How to Ride a Beach Cruiser Bike
Understanding how your bike works allows you the freedom to enjoy riding it worry-free. Much like driving a motor vehicle, you can ride cruisers without understanding the operation basics, but it won’t do you any favors. The ability to distinguish the function and flow of essential parts like gears, brakes and pedals is crucial to save you time and money, and to keep you safe while cruising.
Here are the basic parts of a beach cruiser bike:
- Seat and Adjustment
The frame of a cruiser should be lightweight, making it easier to ride and handle. It also needs to be strong enough to carry the weight of the rider, their gear, and wear and tear from riding. To ensure its longevity for much cruising to come, be careful not to put strain on the bike’s frame, and tend to wear and tear as soon as you notice it. Cracked frames should be repaired or replaced as necessary.
Gears are an important feature for a multi-speed cruiser style bike, and determine how it will allow you to drive it. With a single speed, this part isn’t necessary, but multi-speed bikes tend to feature the option to switch gears via a convenient and easy to use paddle shifter on the handlebars. Understanding how to use gears is important for conserving your energy and making for a comfortable ride.
Depending on the style of bike you choose, some options come without pedals to give you the option of choosing the ideal pair for your bike. While a large variety of products that exist on the market today, there are three main types of pedals:
- Regular Pedals
- Clipless Pedals
- Toe Cage Pedals
Regular pedals are a traditional design recognized immediately by any user. These pedals are flat, square or rectangle, and provide a large surface area for your foot to push against for propulsion. They can be a drawback for anyone looking for ultimate speed, because it can be easy to lose your footing.
Many cyclists transition to using clipless riding pedals after some time using regular pedals. This style allows riders to click their riding shoes into pedals, and tend to offer a more powerful drive and experience. It also requires a learning curve, so prepare to practice before long-term use.
Toe cage pedals are similar to a regular set of pedals, except they feature a cover atop the pedal to essentially cage the toes and hold the foot in place. This style of pedal for cycling is ideal for a secure grip from feet to the bike, but the drawback is that it can take some time getting used to inserting your feet while on the go.
All of these design features and essential parts offer riders an easy-to-ride experience, and one that you’re sure to enjoy for years to come.
Is a Beach Cruiser Right for You?
While you may not be able to ride as fast in a cruiser as you would with a mountain or road bike, you get more stability and comfort compared to riding a standard street bike. If you don’t ride a bike for speed or agility, or need to carry groceries, books, or other items, a beach cruiser may be the perfect option for you!
Consider your needs on, or off, of the road to decide if this style of bike will suit your needs. While a beach cruiser is a great option for a variety of activities, only you will know if this is the right ride for you.
Beach cruisers comfort, style and affordability have led to renewed popularity around the world. Not only do these bikes offer a comfortable and stable ride for a variety of terrains and environments, but they also encourage the ultimate peace-of-mind attitude and lifestyle that we could certainly all use more of.
Use this guide to decide if this design of bicycle is right for you, and invest in a quality beach cruiser to hit the road as soon as possible!
If you’d like to learn more through the beach guides in our blog, check out essentials for beach vacation, top water sports to try this summer, and essential beach and ocean safety. If it’s ocean or beach related, we’ve got you covered- find more in our related articles below!
Megan Jones is the lead author of Seaside Planet. She is an avid surfer, scuba diver, and travel enthusiast who takes any opportunity she can to spend time in the ocean. You can learn more about Meg and the rest of the editorial team here.