What Is A Cruiser Bike? Everything You Need To Know

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reviewed by Ben Gibbons

Just as the name suggests, cruiser bikes are designed for cruising.

While they may not be built for off-roading, stunts, or long stretches of pavement, cruiser bikes are perfect for people who want a comfortable way to get around, whether for fun or getting from point A to point B.

In recent years, cruiser bikes have been making a comeback in popularity. More and more people are realizing the benefits they offer in terms of simplicity, affordability, and comfort. 

I live in a relatively flat coastal town, and a cruiser suits me perfectly to reach friends’ houses and cruise by the seaside. Anyone looking for a fun and easy ride should consider getting one.

Caught yourself wondering, “What is a cruiser bike?” In this article, we’ll be covering:

  • What Is A Cruiser Bike?
  • History Of Cruiser Bikes
  • Features Of A Cruiser Bike
  • 5 Different Types Of Cruiser Bikes

Let’s get stuck in!

A blue cruiser bike sits on the grass with the words, "What is a cruiser bike" in the foreground.

What Is A Cruiser Bike?

So, what is a cruiser bike about? These bikes are all about relaxed and comfortable cycling for pure enjoyment.

What sets a cruiser bike apart from the rest is its distinctive riding position. The frame’s geometry offers a laid-back posture that instantly stands out.

It’s the kind of bike that’s perfect for leisurely rides at a comfortable pace. While other bikes are built for intense rides, cruiser bikes are all about cruising. You don’t need to worry about riding modes or positions.

Typically, cruiser bikes sport a large steel frame with simple styling, wide balloon tires, curved handlebars that encourage an upright seating position, coaster brakes, and a single-speed drivetrain for pedaling. 

They keep things straightforward and easy, and are easy to adapt: cruiser bikes are often highly customizable and upgradable. You can add accessories like fenders, lights, saddle bags, luggage racks, and more to make it your own. Plus, they’re a breeze to maintain.

Everything about these bikes is considered to be laid back and hassle-free. You’ll spot them effortlessly cruising along beachside boardwalks all across the country on any given day.

A rusty cruiser bike sits on the grass, resting up against a white wall.

History Of Cruiser Bikes

Cruiser bikes have a rich history dating back to the era of the Great Depression. They are often credited as the main source of inspiration for mountain bikes.

During the challenging economic conditions following the Great Depression, bicycles became a sought-after, expensive item for many people. 

To address this, Schwinn, a renowned bicycle manufacturer, introduced a more affordable and accessible option called the cruiser bike, specifically targeting the younger population. 

The Schwinn B10E, designed to resemble a motorcycle, was among their notable innovations during this time. 

This was followed by the introduction of the Aero bike, featuring a sleek frame, balloon tires, and battery-powered headlights, which enjoyed immense popularity and paved the way for various other cruiser bike designs.

In the 1970s, cruiser bikes gained widespread popularity as a practical and economical means of transportation in beach towns and resorts. Beach dwellers, surfers, and hippies embraced them as their preferred mode of getting around. 

Consequently, the cruiser bike became synonymous with beach culture. As time went on, people in mountain towns started utilizing cruiser bikes to navigate ski trails, leading to modifications that enhanced their performance in mountainous terrains. 

This evolution ultimately gave rise to mountain bikes, marking the emergence of distinct types within the biking world. Even today, cruiser bikes remain highly sought after due to their comfort, simplicity, affordability, and timeless vintage appeal. 

Their enduring popularity can be attributed to the foundational design elements that originated with the cruiser bike, which continues to captivate enthusiasts.

A person rides a blue cruiser bike along a gravel path.

Features Of Cruiser Bikes

#1: Frame

Cruiser bicycles typically sport a sturdy frame, often constructed from steel, with a relaxed geometry. This design promotes a comfortable and upright riding position.

#2: Handlebars

Cruiser bikes feature wide and swept-back handlebars, allowing for a relaxed grip and easy maneuverability. These handlebars contribute to the laid-back riding experience.

#3: Saddle

Cruiser bikes are equipped with wide and cushioned saddles, ensuring a comfortable ride even during longer journeys. Some models may include springs beneath the saddle for added shock absorption.

#4: Tires

Cruiser bikes are known for their wider tires, often with a balloon style. These tires provide stability and a smooth ride, suitable for various terrains such as roads, sidewalks, or sandy beaches.

#5: Drivetrain Gears

Cruiser bikes typically come with a single-speed drivetrain, offering a straightforward and low-maintenance riding experience. However, there are also multi-speed cruiser bikes available, providing a range of gears for increased versatility.

#6: Fenders 

Many cruiser bikes feature fenders on both the front and rear wheels. These fenders serve to protect riders from splashes and debris, keeping them clean and dry, especially in wet or muddy conditions.

#7: Accessories

Cruiser bikes often come with convenient accessories like chain guards to prevent clothing from coming into contact with the greasy chain, kickstands for easy parking, and occasionally front or rear racks for carrying bits and pieces.

A red cruiser bike with white wheels sits on the grass next to a white metal wall.

5 different Types of Cruiser Bikes

The specific answer to the question, “What Is A Cruiser Bike?” varies, as there are multiple types of cruiser bikes.

Here are five:

#1: Classic

Classic cruiser bikes, as the name suggests, have been around for decades, and stick to the tried-and-true features.

So that means a classic cruiser has that slightly heavier frame, usually weighing around 50 pounds, and employs a unisex design.

The most common tire sizes are 26-inch and 29-inch, and they usually sport wide balloon tires for stability and a smooth ride over small bumps on roads or sidewalks. 

Considered a reliable bike, it’s also generally single-speed and has a chain guard for protection. 

The saddle is positioned low for a comfortable ride, providing ample coverage and even sometimes featuring springs for added shock absorption. 

The cruiser’s tall handlebars wrap around the rider, allowing for easy steering without the need to lean forward. This is what gives the upright riding position you tend to see most cruiser bike riders having.

Fenders are often included to keep riders clean and dry when encountering puddles along the way. On top of these features, headlights, and reflectors may come with the bike or can be easily added later on for safety.

While beach-themed paint and graphics are common on the classic cruiser, it’s not always guaranteed. 

A man wearing a shirt and jeans sits on a black stretch cruiser bike.

#2: Stretch

Stretch cruiser bikes, as the name suggests, are a lengthened version of the classic style. 

The frame of these bikes is often twice as long and typically positioned slightly lower to the ground. 

This extended frame allows riders to sit further back, resulting in an even more comfortable riding position. While they may not offer as precise steering, stretch cruisers are perfect for leisurely rides on flat roads and sidewalks with minimal obstacles. 

Stretch cruisers are also sought-after because of what they look like, and happy owners tend to add aesthetic customizations.

#3: Low Rider

Lowrider cruiser bikes prioritize style over functionality and are all about making a flashy statement. 

As you might expect, they have an extremely low stance, allowing the rider to sit close to the ground and often perched backward. 

Some common features of low riders include smaller-than-26-inch white wall tires, wheels with plenty of spokes, large banana seats, springer front forks, and eye-catching fenders at the front and back. 

These cruiser bikes initially gained popularity on the West Coast as a nod to lowrider cars. 

While lowrider bikes often prioritize style over practicality, they can still be suitable for casual riding in most cases. In fact, there are even clubs that organize meetups specifically for lowrider bike rides, showcasing the love for this unique style.

A black chopper style cruiser bike on a gravel path with bushes behind it.

#4: Chopper

Chopper cruiser bikes draw their inspiration not from other bikes, but from chopper-style motorcycles. These bikes combine features from lowrider bikes with elements reminiscent of chopper motorcycles.

They sport elongated front ends that extend far beyond the handlebars, while the handlebars themselves are positioned higher to mimic the “ape hanger” design commonly seen on chopper motorcycles. 

Chopper cruiser bikes often feature wheels of different sizes and a banana seat that sits elevated above the frame. The drivetrain is typically positioned more forward from the saddle compared to a regular cruiser. 

While choppers prioritize style over function, surprisingly, they can offer a more comfortable riding experience than lowrider cruiser bikes.

However, choppers primarily cater to enthusiasts of this particular niche and are primarily intended for showcasing shorter rides. 

A lime green cruiser bike with yellow flowers in a basket.

#5: Multi-Speed

Multi-speed cruiser bikes can be found across various bike types, but they are most commonly associated with the classic cruiser category. 

These bikes provide riders with additional gear options, enhancing their versatility. The majority of multi-speed cruiser bikes come in 3-speed versions, utilizing a rear cassette and derailleur system that is controlled by a handlebar-mounted shifter. 

Multi-speed cruiser bikes are well-suited for riders who want the ease and comfort of a cruiser but need the flexibility of different gear options. This is, of course, useful when encountering inclines or navigating through areas with varying terrain.

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