Cruiser bikes are notoriously heavy. They aren’t as versatile as hybrid bikes either. Neither are they as rough and tough as mountain bicycles.
And while you can try, it’s all but impossible to comfortably pedal a cruiser up a steep hill, especially if you have gone for a single-speed model!
But while cruisers can’t with hybrid bikes in versatility, and they aren’t as rugged as mountain bikes, they do excel in one thing.
In this article, I’ll talk about the many benefits of the cruiser bike, and what to look for when buying yours. So let’s get right to it!
Looking for the Best Cruiser Bike? Here’s Our Top Three Picks
What is a Cruiser Bike?
A cruiser bicycle is a bike that usually combines an upright seating posture with balloon tires, a single-speed drivetrain, and an oversized saddle. Its rider’s stance is expressively laid-back, meaning they won’t have to hunch forward to reach the handlebars.
Yet another feature that distinguishes cruisers is customizability. They allow you to add features such as front and rear fenders, bottle cages, luggage racks, bike lights, etc. That is what makes them much easier to upgrade than other types of bikes.
Key Features of a Cruiser Bike
There are multiple features which define a cruiser bike. They include a large frame, an ultra-wide saddle, big balloon fat tires, coaster brakes (that require you to pedal backwards to stop the bicycle) and handlebars that curve back towards the rider.
Let’s discuss all these features of a cruiser bicycle in detail:
A cruiser bicycle’s frame is often much bigger than that of other bicycles. Mainly because these bikes focus on providing their rider with a comfortable experience, something they wouldn’t be able to do if their frame wasn’t big enough to absorb road vibrations.
There are two major types of frames you’d find with cruisers. The first is the regular frame which is similar to that of your average road or mountain bikes, albeit with a bend of some sort to give it a classic look. The second frame is step-thru – which is curved for easier mounting and dismounting.
Pro Tip: Most people think that cruiser bikes come with a steel frame. While that was true for bikes manufactured in the 80s and the 90s, today’s cruisers also have aluminum frames.
Cruiser bikes’ seating is much more comfortable than what you usually get with other types of bikes. This is done by increasing the amount of cushioning on the saddle, and, in turn, increasing the surface area for you to sit on. But it isn’t only these two features that make cruisers comfy to ride.
Instead, the best cruiser bicycles take their rider’s comfort to the next level with a dual-spring system. Both the springs allow the seat to move slightly when encountering vibrations. This way, they act as shock absorbers, saving the rider from feeling the effects of road bumps.
Big Balloon Tires
Cruiser bikes’ tires also play a big role in enhancing their riding comfort. Balloon tires absorb shock from the road and roll over road cracks, potholes and debris more easily. They are also more resistant to punctures than your average road or mountain bike tires.
That isn’t to say that balloon tires don’t have any shortcomings. If you’re riding on pavements or smooth trails, the tire’s wider surface area might make the cruiser challenging to ride because you’d have to pedal extra hard to gain any speed. Keep this factor in mind while buying a cruiser.
Cruiser bike’s handlebars are curved towards the rider to create a more comfortable and upright riding position. The position of the handlebar also allows the rider to grip them while sitting back in their seat, meaning they won’t have to bend forward.
That is precisely the reason why cruiser bikes are the first choice of riders who want to go at a leisurely pace on their bicycle. Also, with the handlebar curved backward and the rider sitting in a laid-back position, their hands and wrists are shielded from bearing their body weight.
Most of today’s cruiser bicycles come with coaster brakes (which can only be activated by pedaling backward). This limitation won’t pose an issue if you prefer riding quite slowly or intend to use your cruiser for a leisurely stroll around your neighborhood.
Some cruiser bikes, however, also come with front and rear handbrakes. These are the ones that defy the tradition of cruisers (most of which are single-speed) by providing multiple speeds. You might want to go for them if you hate wasting time.
Cruiser Bike Vs Mountain Bike
Cruiser bikes and mountain bicycles cannot be more different from each other. Not only do they look different, but they also have different purposes, different mechanics, and different strengths and weaknesses. They are so different that you can have both in your life, at the same time.
Here are the key differences between cruiser and mountain bicycles:
- Preferred Terrain: Cruiser bikes, as stated above, are meant to be ridden on smooth pavements, dry asphalt, and sidewalks. Mountain bikes, on the contrary, are intended to conquer uneven terrains at high speeds.
- Frame Construction: Cruiser bikes have a heavy frame with handlebars that curve back towards the rider for a comfortable riding experience. Mountain bike frames, which must withstand tremendous stress, are incredibly lightweight.
- Drivetrain: Most cruiser bikes you see on the road come with a single-speed drivetrain, able to carry you from point A to point B as long as there are no ascents or descents between both points. Mountain bikes, meanwhile, have 18, 21, or 24 speeds.
- Suspension: The majority of cruiser bicycles come with no suspension at all. Those who do only have dual springs beneath the seat. That’s not the case with mountain bikes. They either have a dual suspension or at least a front fork to take care of road vibrations.
- Extras: Cruiser bicycles mostly come with a large front basket. They also allow you to add a front and rear fender, a rear rack for personal belongings, cages for holding bottles, among other extras. Mountain bikes don’t believe in customizability.
- Price: At the time of writing, the price of a cruiser bicycle usually ranges between $300 and $1,500. Mountain bicycles, since they pack a lighter frame, suspension, and faster-performing gears, can set you back between $500 and $8,000.
Cruiser Bike Vs Hybrid Bike
There aren’t as many differences between cruiser bikes and hybrid bicycles as we saw above between cruisers and mountain bikes. However, that isn’t to say that they are totally similar. Cruisers and hybrids do have their differences, understanding which you can make a better choice between them.
Here’s how cruiser bikes compare vs hybrid bikes:
- Preferred Terrain: Both the hybrid bikes and cruiser bicycles are best for short-distance commuting, running errands around town, and for casual riding around the neighborhood. There’s no difference between them in this respect.
- Frame Construction: The major difference between hybrid bikes and cruiser bicycles, as far as their frames are concerned, is their handlebars. Cruisers come with handlebars that bend backward towards the rider. Hybrids, meanwhile, have straight handlebars.
- Wheels and Tires: Here’s another major difference between hybrid bikes and cruisers. While cruisers, as stated above, come with big balloon tires, hybrids are equipped with tires of medium thickness, usually with more tread options than cruiser tires.
- Brakes: We have already stated that cruisers come with coaster brakes. The sort of which you may have already seen on children bicycles. That’s not the case with hybrids, most of whom employ rim brakes. Some hybrids, however, also have disc brakes.
- Drivetrain: Most cruiser bikes come with a single-gear, which makes them incredibly easy to maintain. Hybrid bikes, on the contrary, begin at around 8 gears. You can get as many as 20 gears on a high-end-slash-pricey hybrid bicycle.
- Price: If you’re going to decide in favor of the bike that costs less, than cruisers are your best bet. Hybrids offer more gears, have better brakes, and are more versatile. It’s not surprising (at least to us) that they cost more vis-à-vis cruisers.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cruiser Bicycles
What size beach cruiser bike do I need?
Use this list to decide the right size cruiser beach bike for yourself:
- If your age is up to 5 and you are shorter than 3’8’’, go for a beach cruiser bike with up to 10’’ frame size and up to 16’’ wheel size.
- If your age is up to 10 and taller than 4’, go for a beach cruiser bike with frame and wheel size of up to 12’’ and 20’’, respectively.
- If your age is more than 10 and your height is between 4’ and 5’, opt for a beach cruiser with up to 15’’ frame size and 24’’ wheel size.
- If your height is between 5’ and 6’, go for a beach cruiser bicycle with up to 18’’ frame size and 26’’ wheel size
- If your height is greater than 6’ and you’re an adult, opt for a beach cruiser bike with an extended frame and 26’’ wheel size.
What is the difference between a cruiser and comfort bike?
Comfort bikes are much more complex and require more maintenance than cruiser bicycles. Comfort bicycles also have a suspension – something which cruisers mostly lack – but they lack the internal hubs that most cruisers feature to reduce maintenance on their chain. Lastly, if you’re riding on rough terrain, hills and at higher speeds, a comfort bike will out-perform cruiser bicycle.
Are cruiser bikes good for long rides?
Cruiser bikes aren’t good for longer rides because of their soft and wide seat and fat-balloon tires. While both these parts will keep your ride comfortable for a short time, on longer rides, you’ll start getting uncomfortable as your legs rub more against the saddle and you have to apply more effort to pedal the fat balloon tires. That’s why cruisers are only best for short-distance commuting.
Can you lose weight on a cruiser bike?
You could lose weight on any bike, stationary or moving, including a cruiser bike. Just half an hour of cycling would help you get rid of hundreds of calories, depending on your level of effort. You could lose weight by bicycling in the morning, after work, or in the evening.
Should I get a cruiser bike with gears?
You might want to get a cruiser bike with gears if you regularly ride on uneven or sloped terrains. Also consider investing in a multi-speed gear if you are going to tackle a wide variety of landscape on it, including hills. However, if you’d mostly ride it on flat, even terrains, going for the traditional, single-speed cruiser would save you quite a few bucks.
Most cruiser bicycles you see on your street are single-speed. Some defy the long-held tradition by opting for 3-speeds. Both of them will have many things in common: an ultra-wide seat, big balloon tires and coaster brakes that require you to pedal backwards to stop.
All these features make cruisers an enjoyable option for running errands around the town and short-distance commuting, as long as the terrain is fairly flat. Which means that if you have to regularly go up- or downhill, you might be better off with a mountain or even a hybrid bicycle.
Alex Mwangi is the creator of Outdoor Right and an outdoor enthusiast. During his free time he enjoys riding his road bike or traveling the world looking for his next adventure.