What the hell is a bicycle cruiser?

Motorbikes without a motor

Basically a bicycle cruiser is a motorbike without a motor. This was the idea when they were first created in the 1930s in the United States. Aside from the big balloon tyres that make riding soft, even over the worst potholes, bicycle cruisers have a distinctive curved top tube or down tube as you can see in the photo.

They are durable and strong since many still come with frames made of steel; always with an upright and comfortable position for the rider and a laid back geometry in general that blows your mind with a low rider feeling. Their wide wheel base gives the bike more stability and is therefore easy to ride. They are built for comfort, not for speed.

Uptown Bike - Schwinn bikes

From Schwinn cruiser to Schwinn beach cruiser to everybody’s bike cruiser darling

The first bicycle cruisers were built by the Schwinn Bicycle Company in 1933 when bicycles were not yet as popular. They were seen as a luxury product at a time where the world was about to find a way out of the Great Depression and mainly used for recreation by the wealthy. Schwinn wanted to change the market situation and tried to target young people, feeling that his affordable and long lasting products would appeal to them. And he was successful. The cruiser bicycles became really popular towards the 1950s, when customizing in colour and accessories were important to stand out of the crowd.

But in the 1960s the English roadster came to the States. Lightweight, fast and modern it came across and put an end to the popularity of the Schwinn cruiser. But they survived as utility bicycles at the beaches, getting ridden by surfers and for recreational use until the bike cruiser became popular again in the mid 1990s after the Schwinn Company pushed its Schwinn cruiser again.

It was the retro bicycle that reminded people of their childhood.

Other companies like Electra bikes and Felt Bicycles, started off successfully and even Harley Davidson came up with its on bike cruiser. Nowadays Schwinn cruiser bikes, Electra bikes and newer brands like Nerve bikes are still admired for being affordable, durable, stylish and easy to ride.

What’s so cool about bicycle cruisers?

Uptown Bike - rat rod electra bikeIt’s the style of the bicycle cruiser that makes it stand out. The way you sit on the bike makes you look and feel relaxed and comfortable. Most of them come in different colours and in slightly different geometries; you’ll find pink cruiser bikes as well as all chrome and shiny chopper bikes. What they have in common is the low rider and easy to ride feeling.

Bicycle cruiser as model for other bicycle trends

When the Schwinn cruiser was meandering along at the beach it paved the way for other bicycle trends. In the late 1960s the laid back geometry stand model for the so called muscle or low-rider bikes for kids that ended up as BMX bikes in the early 1970s first in California, off road and in races, later on wanted all over the world. Diamondback bikes was one of the companies that started by selling BMX bikes in 1977 but then –afterwards- brought out a bicycle cruiser.
Uptown Bike - Lowrider bikes

Another decade later the bike cruisers stand model for the first mountain bikes in the late 1980s. The reasons for that were the strong and durable frames as well as the very stable geometry that makes riding downhill and uphill on dirt possible.

Chopper bikes, that’s one of the newest trends. After the boom of the custom chopper motorbikes, the custom built trend jumped over to the bicycle crowd manifested in sweet fixed gear bikes and, yes, also in extremely low rider bicycle cruisers, the rat rod bikes.

Anna Miller

Riding and writing. Living in Melbourne. That's all. Find Anna on Twitter, Facebook and Google+

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