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Cruisers are a type of bicycle that’s built more for enjoyment than for performance. Cruisers are characterized by a step-through frame, balloon tires, and handlebars that are shaped a bit like elk antlers. As a direct consequence of this, they haven’t exactly had a history of being linked with power, racing, or cutting-edge design. However, in the last few years, this niche of bicycles has begun to expand a little bit. The assumption that cruiser bikes are exclusively appropriate for use on beach boardwalks is being put to the test by forward-thinking companies that are doing away with wicker baskets and other trappings of the 1950s and replacing them with contemporary comforts. (If you’re unconvinced that a cruiser, for example, could transport someone around the island of Manhattan, consider the fact that 20,000 of them are presently doing exactly that as part of New York City’s Citi Bike program.) Find out which cruiser bicycles are considered the best on the market by perusing the list that follows.
What To Look for in a Step-Through/Cruiser Bike
Beach-cruiser bicycle frames are often composed of either aluminum or steel, with aluminum being the more popular choice because of its lower weight and greater durability, despite a higher cost. The primary difference between the two is weight, since aluminum is far lighter than steel and doesn’t rust nearly as rapidly. The best cruiser bikes, regardless of the materials from which they are constructed, have a step-through, stretched-out geometry that enables the rider to adopt an upright stance or even lean back while they pedal. This is a lot more comfortable for your legs, and it also lets you touch the ground more easily, making things a lot more pleasant for your knees. Riders who have been away from a bike for a considerable amount of time will likely feel more at ease on cruisers.
A cruiser bike with a bad design will have a frame that’s too small, and it will probably be made of cheap materials that corrode and rattle. Because of this, our experts recommended steering clear of mass-produced cruisers from companies like Huffy. According to these experts, these bikes generally have a diminutive frame, which will result in a ride that’s less relaxing. They’re also considered to be relatively disposable due to the fact that they’re only intended to last for 40 kilometers or so over the course of their entire lives. These are the bikes that people end up pouring the most money into. Later on, they find out they could have purchased a much more worthwhile bike that was fresh out of the box for the same money they spent.
Beach cruisers are, by nature, single-speed bikes; thus, they don’t have any gears. The trade-off for this is virtually never having to maintain the bike or think much while you’re riding it, so even if riding it might involve a little extra huffing and puffing, it may well be worth it. Despite this, the majority of cruiser manufacturers now provide the option to upgrade to either a three-speed or even a seven-speed gear system for their bikes. If you don’t live in a completely flat location, some experts believe that purchasing a couple more gears might be a wise investment. Most people aren’t keen on opting for a single-speed bike unless they’re extremely young. Efficient use of three to seven gears will take you greater distances; there will be less resistance, and you’ll simply be able to cover more ground. Think of more gears as a great extra perk to have. In the end, your decision regarding “speeds” will probably be determined by your budget and your lifestyle.
Coaster brakes are another characteristic of beach cruisers. These brakes force the rider to pedal backwards in order to stop. More likely than not, a generational factor is at play in determining whether or not you prefer this braking style. It all comes down to how you learned to ride a bicycle and whether you grew up with coaster brakes versus hand brakes; most people who learned with one style over the other prefer to stick with it. Still, many experts believe that it’s far more prudent to equip cruisers with two hand brakes; nevertheless, many of the cruiser bikes that are listed in this article are equipped with a coaster brake as standard equipment, with hand brakes being an optional upgrade.
If you’re looking for anything more sophisticated than the above equipment in a bike, you probably won’t find what you need in a cruiser. Also, bear in mind that the greater number of moving parts a bike has, the more knowledge and attention are necessary to care for it, which is not something that necessarily fits into the lifestyle of a cruiser-riding “beach bum.” “Some hybrid bikes have hydraulic (hand) brakes, but often not cruisers,” is how one expert describes the difference between hybrid bikes and cruisers. Cruisers are more or less designed for those riders who don’t wish to maintain their bikes.
The Eight Best “Step-Through”/Cruiser Bikes
Electra Townie Original 7D | Price: starting from $630
Seven speeds | Aluminum frame | Hand brakes
When Electra, a company based in California, began producing fat-tire bikes in the late 1990s, they were designed to look like classic Schwinns. This was the beginning of the beach cruiser craze. Electra introduced beautiful bikes that were wonderfully engineered and painted distinctively. These days, the Townie is so popular in the ritzy Hamptons area of New York’s Long Island due to its “foot-forward” design (similar to the sixthreezero Simple Step-Thru, above) that it can often be immediately recognized in that region. For many riders, the seat is often adjusted such that there’s only a tiny bend in the legs, and the rider’s feet don’t come close to touching the ground. Because the seat of the Townie is positioned behind the pedals, when you stop pedaling and rest, your feet should be completely level on the ground. The Townie is more of a modern take on the classic cruiser, and it’s equipped with pull brakes on both handlebars, in addition to Shimano seven-speed shift gears. These unique Southern California-style bikes are a great selection for anybody serious about embracing the (very unserious) beach-cruiser lifestyle. Townies are both cute to look at and comfortable to ride, and they’re a perfect representation of the West Coast perspective.
Linus Dutchi 1 | Price: starting from $499
Single speed | Steel frame | Coaster brake
The European-style Dutchi cruisers produced by the Californian manufacturer Linus have a bit more of a pared-down aesthetic. In spite of the fact that these models still have a step-through, sloping frame, the tubes on these bicycles are smaller and more streamlined than the tubes on other cruisers. Additionally, the color palettes are a little bit more Pantone-esque; indeed, when some people see these bikes, they immediately want to ride them. In fact, there are dedicated Linus bike rental services for visitors who want to explore the Napa Valley wine region on two wheels. Some social media-conscious people instantly start shooting photographs before they go down a slope on a Dutchi. And speaking of hills, we shouldn’t forget to mention that these cruisers can easily be modified to three speeds for more pedaling efficiency.
Beaumont Rev Electric City Bike by Retrospec | Price: starting from $1,300
Seven speeds | Steel frame | Hand brakes
A pedal-assist cruiser bike might be helpful if you have knee issues or if you want to ride your bike on terrain other than a beach boardwalk. While on a trip to the beach, one motel owner from New York fell in love with Retrospec’s Beaumont electric cruiser. As a result, she decided to buy a fleet of them, so guests of her motel could use them to explore nearby state parks and swimming holes. The battery on the bicycle isn’t obvious at first glance, and the overall design was “contemporary vintage” enough to be compatible with the style of the owner’s motel rooms, which have all been painstakingly renovated. Additionally, the bike’s pedal-assist feature is useful while traveling on rural roads and rail trails. When it came to electric bicycles, the motel owner was a novice, but she quickly discovered that Beaumonts are ideal for novice riders. She discovered there’s not much to riding them, as it just takes a couple of hours for the batteries to charge. The Beaumont is also equipped with baggage racks, which make it simple to transport a suitcase or a picnic basket while riding around town.
Chatham Beach Cruiser Bike by Retrospec | Price: starting from $330
Single speed | Steel frame | Coaster brake
A number of our bike experts also suggested Retrospec’s non-electric cruiser bicycles, which can often be had for reasonable prices. At some outlets, not only are they a top seller, but they’re also the most sought-after rental bikes in a shop’s fleet. Industry experts note that consumers are instantly attracted to the brand’s classic look and like personalizing their rides with banana seats, baskets, and other accessories. In addition, some buyers fall in love with the colors of the bike, while other buyers appreciate the fact that the brand is Italian-made.
Tuesday August 1 | Price: starting from $500
Single-speed | Steel frame | Coaster brake
Tuesday’s bikes are the cruisers of choice at California’s annual Bike Palm Springs event, where they feature in photographs against the backdrop of vintage motels and pools that Frank Sinatra once swam in. If you really lean toward — or rather, lean back to — a vintage aesthetic, Tuesday’s bikes are cruisers you should consider; a lot of influencers have chosen them because of the look of these bikes. Tuesday cruisers are ideal for visitors to a new city who want to investigate the architecture and see the sites. However, when it comes to purchasing a bike, aesthetics aren’t everything, and impressively, Tuesdays can survive a considerable amount of wear and tear, in addition to the intense heat of the California desert.
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