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Since 1933, beach cruisers have been a part of daily life for so many people. Owning a beach bike may be an accessory for some, but for others it is a way of life. From cruising to commuting, bicycles have enabled us to take control of our journey and experience a new type of transportation. Always improving, the cruiser has evolved over time from simple to sleek.
Schwinn’s World B10E Motorbike was officially born in 1933. In an effort to create a more durable bicycle, Frank W. Schwinn utilized wide “balloon” tires and a “cantilevered” frame that incorporated two top tubes. The start of something great, this original cruiser would see many changes throughout history.
Just one year later, Schwinn unveiled the Aero Cycle. With a stylish look and functional features like a battery-powered headlight and “tank,” today’s Schwinn models still incorporate a similar design. For the next few years, the design of the Schwinn beach bike would continue to evolve including the release of the 1940s Lady Excelsior.
During the Baby Boom, the cruiser not only grew in popularity, but Schwinn was an industry leader responsible for one in every four bikes sold in 1950. During this time, competitors also began to appear including Huffy, Shelby, Columbia and Roadmaster. With the introduction of fun features like chrome plating, saddlebags with fringe, and motorcycle styled horn tanks, beach cruiser brands began offering more variety for bike lovers.
The rise and fall of the cruiser culminated in the 1960s with the introduction of ten speed bicycles and another style known today as BMX. The days of the “beach bum bicycle” were upon us and yard sales were a hot spot for finding a good bargain bike.
In the 1970s, cyclists saw a rebirth of the cruiser bike, in the form of makeshift mountain bikes. With balloon-type cruiser bike wheels, cyclists began tweaking the cruiser style with the addition of handbrakes. One innovator named Gary Fisher, added gears to the Schwinn Excelsior to create a bike that could easily be taken up and down hills.
As the 80s rolled around, cruiser bikes were considered collectors’ items. Old Schwinn cruisers were sought after to be restored to their original condition. With the help of the 1985 Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure film, the interest in cruiser bikes continued to grow.
The comeback decade, the 90s, instilled the spirit of the cruiser bike in many Americans. To celebrate its 100th birthday, Schwinn released the Black Phantom model in 1995. As other brands joined the party, Baby Boomers quickly took to the resurrection of their childhood memories. Providing a comfortable ride, brands launched cruisers like Nirve, Electra, sixthreezero and Kustom Kruiser.
Even today, the beach cruiser continues to evolve as cyclist innovators find new ways to excite and engage riders from all over. With more options for style and customization, the beach cruiser’s popularity will only continue to grow.
A few of our favorite cruiser bicycles:
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