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People take up bike riding for a variety of reasons. Some do it as one of their primary forms of transportation. Others bike on their days off, covering adventurous terrains. Are all bikes created equally, though? Can you take the same bike on the beach as you do every day to work?
The simple answer to this question is no. Bikes come in many different designs for a reason. Picking the one that is right for you is critical to your success as a rider. If you pick the wrong design, you might find it too difficult to ride, leaving the bike to gather dust in your shed or garage.
Two of the more popular bike styles are the beach cruiser and the commuter. What is the difference between these two designs, and how should you use each?
What is a Beach Cruiser?
Beach cruiser bikes are often single-speed bicycles with balloon tires, comfortable seats, upright sitting positions, coaster brakes, broad handlebars, and simple steel frames with expressive style. In other words, everything you might want if you were going to ride your bike on a sandy beach.
They are well-known beach bikes and are among the most popular non-racing recreational bicycles. They are also a practical choice for the first-time casual rider.
The single-speed design and frame make them easy to ride and stable. The wide seat and balloon tires make them a comfortable choice, as well.
But what about the sand? Can you really ride this style of the bike on a sandy beach? Despite the name, this bike will not function well on soft, loose sand. For a bike to move, it must be able to get traction from the surface. If you’ve ever walked on soft sand, you know that’s not possible.
A beach cruiser will ride well on harder sand surfaces, though. A good example is near the waterline. Wet sand is more compact. That hard surface gives the tires something to grab onto as they roll forward.
What Terrains Work Best for Beach Cruiser Bikes?
Despite the name, the best terrain for a beach cruiser bike is the city streets. However, they are also quite versatile, which is one reason people like them. You can ride this bike on hard pavement, a gravel road, and light, unpaved bike trails, although it might not be the best choice for day-to-day riding or rough terrains. You would not take a beach cruiser to the mountains, for instance.
Are All Beach Cruisers Single-Speed?
No, there are multi-speed beach cruiser bikes, too. The concept of the beach cruiser is less about the individual features like multiple gears and more about the style. They have:
The majority of multi-speed cruiser bikes have three speeds. They change speeds via a rear cassette and derailleur, which is controlled by a shifter positioned on the handlebars.
Different Styles of Beach Cruisers
There are different types of beach cruiser designs available.
Classic cruisers are the original cruiser bikes, with all of the essential characteristics that have been around for decades, and not much more. This translates to a relatively substantial frame weighing roughly 50 pounds and featuring a unisex design on the top tube.
It also has a single-speed chain with a chain guard cover on top. The saddle is low and broad, with maybe some springs for further stress absorption.
The cruiser's handlebars are tall and wrap around on either side towards the rider, allowing them to steer without you having to lean forwards, which aids in maintaining a comfortable, upright riding stance.
Stretch cruiser bikes are an enlarged version of the classic model. The frame is frequently twice as long and sits a bit lower to the ground. Because of the frame length, the rider may sit further back and be in a more comfortable posture.
Although the steering is not as accurate, stretch cruiser bikes are ideal for long, relaxed rides on level roads and sidewalks with minimal obstructions. They also have a cool look that appeals to bike novelists.
What is a Commuter Bike?
As the name suggests, a commuter bike isn’t designed for the occasional ride on rough terrain. This bike is something you could use every day to get you to work or school.
The features of a commuter bike are designed to keep you comfortable no matter how far you ride. Straight handlebars improve grip and wrist support, making your posture less aggressive and your ride more pleasant. This is ideal if you'll be riding your bike regularly and can't afford to get fatigued quickly.
The suspension system allows the wheels to move independently of the bike frame. When combined with the sturdy, robust tires that enhance stability, you'll scarcely notice any road bumps. With so much comfort and stamina, going to work every day will be a breeze.
Because commuter bikes encourage utility, many of them have features such as generator-powered lights, front baskets, and fenders that make riding more convenient. The practical design also makes effective use of an upright seating position for improved sight and control.
Are Commuter Bikes Only for Commuting?
The design makes commuting on a bike easier, but that doesn’t mean it has limited use. You can ride a commuter bike on any solid terrain or light, unpaved surfaces. You can ride the bike for fun or transportation.
The point of a commuter bike is to provide an easy and comfortable ride. That is true whether you ride yours to work, to the store, or for fun.
What Are the Main Features of a Commuter Bike?
They will vary based on the brand and model, but some standard features include:
The goal of the commuter bike design is two-fold: comfort and durability.
Different Styles of Commuter Bikes
There are also a variety of styles of commuter bikes available on the market.
Urban bikes are relatively new and designed to fulfill the demands of city riders. They work well for street and city riding and can withstand the occasional piece of gravel, cobblestone, or dirt path.
The design and somewhat upright riding position of flat bar road cycles are embraced by the urban bike, which also has the convenience of specific baggage and fender mounting. Wide street tires or lightly tread tires on urban bikes provide lots of grip in a variety of riding scenarios.
Flat-Bar Road Bikes
Also under this category is the high-tech, high-performance features associated with a road bike but with a more comfortable upright riding position. Flat handlebars, along with a more relaxed frame shape, raise the rider to a higher position for improved vision when riding near traffic and provide a more pleasant ride.
A lightweight frame and components, 700c wheels with road bike tires, and an external drivetrain with up to 33 gears combine to create a fast bike capable of tackling any climb.
Hybrid bikes combine design aspects from road bikes, mountain bikes, and touring cycles to create an all-purpose bike with a preference for leisurely riding. Hybrid bikes are great for city riding, can manage a little mud and gravel, and have a highly upright riding position with a cushioned seat for a comfortable ride.
Beach Cruiser vs. Commuter Bike
When you choose a bike, there are several factors you need to consider. You can go through them one by one to see which style of bike is your best option.
If comfort is your main concern, the cruiser bike is built for it. Their trademark curved handlebars create a sensation of easy riding, letting you keep a straight posture without pushing your arms forward.
They are different from the commuter handlebars, which still deliver a pleasant ride while allowing users to lean more forward on long off-road trips. Both have the same advantageous comfy cushioned seat, which is great for casual riding. While it's worth noting, the cruiser does have a better, broader saddle.
Because the commuter bike still allows for off-road riding, the tires are slightly different from the cruisers' design. The tires have the thickness to withstand off-road trails, but they are not designed for more serious mountain biking. They do, however, provide smooth sailing on normal paved streets.
On the other hand, cruisers feature larger, thicker tires that are meant to roll over curves and bumps without upsetting the rider or causing punctures. They cannot, however, navigate off-road or dirt paths.
Cruiser bikes are often single-speed or have up to three speeds. Anyone who needs higher speeds would probably want to consider a commuter bike as opposed to a cruiser.
Gearless bikes like cruisers provide a significantly more comfortable ride for two reasons. It allows the rider to concentrate on enjoying the trip rather than constantly shifting gears, for starters. Second, single-speed bikes require extremely little maintenance because they have fewer moving parts.
Cruisers are typically not fast bikes. They can have heavier frames which slow the speed down. They are primarily recognized for their leisurely attributes.
These bikes have coaster brakes too, which require the rider to gradually cycle backward to bring the bike to a stop. It's either that or placing your feet on the ground and manually halting it, which is dangerous at certain speeds.
Although commuter bikes are not necessarily known for their speed, they will be faster than cruisers.
Frame Weight and Style
Cruisers have a much larger frame than other types of bikes, making them famously challenging to ride uphill. Often made of steel, this allows for an extremely durable design.
The commuter bike, on the other hand, provides a lightweight alternative to the comfortable ride of the Cruiser, as well as ease with off-road dirt tracks and a more comfortable commute with the variation of up and downhill travel.
How You Want to Use the Bike
For many, making a choice boils down to how they intend to use the bike. Cruiser bikes are for leisurely rides. They are great to ride in the park or even on campus. They are not meant for rough terrain and hilly areas. If you want a pick that is easy to maintain and to ride for fun, then a cruiser is a practical choice.
The commuter bike offers more versatility. You can ride it on the streets or lightly graveled paths. It also is built for faster and longer commutes. If you plan to use your bike for transportation instead of casual riding, then one of the commuter bikes is the better choice.
Probably just as important as bike style is the brand you buy. Whether you have your eye on a beach cruiser or a commuter bike, stick with a bike manufacturer and retailer that provides personalized attention and sizing, plus good customer support.
At SixThreeZero, we work with you to help you find the right bike and then fit it to you. Find out more on our website today.
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