A popular classic, the ‘cruiser’ style of bicycle is appealing for many reasons. They’re relatively simple and stylish, and they encourage you to get out and enjoy the scenery while exercising. A cruiser bike doesn’t need to take the abuse of a mountain bike or be as light and aerodynamic as a road bike, which means you can focus on the style and features that suit you best. This doesn’t mean that cruiser bikes are ‘one size fits all.’ You still need to make sure you choose a type and frame size that matches your height, weight, and riding style. But once that’s taken care of, there are tonnes of great ways to build your custom cruiser!
As with every bike purchase (from electric bikes to triathlon bikes), you need to consider the following things:
Bike type: Men’s and women’s cruiser bikes have a different upper tube. The bar dips down on a women’s bike to allow easier mounting, but feel free to choose the model that suits you best. Men who are shorter or have reduced mobility might find a lower bar easier to climb over, while some women may prefer the style of a raised bar. Children’s models also exist in various sizes, suitable for all ages.
Frame size: To be comfortable on a cruiser, you want a relatively upright riding position, and to be able to touch the ground with both feet while seated. Leaning forward on a road bike helps you create a more aerodynamic profile, but it’s tiring when you’re simply out for a cruise. Raised handlebars are generally the most comfortable for cruiser bikes, though you can choose a flat bar if you like. In general, you want the handlebars to be as wide as your shoulders.
Material: Since cruisers aren’t subjected to the same stress as mountain, cyclocross, or competition bikes, most manufacturers stick to standard steel (Chromoly) and aluminum frame materials, instead of more exotic and expensive carbon fibre and titanium. Aluminum is a bit lighter than steel, but transmits more vibration and road feel to the rider, whereas steel resists dents and dings better than aluminum, but is subject to rusting if the paint is damaged.
Gearing: Cruisers typically come with 20 – 27 gears, with front and rear derailleurs to shift between them. If you’re only planning to do riding on flat ground, you can save some money and choose a lower number of gears. If you plan to ride on hilly terrain, or do a bit of trail riding, opt for the added flexibility of more gears.
Brakes: Side-pull or V-pull brakes are the most common types of cruiser bike brakes. It is possible to upgrade to disc brakes, but this is a pricey option if you only do occasional, casual touring. In all cases, make sure you check and adjust your brakes often. Many riders would be surprised just how much brake power they’re losing because of worn pads or poorly-adjusted cables.
You can pick wheel size, tyre tread type, and seat style according to where and how often you ride. There are many options for cruiser bikes for all budgets, and you can have fun picking the colours and styles you like. Add accessories like baskets, racks, water bottles, and cycling computers to enhance your riding experience. Starting with a cruiser bike can be a great entry point into the riding world, and you might find that someday down the road you want to upgrade to a different style of riding!
Whatever you decide, you’ll find it on BikeExchange. Race over to our editorial section for the latest in the cycling industry, from news and reviews to interviews and awesome stories.