HISTORY OF CRUISER BIKES
Sun, fun and a single-speed bike. Nothing evokes the carefree days of youth more than riding an iconic cruiser bicycle. Whether you are rolling along the boardwalk in New Jersey or cruising through a leafy park in Colorado, an easy and laidback cruiser bike will transport you to a simpler time. A time when you didn’t have a care in the world and could just enjoy the simplicity and freedom of the wind in your hair and the sun on your face as you pedaled around.
Cruiser bikes, with their balloon tires, upright riding position, and simple design, have been around since the early 1930s. Schwinn designed the first cruiser as an affordable alternative to the more expensive sport bicycles on the market at that time. These first cruisers were heavy-duty workhorses, incorporating steel frames and sturdy, wide tires. These features allowed the bike to handle more wear-and-tear than their competitors. Americans, still reeling from the Great Depression, soon adopted the cruiser as an affordable and preferred way to get around.
Cruisers quickly earned a reputation as reliable and easy to ride, and by the 1950s, cruiser reached the height of popularity. Other manufacturers quickly jumped on the cruiser bandwagon, each offering more creative and unique designs to woo new buyers. From cowboy-themed cruisers to models that included faux gas tanks and AM radios, there was a cruiser suited to every personality and taste.
With such popularity, it didn’t take long for cruiser bikes to become an integral part of the beach scene. Because cruisers are easy to ride and their fat tires excel on flat terrain and sand, they quickly became popular in vacation destinations as an inexpensive and fun alternative to a car. Locals and tourist of all ages could pedal to the beach, bike baskets filled with snacks and blankets, and spend a day frolicking in the surf and sun. This carefree and low-cost way to get around helped establish cruiser bikes as an iconic part of the beach lifestyle.
In the late 50s and early 60s, cruiser bikes began to wane in popularity, as other bicycle styles began to flood the market. Americans soon preferred lighter bikes with multiple gears and European styling options. Eventually, cruisers were all but obsolete. Except for one loyal group of riders. Beach lovers still preferred cruiser bikes for the simplicity and low cost. In fact, the term “beach cruiser” was actually coined in the early 70s by Larry McNeely, the owner of Recycled Cycles in Newport Beach, California, when he began refurbishing old cruiser bikes into functional beach rides.
Cruiser bikes enjoyed a renaissance with mainstream riders in the mid-90s, as a comfortable, simple and inexpensive alternative to the fancier, sport-specific bikes available. Baby boomers like them for their nostalgia and comfort. Young, urban dwellers adopted the cruiser bike for the retro look and endless styling options.
Cruisers have continued their surge in popularity, and today you can find a cruiser bike in nearly every manufacturer’s line-up. There are even specialty cruiser manufacturers that cater exclusively to the cruiser bike market. And if you can’t find a cruiser that reflects your individuality, you can also visit a custom bike shop and have a custom cruiser bike made to your exact specifications.
Whether you want to recapture the nostalgia of days gone by or simply make a statement as you pedal around town, there is a cruiser bike that is perfect for you.