Best Beach Cruiser of 2018 & Buying Guide
Who doesn’t love the beach? The cool breeze off the ocean, that relaxing sound of waves against the shore—and the ubiquitous bike rental booths you’ll see on every corner of the boardwalk.
There’s a reason cruiser bicycles are also called “beach cruisers,” and it’s because they’re so popular for tourists to rent while on vacation. Designed for slow and leisurely riding, these bikes are the perfect way to get around when you’re eager to explore, but still want to relax in style and comfort.
Okay, so they’re great for renting; what about owning? Can these boardwalk beauties hold up to everyday use, or are they best left at the beach? Our buyer’s guide will answer some common questions about cruiser bicycles, and showcase some of our top picks in this category for anyone looking to take the beach with them, all year long.
How is a beach cruiser different from a commuter or city bike?
While commuter and city bikes are often designed with comfort in mind, just like a cruiser, they have some key structural differences. Commuter bikes have narrow tires, to make navigation easier; you’ll be ducking through alleys and people, and maybe weaving through traffic now and then. City bikes have slightly thicker tires, and are made for errands and short trips. What’s more, these are usually made from aluminum, for a lighter weight that doesn’t sacrifice durability.
Beach cruisers, however, are meant for neither speed, nor short trips. They have balloon tires for stability, and require a very upright seating position. With just one speed and a heavy steel frame, these bikes are pretty slow. They were at the height of their popularity between 1930 and the mid-1950s, but are enjoying a renewal today: not only do vacationers still love these comfortable models, but college students do, as well, and anyone else who needs to get around a paved area, doesn’t want to walk, and doesn’t need to get there fast.
Can I get a beach cruiser for daily commutes? What if I don’t live anywhere near the beach?
The term “beach cruiser” comes from the fact these are so popular with tourists in seaside vacation destinations; if you don’t live near a beach, that’s fine—cruisers are used all over the map. In fact, this style is one of the most popular out there, and will probably fetch you quite a few compliments.
As for commuter use, beach cruisers are good for daily travel if you allow yourself plenty of time, don’t have to go too far, and don’t live in a dense area.
We wouldn’t recommend them if you need an actual commuter’s bike: something lightweight, fast, and easy to navigate through the hustle and bustle of a city.
Also, keep in mind that cruisers are meant for flat, dry pavement. If you don’t have alternative travel options for rainy or icy conditions, skip the cruiser-as-commuter option.
Are beach cruisers suitable for use on sand? What about dirt, or gravel?
Sand is considered “off-roading,” and the balloon-style tires that are standard on cruisers can’t handle such a loose surface. That said, no bike handles sand extremely well, even ones meant for dirt and mud!
Some cruisers have thicker tires to use on dirt and gravel paths, and a few hybrid models are designed to look like cruisers, but go on non-paved surfaces.
What’s the difference between men’s cruisers and women’s cruisers? Does it really matter?
The main difference with any bike designed for a woman or man is the top bar. Women’s tend to be slanted or curved downward, for easier mounting, while men’s top bars are usually parallel to the ground. Performance bikes also have different seats and handlebar lengths for men and women, so they can handle the bike more easily.
Cruisers, however, are a unique breed: other than size or color, there’s very little to distinguish men and women’s models. Some have deeply curved top bars or “step through” designs, which are dead giveaways you’re on a “girl’s bike,” but many feature an upward curve or slight slant that make the bike suitable for anyone.
Size is the only “true” difference between the two: most men need bigger bikes than most women. Even this is highly objective, though, depending on your height and personal preference.
So, does it matter? Do you have to buy a bike for men or women? No—as long as you like the bike’s design and are comfortable riding it, that’s all that matters.
Can I use a cruiser in a hilly area?
You can—but you might not want to. Cruisers are single-speed bikes, so they’re best on level surfaces and small hills, at best.
A growing trend in the cruiser industry, though, are 3- or 7-speed models, which would allow for a little more versatility in terms of terrain.
What should I look for in a cruiser bicycle?
The most important thing to consider with any bike purchase is fit. If a bike isn’t the right size for you, it won’t be comfortable—and it won’t perform well, no matter what type of bike it is, how skilled you are, or where you’re riding.
Aside from that, you should consider performance. Will you need multiple speeds, or can a single-speed (the standard for cruisers) do the trick? Should you get baskets and water bottle holds? Rear racks for groceries? A cruiser that can accommodate a child’s seat?
Quality is also imperative. Most cruisers will be made of steel, so look for models from reputable brands with positive and thorough customer reviews. Because steel is often prone to rust, it’s important to see how the manufacturer has worked to prevent this. Is the paint optimized to keep out moisture? Are any parts overly exposed? Storing a bike indoors, away from the elements, is the best rust-prevention option no matter what, so make sure your bike of choice can fit in your garage, shed, or house.
Lastly, consider appearance. While paint colors and design details seem superficial, it’s important to ride a bike you actually enjoy. With so many colors and styles, it’s easy to find a bike that suits your personality.
Best Beach Cruiser Reviews
1. Nel Lusso Women’s Cruiser from Huffy Review
Huffy is a popular bike brand, so it stands to reason that their cruisers are built with the same high standards of quality and attention to detail as their other models.
Another advantage: big names tend to mass-produce models, which lowers the price. With unique features like cream-colored tires, a basket and cupholder, and embroidered saddle seat, the Nel Lusso is sure to be as pleasing to the rider as it is to admiring passersby.
Featuring a classic design with some modern upgrades (the cupholder’s big enough for a smartphone!), the Nel Lusso is an excellent cruiser option—especially for those on a budget. We really love the cream-colored tires, rather than pure white, which will hide dirt longer and are a pleasant design surprise.
2. Urban Men’s Beach Cruiser by Firmstrong Review
While the upward curve of the top bar classifies this as a man’s bike, the Urban Men’s Beach Cruiser could work for anyone taller than 5’5”. It has a simple, no-fuss design and comes in multiple colors. The seat sits on a dual-spring post, which guarantees maximum comfort during longer rides.
This is a great men’s bike and viable unisex option for taller riders, and ideal for anyone tired of hand-brakes. Consider the Urban model if you’re in the market for a simply designed, comfortable cruiser.
3. Perla 7-Speed Cruiser from Schwinn, Women’s Review
Schwinn, one of the biggest bike manufacturers out there, appears to have outdone themselves with the Perla 7-Speed. Multiple gears and an easy twist-shifter in the handlebar make this capable of faster speeds and easier hill climbs than its single-speed competitors.
Fans of the vintage cruiser style and riders in need of multiple speed options will love this 7-speed, twist-shift upgrade on a classic. It’s priced incredibly fairly for a cruiser, especially one that can pack a little extra punch when tackling those hills.
4. Rover Cruiser from Micargi, Unisex Review
Simple but cute, the Rover by Micargi is an affordable, no-nonsense design that men or women can enjoy. While it’s only available in one color, the manufacturer picked a gender-neutral mint guaranteed to turn heads.
With coaster brakes and just one speed, this bike is best on very level surfaces. The biggest downside is that it’s only available in one color (as attractive and on-trend as that shade is). Its bright white bike seat is a nice pop, but will get noticeably dirty with time and require cleaning. Overall, it’s a great cruiser for riders with simple, classic tastes who don’t plan on climbing any hills.
A beach cruiser can be an excellent investment for vacation homes, college campuses, or even daily commutes, depending on your preferences and needs. They might not be capable of high speeds or impressive tricks, but then again, that’s not why they were invented—nor why they’ve remained so popular over the years. Beach cruisers are meant for leisurely, comfortable rides, and we hope our buyer’s guide has been helpful in your search for one.