The first cruiser bike was introduced in 1933 by Frank W. Schwinn and was made to resemble motorcycles of the era. These beach cruiser bikes were designed to be more resilient than their predecessors. This was done using balloon tires and a new, heavier frame. By the following year, the beach bike had a more streamlined appearance that included a battery powered headlight and an imitation gas tank.
In the early 1950’s the cruiser bike saw its biggest surge in popularity. This was credited, in part, to the Baby Boom that followed World War II, but it also had much to do with other companies starting to manufacture beach cruiser models of their own. Each of these manufacturers tried new gimmicks, like chrome plating and fringed saddlebags to make their cruiser bicycle stand out to customers.
A decade later, the popularity of beach bikes saw a decline. Public preference shifted to lighter framed, ten speed bicycles. By the 1970’s, however, people realized that the ten speeds were not suited for hills and other off road terrain. Many cycling enthusiasts started to buy old cruiser bicycles modified them with the addition of hand brakes and gears. This was the birth of the mountain bike.
In the 1980’s, cruiser bikes were considered to be collector’s items and could no longer be bought at garage sales for practically nothing. This slight resurgence in popularity meant there was added value for old beach cruisers. However, it wasn’t until 1995, when manufacturers started to release commemorative versions of those classics, that they started to see a comeback. Baby Boomers could remember the cruiser bike from their childhoods. Nostalgia and the comfort had consumers interested in buying the cruiser bicycle again, and the popularity of the beach cruiser bike continued into the next millennium.
Today, the beach bike blends modern functionality with retro style. There are beach cruisers made to suit many different tastes. They come in a multitude of colors, and there is even a cruiser bicycle that glows in the dark. Some beach cruisers are available with hand brakes or multi-speeds while others stay true to their earlier roots with pedal brakes and a single speed. The one thing that many beach bike enthusiasts agree on, though, is the experience. Riding cruiser bikes is more than just a preference to ride a particular type of bike. Riding a beach cruiser bicycle is a lifestyle.