Cruiser bicycles, also known as beach cruisers, combine balloon-tires, upright seating posture, single-speed mechanicals, straightforward steel construction — with expressive styling. The bikes, noted for their durability and heavy weight, were the most popular bicycle in the United States from the early 1930s through the 1950s — and enjoyed renewed popularity since the late 1990s.
Schwinn developed the Cruiser at a time when U.S. bicycle sales had declined sharply due to the Great Depression; adults purchased few bicycles, which were seen as luxury products intended largely for sport or recreation. In response, Schwinn conceived a sturdier, affordable bicycle designed for the more resilient youth market — originally marketing the Schwinn B-10E Motorbike — which resembled a motorcycle but carried no motor — in 1933. Schwinn adapted features from the Henderson and Excelsior motorcycles his company had built during the 1920s, including a heavy “cantilevered” frame with two top tubes and 2.125-inch wide “balloon” tires from Germany. The resulting bicycle could endure abuse that could damage other bicycles. Within two years, other bicycle manufacturer in the USA introduced competing balloon-tire bikes.
In 1934, Schwinn successfully re-styled the B-10E, renaming it the Aero Cycle. While the Aero Cycle featured no technical improvements over the original B-10E, its streamlined frame, faux gas tank, and battery-powered headlight came to define the cruiser 'look'. Modern cruiser bicycles retain these design elements.
Cruisers were popular throughout the 1930s and 40s and gained greater postwar success. Their combination of substantial weight (some models weighing over 50 pounds), single speed mechanicals, and wide tires made the bicycles primarily suited to flat terrain — and were popular with paperboys and bicycle couriers.
Competing firms including Roadmaster, Columbia, Shelby, Monark, and Huffy used styling features and distinctive models to attract buyers — including a Donald Duck bike with quacking horn, 'cowboy' models named after Gene Autry or Hopalong Cassidy, and details such as fringed saddlebags, capgun holsters, springer fork suspensions, motorcycle-style horn tanks, and extensive chrome plating. The Huffy Radiobike featured a large integral AM radio.
Decline of the cruiserEdit
During the late 1950s and early 1960s, bicycles imported from Great Britain and Continental Europe became popular, especially lighter and more nimble sports roadster models or 'English racer'. These models featured three-speed gearing, taller wheels, narrower tires and lighter weight (35-40 pounds) and greater hill-climbing ability. By the late 1950s, U.S. manufacturers such as Schwinn began producing their own version of the English racer.
The cruiser also ceded market share to muscle (or lowrider) bikes featuring banana seats, oversized shift levers, and ape-hanger bars inspired by West coast motorcycle customizers — which in turn gave birth to the modern BMX bike, while the cruiser went into a steep sales decline.
By 1972, a new wave of lightweight derailleur-equipped bicycles led a wave of new consumer interest in recreational bicycling, resulting in the bike boom. Derailleur-equipped sport bikes or ten speeds inspired by European racing bicycles soon dominated the adult market.
While largely obsolete by the late 1960s, the cruiser remained popular for utility and recreational use at the beach, where they soon earned the title of “beach cruisers.” The term "beach cruiser" started in 1976 at Recycled Cycles in Newport Beach when Larry McNeely coined the phrase and used it as their Trade Mark for the production of the modern Beach Cruiser. Secondhand cruisers found new life on America's coastlines as practical transportation for beach bums and surfers.
As inspiration for the Mountain bikeEdit
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, cruiser frames formed the basis of the newly-developed mountain bike. Cruisers’ comfort, style, and affordability (compared to mountain and racing bikes) have led to renewed popularity in recent years
During the mid Seventies, a group of enthusiasts in Marin county, California began racing bikes down the fireroads of local Mount Tamalpais, in a race they called “Repack” because the ride was so grueling that riders had to repack their coaster brakes with grease after each run. The offroad terrain was rocky and the steep mountainside helped riders attain high speeds as they bounced and slammed over rocks and mud. Such harsh treatment caused regular road bikes to crumble, so the racers searched for a more durable and affordable alternative. They soon discovered that old balloon-tired “clunkers” (as they called them) could be had for $5.00 at a garage sale and would endure tremendous punishment. Soon, riders were snapping up these old cruisers, stripping off the heavy fenders and trim, and souping them up with motorcycle brakes and other gadgets to improve downhill performance. One rider, Gary Fisher, added gears to his old Schwinn Excelsior bike, enabling him to ride up the mountain, as well as down . About the same time, another rider named Joe Breeze began tinkering with his own Schwinn Excelsior, making it more suited to the “Repack” course. Soon, both of them began to build and sell custom mountain bikes to fellow enthusiasts, launching a worldwide cycling phenomenon.  
The late 1970s and early 1980s saw the emergence of interest in collecting old bicycles, and prices for balloon-tired classics climbed. A bicycle collecting community has developed, with newsletters and specialty shops focused on bicycle collectors.   
Cruiser bikes todayEdit
Cruisers’ comfort, style, and affordability (compared to mountain and racing bikes) have led to renewed popularity in recent years In the mid-1990s, a series of reproductions of classic cruiser bikes hit the market. Schwinn started it off in 1995, when it reissued the Black Phantom to celebrate the company’s 100th birthday. Soon, similar offerings appeared from Columbia and Roadmaster. Harley-Davidson even licensed a cruiser bike with their logo and trademark styling.These helped stir up interest in cruisers, which brought them to the attention of aging Baby Boomers, who remembered the originals from their youth and now were reaching an age where a comfortable bike was more exciting than a fast bike, and who also had the money to buy whatever they wanted. The classic “retro” looks, reliable mechanical performance, comfortable ride, and relatively low price of cruisers (compared to mountain bikes or road racers) also appealed to young Gen Xers.  Soon, new manufacturers appeared, specializing in cruisers, such as Electra Bicycle Company, Johnny Loco Bicycles, Phat Cycles, Nirve, Shire Bicycles, Kustom Kruiser, sixthreezero, and Aero-Fast. Nearly every major bike manufacturer now offers at least one cruiser model, if not an entire line. Cruiser sales have continued to rise over the past decade and today many towns have clubs sponsoring regular cruiser rides as a way to promote the low-tech, high fun aspect of cycling   
Three other contemporary bike trends are related to cruisers. For decades, Latino car enthusiasts have been lowering the suspension on older American cars to build “lowriders.” Their younger siblings have begun building their own custom “lowrider bikes.” Lowrider bicycles are usually built on old Schwinn Stingray or other “muscle bike” frames, but the entire lowrider look of “old school” accessories such as springer forks and bullet headlights is in the cruiser tradition. Lowrider bike magazines and catalogs also feature cruisers and are a great source of accessories for cruiser owners. A similar trend is the sudden appearance of “chopper” bicycles over the past couple of years, in response to the surge of interest in custom motorcycles. Several manufacturers, such as Schwinn, Phat Cycles, and Electra, offer “chopper” style bikes in their cruiser range. These bikes usually feature a lower center of gravity, suspension forks, hot rod paint jobs, and large rear tires. Finally, manufacturers have also introduced the “comfort bike” category, to combine the soft ride and upright posture of cruisers with a more conventionally styled bike. Comfort bikes have such features as fenders, suspension seatposts and forks, and large padded saddles with giant springs. All of these features are copied from cruisers, but redesigned to look more like regular road or hybrid bikes.
- ↑ Crown, Judith, and Coleman, Glenn, No Hands: The Rise and Fall of the Schwinn Bicycle Company, An American Institution, New York: Henry Holt (1996), p. 122
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 www.businessweek.com/1997/20/b3527134.htm
- ↑ Crown, Judith, and Coleman, Glenn, No Hands: The Rise and Fall of the Schwinn Bicycle Company, An American Institution, New York: Henry Holt (1996), pp. 32-34, 122
- ↑ Crown, Judith, and Coleman, Glenn, No Hands: The Rise and Fall of the Schwinn Bicycle Company, An American Institution, New York: Henry Holt (1996), pp. 33-34
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 www.metropolismag.com/html/content_0899/au99joy.htm
- ↑ Crown, Judith, and Coleman, Glenn, No Hands: The Rise and Fall of the Schwinn Bicycle Company, An American Institution, New York: Henry Holt (1996), p. 40
- ↑ Pridmore, Jay, and Hurd, Jim, The American Bicycle, Motorbooks International (1995), pp. 127-141
- ↑ Pridmore, Jay, and Hurd, Jim, The American Bicycle, Motorbooks International (1995), pp.120-140
- ↑ Ballantine, Richard, The 21st Century Bicycle Book, New York: Overlook Press (2001), pp. 20-22
- ↑ Weaver, Susan, A Woman's Guide to Cycling, Ten Speed Press, rev. ed. (1998), ISBN 0898159822, 9780898159820, p. 58
- ↑ Crown, Judity, and Coleman, Glenn, No Hands: The Rise and Fall of the Schwinn Bicycle Company, An American Institution, New York: Henry Holt (1996), p. 122
- ↑ Pridmore, Jay, and Hurd, Jim, The American Bicycle, Motorbooks International (1995), pp.142-168
- ↑ www.firstflightbikes.com/1996_Breezer_Ignaz_X.htm
- ↑ www.mtnbikehalloffame.com/history.cfm?page=3
- ↑ www.mtnbikehalloffame.com/history.cfm?page=4
- ↑ “The American Bicycle” by Jay Pridmore and Jim Hurd, 1995, Motorbooks International, pp.170-171
- ↑ www.breezerbikes.com/breezeBreezerH_popup.html
- ↑ www.ulrike.ca/2006_08_01_ulrike-9x6_archive.html
- ↑ www.fisherbikes.com/history/
- ↑ “The American Bicycle” by Jay Pridmore and jim Hurd, 1995, Motorbooks International, pp. 188-189
- ↑ www.thecabe.com
- ↑ www.restoreclassicbicycles.com/index2.html
- ↑ www.memorylane-classics.com/
- ↑ www.imdb.com/title/tt0089791/
- ↑ ”Return of the Cruiser,” Popular Mechanics, March 1996
- ↑ Classic Columbia Vintage Reproduction Bicycles from Nostalgia Merchants
- ↑ Classic Roadmaster Vintage Reproduction Bicycles from Nostalgia Merchants
- ↑ www.thecabe.com/index.asp?F=bars97Harley&D=Features
- ↑ www.svguide.com/s06/s06_cruiser.htm
- ↑ www.record-eagle.com/herald/2005/apr/13bikers.htm
- ↑ www.newwest.net/index.php/city/article/thursday_cruiser_ride_an_antidote_to_boulder_bike_bling/C33/L33/
- ↑ www.lowriderbike.com/
- Crown, Judith, and Coleman, Glenn, No Hands: The Rise and Fall of the Schwinn Bicycle Company, An American Institution, New York: Henry Holt (1996)
- Pridmore, Jay, and Hurd, Jim, The American Bicycle, Motorbooks International (1995)
- National Bicycle History Archive of America - Archive of articles and photos about classic balloon tire bikes
- Bicycle Chronicles - Site dedicated to collectors of old Schwinn cruisers, with huge photo database
- Bicycle Museum of America
- The Cruiser Cometh -Article about the popularity of cruisers in Idaho--a long way from the beach!
- Scene: Beach Cruisers - New York Times Article on Cruisers (Requires Free Registration)
- Bike Rod and Kustom --an online magazine for bike customizers. Most bikes are Cruiser, Chopper, or Lowrider style.
- Classic and Antique Bicycle Exchange
- Cruiser Bike Scene in Vancouver, BC --online community for cruiser bikes on the West Coast
- Electra Bicycle Company
- Single Speed
- Lowrider bicycle
- Cruiser (motorcycle)de:Cruiser (Fahrrad)