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Is a Cruiser Bike a Road Bike?

No matter if you are already a passionate biker who can’t wait for warm and sunny weather or you’re cycling even on cold or rainy days, there is always something new you can learn about this quite old and practical vehicle. So, if you don’t know much about bicycles and were wondering if a cruiser bike is a road bike, here is the answer.

No, a cruiser bike is not a road bike. Actually, they are completely different types of the same vehicle. Cruiser bicycles have a large, comfortable seat and upright riding position designed for casual riding. A road bike, on the other hand, is great for riding on smooth pavement and it can be used for on-road racing, but it’s not very comfortable.

In this article we will go in depth about the differences between the two bikes, the pros and cons of each style and more. Hopefully you will learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about these two bike styles. 

The Differences between a Cruiser Bike and a Road Bike

Frame design

The number one difference between a cruiser bike and a road bike is the frame design. A cruiser bike has a sloping frame and the curvature of the frame which is often seen as  reminiscence of the bicycles from the 50’s. So, in short, cruisers have a very distinguished frame style and its top tubes are usually curved. Unlike cruiser bikes, traditional road bike frames have a flat top tube and a shorter seatpost which causes an extreme forward leaning stance.

Tires

Another basic difference between two types of bicycles are the tires. You will always see cruiser bikes with 2.1 to 2.5 inch tires or thereabouts. They usually have fat, wide tires and that’s because of the cruising – they absorb the shock and you can ride smoothly while staying comfortable. Thanks to fat and wide tires you won’t feel the bumps hardly at all. But,  what kind of tires does a road bike have? You can already guess they are completely different. A road bike has smooth, skinny tires, typically 23-25mm wide with older racing tires going down to 18mm. This type of bike is designed for fast riding and it’s almost always lighter than any other type of bicycle.

Handlebars

On a cruiser bike you will usually see wide, curving arching handlebars that come in towards your body and gives you that cruising position so you can lean back and wave to a friend, holding the bike with only one hand. It’s comfortable and relaxing and that’s what cruisers are all about. Unlike a cruiser bike, a road bike can have straight bar designs or "drop" handlebars. Their purpose is to allow your hands a variety of positions, which helps relieve the pressure which is fairly constant because the cyclist is bent over the bar most of the time.

Brakes

Going into the other elements of a cruiser and a road bike there is another thing that makes them different – the brakes. Not all of them but a lot of times cruisers are single speed and that’s simply because cruisers are meant for cruising and people that generally love cruisers want simplicity. In addition a cruiser usually has a coaster brake meaning you should peddle backwards to stop. A coaster brake is not recommended if you plan to ride up a lot of steep hills or down steep hills or if you are riding at very high speeds, but for cruisers it’s great. That’s why a lot of cruisers are single speed with coaster brakes.

We already know that road bikes are often used for races and high speeds need to be stopped with good brakes. Road bikes usually use dual-pivot brakes and on some models disc brakes are beginning to make an entrance. Dual-pivot brakes are compact, light and powerful, but are only suited to road riding because they have no mud clearance at all. Disc brakes have been a subject of discussion in road bike design over the last few years. Allegedly, disc brakes are quite powerful and that can be an issue in cycling. They are criticized due to the fact that in most deceleration scenarios the overwhelming power of a hydraulic disc system is not necessary.

Speed

Most cruiser bikes are single-speed or three-speed and that is why they’re perfect for someone who wants to cruise 5 miles/hour. On the other hand, a traditional road bike used for recreation usually has 9 or 10 speeds and most cyclists can very quickly achieve 10-12 mph speeds.

Pros of a Cruiser Bike and a Road Bike

A cruiser and a road bike are different in many things and we can say that for their good sides too. So, if you are not sure which type of bicycle would be right for you, we listed the pros of both of them.

Pros of a cruiser bike:

- Cruiser bicycles are relatively inexpensive and they’re fun to ride

- They are easy to ride because they have low seat height, coaster brakes and simple shifting (if more than 1 gear)

- Cruiser style bikes are among the simplest bikes available

- Riding position is upright and it allows a good view of traffic and the fat tires add comfort and smoothness to the ride. 

- Saddles are wide and well cushioned

- There is a good selection of aftermarket racks and baskets to add utility

- Cruisers bikes are less attractive to thieves, since they aren’t worth very much

Pros of a road bike:

- Road bikes are light and fast and they are nimble in traffic

- Road bikes are a good choice if you have a lot of miles to cover

- It’s not too hard to find a used road bike in fantastic shape

- Road bikes are generally multi-geared, but you can also get them as a single speed or even a fixed gear

Cons of a Cruiser and a Road Bike

It’s always helpful to check not only the advantages, but also the disadvantages of a product if you are not very familiar with it. 

Cons of a Cruiser Bike:

- Cruisers are heavier, slower and less efficient than other bikes

- Cruisers typically have 1 or 3 gears, so if you have big hills or strong headwinds, you can get worn out easily and will often have to walk the bike up steep hills. 

- If you have long distances to travel, you will need extra time

- Cruisers accelerate slow, making it difficult to zip through traffic

Cons of a Road Bike:

- You have to be more cautious when navigating road hazards with skinny tires

- Road bikes don’t do well in the dirt

- Tire choices are limited with the narrow clearance frames, making them more of a three season bike

- Many of the racing frames aren’t equipped to mount fenders and racks

-The aggressive leaned over posture of a road bike can limit your view of traffic


Are There Other Types of Bicycles?

Cruiser and road bikes are not the only types of bicycles on the market. In fact, there are many other styles of this popular vehicle: cyclocross bikes, touring bikes, fitness bikes, mountain bikes, hybrid bikes, dual-sport bikes, flat-foot comfort bikes, city bikes, BMX bikes, folding bikes, recumbent bikes, tandem bikes and finally adult tricycles.

So, it’s not an easy choice if you are preparing to buy yourself a bike. But, no matter if you’re already a biker or planning to become one, it’s always good to know a saying from the famous American former professional road racing cyclist Greg LeMond: “It never gets easier; you just go faster.”


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