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Cruiser vs Mountain Bike

Bicycles are best suited to use on the trail that they are made for. This article discusses cruiser and mountain bikes, and the comfort they bring when biking.

Two cruiser bikes park on the rocks near the sea.

Which is better for you? A cruiser bike or mountain bike? That’s the question many cyclists face when they’re looking to buy their first bike. The answer, unfortunately, isn’t so simple. It depends on where you live and how you plan to use the bike. Research shows that the estimated global market for bikes was USD 97.20 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach USD 147.24 billion. 

Making a choice might be difficult for a cyclist who appreciates the quiet and tranquility of a nature trail and the adrenaline rush of a downhill ride. However, it was a no-brainer for me because I like everything a mountain bike offers.

This article highlights both bikes’ main features and benefits to help you make the right decision.

What Is a Cruiser Bike?

A red cruiser bike parked near the sea.

A cruiser bike, also known as a “motocycle” or “beach cruiser,” is a bicycle for casual riding. The cruiser bike typically has a more relaxed frame geometry and a higher handlebar position than mountain bikes. This feature allows the rider to sit in a more upright position.

In addition, cruise bikes are stable and always comfortable for short rides around town since they are perfect for paved roads. On top of this, you can also enjoy your beach moments with this bicycle, as it’s an excellent ride on sandy surfaces.

What Is a Mountain Bike?

A new yellow mountain bike.

A mountain bike (MTB) is a bicycle designed for off-road riding. They have features and specifications that make them more suitable for rugged terrains. The tires are typically broader and knobbier than on other types of bicycles to provide better grip and traction on unpaved surfaces. Because of the rough terrain they ride on, they feature a more complex design than cruiser bikes.

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How Are They Different? 

The main difference between a cruiser and a mountain bike is their comfort levels. Since one is for rougher terrain while the other is for smooth surfaces.

Features of a Cruiser vs. Mountain Bike

Let’s look at the main feature differentiating a cruiser and a mountain bike.

Frame Design

Cruiser Bike frame geometry is not about making it as fast as possible. It’s about optimizing your ride for comfort, efficiency, and fun. Its frame design is based on a simple, curved top tube. The frame is usually made from steel, giving its heavyweight and stability characteristics.

However, you can get a cruiser with an aluminum frame, making the bike lighter and affordable. 

In addition, there are two types of cruiser bikes depending on the frame; female and male cruisers. Also, it may come with accessories like racks and baskets for carrying groceries or taking your dog for a ride.

On the other hand, the mountain bike’s frame is designed to be very sturdy and forgiving, perfect for navigating the bumpy terrain of a mountain trail. Mountain bikes come with a shorter wheelbase and bigger tires, which can help them handle uneven ground with ease. The mountain bike’s frame can either be titanium, aluminum alloy, carbon fiber, or steel, and it’s built for strength and lightness.

Tires

The design of a cruiser bike’s tires provides as much comfort as possible. Therefore, most cruiser bikes come with balloon tires which are wider and with low pressure for a smooth ride. This design helps prevent punctures, absorbs bumps on the road, provides more grip for the rider, and cushions against the shock of uneven surfaces.

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The design of an MTB tire is made to hold up to the wear and tear of off-road biking. It’s wider and has a knobby tread pattern that provides traction while moving on grass, dirt, mud, loose stones, and other rough terrains. In addition, the rubber compounds used in the tires are soft enough to be flexible on the trail while still providing a grip on the road.

Gears

A gear of a new mountain bike.

A cruiser has a single-speed gear that is designed for cruising. Unlike a mountain bike, a cruiser bike is meant to be ridden at slower speeds, on flat surfaces, and for shorter distances, which can be boring when you want a fun-filled riding experience.

Unlike a cruiser bike, a mountain bike is for performance, and the amount of gears it has is crucial for its speed and power. Gears help you shift and maintain a comfortable cadence while pedaling comfortably.

So, mountain bikes have more gears than an average bike. This is because mountain bikes are often used in more challenging terrain requiring different gear-shifting levels to get over obstacles. Most mountain bikes have between 7and 28 gears, but there’s also an option of 40 gears.

Seats

The design of cruiser bikes is for casual riders who want to sit upright and enjoy the ride. They’re broader and more cushioned than mountain bike seats because they don’t need to facilitate as much movement.

The seat is usually wider than the seat on mountain bikes, with foam or gel padding, giving them a more plump, cushioned appearance and feel.

A Mountain bike’s seat allows you to move your body around more, which you need when riding on rugged terrains. For example, you might go up or down hills or lean from side to side—you need a seat that lets you shift your weight and position. Mountain bike seats are narrow, slick, and relatively flat.

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Handlebars

A cruiser bike and a polka dots umbrella.

Often, cruiser bike handlebars are designed to encourage the rider to sit upright and allow for easy steering. There are also many variations for the handlebars used in cruiser bikes, but the most common style has wider handlebars that are curved slightly downwards towards the rider.

Mountain bike’s handlebars design allows you to ride the bike in different positions. So the bars will depend on your riding style. The handlebars can even be lower than the seat for a mountain bike, unlike in a cruiser, which helps you lean forward and maintain control on rough terrain. Depending on your style, you can choose a bike with a riser, flat, or bullhorn handlebars.

Durability

Which one is durable; a “townie” or a “rustic” bike? You can take a mountain bike to the woods or even the streets. This makes it highly versatile, while cruiser bikes are usually only meant for riding on smooth surfaces.

Cruiser bikes can ride over gravel and small bumps, but they will not perform well in the mountains or other off-road locations. Mountain bikes reflect a durable design that can take more abuse than a cruiser bike.

Cost of Cruiser vs. Mountain Bike

Cruiser bikes are typically very affordable—their simple design doesn’t require a lot of parts. Also, cruiser bikes have minimum maintenance compared to mountain bikes. As a result, you can easily find a decent cruiser bike for $100 to $400.

Mountain bikes are more expensive because they have a more complex frame to accommodate shock absorbers and gears. Also, their tires are designed for stability on uneven terrain. The average mountain bike costs around $400-$800, though high-end bikes can cost much more.

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Benefits of Cruiser and Mountain Bike

Each bike can offer different benefits since they serve different needs.

Cruiser Bike Benefits

  • It provides a comfortable and smooth ride.
  • Excellent choice for beginners
  • Great for your back as you ride in a straight sitting posture
  • Safer since you use them on flat surfaces at a low speed
  • Perfect for beach riding

Mountain Bike Benefits

  • Great for enthusiasts riders who enjoy speed and power.
  • Perfect for cross-country racing
  • They’re versatile (Excellent in both rough and smooth terrain).
  • It’s durable
  • More fun riding it since you can use different riding positions

Brief History of Cruiser and Mountain Bike

The history of the two bikes is intertwined, since mountain bikes were invented from the cruiser bike.

Cruiser Bike Brief history

A cruiser with basket on a sandy beach.

Cruiser bikes have been around since the 1930s. The first cruisers were called “motorcycles” and later “beach cruisers.” Schwinn first made them in 1933 (B-10E Motorbike) and Aerocycle in 1934. The popularity of cruiser bikes boomed until about 1975. Then, the advent of cheap, mass-produced ten-speeds led to their decline in popularity—at least for a while! 

In the 1980s, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure film signaled the return of the “beach cruiser.” So, the 1990s saw the return of the beach bike in full force, and in 1995 Schwinn released the Black Phantom model to celebrate 100 years.

As time went on, the materials became lighter and more durable. As a result, today’s cruiser bikes provide a smooth ride and a vintage feel, but they are also an affordable alternative to racing bikes or mountain bikes. The cruiser bike saw the invention of mountain bikes.

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Mountain Bike Brief history

The first mountain bike was created in the late 1970s by two men named Joe Breeze and Gary Fisher, but people mostly credit it to Joe. These bikes were designed for riding on unpaved trails, and they quickly became popular among people who loved the outdoors.

The bikes had a steel frame and were initially called “klunkers.” The first mountain bike race was held in Marin County in 1976. Mountain biking took off in the 1980s when it became an Olympic sport. This led to the mass production of the “Specialized Stumpjumper” mountain bike, created in 1981. By the 1990s, mountain biking had become a mainstream sport, and many new sports competitions led to MTB design enhancements.

Mountain bikes have continued to grow in popularity over the years, and today there are many types of mountain bikes to choose from.

Final Thoughts on Cruiser vs. Mountain Bike

A woman sitting beside her cruiser bike.

Cruiser bike vs. mountain bike; which one is better for you? This is a question of style, budget, and how you want to use the bike. Both bikes have their place, but they’re suited to different situations. Cruiser bikes are best for smooth surfaces, like sidewalks or paved roads.

Mountain bikes are for rough trails.  Because of their endurance and versatility, I prefer mountain bikes to cruiser bikes. These bikes give you an adrenaline rush you cannot experience with a cruiser bike.