Cruiser bicycles early history and their new name: Beach Cruisers

Heinz Ketchup Cruiser

Heinz Ketchup Cruiser

The first time I saw a Cruiser bike it reminded me immediately of a Harley-Davidson. I was not entirely away from the truth: at least I got the country of inspiration right! It’s singular to see a direct American influence in The Netherlands when the Netherlands gave so much to America since the Dutch East India Company explored the American East Coast in 1609! Did you know that Theodore Roosevelt, Humphrey Bogart and Bruce Springsteen are from Dutch heritage?! Neither did I. And even more important, Rebecca Romijn is also from Dutch ancestors. Go Netherlands!

But let’s go back to bicycles, to the year 1933. Schwinn introduced the Schwinn B-10E Motorbike. I know it has motorbike in the name, but don’t be fooled, there was no motor at all! Bicycle sales decreased sharply with the Great Depression and these were seen as a luxury commodity. With a sturdier and affordable bicycle, Schwinn wanted to capture the youth market and so the Cruiser was born.

Bataleon Cruiser bike found in the streets of Utrecht, Netherlands

Bataleon Cruiser bike found in the streets of Utrecht, Netherlands

Were they successful? For sure. Cruisers were popular throughout the 1930s and 40s. With a substantial weight, single speed mechanicals, and wide tires the bicycles were suited for flat terrain. Guess with whom they were popular? Paperboys and bicycle couriers. Ladies and gentlemen, I believe we have found the founding father of fixies right here.

From the 1950’s going forward Cruisers had a substantial decrease in sales. European racing bicycles became fashion and lowrider bicycles (the origin of BMX’s) took away the remaining market share. By the late 1960’s, Cruisers were largely obsolete and only traded in second hand deals.

And this time a new tribe picked up this bicycle: surfers and beach bums. Being so cheap and easily maintained, the cruisers started to be seen in America’s coastlines more often.

In 1976, Larry McNeely from Recycled Cycles in Newport Beach saw a business opportunity here and coined the term “beach cruiser” to sell his bikes. The exact name was in fact California Beach Cruisers. Could there be any better marketing than this?

Johnny Loco Cruiser, the only Dutch brand I know specialized in Cruisers

Johnny Loco Cruiser, the only Dutch brand I know specialized in Cruisers

2 thoughts on “Cruiser bicycles early history and their new name: Beach Cruisers

  1. Pingback: Johnny Loco | Love to ride my bicycle

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