We live in a "high tech" world where it is assumed a "good" bike must have 24, or 27, or 30 speeds, and front suspension, and maybe seat suspension, or dual suspension. And "a good bike" must cost a lot of money. And it must get costly tune-ups and adjustments from a skilled tech.
So, it was refreshing to spend Friday afternoon riding an old-fashioned one-speed beach cruiser. I bought it for a friend who needs a simple, maintainance-free bike. I took it for a long "road test" to make sure it was in good shape, but I enjoyed the ride so much, I kept thinking, "well, let's go another couple miles".
The bike is a 2005 beach cruiser that looks much like a bike from 1935...a design that is seventy years "young". Big, fat tires to soak up the bumps. A coaster brake. The classic beach cruiser frame with long chain stays (lots of room for a rear rack and bags). A long wheelbase for a softer ride and stable steering. A big, plush saddle, big enough for an adult's bottom (unlike "racing" saddles).
But, the 2005 beach cruiser has some improvements: light, strong alloy rims, and stainless steel spokes to eliminate rust. Easy to pedal 54 inch gearing, compared with the hefty 70 inch gearing sometimes used for one speed bikes. And, a lighter weight of about thirty pounds, instead of the forty-five pounds of yesteryear. The best of the "old" cruisers, plus some "upgrades" make it a better bike than our grandfathers rode.
Over a couple hours of riding, I took the beach cruiser across dirt and sand filled construction sites, over some gravel roads, and through some neighborhoods with moderate hills that resemble a milder version of San Francisco. The fat tires gave plenty of stability when riding "off road" and on gravel. The 54 inch gearing worked well on climbs that lasted a hundred yards or so. The coaster brake worked smoothly and effectively.
The "upright" riding position enabled me to enjoy up the scenery...much more pleasant than sitting hunched over the bars on a road bike, staring at the front tires. No gears to shift, just pedal along at a pleasant, slow, relaxing pace. "Cruising" along is exactly what beach cruisers do best.
So, for $160, my friend has a comfortable, reliable bike that will give her ten or fifteen years of riding pleasure. Over the next fifteen years, that works out to a dollar a month...what else could provide so much relaxation and enjoyment for such a tiny price?
If you have the chance, spend a sunny Spring afternoon riding on a beach cruiser. There is no better way to get back to the days when a bike was an enjoyable, low cost, simple way to relax...beach cruisers are a "fun" alternative to our "high dollar", "high tech" fitness and racing machines. And, why shouldn't riding a bike be fun?