Friday, December 30, 2011

The mighty, MIGHTY Beach Cruiser

We're in, over our heads, people.

...Carbon fiber

...DW-Link Rear Suspension

...Dropper Seat Posts

...Electronic shifting


...and let's not even begin to venture into road bikes (!)

...all destined to be obsolete in a matter of a few years.

Do we really need all this stuff to have a good time? Weren't we just raving about Shimano V-Brakes and 100mm travel suspension less than a decade ago? When browsing the pages of Mountain Bike Action (MBA) and, I feel like I'm a 17 yr. old male watching a parade of hot, Los Angeles 10's in bikini's and high-heels... it just seems all unobtainable without the immense wad of cash. Meanwhile, the nerdy, Battlestar Galactica-loving brunette (who kind of likes you) goes unnoticed.

I'm going to take a little time to put that cute, nerdy brunette on a pedestal in all her glory; I am talking about the simple (yet mighty) beach cruiser. Loyal and low-maintenance, there is no reason why you shouldn't have a $100 beach cruiser among your Los Angeles 10's. Now, before you close this tab and move on to reading MTBR's review of the latest carbon fiber 29'er gadgetry, hear me out.

I've owned a number of beach cruisers in the last few years and I've made the mistake of "fixing them up". It always begins with a basic coaster brake beater, but after a few months, the bike becomes a garage queen - something that I wouldn't think about leaving parked and locked outside of a grocery store. After awhile, I become bored with it and end up selling it. Or, on the other side of the coin, I will buy a "high-end" beach cruiser in the $400-$500 range that looks more like a chopper than a bicycle. Pretty, but not practical.

The purpose of owning a beach cruiser is to keep it simple (believe me, I am correcting those bad habits) and to enjoy a bicycle in its simplest form. In terms of bicycle riding, there are very few options that take away all but the bare essentials of drive train and braking with the fixed gear coming in at a close 2nd place.

Beach cruisers are designed for comfort and single speed simplicity - yet still have the maneuverability and speediness of a large BMX bike. After hitting the trails over and over again with your fancy pants 29'er or destroying your legs and lungs on a century ride with 10,000 ft. of climbing, the beach cruiser will cleanse your riding palette. You will slow down and take it in. You will stop and chase the ducks, take a picture of a flower, or talk to old people. You'll perform the most epic coaster brake skid, ever. You will recall what riding is supposed to feel like when you've just about got burned out on yelling at iPod zombies on the trail.

There are many variations of the beach cruiser, as I mentioned earlier, but I've found the most basic to be the most fun. My brother turned me on to "BMX" inspired beach cruisers some years ago when he told me about the "Beers, not Gears" ride they do in the Santa Cruz mountains on beach cruisers in stormy weather. He had built one up as a big BMX'er, but when Swobo came along with their Folsom bike, I really came to notice that there was a revolution going on in regards to recreational bicycle riding.

The Swobo is big, bad, sturdy and ready for some serious action. However, this is nothing you can't build on your own with a little ingenuity and some extra parts.

This is my new incarnation - a basic cruiser, purchased from Target for $150. After re-building it with some correct torques and added grease, I replaced the tires (needed), the stem, handlebar, seat post and seat - all were laying in my parts-bin. The next upgrade will be some BMX pedals (old-school Bear Traps, perhaps?). Done. Finished. Go ride. More interesting builds can be found HERE.

If you're feeling a little burn-out or need something for fun, active recovery when you're not destroying King of the Mountain records, consider a beach cruiser. It's one of those things that you'll continually be telling yourself, "I love this bike!".

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