Cruiser Bike vs. Mountain Bike: What Are Their Differences?

The qualities and elements of a mountain bike and a cruiser bike are quite the opposites in the world of cycling. From the looks, mechanics, purposes, strengths, and weaknesses, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the external differences between the two.

While there isn’t much overlap between mountain bikes and cruiser bikes, when you check both of their lineages tracing back to the first mountain bikes invented, you’ll find out that many of those were developed from initial cruiser designs. Since then, a lot has already changed. Now, mountain bikes have transformed into versatile off-road terrain machines capable of tackling various mountain bike trails. On the other hand, cruisers have minimal changes in their arsenal.

Both bikes have been top-rated in the market, but there’s something more when you find out the fascinating similarities in their frame designs and styles. This article will feature a cruiser and mountain bike’s similarities and differences to help you choose which bike suits your preference.

Similarities of Cruiser Bike and Mountain Bike

While the purpose and objectives of mountain bikes and cruiser bikes could not be more contrasting from the eye test up to the riding experience, they still share a handful of similarities in their frame designs and technology. That also means that they’re, in fact, more alike internally than on the outside aspects.

Both cruiser and mountain bikes offer a more relaxed frame geometry that helps the riders achieve an upright riding position. However, the former provides a slightly better outcome than the latter. Ideally, mountain bike frame geometry aims to achieve improved handling over rough and technical terrain, hence, the reason for its long reach and slack head angle. These attributes give mountain bikes an excellent handle level at higher speeds while maintaining your center of gravity on sharp descents. 

On the other hand, cruisers also offer a relaxed frame geometry. In fact, cruiser bikes are as relaxing and comforting as it gets. Its spacious handlebars are located near the rider so that they can keep an upright position rather than slouching their back. 

The frame geometry and flat bars of a mountain bike allow the riders to have a unique riding position from the dynamics of balanced power, handling, and aerodynamics. Moreover, these bikes are specified for racing and descending, implying that you’ll need to be comfortable in the saddle. 

Meanwhile, a cruiser bike’s riding position is cozier before getting a recumbent. You’ll be placed in an upright position on a cruiser, similar to what mountain bikes could provide on the road. But comparing the two cycles, it is observable that a cruiser’s position offers more uprightness than its counterpart. Engineered and manufactured to suit the masses, cruisers are specified to be as comfortable as possible, especially with their cushioned seat and spacious handlebars that do not concentrate solely on handling.

Differences between Cruiser Bikes and Mountain Bikes

As emphasized prior, the characteristics of mountain bikes and cruisers differ in many ways. Note that each cycle has its distinct set of advantages that make it a great choice depending on the intended use. Due to their different activities and mechanisms, cruiser bikes and mountain bikes are suitable in many ways. Still, not every kind of bike can be ideal for all terrains. 

Created to handle off-road trails, a mountain bike excels at high speeds on uneven terrains. It also allows you to mount steep hills and steep cruise descents. Mountain bikes are like the ATV of all cycles. On the flip side, a cruiser, also dubbed a “townie,” is designed to give you a smoother and comfortable ride across the town. They are meant to be utilized on sidewalks and asphalt. And unlike a mountain bike, a cruiser bike is not explicitly made to be efficient for long rides.

The cruiser bike tires are known for their durable and supple rubber compound and buoyancy capabilities among the most renowned bike wheels. Their tires initially came with a support rim and tread pattern that helps elevate their traction on gravel and sand roads. However, cruisers do not have the pedal efficiency to go on smooth roll-on paved surfaces.

On the contrary, mountain bike wheels are trendy for riders who prefer off-road riding. Mountain bike tires are attributed to their slim profile, giving riders a superb performance on rocky surfaces with low pressure for better durability and comfort. 

The clutch and resistance of a cruiser bike wheel are mostly limited since it has large tire tread blocks and a reinforced rim, which is proven to be disadvantageous in most circumstances. Cruisers offer little to no traction on dirt, grass, or gravel surfaces on wet surfaces. They demand remarkably less pedal force than a mountain bike wheel on paved surfaces.

Moreover, mountain bikes contain a standard size frame that sometimes makes them a more efficient and challenging mode of transportation. However, it has a bigger tire and knobby treads that provide better traction over rough terrain, which cruisers aren’t known to handle well. They also possess front suspension forks for improved performance in absorbing bumps in the road or trail. At the same time, cruisers do not contain any suspension at all.

Overall, mountain bikes offer a better aggressive approach to the terrain, so they are not suited to perform excellently on paved surfaces. Cruiser bikes, however, provide a better choice when riding on paved surfaces since they have smaller tires.

What Makes a Cruiser Bike?

A cruiser is characterized by a hefty and non-suspension frame. The handlebars possess the ability to sit up to a foot above the seat and the tendency to curl around at the ends, which enables your palms to face as you ride. The cruiser bike’s low seat and U-shaped handlebars are also formed to suit your comfort. 

At its core, the lone suspension that a cruiser has is its simple seat springs, considering that most cruisers are built with a single speed. Its tires do not commonly have treads much wider than one-quarter inch. 

Cruisers are also known to have a relaxed frame geometry, proving that cruisers are about as simple as it gets. To sustain your upright position and prevent rounding your back, a cruiser bike’s wide handlebars are located near the rider while having the cushioned seat closer to the stem. 

In addition, they also have an excellent seat-tube angle that goes at around 2-5 degrees lesser than an average road bike. In return, it adds to the comfortability of the cycle but also decreases its efficiency, which is a common thing for most cruiser bikes.

As mentioned prior, cruisers are only limited to one gear or speed – hence, they are called single-speed bikes. Suppose you’re not looking to climb up a hill. In that case, a cruiser bike is perfect for you, as it can only prove to be a detriment when you encounter a hill and if you’re not used to pedaling at a low rhythm. 

What Are Cruiser Bikes Good for?

Credits to: @lvnatikk

Primarily designed for recreational use, a cruiser bike has always been a suitable bicycle choice to ride along the beach. Also dubbed as the “beach cruiser,” cruiser bikes have heavy-duty and balanced essence that can resist and absorb surfaces of sandy beaches and trails. Yet, provided that the floor is considerably flat and without too many large humps.

Cruiser bikes are utilized for convenient and short-distance capabilities that perfectly suit daily commuting and leisurely travels. As long as you prefer to bike at a slower pace and soak up the sunshine, cruisers would surely keep you satisfied.

If you are a rider who likes to stroll around the neighborhood and town to enjoy the beachfront views, you won’t regret getting a cruiser. Besides, its extra padded saddles and excellent handlebars are also helpful in developing a good posture and core strength. In the current world, cyclists without much experience often find cruisers enjoyable due to their easy-to-use nature and lack of complication.

Cruiser Bikes: The Pros

1. Very suitable for short rides

Cruisers are very suitable for short rides due to their big comfy seat and high handlebars. It allows you to ride in an upright position and enjoy the sights of the town. Cruisers often come with fenders that make up for excellent riding.

2. Fairly Versatile

Cruisers are highly attributed for their versatility. They can go off the packed sand beaches or gravel roads. Considering that it only has a single-speed, they are very uncomplicated to use on any occasion.

3. Easy to Maintain

Because it only has one gear or speed. They’re effortless to manage and maintain—no nitpicking derailleurs or various chainrings and cogs that require adjusting and cleaning. And since cruisers are inexpensive, they cost you way less when they get stolen or damaged.

Cruiser Bikes: The Cons

1. Too Heavy

One of the downsides of a cruiser bike is its heaviness. It might make it harder to ride up any hill and harder to transport. The weight also slows you down, so do not expect that the bike will perform great in terms of speed or long-distance rides.

2. The Position is Not Ergonomic Enough

Another weakness of a cruiser bike is that the position tends not to be ergonomic. It will be hard for you to generate power in acceleration. It may take up more energy to obtain higher speeds.

What Makes a Mountain Bike?

Mountain bikes are an excellent choice to go off-road riding. Their suspension, frame geometry, knobby tires, and gnarly shape suit the dirt, mud, gravel, rocks, sand, etc. While its overall build is not meant for tarmac, mountain bikes remain top-notch and more versatile bikes than their counterpart gravel bikes. 

Adding further to its excellence, mountain bikes have various gearing options that include the likes of giant cassettes and front ring combinations. Moreover, this would mean that you could pedal at a comfortable pace anywhere, ranging from 4mph to 20mph. Some mountain bikes could also contain gears that you could go through an even more extensive range.

Mountain bikes have riser handlebars, which are stuck out to the left and right of a bike. This type of handlebar may curve backward or up to increase its ergonomics. Furthermore, flat bars allow you to have a wider grip, which elevates the handling and is helpful for tight turns you might encounter on a trail or descent.

What Are Mountain Bikes Good for?

Credits to: @cloud_mind

Almost everything you could do on a bicycle can be performed on a regular mountain bike. They are proven to be dependable, fun, durable, and adventurous as long as you know their extent of use. 

In terms of comfortability, a mountain bike’s riding position is generally secured and enjoyable, enabling you to have a great ride on rough surfaces for an extended period. Its wide array of gear ratios also helps you climb hills or raise your speed level when there is a strong wind. 

Even so, their wheels also have a variety of sizes depending on your capability to handle curbs and rocks in dirt trails. It also enables you to go off terrains with varying degrees of control and speed. Some mountain bikes also carry mounts for panniers and racks. Most of its mudguards are attached to the seat post, while the front protection is less indulgent than a regular hybrid bike.

If you desire to travel on a short route between two ends on a map, you will enjoy doing it on a mountain bike. They will surely provide you the needed reliability, enjoyment, and comfort to get you on and off across terrains.

Mountain Bikes: The Pros 

1. Excellent Disc Brakes

Mountain bikes have superb disc brakes as compared to relative road bikes. Since disc brakes are also more common on mountain bikes, they will allow you to stop your acceleration much better, especially on wet surfaces.

2. Convenient Duspension

A mountain bike’s front suspension is very convenient and helpful as it allows you to turn it on when you’re riding on a rough road or locked out on a smooth surface.

3. It Helps You Get an Upright Position

An upright riding position is crucial to the efficient consumption of your energy in rides. Besides, a good position lets you quickly access the brake lever on a flat bar.

Mountain Bikes: The Cons

1. Gearing Issues

A mountain bike’s bike gear range performs well on hills and rough terrain. It might hinder you if you prefer to go faster on commutes.

2. Aerodynamic Problems

With flat handlebars, you might have difficulty developing an aerodynamic position. This problem may arise when you’re riding into a headwind.