Choosing a bike for recreational use should be easy, but when there are so many options out there, picking out a bike that has all of the features you want and need can be difficult. When it comes down to it, the choice is usually cruiser bikes vs. hybrid bikes. Both styles are designed for recreational use. However, a hybrid bike is considered a more versatile bike since some models are able to go off-road, while others share many of the same features as the racing bike. But the cruiser has a better reputation for durability and comfort. If comfort is what you’re after, then the cruiser is the clear winner. But if you want a bike that can handle commuting and touring, and riding dirt trails, then the hybrid is a better option.
Cruiser bikes vs. hybrid bikes: many cyclists compare the hybrid to the cruiser, simply because both styles of bikes are designed for comfort. However, if you’re not certain which type of bike to choose, keep in mind that the cruiser is specifically designed for recreational use, while the hybrid is designed as an all-purpose bike. The cruiser performs the best on flat, paved, dry terrain, while the hybrid can handle uphill riding, paved and unpaved terrain, and wet surfaces, easily. If you need a bike purely for recreational use, then the cruiser is a great buy, but if you need a bike for recreational use, commuting, touring, and more, then the hybrid is the way to go.
Now that you know more about the main differences between these two popular styles of bikes, read on to learn about the other characteristics that set these two iconic styles of bikes apart.
The Recreational Bike
Both the cruiser bike and the hybrid bike are designed for comfort and recreational use, however, the cruiser is a bike that’s been around for decades, while the hybrid is fairly new to the cycling community.
Both types come with their own pros and cons. Basically, the right type of bike for you should depend on where you like to ride and why you need a bike, whether it’s for touring, commuting, or recreational use.
Vintage Style Meets Modern Functionality
Cruiser bikes are one of the most recognizable styles of bikes out there. It’s easy to identify one, whereas spotting a hybrid is much more difficult since these bikes tend to take characteristics from both the road bike and mountain bike.
Cruiser bikes are often chosen by the casual cyclist who wants a bike that’s comfortable, for recreational rides. The traditional cruiser doesn’t have handbrakes and has a single speed drivetrain. The bike’s single speed drivetrain can make it difficult to ride the cruiser uphill or over other types of tough terrain. But these days, major manufacturers have given the classic beach cruiser some serious upgrades.
Multi-speed cruisers are easier to ride than traditional beach cruisers, plus the classic style of the frame still allows the cyclists to use an upright riding position, which is much easier on the upper and lower body.
The new cruiser still has the large padded seat that cyclists love, and the high, curved handlebars that promote a more relaxed posture when riding. But even newer models of beach cruisers are about twenty pounds heavier than the average hybrid, so don’t expect the cruiser to be very fast on the road.
If both speed and comfort are what you’re after, then you’re better off with a hybrid.
Comfort and Improved Speed
As we just mentioned, the hybrid bike offers both a more comfortable and faster ride. While it’s true that the cruiser bike definitely features a better, wider saddle, the hybrid is much lighter, allowing you to easily ride uphill or over certain types of uncultivated terrain.
The hybrid also offers more gear options than the cruiser bike, taking after the road bike in terms of shifter style and design.
But if you don’t use your bike for commuting or touring purposes, then an extensive gear system may not even be needed.
The hybrid also features a heavily padded saddle and upright handlebars that allow the cyclist to take a more relaxed stance as they pedal around town. The bike’s design makes the bike a better choice for longer commutes compared to heavier bikes like the cruiser and the mountain bike. The lighter weight also prevents rider fatigue and makes it easier for the cyclist to control the bike, if they’re riding in rush hour traffic or crowded city streets.
However, even though the hybrid bike does have some of the same characteristics as the mountain bike, most models cannot handle the same type of off-road riding that a traditional mountain bike can. These bikes just aren’t meant for intense trail riding.
But in terms of overall versatility, the hybrid bike easily trumps the cruiser. However, even the best hybrid bike can’t handle intense terrain like a traditional mountain bike can.
The cruiser is the perfect choice for the casual cyclist in search of a comfortable, eye-catching bike that’s fun to ride on the weekends. These bikes aren’t fast, they feature a heavy frame, and most models feature the classic single speed design.
Where the Hybrid and Cruiser Can Take You
Since we’re comparing the cruiser to the hybrid, let’s learn how they really differ in terms of riding capability.
The hybrid can be ridden over:
- Dirt paths
- Moderately rocky terrain
- Wet surfaces
While the cruiser bike can be ridden over:
As you can clearly see, the hybrid offers more options in terms of where you can go. The cruiser can easily ride over cultivated terrain, but it will struggle with slick streets and sidewalks.
Style Over Functionality?
Newer models of cruisers still have that same classic, streamlined look they’re known for and their heavy, durable frame. The style of the bike not only promotes comfort, but they’re a great choice for beginners since they’re easy to maintain and repair. There are no complicated gear systems to deal with since a cruiser can come with no gears or up to eight, but most multi-speed cruisers will come with three gear options. These bikes are simple. They’re fun to ride, they can glide over flat terrain, and they’re great for a leisurely ride around the neighborhood.
However, if you need a bike you can ride on the weekends and one that can also be used as a daily commuter, then go with a hybrid.
Hybrid Gear Systems
The number of gears the hybrid features will vary from model to model and can range from eight to over twenty. Usually, hybrids that have more of a mountain bike feel will have fewer gears, while the hybrid modeled after the road bike will have more gears.
Gear range isn’t that important if you mainly ride your bike around the neighborhood. But if you usually ride your bike as part of your daily workout, commute to and from work, or love going for a ten-mile bike ride on the weekends, then more gear options are a must.
Gears are designed to help a bike to adapt to different types of terrains.
However, for beginners, too many gears can be confusing and difficult to use. On average, most people use the same five to six gears, so for many, more than seven or eight gears can be overkill.
Cruiser Gear Systems
Older models of cruisers and new models that stick to the traditional style of the cruiser will feature the single speed drivetrain, complete with the classic coaster brake. This design not only helps to keep the price down, but it also makes the bikes easier to work on and maintain. But considering how heavy these bikes are, the lack of gears can be a huge drawback for the beginner.
As a single speed model, the cruiser is very sluggish. It can also feel much heavier than it is if you’re riding over challenging terrain.
The addition of gears on newer models of cruisers has added a couple of important advantages.
First, gears allow you to cover more ground and basically make the bike faster, since you won’t have to stand up when you’re pedaling up a hill, or get off the bike to walk it up.
Gears also make the cruiser easier to use for beginners.
Typically, multi-speed cruisers will have just a few gears to choose from, which is often more than enough for the joyriding cyclists.
How the Cruiser Measures Up to the Hybrid
To sum it up, the hybrid bike is a better choice if you need a bike you can use for more than just recreational riding.
- Can handle a variety of terrain types
- Features a lightweight design
- Comes with an extensive gear system
- Is difficult to work on
- Comes equipped with tires designed for wet weather use
- Can be used for touring and commuting
- Can handle sidewalks and pavements
- Features a heavier frame that can make it difficult to use for long rides or uphill use
- Comes in either a single speed or multi-speed style
- Features high curved handlebars and a wider saddle, both of which promote user comfort
- Is meant for recreational use only
While both styles of bikes are designed with the cyclist’s comfort in mind, the cruiser is clearly the more comfortable, easier to use option, which makes them perfect if you only need a bike for recreational purposes.
However, if you need a bike that can do it all, then the hybrid bike is the way to go. The hybrid can handle touring, fitness training, recreational use, and commuting.
Are Cruiser Bikes a Good Choice for Touring?
If you’re planning on a long bike ride this weekend and want to take your cruiser, make sure your route mainly consists of flat, smooth terrain. If you have a multi-speed cruiser, then you won’t be as limited in terms of where you can go, however, the bike’s heavier frame can quickly tire out the rider, especially if they’re new to cycling.
What is a Hybrid Bike Used for?
Hybrids can be used for recreational purposes, as commuters, for touring, or for fitness training. These versatile bikes come equipped with many of the same features that you’ll find on road and mountain bikes. They’re built for comfort and speed and have a durable frame that’s designed for daily use.
To learn more about the hybrid bike, click here to read our article on hybrid bike pros and cons
What is a Cruiser Bike for?
Cruising of course! These stylish bikes are designed for cruising around the neighborhood. A fun bike that’s designed purely for recreational use, these eye-catching bikes are fun to ride and feature a frame design that promotes user comfort.
To learn more about cruiser bikes and how they perform on the road, click here to read our buyer’s guide.
What is the Best type of Bike to Buy?
If you need a bike purely for off-road use, then the mountain bike is the best choice.
For recreational use, the cruiser bike is a great option and one that won’t break the bank.
If you’re looking for a reliable bike for commuting to and from work or one to use for touring on the weekends, then the hybrid is a solid choice and a bike that offers the most versatility.
Ultimately, your choice should be based on where you love riding, why you need a bike, your budget, skill level, and your fitness needs.
When it comes to cruiser bike vs. hybrid in terms of comfort, the cruiser is the clear winner. However, if you need a multi-purpose bike, then the hybrid is the best option.
Because both bikes are designed with comfort in mind, it’s understandable that they are often compared to one another. So, if you have trouble deciding between the two, keep in mind that the cruiser bike is designed specifically for recreational use, while the hybrid bike is more of an all-purpose bike that’s designed to handle it all.