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What's Up With Cruiser Motorcycles?

Updated on April 14, 2012

Classic Cruiser

Ultra Classic Cruiser
Ultra Classic Cruiser

What Are Cruiser Motorcycles?


Cruiser is a name used for bikes that imitate the American machine design from 1930s to early 1960s. These motorbikes include the ones manufactured by Indian, Harley Davidson, Henderson, Excelsior etc. Cruiser bikes make up about 60% of the US market and you’ll see all the big names in the motorcycle manufacturing industry, like Suzuki, Honda, Kawasaki, etc. making varied cruiser models.

The bikes in movies like ‘Wild Hogs’, ‘The Wild One’, ‘Born to ride’, etc., are great examples of the style of motorcycle I’m talking about. These cruiser motorbikes; allow outstretched legs, have their handlebars higher, the fork extended and a large comfortable seat. Such bikes are ideal for long-distance riding. Most bike enthusiasts, as they get older, develop a fascination for cruiser bikes because the call of the road, the long distance touring opportunities and the desire for comfort, demands it.

Most cruisers have limited turning ability and performance because of their low design style. Therefore, if you are a rider that likes high speeds, your cruiser motorcycle may call for customization to improve its leaning angle and engine performance. If speedy touring is your thing you might want to consider a crossover bike or a sporty cruiser like the Honda Goldwing.

Choppers are also included in the cruiser motorcycle category. These bikes have a huge fan following, especially companies like Jesse G. James' ‘West Coast Choppers’ and ‘Orange County Choppers’ run by the Teutuls. These companies as well as others have been successful in producing extremely expensive traditional chopper-style bikes and a wide range of chopper-themed brands of merchandise such as clothing, automobile accessories and stickers.

Now that you have a fair idea about cruiser bikes, let’s take a look at how these bikes are different from sports bikes.

  1. Cruisers generally have a longer wheelbase, a very low-slung design, an extended (raked) fork and accessories like saddlebags. They have a softer suspension, wider tires and are very stable. But these particular features take away the flexibility of the motorbike by restricting its performance and its turning ability. The weight is distributed towards the rear, especially with the rider sitting in an upright position so far away from the front wheel. This is great for rear wheel traction and rider comfort but can make cornering a little awkward. Therefore, you will not be able to weight shift or muscle these massive machines through corners at a high speed and should thoroughly understand the art of counter steering before tackling one of these big boys.  
  2. Sports bikes, unlike the cruisers, have a smaller wheelbase, higher centre of gravity, and the front wheel closer to the engine and the rider. The rider lies over the gas tank and almost becomes part of the bike. The process of weight shifts happens very quickly on these bikes and powerful brakes make the bike stop on a dime. A short wheelbase helps in quick turning and because of their higher center of gravity, they are less stable and hence are able to response quickly to actions. Being lighter than the cruisers they are much more manageable but their one main drawback is comfort, there isn’t any.  

There is something about cruising the American byways at a relaxed, constant pace with a massive V-twin chugging away smoothly between your thighs and the wind caressing your hair, which no frantic, high speed, buzz saw sports bike can ever match. With a cruiser, you can kick back, relax and take in the sights and the sounds as you munch miles effortlessly away. To put it simply, cruisers are for those for whom the journey matters more than the destination and for those who, when they arrive, arrive in style!


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    • muddysgarage profile image

      muddysgarage 6 years ago

      Right on !!!!!!!!!!!

    • profile image

      SarGe 7 years ago

      Interesting description. There are scooters that manage to combine both qualities, being comfort and practical but also sporty and agile. The best example is the Yamaha T-Max 500cc, it offers the best compromise between comfort and sportines. Scooters will always be more comfortable than any motorbike for one smal reason. On a bike you can only asume one position, hands on handlebar and feet on gear liver and rear brake, while on a scooter your legs are completely free.

    • Chaotic Chica profile image

      Chaotic Chica 7 years ago

      Two thumbs up!! Unlike my husband, I'm still relatively green, I've been around them for years upon years but only decided to get behind the handlebars recently. One thing we have in common, though, is our preference for old school cruisers. We know lots of sport bike riders and tease them constantly, I cannot imagine how they are comfortable riding that way. Although my husband says getting on one for a short while does help his back! Good thing we have friends!

    • profile image

      Sports bikes 8 years ago

      nice Cruiser Motorcycles