Are you looking for an everyday bike, or something you can take on vacation? There’s lots of choice out there. For example, do you know the difference between a cruiser vs. mountain bike? Which is likely to suit you best?
Cruiser bikes are great for gentle riding on the flat, such as on tarmac and paving. Mountain bikes are ideal for tackling off-road, rugged terrain. There’s plenty more pros and cons to either option, which we’ll explore below – keep reading!
What Is a Cruiser Bike?
A cruiser bike is a heavy-framed bicycle built for everyday riding. They typically have upright riding positions with comfortable seats. You’ll also find wide tires great for traveling on unproblematic terrain. If you’re likely to ride on the flat, you’ll probably need a cruiser bike.
People choose cruiser bikes over mountain bikes when they want to stick to city streets. They’re ideal for bike paths and simple routes.
- Very easy to learn how to ride
- Great for gentle rides or commutes
- You can ride them across lots of flat or smooth terrain
- They’re very comfortable
- They tend to be very heavy
- They’re not easy to handle in tight spots
The Bottom Line: A beach cruiser bike (or similar) is ideal for casual riding or everyday commutes. Opt for a cruiser bike if you’re unlikely to go off-road.
What Is a Mountain Bike?
Mountain biking is all about adventure! These bikes are versatile and robust, with wide, yet lightweight tires. These bikes have fantastic shock absorption and suspension. That means you can easily handle rugged pathways, uneven surfaces, and steep hills.
Mountain bikers prefer lots of gears, as they can help with different terrain. Light frames, too, can help with tight, awkward routes and spots.
- Front suspension fork allows for comfort on rough terrain
- Great for use on almost any terrain (that isn’t smooth)
- Will withstand years of heavy use
- Some of the most stable bikes on the market
- Can be very expensive
- Most mountain bikes require lots of careful maintenance
Bottom Line: A mountain bike handles jolts and bumps when you ride dirt paths and off-road trails. This is the right bike for a rider looking for years of durability across all kinds of rocky terrain.
Cruiser and Mountain Bikes: Face to Face
You’ll normally use a mountain bike and a cruiser bike in very different cases! But, how do they compare deep down, and what are some of their best features? Let’s run through what to consider.
Both mountain bike and cruiser bike tires are wider than average racing bikes or hybrids. But, mountain bikes’ tires are lighter and more durable than cruisers’. They’re thicker and have large clearances, ideal for tackling rougher terrain. Their tires provide incredible grip.
Cruiser bike tires, meanwhile, are smooth and slick. They tend to be very efficient riding on paved roads and smooth surfaces but aren’t built for speed. Cruiser tires provide more comfort than grip. But, they’re just as resistant against puncture.
The tires mountain bikes come with may help you ride on a wider variety of terrain. That’s great news if you want to ride your bike in lots of different areas.
A mountain bike’s knobby tires provide much more grip than the balloon tires you’ll find on cruisers. However, there’s no clear winner here – as both tire setups suit either of their riders’ needs perfectly.
Both mountain bikes and cruisers have relaxed frames to help assist with handling. But, as you’d imagine, this ease of handling is for much different purposes.
Mountain bikes are much lighter than cruisers. Manufacturers design them to handle steeper descents and tighter corners. They also have wide handlebars for this purpose.
Cruiser bikes, meanwhile, have heavier frames that manufacturers don’t build for efficiency. Manufacturers build them to provide maximum comfort on casual rides, making your journeys as simple and as relaxed as possible.
Again, this category has no clear winner, as your needs may vary. However, a mountain bike is the clear winner for a lighter, more responsive ride. For more leisurely rides on the flat, the heavier cruiser frame will provide all the support you need.
Gears and Controls – Performance
Mountain bikes have complex rings and cassettes to help riders take on all kinds of rough trails, terrain, and gradients. Once you adapt to the riding style of a mountain bike, you can cycle anywhere between 4mph and 20mph (on average).
Unlike other bikes, most cruisers have only one or two gears. That’s largely because you won’t be riding them on uneven terrain. A single gear bike provides a smooth ride on roads and pavements. However, these bikes are hard to control on hills going up and down.
That said, cruisers are easier to maintain. They have fewer working parts and will therefore demand less financial investment in upkeep and repair.
Mountain bikes perform better on wider terrain as they have complex gears. But, you’ll need to put time and money into maintaining them.
Winner: Mountain Bikes
Posture and Sitting Position
Both a mountain bike and a cruiser bike will keep you in an upright riding position, but for different reasons.
This helps to improve aerodynamics and gives you extra control on varied terrain. You’re sat upright with handlebars splayed wide, which can help to prevent fatigue. Many mountain bikers claim that this setup provides a more comfortable ride over long distances.
The sitting position cruiser bikes offer isn’t as rigid but not as laid back as recumbent beach cruisers. Cruiser seating isn’t designed for aerodynamic support, but rather for comfort.
The seating positions for these two bikes are for different needs and purposes. That said, mountain bikes may be more comfortable to use over long distances.
Winner: Mountain Bikes
Cruiser bikes, built for comfort, have naturally comfortable saddles ideal for shorter rides and flat roads. What may surprise you is that cruiser bikes have shock-absorbing saddles!
These saddles are immediately comfy to sit on! But, they may cause fatigue and pain if you ride on them over very long periods.
Mountain biking demands a little more shock absorption front and back. But, their saddles provide more long-haul comfort than cruisers.
Mountain bike saddles are wider than most, ideal for retaining control, stability, and reducing fatigue for off-road riding.
Winner: Mountain Bikes
You’ll normally find mountain bikes have handlebars that either rise up or are flat with a slight curve, helping to add to the ergonomic design. These controls provide an extra-wide grip for riders who may need extra control getting around tight curves and over rugged ground.
Cruiser bikes have u-shaped handlebars arranged flat for maximum control when sat upright. This means the rider’s wrist position sits more naturally. You have easier access to hand brakes, and will get tired less easily.
The downside to cruiser handlebars is that it can be tricky getting on and off at first! Learning how to safely and slowly navigate cruiser handlebars is an art you’ll learn.
Mountain bikes, arguably, have more user-friendly handlebars that you can adapt to pretty much straight away. You only need to lean forward and back. That said, you will likely adapt to cruiser handlebars over time, it just takes some practice!
Winner: Mountain Bikes
Costs for both cruiser bikes and mountain bikes will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, and depend on the store you buy from. However, it’s generally cheaper to buy beach cruiser bikes and comfort bikes than to invest in a full-scale mountain bike.
Arguably, you get what you pay for. Mountain bikes are great for long-term stability and support over uneven terrain. Are you going to use your bike for off-road riding a lot
Cruisers are a little more budget-friendly, but may not offer the same engineering (such as in shock absorbers and rear suspension).
You’ll also need to consider ongoing costs when choosing between mountain bike vs. cruiser bike options.
A mountain bike will need a lot more care and attention over the years than a cruiser. That means paying out for extra fittings, chains, or fixing problems with its more complex mechanisms.
Again, your needs will set the price you pay, meaning there’s no reason you should save money and buy a cruiser if you’re riding off-road.
Buy a mountain bike if you’re going to get years of use out of it. Buy a cruiser if you want a cheap ride that you’ll likely upgrade in future.
Winner: Cruiser Bikes
Both mountain bikes and cruiser bikes appeal to the eyes! Cruiser bikes appear welcoming and ‘personal’. Mountain bikes, on the other hand, look sportier and more robust.
Mountain bikes are more powerful and aerodynamic by design, and appeal to adventurous riders. This also helps riders keep momentum and stability when riding steep or tricky terrain.
Cruiser bikes are more laid-back simply because their riders are less demanding. There’s only one gear, and you can expect a leisurely ride.
In any case, both types of bike appeal to their target markets – and both look fantastic in motion!
Cruiser vs. Mountain Bike Use Cases
Let’s look at where you might consider using a cruiser or a mountain bike out and about and which option is best for which setting.
For driving on flat roads and paving, a cruiser bike provides the most ease of movement and simplicity in grip. Mountain bikes have grips to handle uneven terrain – which will wear down or prove ineffective on the flat.
Cruisers are great for short distances in the wide open – where you’re unlikely to come across steep slopes that demand more than one gear.
Winner: Cruiser Bikes
Mountain bikes provide ample suspension, shock absorption, and tire grips. These traits will help you ride across uneven ground in woodland or off the beaten track. Its handlebars will also help you navigate tighter spaces and gaps. You can also switch gears to easily go up and down inclines.
Cruisers, meanwhile, will struggle to carry momentum and turn on anything more complex than inner city roads. Their tires provide less grip, and their frames are much less aerodynamic than mountain cycles. Riding a cruiser in local woodland may lead to stumbles or you getting stuck in the dirt!
Winner: Mountain Bikes
A comfort cruiser will get you from A to B, providing you’re a short distance away and don’t have any hills or inclines to contend with. Slick tires provide you with better traction on flat surfaces and help you accelerate.
If you purely need a bike to help you get to work or school and back, a cruiser is a simple option that’s easy to control and to maintain over long periods.
Using a mountain bike to commute is a little pointless – a mountain bike is best for when you need maximum endurance and shock support. The complex gears and tire grips simply won’t give you the momentum you need on short journeys.
It’s also a misconception that a mountain bike will get you to work or school quicker than a cruiser – it just won’t perform that way!
Winner: Cruiser Bikes
If you want to ride a bike on vacation, think carefully about where you’re likely to ride. Are you mainly traversing hills, mountains, valleys, and off-road terrain? Invest in a mountain bike.
If you’re going to stick to beaches, promenades and city streets or built-up areas, be sure to invest in a cruiser bike instead.
If you’re going to try a little bit of everything on and off vacation, it may actually be worth investing in a hybrid bike! Hybrids are great investments if you enjoy heading off-road on a weekend, and using your bike to get to and from appointments during the week.
Think carefully about your everyday needs and, if all else fails, pick the middle option.
Now we’ve covered both options in detail, let’s break down this battle between cruiser vs. mountain bike:
A cruiser bike is ideal if:
- You’re going to use your bike to get from A to B
- You want a comfy bike you can use for gentle recreation
- You want an uncomplicated bike that’s easy to maintain
- You don’t want to pay too much upfront
Cruiser bikes are superb for the simplest of rides, meaning if you’re a city biker, you’ll have a long-lasting, reliable ally.
A mountain bike is great if:
- You’re going to take it on adventures and off-road trails
- You need to get up and down steep inclines
- You value performance over comfort
- You don’t mind paying more for a long-lasting bike
A mountain bike will take you almost anywhere you want to go, with a huge range of gears and aerodynamic performance. Not sure where you want to travel? Invest in a mountain bike!
Is a Cruiser Bike Hard To Pedal?
Cruiser bikes are very easy to pedal. As everyday road bikes, these models have one gear and won’t need much more than a little effort from you to get moving.
Slick tires can also help cruiser bikes accelerate quickly on flat surfaces. That means you won’t need to try too hard to get from point to point.
Many cyclists recommend learning on a cruiser bike if you’re just starting out. Then, why not work your way up to a mountain bike?
What’s Better for Exercise – A Cruiser Bike or a Mountain Bike?
Both cruisers and mountain bikes are great for exercise, but mountain bikes are likely to work your body harder.
You’ll normally ride a mountain bike on uneven terrain and gradients. This means you’re likely to put more effort into riding this bike than a simple cruiser.
To build muscle, a mountain bike is likely to be a better choice. For basic cardio, a cruiser can help – but it’s dependent on how hard you push it!
Is It Easier To Ride a Mountain Bike or a Cruiser?
It’s very easy to learn how to ride a cruiser bike, as there’s only one gear, and they’re generally simple to accelerate. Mountain bike gears can be complex to learn at first, and you’ll need to know when to switch, should you come across more challenging terrain.
Mountain bike gears can take more effort to work with. However, as a cruiser has only one gear, it’s less difficult to ‘push’.
Consider your own needs and biking experience before you assume what’s going to be the easier ride!