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A cruiser bicycle, also known as a beach cruiser, is a bicycle which combines balloon tires, an upright seating posture, a single-speed drive-train, and straightforward steel construction with expressive styling. Cruisers are popular amongst casual bicyclists and vacationers because they are very stable and easy to ride, but their heavy weight and balloon tires tend to make them rather slow. They are associated with the larger category of hybrid bicycles. The bikes, noted for their durability and heavy weight, were the most popular bicycle in the United States from the early 1930s through the 1950s, and have enjoyed renewed popularity since the late 1990s.
Schwinn developed the cruiser at a time when U.S. bicycle sales had declined sharply due to the Great Depression; adults purchased few bicycles, which were seen as luxury products intended largely for sport or recreation. In response, Schwinn conceived a sturdier, affordable bicycle designed for the more resilient youth market-originally marketing the Schwinn B-10 E Motorbike-which resembled a motorcycle but carried no motor-in 1933. Schwinn adapted features from the Henderson and Excelsior motorcycles his company had built during the 1920s, including a heavy "cantilevered" frame with two top tubes and 2.125-inch-wide (54.0 mm) "balloon" tires from Germany. The resulting bicycle could endure abuse that could damage other bicycles. Within two years, other bicycle manufacturers in the USA introduced competing balloon-tire bikes. Cruisers' comfort, style, and affordability (compared to mountain and racing bikes) have led to renewed popularity in recent years. In the early to mid-1990s, Schwinn produced a series of cruiser models, including the "Cruiser Deluxe" (which featured a Phantom-style tank with horn, chrome fenders, white-wall balloon tires, rear rack, a springer fork, and two-tone blue or green frames). The cruiser resurgence continued in 1995, when Schwinn reissued the Black Phantom to celebrate the company's 100th birthday. During that same time frame, similar offerings appeared from Columbia (a limited reissue of the classic 1950's 5-Star was produced in the early 1990s), and Roadmaster. Harley-Davidson even licensed a cruiser bike with their logo and trademark styling. These helped stir up interest in cruisers, which brought them to the attention of aging Baby Boomers, who remembered the originals from their youth and now were reaching an age where a comfortable bike was more exciting than a fast bike, and who also had the money to buy whatever they wanted. The classic "retro" looks, reliable mechanical performance, comfortable ride, and relatively low price of cruisers (compared to mountain bikes or road racers) also appealed to young Gen Xers. Nearly every major bike manufacturer now offers at least one cruiser model, if not an entire line. Some notable contemporary manufactures include Electra Bicycle Company and Felt Bicycles. Cruiser sales have continued to rise over the past decade and today many towns have clubs sponsoring regular cruiser rides as a way to promote the low-tech, high fun aspect of cycling.