For individuals embarking on their journey into the world of motorcycling, the choice of their first bike will have a significant impact on the learning curve. And a cruiser motorcycle can be an excellent choice for a beginner, as its low seat and laid-back, dominating riding stance instill confidence, characterized by a pronounced rake angle (where the front wheel extends forward), a tall and wide handlebar setup, and foot controls that pull back and set forward. These features create a classic “Harley-Style” silhouette with emphatic diagonal. Perhaps why cruisers are also popular among the two-wheeled time travelers looking for a great way to keep riding in comfort with a sense of nostalgia and freedom of the open road.
The numbers back this up! Harley Davidson (we all know they specialize in cruisers) is the most popular motorcycle brand in the US today with 51% of the cruiser-only market and 23.4% total market share. Honda follows a distant second with 19.7 %. But the appeal of cruiser motorcycles extends far beyond American borders. Worldwide, the love for cruisers is still alive and well, representing 20.4% in comparison to 17.6% for naked bikes, 16.9% for adventure bikes, 16.1% for sports bikes, and 15.6% for touring bikes. And it’s not just the old timers hoarding them, but also the younger generation who are loving how fashionable and infinitely customizable a cruiser can be. An approachable, stylish first bike, truly a keeper!
As Dale Arenso mentions in his eBook ‘Riding With An Outlaw Motorcycle Club In The Old Days:’
“Without style, a bike is just a bike, a means of getting from here to there. With style, the bikes people ride become a defining stamp of who they are. The modern cruiser motorcycle—with its oversized balloon tires, tube steel framing, shock-absorbing suspension, and custom colors and modifications—is a testament to individual style.”
And in that same spirit, there is always that little utility, beauty appendage, or piece of tech that you can add to your cruiser to make it more to your liking, comfort, and safety.
Thoughtful Additions To Make Your First Cruiser Ride Better
|Product Name||Category||Dimension||Get Yours|
|The Grunge Brush||Best Chain Cleaning Brush||13.25 x 5 x 1.5 inches||Revzilla | MotoSport Amazon|
|Kryptonite Keeper Disc Lock||Best Anti-Theft Lock||0.21” (5.5mm) locking pin diameter||Revzilla | CycleGear | Amazon|
|Stockton Roadside Tool Kit||Best Maintenance Toolkit||31 Piece||Revzilla | CycleGear | J&P Cycles|
|HJC IS-Cruiser Helmet||Best Cruiser Helmet||5 Shell Sizes: X-S, S, M, L, X-La, XX-L / 2.64 lbs.||Revzilla | MotoSport | Amazon|
|Bobster Cruiser II Goggles||Best Cruiser Goggles||4.8 ounces||Revzilla | MotoSport | Amazon|
|Airhawk R Cruiser Seat Pad||Best Cruiser Seat Pad||Large: 14″ x 14″ x 2″/Small: 11″ x 11″ x 2″||Revzilla | CycleGear | Amazon|
I know, I know. You might not be entirely sold on the idea of getting a cruiser for your first motorcycle. The hyped sport bike crowd gives all kinds of negative reviews about the perceived poor handling and weight of a cruiser, disqualifying it as a great platform to hone your riding skills. But this usually comes from people who have never ridden a cruiser one mile in their life. And then, there’s the whole stereotype about cruisers being for older folks with back problems.
Give me a break! From my 50+ years’ experience riding and with best interests in mind, here is why I think a cruiser makes a better beginner motorcycle — one you’ll cherish long after your novice phase:
7 Solid Reasons You Should Consider Buying A Cruiser Motorcycle As A Beginner
Cruisers have maintained their classic appeal, standing the test of time even as other motorcycle trends have come and gone. I recall admiring Harleys from my days as a student in France, and apart from their captivating and unmistakable throaty ‘potato-potato’ idling sound, cruisers offer several compelling reasons for beginners to consider them as their first choice:
1. Cruisers Have Comfortable Riding Position
The low-slung setup with pulled-back handlebars and forward set foot controls give cruiser riders an interesting dominant and confidence-inspiring riding stance. Low seat height also means a rider of average height can comfortably walk the bike and put their left foot down when stopped at a light, while keeping the bike upright.
For experienced riders like myself, controls on just about any motorcycle are a matter of intuition now. But I remember when I got on my first bike, an Italian Malagut I loved to bits, but I struggled to see and memorize the controls. Thankfully, you can see the controls on a Honda Rebel 500 without taking your eyes off the road, making it that much easier to learn on a cruiser.
2. Cruisers Have A Stable Planted Feel With Predictable Handling
Cruisers also feature a larger rake angle (typically above 25°), a corresponding trail (ranging from 4.5 to 7 inches), and longer wheelbases (typically between 60 to 70 inches). These characteristics provide enhanced stability when, to put it simply, cruising in a straight line. Turning requires a deliberate effort, which is why steering controls on a Royal Enfield Meteor 350 are much more forgiving than, for instance, those on my Kawasaki Z 250 SL, another beginner-friendly motorcycle.
The firm and planted feeling of a cruiser is a quality we all desire in a motorcycle, not just new riders. Ergo performance street bikes ranging from the beginner friendly Kawasaki Z400 to the full-blown sport BMW S 1000 R are often fitted with steering dampers because tank slappers are no fun unless it’s happening to someone else!
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3. Get A Smaller Cruiser For Smooth Approachable Power
Small to mid-range cruiser bikes below 650 cc have predictable power and handling characteristics. These are the likes of the Honda Rebel 300, Yamaha V Star 250 or the retro-styled Royal Enfield Classic 350, which offer bags of torque down-low to get you out of tricky situations and hold their own on highways, albeit with a bit of shakiness.
Up in Harley territory, you get power cruisers, like the Harley-Davidson Sportster S, with a very narrow power band. The peak power is reached at lower RPM, meaning you needn’t change gears as frequently as you would on a screamer to enjoy usable power down-low. But perhaps you could consider the less-aggressive Harley-Davidson Iron 883 as a beginner.
4. Low Center Of Mass Plus Evenly Distributed Weight Equals Manageable
The center of gravity on a cruiser motorcycle is also low due to the low-mounted engine and seat. And this contributes to its stability. And more importantly, even the mammoth Kawasaki Vulcan S (curb weight, 496 lbs.) might feel more manageable for a beginner compared to the Honda CB300R Neo Sports Café ,which despite weighing significantly less (curb weight, 364 lbs.), is considered top heavy.
Because the weight is distributed almost equally between the two tires, there’s nearly as much grip and stopping power in the rear as in the front. Also, the Indian Scout Sixty Bobber is very unlikely to wheelie or do a stoppie compared to the shorter wheelbase Suzuki GSX-S1000, a street bike of similar displacement power.
5. At The Very least, A Cruisers will Get You There
Manufacturers typically make cruisers a mid-to-high price option with impeccable reliability. I get it, the allure of spending hundreds of garage hours cleaning carburetors, restoring a 1960s cafe racer, and all that, but that’s not how you enjoy a motorcycle, in my opinion.
Harley makes the street series with beginners in mind, and the Street 500 and Street 750 are some of the most reliable cruisers in the King’s lineup. Similarly, the low-budget Honda Rebels 300 and 500 are popular choices for beginners and small cruiser enthusiasts because they never say die.
6. Let’s Not Forget Cruisers are Highly Customizable
After buying a cruiser, you can choose from a wide array of aftermarket accessories to improve the aesthetics and functionality of your ride. I guess cruisers enjoy the availability of such parts because they are more popular, and more manufacturers are out there making custom parts to satisfy the demand. Also, the whole niche is about long distance comfort, useful power and style and hence the need to add a personalized touch to every cruiser.
7. And Make You Part Of The Big Twin Family
Harley Davidson makes roughly 5% of their turnover from selling clothing and merchandise to its loyal customer base. Community support and being part of something bigger than yourself is enough reason for getting into motorcycling in the first place. Well, if you grow up in the “Sunshine State” of Florida, you almost have no choice but to ride a Harley, I digress!
With most rider groups, you will find bikers who ride similar motorcycles with the same riding styles. And so, if your local cell rides Harleys, then you will need one too to fit in.
There Are Downsides To Owning And Riding A Cruiser
As good as cruisers are for their intent, here are some cons you should know about before buying one.
- Stiff Suspension: Cruisers are generally fitted with small travel suspensions because of their short height, leaving no allowance for longer shocks. You might not enjoy corrugated roads or potholes if there are a lot of them on your usual route.
- Cruisers Are Heavy: Their low center of mass makes them easy to move around at slow speeds, but handling them at higher speeds is a nightmare, particularly when rolling the chassis from one side to the other to lean in for the next turn in the opposite direction.
- Cruisers Are Less Maneuverable Than Street Bikes: If you spend a lot of time in traffic, a cruiser will not be the ideal bike to filter through lanes or take sharp 90-degree turns. In standstill traffic, they can feel like a lot of work compared to street bikes or a small moped.
FAQs — I Have The Answers!
Q: Is A Cruiser A Good Beginner Bike?
Yes, a cruiser is a good beginner bike due to its smooth and approachable power delivery, coupled with added stability in straight-line riding thanks to features like a large rake angle, longer trail, and longer wheelbase.
Q: Is A Cruiser Motorcycle Easier To Ride?
A cruiser is easier to ride than a street or a sport bike because of its laid-back dominant riding stance, which inspires confidence in a beginner rider. Although they’re considered heavy, the low center of mass, long wheelbase, and narrow power band make the bike stable and usable for riders who want to flat foot through traffic or cruise along hassle-free on the highway.
Q: Is A Cruiser Or Sport Bike Better For Beginners?
A cruiser is better suited for beginners due to its gradual power delivery, which is less intimidating and risky for those who aren’t accustomed to rapid acceleration. Moreover, cruisers offer improved usability of rear brakes, thanks to their even weight distribution, in contrast to front-heavy sport bikes.
Q: Can A Beginner Ride A 1,000cc Cruiser?
No, it’s not advisable for a beginner to ride power cruisers with 1,000cc or more, as they are typically heavy and significantly powerful, making them unsuitable for entry-level riders. I recommend opting for a smaller cruiser with 650cc or less for a more approachable first bike that you can also keep as your skills improve.
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