What is a Cruiser Motorcycle? [Explained]

Cruisers are large heavy motorcycles with big-inch, high-torque engines, lower seats, and forward controls. Due to these features, cruiser motorcycles offer a leaning-back, feet-forward riding position that allows for relaxing comfortable rides.

If you want to find out more about these popular machines, you’ve come to the right place.

We at PowerSportsGuide have compiled all you need to know into this cruiser motorcycle review!

What is a Cruiser Motorcycle?

There are many different types of motorcycles in the marketplace, and cruisers are just one of them. As the name suggests, these bikes are primarily built for cruising, so they are a great choice for medium-distance rides but they also do a good job around town.

Cruiser motorcycles first appeared in the US in the 1930s and become more prevalent in the decades that followed. The most well-known models were manufactured by the largest motorcycle companies including Indian, Henderson, Excelsior, and Harley-Davidson.

But are you wondering what makes a cruiser motorcycle?

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and talk about the features of these bikes in detail!

Engine and Gearing

The heart of a cruiser motorcycle is typically its large-displacement V-twin engine. Their long-stroke/small-bore cylinders ensure much lower rev limits than other motorcycle engines.

Therefore, these power mills and their gearing produce good low-end torque rather than high HP.

Many cruiser motorcycle engines pack traditional features including carburetors and air-cooling, while their displacement ranges from 15ci (250cc) up to 130+ci (2150+cc).

However, special models like the legendary Boss-Hoss cruisers have a maximum engine capacity of 376ci (6200cc) with a maximum power output of 445 HP.

Cruiser motorcycles that come with extremely powerful engines are considered “power cruisers”. Besides this high-performance power source, they are equipped with advanced suspensions and brakes for optimal performance.

Frame and Suspensions

The engine on cruiser motorcycles sits close to the ground in a massive “low-slung” metal frame.

Just like the engine, the seat is also positioned very low with a large fuel tank sitting slightly above it.

Some cruisers are built on a rigid frame to which the rear axle is directly mounted. In other words, these bikes lack rear suspensions, so they offer pretty bumpy rides.

In contrast, the vast majority of stock cruisers are manufactured with front and rear suspensions for comfort.

Another distinguishing feature of cruisers is their mid or forward-foot controls. which makes these bikes easily recognizable.

Riding Position and Experience

The main idea behind the low seating position and forward-mounted controls is to ensure a comfortable and relaxing seating position and a low center of gravity.

On a properly sized cruiser, you don’t have to be hunched forward to operate the machine. Instead, you can lean back slightly and comfortably rest your hands on the raised bars.

We don’t talk about high “ape-hanger” bars here, which are prone to making rides uncomfortable! The arched handlebars of cruisers provide controllable steering that finds the sweet spot between the high apes and the sporty clubman or clip-on bars.

This convenient setup offers quick and easy shifts and a comfortable body position allowing you to cover longer distances comfortably.

It also comes in handy at higher speeds, since the low center of gravity translates to much better stability.

Smaller riders also appreciate the low seat height of cruisers, which allows them to place their feet on the ground easily.

On the other hand, the drawback of cruiser motorcycles is that you can’t rise from the seat to dampen the bonces on a rough road. This means that the dynamic forces are directly transferred up your spine.

To dampen these impacts, cruisers are often equipped with soft saddles and suspensions.

Behind their comfortable saddle, these bikes typically have a smaller pillion seat to carry a passenger.

The dry weight of cruiser motorcycles starts at 300 pounds and goes up to 800+ pounds, but most of them fall into a range of 500-700 pounds.

Consequently, cruisers are great for smooth, flat, straight roads, but are not recommended for uneven surfaces. They are also hard to maneuver in tight spaces due to their long wheelbase.

Style and Features

In addition to the above, cruisers stand out from the crowd with their unique look and the lifestyle they represent. And we are not only talking about nostalgia here!

Cruisers have a distinctive sound, vibration, and unbeatable appearance.

They typically pack a lot of chrome parts, long front forks, balloon tires, and other features that are tailored to these bikes.

Due to their massive chassis, cruisers have great carrying capacities and offer plenty of space for luggage. One of the most stylish ways to carry gear on these bikes is to equip them with a pair of matching side bags.

Surprisingly, the riding characteristics won’t change too much even with a significant load.

Takeaways – FAQs About Cruiser Motorcycles

As a takeaway, we’ve answered the most common questions about these popular machines!

Which Motorcycles Are Considered Cruisers?

As a rule of thumb, large-displacement motorcycles with a low seat height and forward foot controls are considered cruisers.

To be more precise, the distinguishing features of cruiser motorcycles are as follows:

  • Durable, “low-slung” frame
  • Big-inch V-twin engine
  • Relaxed, lean-back riding position
  • Low positioned seat
  • Higher handlebars
  • Forward foot controls
  • Balloon tires
  • Long wheelbase
  • Comfortable seat and suspensions
  • Highly customizable design

Which Companies Make Cruiser Motorcycles?

In a nutshell, the most well-known cruiser motorcycle manufacturers are as follows:

  • Harley-Davidson
  • Indian
  • Triumph
  • BMW
  • Royal Enfield
  • Moto Guzzi
  • Honda
  • Suzuki
  • Kawasaki
  • Yamaha
  • Ducati

Is Every Harley-Davidson a Cruiser?

Harley-Davidson is considered the most important cruiser motorcycle manufacturer. But contrary to popular belief, not all H-D motorcycles are cruisers!

Instead, the American manufacturer offers many great sports, touring, adventure, and trike motorcycles to its customers.

What is the Difference Between a Cruiser and a Standard Motorcycle?

Compared to standard motorcycles, cruisers are bigger, heavier, have a lower seating position, and forward controls, which offer a relaxing “lean back” riding position.

In other words, on a cruiser your feet are in front of you while on a standard motorcycle your feet are positioned under your torso.

Also, cruisers have large-displacement, V-twin engines that produce a ton of low-end torque but less peak HP.

What is the Difference Between a Cruiser and a Touring Motorcycle?

Touring motorcycles are designed for long-haul riding, so they come with large-capacity fuel tanks and smooth, fuel-efficient engines. For the best wind and weather protection, they are equipped with large windshields and fairings.

In contrast, cruisers not only lack these features, but they are often powered by noisy and thirsty V-twin engines.

Can You Ride a Cruiser Motorcycle Long Distance?

Yes, cruiser motorcycles can cover very long distances, but they offer less comfort and protection than their touring counterparts.

Therefore, if you are looking for a bike primarily for covering long distances, you can’t go wrong with a touring machine.

How Far Can You Ride a Cruiser Motorcycle?

Cruiser motorcycles are designed to cover medium distances, so they typically have a fuel capacity of 4-6 gallons. This translates to a fuel range of 100-300 miles depending on the make and model.

For example, the fuel capacity of the popular Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight is as low as 2.1 gallons, which ensures a moderate fuel range of 80-100 miles.

On the other end of the spectrum, you can find some Japanese cruisers like the Kawasaki Vulcan Voyager. This bike gets about 40 MPG on average, so its 5.3-gallon fuel tank can carry you more than 200 miles between fill-ups.

What are Cruiser Motorcycles Good for?

As the name suggests, cruiser motorcycles are built for cruising. They are great for covering medium distances on smooth, relatively flat roads. Although cruisers maneuver harder than scooters and city bikes, they can be also used around town.

Therefore, they are good for riding from a-to-b in the city or even cruising on highways or open roads.

On the other hand, cruiser motorcycles are not great for uneven roads or extreme speeds.

They are simply built for the enjoyment of riding rather than racing with squids!

What’s the Difference Between a Bobber and a Cruiser?

There are many differences between bobbers and cruisers, but the most important ones are as follows:

  • Bobbers have shorter front forks
  • Bobbers are lighter and look sleeker
  • Bobbers are minimalist bikes built on bare bone frames
  • Bobbers were originally intended to reach high speeds, but today they are more about style than performance
  • Bobbers offer less comfort as they are designed for shorter rides

Is a Chopper a Cruiser?

It’s safe to say that any cruiser motorcycle can be a chopper with the appropriate modifications.

Choppers are often custom-built or heavily modified cruisers that are tailored by their owner or a professional shop. High-end models come with a jaw-dropping appearance and unique features.

Compared to stock cruisers, choppers usually have fewer features, smaller seats and fuel tanks, longer front forks, oversized engines, custom paint jobs, and a ton of shiny chrome features.

They sometimes look more like a piece of art than a conventional motorcycle.

Unlike choppers, cruisers are commercially-available motorcycles sold in large quantities with limited or no customization options.

They are influenced by choppers but come with more features, affordable price tags, and offer more comfort for everyday rides.

Are Cruiser Bikes Heavy?

Yes, cruisers are significantly heavier than standard motorcycles, as they typically weigh 500-700 pounds, but certain models can be as heavy as 800+ pounds!

What CC is a Cruiser Motorcycle?

The displacement of cruiser motorcycles averages from 15” (250cc) up to 130+” (2150cc), but the majority of them fall into arange of 50”-110” (500-1800cc).

How Much is a Cruiser Motorcycle?

The prices of cruiser motorcycles range from under $5,000 to well over $20,000 for a high-end model.

For example, Harley-Davidson cruisers cost anywhere from $11,000-$22,000, which doesn’t even include the gear and optional accessories.

Are Cruisers Good for Beginners?

Cruisers are considered good starter motorcycles, but not the heavy ones!

If you are looking for a beginner bike and are stuck with cruisers, make sure to invest in a lighter machine with a smaller engine. General wisdom says that the lighter the bike, the easier it is to handle.

Besides lightweight Japanese cruisers, the H-D Sportster 883 and 1200 can also be a great choice.

Are Cruisers Hard to Ride? 

Are cruisers hard to ride? – we get this question often and the answer is it depends.

While cruisers are easy to ride on open roads, they are difficult to maneuver in tight spaces and at slower speeds due to their heavy weight and long wheelbase.

Are Cruiser Motorcycles Safer?

According to statistics, cruiser motorcycles are safer than sports bikes since the latter has a higher fatality rate in accidents.

However, it boils down to the age and behavior of the rider rather than the features of the motorcycle!

Cruiser owners are typically older and more responsible riders who are looking for slower and more relaxing rides. In contrast, sport bikes and other high-performance motorcycles are often owned by performance-minded buyers who prefer to go very fast or even do dangerous tricks like “wheelies”.

Unfortunately, their irresponsible riding more often ends in a serious accident.




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