The Custom Cruiser Craze.
Since day one of bicycles the owners and riders have strived to add that personal touch to make their bikes speak their language. Things have not changed in the respect, but have blossomed in all directions. Every style of bicycle is included in this, yet the cruiser bikes really stand-out with their customized features. We aren’t just talking a bell or special paint job, but complete ground-up builds that are art forms anyone can appreciate.
Here in San Diego we often ride with the EBF (Electra Bike Forum) Group. Although Electra Bikes are the norm, any bike, stock or custom is accepted. They (the rides) are more about the people and the events, with bikes just being part of the equation. You may know that Electra offers some of the coolest bikes, major variations far apart from their standard beach cruisers. That is just the tip of the iceberg for many in this group.
In conjunction with the EBF we have joined in on many rides with the local (and out-of-town) custom bike clubs. Their bikes, clothes and ways might remind you of the rough, tough Harley riders, yet the smiles, comradery and fun are modern day examples of good old-fashioned cool bicycle people. We always have fun on these rides, go to great places and meet interesting bike riders from all types of backgrounds.
I started this post to show and talk about the Electra cruiser I got last year at the local Velodrome Bike Swap Meet. It is customized a little and rides great. I saw it sitting there early in the day at what seemed like a reasonable price, although the back tire was flat. It has a fatty 24” rear 3-speed wheel and tire from an Electra Straight 8. With a wide rim that has a black and white checkerboard sticker, it gives this bike a drag racer kind of look. The front tire is a custom too with a wider profile to add to the effect.
As the day was ending I went back over and offered the owner half what he was asking. Not wanting to take it back home, he accepted my rock-bottom price. I figured I’d have some fun with it and make a few back selling it when I’m done with it. A little clean-up, a new tube and a few goodies of my own have made it a blast to ride. So far selling it doesn’t seem in the cards.
We have a pair of matching everyday beach cruisers that have been on many of the EBF rides. I got the first one free from a neighbor that was moving out-of-town. Seeing the benefit of having a bike for the beach that I wasn’t concerned about getting sand all up into the workings, I got one just like it second hand so we could ride them together at the local beaches and sandy boardwalks. They were ok, but I wanted to really clean them up and freshly grease all the bearings.
So a full tear-down, polish and re-lube finally happened last year. They have become the recipients of many of the special bike lights I test. With well over 20 individual wheel, frame and other lights, we rode them on a bunch of December night rides that turned many heads with their blinking and bright lights. They are sporting some other changes and accessories, so I guess they could be considered customs.
My other “custom” cruiser is a fully stock blue and white Schwinn Cruiser Deluxe from the 90’s. It has a springer fork, tanks on the frame, and some added pieces too. I have posted (including videos) on it before. It is a heavy single speed coaster brake model, but is cool to ride. It too has been part of the rides with the real custom guys and gals’ rides.
These real customs I am talking about make my bikes look like they are nothing special. The time and creative put towards some of these bikes is astronomical. I will add a couple videos at the bottom (there are many more on my Y-Tube Channel). Plus a few photos will be part of this article too. The variety of custom styles is mind bending. Each person has their own ideas of the look, colors and pieces to make them stand-out.
They are not really choppers, or low-riders, or stretch bikes, although many might call them by those terms. At a Christmas Parade we did a couple months ago, 6 different clubs brought over 80 bikes for the event. Some use custom frames and parts bought from specialty manufactures, others built their bikes from the ground-up. Each individual part on the bikes is a piece of art by itself. Some appear to be hard to ride, yet they all seem to be happy riding them.
I first rode one of these stretch bikes about 20 years ago. It was a Dyno Roadster. It was one of the first I had seen and Dyno Bikes were making a big splash with them. It rode pretty nicely and got checked out and pointed at quite a bit. I see ones like it on the rides every now and then.
One of the things you might notice on many of these bikes are the wide rims and big fat tires. The large selection available seems to be part of what is helping to push the custom bike crowd forward with even cooler bikes.
Anyway, I have kind of rambled on here. On-line and on Facebook there are many sites that cater to the custom bike builders and riders. I suggest you do some searching if you are interested. You can buy one ready to go, or you can build it yourself. Jimmy Peek, the EBF founder, is one of the many making these bikes from scratch. I will include a shot or two of his work here. Plus I have plans on doing a full write-up on his garage shop and bikes. Believe me though, he isn’t the only one making and riding these cool bikes. And so you know, these custom bike folks are very approachable and nice, so if you see one, don’t hesitate to ask them about their bike. One more thing, this is a world-wide phenomena, not just a So Cal thing.
Whatever you call it, let’s ride, Turbo Bob.
“The bicycle is a curious vehicle. Its passenger is its engine.”—John Howard.
The EBF (Electra Bike Forum) on the web and Facebook
A couple videos I took of the custom bike clubs—there are many more on my channel