Why Beach Cruiser Bikes Should Have Gears and Brakes

Wait! Before you go out to buy a beach cruiser bike, you need to know why they need to have gears and brakes!

Women’s Bikes and Men Bikes are becoming more popular, and have been since the 1990s.  The beach cruiser bike, or simply the cruiser bike, is a close relative of the lowrider bike. The best cruiser bikes are the ones that are simpler bikes to use, maintain, and ride. Don’t you agree?  I think their smooth riding is what makes casual rides more fun!  

But beach cruisers don’t usually come with gears and brakes. You might come across beach cruisers with multiple gears but most people don’t prefer that. Having gears on a beach cruiser makes it easier to adapt to different riding terrains, with more versatility, better pedaling efficiency, and less wear and tear. While there are 7-speed cruiser bikes for sale, traditional beach cruisers are of the single-speed variety.


Green cruiser bike

Why Beach Cruisers Should Have Gear 

Traditionally, the beach cruiser is a single-speed bike. This is because it was made with a focus on affordability. While it is completely fine for people to stick to this option out of nostalgia or some such thing, it is not always the best choice. Let first begin with why beach cruisers should have gears:

1. Better Adaptability 

Having gears will make it easier for you to ride on a variety of terrains. Yes, it is great to ride without having to worry about gears but what about when you need to ride uphill? Having gears will make it easier for you to navigate the rougher tracks. 

Instead of having to possibly change the entire drivetrain of the single-speed bike to change the gear ratios, the 7-speeder allows for the use of the derailleur when changing gear. With the gears on a beach cruiser, all those people who love the slow, languorous pedaling strokes while “cruising” along will be able to do exactly this.

2. More Versatility 

Having gears will make you feel like you have a mountain bike! You will have better pedaling efficiency, which in my experience, means a better ride. With gears, it is also easier to improve your speed. 

3. A More Enjoyable Ride 

Now, I have taken a spin on both kinds, with as well as without gears. I did notice that the ride with gears was more enjoyable because I was able to be carefree without having to push too hard!

4. Flexibility 

This is more relatable if you own only a cruiser bike. With gears, you will be able to ride anywhere you want. That gives you more flexibility. 

5. Less Wear And Tear 

Hear me out! A single-gear chain ring has more stress on it. When you have multiple gears and chainrings, the tension is distributed. Therefore, you will have lesser maintenance needs because the chain might not wear out that often. 

6. Safety and ease of use

These two go hand in hand especially when it comes to beach cruisers. While you may only be using the cruiser in your city, you won’t always be on flat, level surfaces. There is a difference between a great workout and unnecessary exhaustion. The more tired and stressed a cyclist is the more dangerous they are.

Red cruiser bike

Why You Should Have Brakes On Cruiser Bikes 

While it is still one of the most popular brakes in use when it comes to coaster bikes of the traditional single-speed variety, the coaster brake has a lot of disadvantages. One can end up having a cycling accident because the coaster didn’t allow you to stop quickly enough to avoid it.

Cruiser on the beach


Having either a completely revamped system of hand brakes instead of coasters, or simply a backup system for your beach cruiser is one of the better decisions you can make in terms of simplicity, safety, and ease of use. It is always better to have hand brakes on your beach cruisers because:

1. It Is More Safe

Having hand brakes either as the main braking system or a backup brake system in addition to your beach cruiser’s coaster brakes is a very safe choice indeed. Coaster brakes leave room for skidding. Even though the balloon tires on beach cruisers are very good for riding on sand (hence the name), the coaster brakes can cause the tires to skid pretty fast. This can result in your ride requiring replacement tires quite often.

Hand brakes can eliminate the chances of the tires skidding, and you should be able to be far safer when riding a beach cruiser at high speeds, whether on the street or the actual beach.  In addition, there is the safety concern that the chain might fail. Since hand brakes don’t rely on the chain to stop, you can brake in case of an emergency chain drop that you did not see coming.

2. You’ll Have A Better Control

Coaster brakes are far harder to control than hand brakes. When descending a hill on a beach cruiser, or any bike, you must have exactly the right amount of control over your braking. If using a coaster brake to slow your descent, you could very well end up not giving enough braking power and wind up freewheeling screaming down the hill yelling for your mother, father, and a whole family tree of relatives.

However, hand brakes off the option of perfectly tuning your braking power both before and during the braking process. With the right modulation on your braking, you should be able to descend those steep gradients safely.

3. There Is Better Heat Dissipation

The best part about hand brakes when compared to coaster brakes is their high rate of heat dissipation when braking. This allows for more abrupt stops as well as safer cycling because tires are less prone to overheating.

It is quite common to have to replace the grease and innards of your coaster brake if you have been going downhill using them. Without doing this, you would be taking away their few safety features, and turning your beach cruiser into a death trap.

White cruiser bike


Well, those are 5 of the reasons you need to consider getting brakes of the hand variety and gears for your beach cruiser. No matter how classic you want the bike to appear, safety should always be your number one priority. With the right kind of brakes and gears, you should be able to have a classy, safe cruise on your cruiser bike!

What do you think about having gears and brakes on a beach cruiser bike? Let me hear you out in the comments!

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Should you have any questions or require further clarification on the topic, please feel free to connect with our expert author Luke Ameen by leaving a comment below. We value your engagement and are here to assist you.

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Luke Ameen

Luke Ameen

For many years, I've journeyed the world as an ardent cyclist, feeling the pulse of the road beneath two wheels. Even though competitive mountain trails might not be my battleground now, my zeal for cycling remains undiminished, pushing me to chase new escapades every chance I get.

My heart beats for everything related to cycling. Over the years, I've immersed myself in extensive research and hands-on tests of cycling equipment and enhancements, aiming to guide fellow cyclists in amplifying their riding experience. My mission is clear: deliver trustworthy insights and reliable guidance that readers can lean on. My vision is to kindle the same fervor for cycling in others, whether they're seasoned veterans or just embarking on this journey. Rest assured, I'm here to equip you with the freshest updates, advice, and perspectives to enrich every ride.


28 thoughts on “Why Beach Cruiser Bikes Should Have Gears and Brakes”

  1. you want to turn them into any other modern bike out there, so i thnk you’re missing the point; its nostalgic simplicity. The kind of people who buy cruisers ussualy buy them because the’re (often)cheap, simple, look cool and require little maintenance, and performance is not on their mind. you use a lot of words to basically say you dont like that..
    If you you want a bike with gears and brakelevers that performs and handles like a million different modern bikes do, buy one of those..

  2. I thought this blog was informative. It is no secret that simplicity, price, and even aesthetics, form the basis of a cruiser bike’s appeal. The writer steps past the obvious to address other points that people may overlook regarding these cruiser bikes, such as a rider’s age and/or physical condition. He also raises critical safety issues associated with riding a bike that has coaster brakes.

    Thank you for a well-written, important blog; I’ve bookmarked this page.

  3. i am so glad i decided to get a seven speed cruiser with hand brakes. i love it, and i think i ride more often and enjoy the rides more because i am not wearing my self out on hills . i think i get a better work outt too. or i can just cruise and have a lieserly ride. it is good advice in my opinion . thanks

  4. Very useful info. Sure helpful in my search for a cruiser bike that could also go a little beyond the sand and the boardwalk, and if possible, faster too. I haven’t had a bike for over twenty years now, however my childhood and youth had mostly been on a bike. Thank you very much!

  5. This is an old post, but I don’t think a person buys a beach cruiser to do any raving. They get them to cruise, as the name implies. Your never going at a fast enough pace for the coaster brake not to work. If you need to drive a nail, you don’t grab a screwdriver. You get a hammer because it’s the proper tool for the job. Same with bikes. You wanna be Lance Armstrong, you get a race bike. You wanna just pedal around the neighborhood or hit a coffee shop with friends, the cruiser is a great bike for that.

  6. Thank you for this article. I needed to hear these tips from someone not trying to sell me a bike! I was going with a single speed beach cruiser but you changed my mind. I do want to be safe and uncomplicated. I just had knee replacement and don’t need any new injuries!

  7. I’m no bike expert, but here is my comparison of breaks: My first bikes as a child had pedal brakes. I guess they call them coaster brakes. I remember trying a hand brake bike for the first time and forgetting I couldn’t stop with the pedals. Then, with the hand brakes, I had to brake front and rear separately and in correct order, remembering which hand did which break. You mention coaster brakes as harder for children and elderly to stop, but I found squeezing the hand brakes extremely difficult when my hands were small and weak as a kid. I never had difficulty skidding to a stop with the foot brakes. What do you think of my view? Do my points make sense? Can you get multi-gear bikes that still use coaster brakes? It seems the case as I have seen a few online, but I don’t know how they work. In fact, that’s how I stumbled upon this article, as I wish to have coaster brakes again and was searching about gears with coaster brakes.

  8. Classic cruiser bikes are are industrial art and style that you just don’t find in the modern sport bikes of today. Different bike styles are for different styles of riding. It’s ok to have more than one bike. Cruising the bike path on a classic custom cruiser bike down to the local pub. Don’t need anything more than a coaster brake. The same bike as a down hill klunker. Coaster break and hand brakes. You don’t take a coaster brake cruiser on a mountain bike trail, it doesn’t have the features you need like shocks brakes and gears. A light weight road bike with 21 gears when you are out riding fast with your fancy pants friends with the deep shirt pockets filled with energy bars. The fold up bike that stows nicely in the hold of your boat while sailing to Catalina island that unfolds on arrival to cruise the byways of island hopping.

    If you are looking for the one hybrid bike that serves many styles of riding than yes you need a better hub with gears and hand brakes. There is no reason to hate on cruiser bikes. Cruiser bikes have there place. Trying to shift and brake while steering one handed and holding a beverage in your other hand on a booze cruise is dangerous on the bike you describe. It’s a snap on a slow moving heavy coaster brake cruiser.

    If you are trying to sell a better more profitable bike than write an article describing different forms of riding styles and justify why bicyle riders should own the right bike for the right style. Everyone should have at least three bikes and one of them should be a custom cruiser built just the way you like it.

    • “Everyone should have at least three bikes and one of them should be a custom cruiser built just the way you like it.”

      HAHA You described me to a T. I did add all the gearing, shocks and hand brakes though. It’s not hard to do. My cruiser is more Mongoose than it is Cranbrook. The writer of this article really needs to point out that yes in stock form they don’t have many uses, however if you want to take the time and a little extra money or you have an old mountain bike laying around doing nothing, you can always just add the new features you want and have a bike that’s your own style.

      I won’t take away from the article writer as he dose make some very good points, but he offered no solution for a problem that is simple to remedy.

      Bike customizing and restoration in mild custom is one of my favorite hobbies but anyone that can take a bike apart and put one together can easily build the geared up, hand brake cruiser this man describes, may have to compromise here and there such as the rear brake I had to use an older style Side pull and flip it kinda inside the frame to get it to go on but cantilever pads do work and they work way better than the standard pads that was on it before and stops like a dream with them.

      The writer has some great points but,,, just needs to put the effort in himself and build the bike of his dreams through good ol’ fashion building.


  9. My first bike as a child had coaster breaks and it was no problem to stop with them, nor did it feel unnatural. You don’t have to backpedal more than an instant for them to kick in so it’s not as if you’re flailing around pedaling backwards trying to stop in time.
    I’m not sure how it would feel as an adult on an adult bike with the additional mass. Either way these bikes are for leisurely cruising so I doubt any of this matters anyway.

  10. Got you beat. I have a Cranbrook that 15 years ago when I got it the first thing I did was gut it and a all terrain bike and Frankensteining them together.

    These days it now has mostly Mongoose a mongoose suspension and drive train except I am running a 10 speed front sprocket road gear to get a little extra speed out of the 8 gears in the back, I painted it black with a red stripe and have all the chrome you’ll ever need on it (Including Trek fenders that for some reason cost more than the bike did brand new). I still ride it to this day, take it out of city limits all the time to enjoy some peace and quiet or just ride around town finding areas to see how much speed I can get.

    The only thing stock to it is the frame and handle bars. Still might be a heavy led sled but it is the most fun bike I own between it, a Schwinn Collegiate and a JC Higgins Spaceliner.

    I agree they do need gears and a brake but I’m glad they don’t make the traditional frames with them because this bike saying “built, not bought” actually stands for some thing.


  11. I’ve been searching for a while, in vain, for a one speed cruiser bike for my son with Down Syndrome. I believe switching gears will be too much for him to coordinate while peddling, but everything I’m finding in a 24-26 inch wheel has multiple gears. Any advice?

    • You can get a Schwinn or Huffy at Target or Walmart with just the coaster brakes. That is my preferred style, not because it “looks nostalgic” but because I’m old and fat and the frames are heavy and sturdy. I don’t want hand brakes because at my age arthritis has kicked in, and stomping on the rear pedal feels quite natural and intuitive, and it stops plenty fast for me.

  12. You molded into words all the things I was thinking. I have several bikes, a couple of MTBs, a trekking bike and a retro Beach Cruiser. All the other bikes of course have multiple gears, more than I would need, and modern brakes. The cruiser is the most simplistic of the lot, and I love it the most. I have had the single speed cruiser for a year now and even if I absolutely love it to bits – I adore its simplicity and retro looks (and so does everyone else it seems, cruisers do get the looks, and people are most curious about them) – I do feel the need for additional brake, as well as more gears, even if just two more. Where I live the terrain is not all asphalt, and there are some considerable, long hills, on all the roads I ride on. Going up, I crave for a lighter gear, and speeding down the hill, I feel that having at least a backup brake would be a good idea. And, on the forested parts of my path (I am a Finn, we have quite a lot of forests…) more than one gear would be most welcome.

    I have just found a custom bike shop in Europe which I think shall build my next, better cruiser. As I was in contact with the artisan, asking about installing front brakes, drum or disc, he noted that their customers do not usually like cables, so many of their designs are relying on just the coaster brake. It was also news to me that duomatic, two-speed internal hub shifters are a viable, cost-effective choice for a cruiser. Internal gear hub eliminates the need for a gear changing cable, but then again, I am not at all convinced I would enjoy the back pedalling to change the gear. I now think I am having them install both a proper disc brake, as well as at least a three-gear shifter. I really do not see the looks of a modern cruiser suffer from having such modern features. Those features are both for safety and comfort.

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  14. I have to comment on this:
    ‘The coaster brakes that are usually found in cruiser bikes are simply too old to be of any use except to look good anymore.”
    That is an entirely subjective opinion.
    I eventually bought a bike with hand breaks and I hated it. The bike never stopped in the same way as the one with the cruiser break; in fact, it never stopped.
    If I don’t pull a Fred Flintstone and use my feet to stop it I’d constantly be flying into the cross street. Horrible.
    Then there was the constant maintenance of pads and cables and ensuring the pads are just the right distance from the wheel and all the garbage and who wants to be a mechanic when all ya want to do is go for a ride?
    With the pedal break there was never any problem tap tap tapping the pedal back to slow the bike down or back-pedaling firmer to get it to stop on a dime. I could never do that with the bike I had with hand breaks.
    And there’s almost no maintenance with pedal breaks.
    Also, I never had to readjust the pedals to start up again. I knew how to back pedal to avoid that.
    I read so many sites that rubbish the coaster break and I tend to think it’s just the user who doesn’t know how to use a coaster break that has the problem, not the fault of that breaking system at all.

  15. Beach cruisers are meant to be simple. Modern coaste brakes are excellent and used all over Eastern and central Europe with no problems. Clean lines, no clutter, good looks – Beach Cruiser

  16. If you’re writing about the part of the bicycle that brings it to a halt, please spell it “b-r-a-k-e.” Think of it this way: If your brake fails, you may break a bone or two.

  17. Wish I had seen this article, before I purchased/rode my cruiser (a huffy). Without having hand brakes, you can’t use your feet to balance the bike when trying to make a sudden stop. Now I have a torn ACL, because my bike fell onto my leg when I crashed sideways onto the pavement, but at least I didn’t hit the moving vehicle that I almost ran into.

    Get hand brakes on your bike, folks. Coaster brakes are not enough.

  18. This article presents sensible advice, or things to consider at the very least. I’ve owned and loved a single speed coaster brake cruiser in the past, but now as an older rider trying to get “back in the saddle”, I appreciate gears and handbrakes. I live in Memphis where the streets are long gradients with some tough hills here and there. No point trying to kill myself on a single speed going a quarter to a half mile up a slope.

  19. You’ve a few some good points, mainly that if you are riding down hills, you need backup to not burn up your coaster brake. However, flat landers will have plenty of braking power with coaster brakes.

    Otherwise: someone riding a bike so poorly maintained and blissfully unaware of enough slack in the chain line that they drop a chain? With a coaster brake properly maintained, you’ll never drop a chain – there’s a straight chain line and no slack. Someone riding a bike that trashy certainly won’t maintain properly functioning hand brakes, either.

    A Nexus 3, 7, or 8 speed coaster brake wheel set on an old steel frame bike makes a great cruiser, and you don’t need handbrakes on it. I’d never ride a bike like that on a long descent, though. You do need a second set of brakes if you’re riding downhill.

    The thing – a true beach cruiser – one you actually ride in sand? Get a little sand in the calipers of hand brakes and you got nothing. You’ll wish you had that coaster brake.

  20. I am 70 years old. I have had many different types of bicycles. Usually 2-3 types at any given time. Three years ago I bought a Giant Simple 3 cruiser. I have had no problems stopping with the coaster brake. If necessary, when stopped, you just need to push the bike back about one foot to bring the pedal up to a position where you can start pedaling again. I like being able to stop without loosening my grip on the handle bars. I had my bike shop change the front sprocket from a 44 tooth to a 38 tooth sprocket to lower the gear ratios so I can climb hills easily. I like the upright seating position. It is a great cruising bicycle. I also have a seven speed Dahon folding bicycle which I can carry in my car trunk or take on my boat when traveling. It is not as comfortable as my cruiser but it sure beats walking! No one type of bicycle is suitable for all riding conditions.

  21. Regarding age and “backpedaling,” many folks develop arthritis in their hands at what seems like a pretty young age and squeezing a hand brake could be a problem.

  22. Hi,
    I really dislike coaster brakes. This braking system is much confusing as pedaling backward take some time to stop the bike. In the heavy traffic area if I need emergency brake it’s difficult to stop the bike.
    I think there should be a proper guide for this braking system.

  23. For me personally I need a heavy cruiser with 21 speeds. Most mountain and road bikes don’t have fenders. Most cruiser bikes, (not all of course) do have fenders. Many times my wife and I ride and stop to eat at nice restaurants. And sometimes there are puddles. So without fenders your back gets a bath. Going into a nice restaurant with stained clothing is not an option. Also, other times we like to carry a picnic basket and need a heavier bike to carry stuff. So….. give me a Schwinn Cycle Truck with 21 speeds and hand brakes.


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