As a Beach Cruiser enthusiast I’m often ask about the difference between an Aluminum Beach Cruiser and a Steel Beach Cruiser. This article will highlight the differences in various beach cruisers and make some recommendations.
Years ago most bicycles were made in the United States. Beach Cruisers by Schwinn, Electra, Nirve and many others held a strong presence in the United States Beach Cruiser Market. Those days are gone.
Almost all bicycles are made in either China or Taiwan. The same plant that is making baby buggies today may be retooled and making beach cruisers tomorrow. This has had two dramatic effects on the USA Beach Cruiser Market. First, the price of Beach Cruiser Bicycles has fallen dramatically over the last thirty years when adjusted for inflation. Unfortunately so has quality. Today’s market is very much a “buyer beware” type of market and is full of bicycles that years ago would not have passed quality control standards. Part of this is due to the throw away nature of our society. Few people anticipate keeping their bike more than 1-2 bicycle seasons. Most beach cruisers will see a usable life cycle of 1-2 seasons and then set in the back of the garage or carport until discarded.
However, for those looking for quality I suggest two approaches. First, examine the welds on the bicycle. Cheaper bicycles show weld puddles at the joints and do not have the smooth fine welds made on your quality models. Second, (and maybe this is just me) I have observed that bicycles produced in mainland China do not have the same quality controls implemented as beach cruisers produced in Taiwan. Although, controversial as to the reasons I have attributed this to the relatively new introduction of the mainland Chinese to free enterprise markets. Hopefully, in a few years Chinese manufactures will implement quality controls so that all “runs” of beach cruiser bicycles will be quality controlled and not just a few. For now buyer beware.
As to the difference in steel and aluminum beach cruisers you can expect to pay slightly more for an aluminum beach cruiser. If you are looking for a light weight beach cruiser that will be rust resistant then aluminum beach cruiser may be exactly what you are looking for. People living on the beach or who take their beach cruiser to the beach regularly will benefit from this technology. The downside is that most manufactures have a far wider selection of steel beach cruisers than aluminum beach cruisers. As a result most customers who have a limited life expectancy for their beach cruiser will be happier with the greater selection of steel beach cruisers.