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What is a Cruiser?

What is a cruiser? Is it a motorcycle that looks like a Harley-Davidson? Is it anything with forward controls? We’ve seen companies try to redefine the genre and move it forward for years, but there are a few things that should always remain when trying to make a true cruiser model. Here are a few of the things we think it takes to be a real cruiser.

Eight Middleweight V-Twin Cruisers

Eight Middleweight V-Twin Cruisers from the ’90s.


A low seat height with the gas tank slightly above it, and mid or forward foot controls– that’s it. A cruiser’s stance is instantly recognizable. It should be a little bit relaxed; the rider shouldn’t have to be hunched forward to reach the bars. It doesn’t need apes, but it shouldn’t have clubmans or clip-ons or anything like that.

Look and Feel
Hear me out on this one, but a cruiser should evoke an emotional response to the look and feel. We’re not riding the fastest or most aggressive genre of motorcycles, we know, but there’s soul in our bikes. The sound, the vibrations, the look, it’s all about taking the time to enjoy the ride and enjoy your bike. There’s a certain nostalgia to cruisers, and while the field should continue to advance, there’s no soul in sounding like a sewing machine. This is the one section that is arguable, as I would still call a bike like the Honda CTX700 a cruiser, though it doesn’t really inspire any sort of emotional reaction from the look or feel from me.

new school cruiser

The Honda CTX is a cruiser, but with a totally new school vibe


The Ride
You should be able to relax on a cruiser. I need good cornering suspension, but when it’s too stiff to enjoy a nice pleasant ride down the open highway without shaking up my insides, I can’t really enjoy the ride. Keep bumping up the power as much as you want, but make sure that the rider is in a stance to handle it and be able to cruise comfortably. Having a couple hundred horsepower and being folded over a bike like a pancake is more stressful than anything else– it feels like wrestling a bear when you want to feel like you’re in the cockpit.

Pack it up!
A cruiser should always have the option of adding a passenger or luggage. Cruisers are all about the open road. You should be able to load up and take off for a couple days, with a passenger if you’re lucky enough to have someone trust you and come with. I’m not saying a cruiser needs to have saddlebags and a king and queen seat, but there should at least be some possible way to add a pillion pad or soft bags or something to make longer trips an option. The one exception I can think of is the Triumph Bobber, but that’s sort of in the factory custom cruiser, weird sub-genre.

A cruiser is a bike that is meant to enjoy the ride, not race from a-to-b. It can have as much or as little power as the rider sees fit, it’s just more about the vibe and the feeling of the open road. It’s definitely not a sport bike or a dirt bike, but you can always customize a bike into anything you want. If it’s built to cruise, it’s a cruiser!