A mountain bike is designed for rugged terrain.
Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images
Mountain bikes and cruiser bicycles are polar opposites in the world of adult bicycling. They look different, have different mechanics, different purposes and strengths and weaknesses. Mountain bikes and cruiser bikes are so different that it's easy to justify making a place for one of each in your life depending on what type of cycling you want to do.
Mountain Bike vs. Cruiser
A mountain bike is designed to handle off-road trails at high speeds on uneven terrain. They enable you to climb steep hills and navigate steep descents. Mountain bikes are the ATV of the bike world. A cruiser -- or "townie" -- is meant to provide a smooth, slow ride around town. They are made to be ridden on sidewalks and asphalt. They aren't designed to be comfortable or efficient for rides more than a few miles.
Mountain Bike Details
Mountain bike frames are engineered to undertake tremendous stress while remaining light. As a result, many are made of metal alloys or carbon or Kevlar fiber. A mountain bike generally has a front fork or duel suspension and bar ends for climbing. The seat usually sits only a few inches below the handlebars, and mountain bikes come stock with 18, 21 or 24 speeds. The tires on a mountain bike have anywhere from one-quarter inch to one-inch treads.
A cruiser has a heavy, non-suspension frame. The handlebars can sit up to a foot above the seat and often curl around at the ends so the rider's palms are facing as they ride. Both the low seat and the U-shaped handlebars are comfort designs. At most, the only suspension feature on a cruiser is simple seat springs. Most cruisers are single speed, though not all. The tires on a cruiser don't usually have treads much wider than one-quarter inch. Cruisers usually come with a large front basket and a sturdy rear rack for carrying personal belongings.
The price range on both of these bicycles varies widely. At the time of publication, a new mountain bike can be anywhere from $500 to $8,000. With the extra cost comes a lighter frame, lighter and faster performing gears and brakes, longer lasting tires and rims and top-of-the-line suspension systems. A cruiser generally costs much less. The extra cost of a cruiser is usually a product of a deluxe paint job or a popular brand name. As the mechanics of a cruiser are so simple, a top-end cruiser has more to do with looks than performance. The price usually ranges from $300 to $1,500.
- Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images