Best Women’s Beach Cruisers: Schwalins, Schwinns, Hufferys and Other Models
Schwinn Breeze (1931)
The Schwinn Breeze was introduced in 1931 at the Chicago World Fair. It was designed by Charles Schwinn. The name Breeze comes from the fact that it is a “breezy” type of ride. The Breeze was the first bicycle produced by Schwinn Bicycle Company. The Breeze had two front wheels and three rear wheels.
There were five sizes available: small, medium, large and extra-large. They could go up to 20 miles per hour when going uphill or down when going downhill.
The Schwinn Breeze had a frame made of steel tubing with a wood fiber seat and handlebar stem, which gave it a very comfortable riding position. The saddle was padded with leather and there were two hand grips on the handlebars. A speedometer was built into the right side of the frame.
There are many models of Schwinn bicycles. Some have a single gear; some have a chain drive system; others use coaster brakes; still others feature disc brakes. Most models come in one size only, but there are exceptions such as the Schwinn Deluxe model which came in three different sizes, each with its own special features and accessories.
The term cruiser can refer to any bicycle with a step-through frame and high handlebars, although the term is most often used to refer to a specific type of bike with those characteristics. In other words, the cruiser is a style rather than a specific type of bike. While there is no standard for what makes a cruiser, there are enough commonalities between cruisers for us to group them together for simplicity’s sake.
High-tube or Low-tube?
The first feature shared by almost all cruisers is the tall frame. The height of the frame is usually between 18 and 28 inches from the ground to the top tube, which means that most people can easily mount and dismount the bike. This helps make them a bit more convenient for people who don’t want to swing a leg over the top tube each time they get on and off their bikes.
For those who want something different, some manufacturers produce low-cruiser frames. This design mimics the style of a mountain or beach cruiser but with a more traditional frame height.
Gears or Single Speed?
Most cruisers are designed to be single speed bikes, which means they have only one gear. There’s no derailleur or other system for changing gears and they don’t have multiple sprockets on the back wheel. This makes them less complicated and cheaper to produce, which keeps the final cost of the bike lower.
While many single-speed bikes have just one gear, cruiser frames are designed to easily accept most common derailleur systems if desired. This is especially common with beach cruisers which are often used on hills or in locations with difficult terrain that requires multiple gears for easier pedaling.
Coaster Brakes or Discs?
While some cruiser frames accept both types of brakes, most are designed for either coaster (rear) brakes or disc brakes.
Coaster brakes typically consist of a system of pads mounted on the rear wheel along with a cable system that connects to the pedals. When you pedal, the pads squeeze against the rear wheel to slow and stop the bike. These are sometimes called “back-pedal” brakes because the action of braking involves pedaling in reverse.
Since the rear wheel is not directly connected to the brake levers, it’s possible to apply multiple brakes at the same time. Applying rear and front brakes at the same time is not a good idea, but it is often possible to lock up the rear wheel while leaving the front wheel unaffected. This is handy when riding on loose gravel or sand because the extra traction of a locked wheel can help the rider maintain control of the bike.
Most coaster brakes are “fixed” which means the cable system cannot be adjusted while riding. They are installed and adjusted at the factory to provide optimum performance, so there’s no need to mess with them while on the trail or road. Because of this, the cables are often covered by metal guards to prevent anything from interfering with their operation.
Disc brakes are similar to the brakes found on most cars. A wheel-mounted plate is connected by a cable system to a pair of calipers at the axle. When the brake lever is activated, the calipers squeeze the disc brake plates against the spinning wheel to slow and stop the bike. A separate system is used to apply parking brakes, either a twisting mechanism that engages tabs embedded in the disc or a lever that engages shoes that clamp down on the disc.
Disc brakes provide maximum stopping power regardless of which way the wheels are spinning. With coaster brakes, the rear wheel can only be slowed if it is turned in the direction of brake lever. If you are skidding forward, the rear wheel can’t be turned because your body is in the way. With disc brakes, the wheel can be spinning forward or backwards and the calipers will still apply pressure. This can be handy when riding down steep hills where the rider might be facing either forward or backward depending on the direction of the slope.
Single-speed bikes with coaster brakes are often preferred by some riders because of their simplicity and lower cost. They require less maintenance and there are fewer parts that can break, but they also provide limited stopping power in certain situations.
Multi-speed bikes with disc brakes are often preferred by other riders for their superior stopping power and all-weather capabilities. They require more maintenance and there are more parts that can break, but this is countered by their versatility.
Whether coaster or disc, bike brakes do wear out and should be inspected before each ride. Vintaging your ride is not recommended.
Brake pads are the little rubbery pieces between the wheel and the brake that bring your bike to a stop. Most pads are made of a hard rubbery material with an embedded metal backing. This provides the “bite” needed to slow and stop your bike.
In addition to stopping your bike, brakes are also used for “locking up” the rear wheel while climbing steep hills. This is sometimes necessary to keep the bike from running away (especially with single-speed coaster brake bikes). To lock up the rear wheel, squeeze the levers gently while keeping the bike in gear. The pads will slowly wear down while riding, but excessive heat can damage them or make them less effective.
Brake Pads Wear Down
Just like tires, pads have a limited life-span and will wear out sooner or later (unless you are lucky). While a small amount of “bone-grit” and other material is essential to effective braking, your pads will need to be replaced when they are nearly worn through completely. This can be difficult to judge, so it’s best to err on the side of caution and replace them before you really need them.
There are several types of brake pads available for different types of riding conditions.
Caliper vs. Direct-Pull
Most bikes use one of two common types of pads: caliper and direct-pull. Caliper brakes use a set of arms, or “caliper,” to squeeze both sides of the brake pads against the inside of the wheel. They tend to have more “bite” than direct-pull systems since they can adjust their grip according to the amount of twist in the cable (more twist equals tighter pads). Most caliper systems also allow for fine-tuning and can be easily repaired.
Caliper brakes are the most common type found on vintage bikes. Most of the major manufacturers used them so they are readily available at most bike shops. Some riders prefer them for their all-weather capabilities, but they do require more maintenance and care.
Most pre-1980s mountain bikes use direct-pull brakes. They are designed so that the brake shoes are attached to a cable that runs directly from the levers to the wheel. Since all of the “work” is done at the levers, there is less wear and tear on other parts of the system and they are a good choice for off-road riding.
Some riders have modified their caliper brakes by removing one side of the calipers and replacing it with a bolt and nut that can be threaded onto the wheel. These “nutted” brakes do not provide as much stopping power as a direct-pull system, but they are an option if you prefer not to use disc brakes.
Rim vs. Disc
Most bikes with coaster brakes (most cruisers and some mountain bikes) have wheels with metal rims. These rims require special brake pads that are made of an abrasive material (such as sand). These pads grind away as they brake and create the friction that slows the wheel. Since these pads are ground away, they do not last as long and need to be replaced more often. They are fairly cheap and are often sold in pairs with a replacement metal ring.
In recent years, most racing bikes have started using disc brakes. They allow for greater stopping power and less hand fatigue since all of the rubbing (and heat) occurs on a small metal disc instead of the rubber pads. Special brake pads are required to be used with these systems. Since they don’t grind away like rim brakes, they last much longer and are usually serviceable for at least one wheel-reworking.
No matter what kind of brakes you have, all pads and discs will wear down with use. It’s important to keep an eye on them so that you don’t get caught without any brakes (which could be very dangerous). While this isn’t usually a problem on the street, it can be a serious issue off-road where finding a repair shop might be difficult.
Most manufacturers recommend replacing brake pads and inspecting calipers and discs at the beginning of every season. If your brakes have been giving you problems, it might be a good idea to replace the pads right away.
When you’re ready to replace your pads, make sure you get ones that fit your type of brakes. They are not interchangeable even if they look similar. If you’re not sure what kind you need, simply look at the ones that are in your brakes now. Most pads have some kind of manufacturer’s logo on them such as a mountain with a snow-capped peak or M–across–oted lettering.
Servicing your brakes
Most caliper and direct-pull brakes have at least some serviceable parts within the system. Before you attempt any repairs, it’s important to get all of the necessary tools together first. Most important is a set of allen wrenches–both fixed and adjustable. You’ll also need some kind of grease to keep things from rusting and a rag to clean off any old grease or dirt.
Park your bicycle so that you can get to the brake calipers or disc brake hub easily (if you have quick-release axles, be sure to lock the brakes before removing the wheel). Most brakes are either on the front or back wheel, but some “dual” brakes are placed on both the front and rear. Check your owner’s manual for exact locations.
The first step to servicing caliper brakes is to remove the brake shoes (squeeze pistons). This is usually done by turning a nut with an allen wrench on the opposite side of the caliper from the wheel. If you have quick-release axles, lock the brakes before proceeding.
Once you have loosened the nut, slide the shoe away from the wheel and brake pad. Once clear, the rest of the shoe should easily pull out of the caliper. Shake any dirt or mud out of the caliper and wipe off any caked-on mud with a rag.
With the shoes removed, check to see if there is any play in the caliper pistons. If there is, you may need to remove, clean and re-grease the caliper. If this is the case, your owner’s manual should include specific instructions for your model.
If your brakes are squeaking when you pump them, this probably means that the brake shoes need to be adjusted. Look closely at the shoes. There is a gap between the edge of the shoe and the metal edge of the pad.
Sources & references used in this article:
Clean Ocean Advocate by L Briens, M Bojarra – AAPS PharmSciTech, 2010 – Springer
Developments in bicycle equipment and its role in promoting cycling as a travel mode by FP PURSUES – rucore.libraries.rutgers.edu
Bicycle by K Lovejoy, S Handy – City cycling, 2012 – books.google.com
Shoe and pedal system for bicycles by L Taylor – 1996 – tinhouse.com
Urban flow: Bike messengers and the city by MC Klein, J Redding – US Patent App. 14/686,652, 2016 – Google Patents