Grab your cruiser bike for a quintessential Santa Cruz experience.
Santa Cruz Magazine
By Karen Kefauver
From hauling surfboards, to taking dogs for a run, to making a trek to a neighborhood breakfast spot, cruiser bikes are all about Santa Cruz.
For Celeste Faraola, a fifth-generation Santa Cruz local, riding her cruiser bike is a way of life that started when she was a kid. Now, the 36-year-old continues the tradition by pedaling around the Seabright neighborhood with her mother Bonnie, her brother Lee, sister-in-law Danielle, and nephews “Little Lee,” 5, and Macoy, 2.
Said Celeste, a Realtor at David Lyng who also snowboards and rides mountain bikes. “We ride our cruisers everywhere: to watch the sunset, go to dinner or just check out the surf.”
Synonymous with laid-back, coastal living, cruiser bikes are typically equipped with one or three speeds, painted in bright candy colors (or rusted from years of use) and adorned with everything from stickers to horns. Another hallmark of cruiser bikes is the upright riding position.
“There’s something super sweet about riding a cruiser bike,” said Saskia Lucas, 33, a Santa Cruz resident who recently acquired her first cruiser, a three-speed, red-orange Schwinn Suburban.
“You can’t go very fast,” she said, “but that’s not the point. Cruisers are about style – being seen and seeing people during a mellow ride.”
Cruiser Bike Ride 1
Natural Bridges – Wilder Ranch
From the parking lot, check out the rock formations that jut into the Monterey Bay. Those sea arches and sea stacks, formed from Santa Cruz mudstone, are what inspired the name “natural bridges.” At one time, the largest stacks formed a bridge, which has since collapsed.Keep an eye out for playful otters, seals and migrating whales.
Start your ride by rolling past the park gatehouse and follow the paved road up a short hill to a parking lot next to the visitor center. At the center, you can learn about the 100,000 monarch butterflies that flock to the peaceful eucalyptus grove from mid-October through the end of February.
Walk your bike through the park’s rear gate. Take a left on Delaware Avenue, which ends at the entrance of Long Marine Lab, a research and education facility of UC Santa Cruz. If time permits, visit the lab’s fantastic Seymour Marine Discovery Center to learn more about the colorful fish, plants and mammals that live in the Monterey Bay including the bright purple and orange sea slug.
From the end of Delaware, turn onto Shaffer Road. Dismount from your bike to cross the train tracks and continue up a gentle incline on Shaffer Road . On the left, a paved path, parallel but completely separated from Highway 1, leads cyclists, runners and pedestrians to Wilder Ranch. The site, named after the Wilder family, was originally the main ranch supplying Santa Cruz Mission. It later became a successful and innovative dairy ranch.
At the end of the paved path, take a left to ride to the ranch houses, including a restored 1897 Victorian home, several barns, a machine shop, a bunkhouse, and a blacksmith shop. If you take a right at the end of the bike path, ride through the tunnel to check out the map displaying 34 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian rails.
NATURAL BRIDGES TO WILDER RANCH
Starting point: Natural Bridges State Beach parking lot. Return via the same route. Approximately 5 miles roundtrip.
Natural Bridges State Beach, 2531 West Cliff Drive. Open daily 8 a.m. to sunset. Parking day fee is $6. Visitor Center; 831-423-4609.
Cruiser Bike Ride 2
Pleasure Point – East Cliff Drive
You may have driven by it in the past, but take a moment to walk around the 9.2-acre Moran Lake Park before you set off on your bike. The park has beach access, picnic tables, and fishing (permit required). Walk the bike across East Cliff Drive and check out a lovely stretch of beach that is popular with sunbathers, body surfers and skim boarders. Head east, riding up a slight hill. Within a few minutes, East Cliff Drive will turn into a one-way street with a paved, multi-use path hugging ocean cliffs.
Respect pedestrian traffic, skateboarders and strollers sharing the path, but don’t miss out on the surf scene. Known as Pleasure Point, the area was long ago home to a number of speakeasies and houses of ill repute, spawned by the rum-running trade, according to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary’s visitor Web site. Today, Pleasure Point is a classic beach neighbor¬hood with surf spots like First Peak and The Hook drawing scores of surfers. Take a minute to watch them and ponder how, years ago, they would plunge into frigid waters wearing only a swimsuit, oil-soaked wool sweaters or long underwear.
For a sweet ending to your ride, grab a breakfast burrito or a Veggierama sandwich for lunch at the Chill Out Cafe, a hip spot popular with the local crowd. It’s just a block past The Hook on 41 st Avenue.
PLEASURE POINT EAST CLIFF DRIVE
Starting point: Moran Lake Park parking lot.
Return via the same route. Approximately 2.5 miles roundtrip
Moran Lake Park is located on East Cliff Drive and Lake Street. From 26th Avenue, turn left onto East Cliff. High season parking charge is $5. 831-454-7900.
Cruiser Bike Ride 3
Rio del Mar – Seacliff Beach
Past the park’s gatehouse, take in the splendid view, then make sure your bicycle brakes are working well before you carefully descend a steep, winding hill that leads from the upper parking lot down to sea level. Turn right and venture onto a flat, paved road that parallels the water. (The path directly next to the water is primarily for pedestrians.) Wave hello to the RV campers who come here from around the country.
When the road dead-ends at a gated residential community, turn around and ride toward the Cement Ship, the Palo Alto. Built as a wartime tanker, the ship was never used for WWI because its construction was not finished in time. The Palo Alto remained docked in Oakland until 1929, when the Cal-Nevada Company bought the ship with the idea of making it into an amusement and fishing ship. Its maiden voyage was made to Seacliff State Beach. By the summer of 1930, a pier had been built leading to the ship and the ship was remodeled. While you bike past, imagine the ship with its dance floor on the main deck, a cafe, a 54-foot heated swimming pool, and a series of carnival type concessions. Past the boat, the beach is popular with swimmers and the site of an annual summer triathlon. Continue riding next to the long stretch of sand backed by bluffs up to a covered picnic facility. Stop and have a picnic or some snacks before doing a looping ride around Rio del Mar parking lot. Return via the same route, walking your bike up the hill if necessary.
Rio del Mar: Seacliff State Beach Visitor Center to downtown Rio del Mar Starting point:
Seacliff State Beach parking lot.
Return via the same route. Approximately 2.5 miles roundtrip.
Take the State Park Drive exit from Highway 7 in the neighborhood of Aptos.
California State Parks, 800-777-0369.
How to buy a cruiser bike
Selecting the right cruiser bike is largely a matter of personal style, but there are some important factors to consider. Aaron Jacobs, manager of The Bicycle Trip on Soquel Avenue, and John Brown, owner of Family Cycling Center on 41 st Avenue, offered these pointers.
1. Decide on gearing. “A big decision is whether to choose a single-speed or three-speed beach cruiser” said Jacobs. “The single-speed is very simple, but the three-speed offers more options.”
2. Consider the style of your bike. Perhaps you want a Hawaiian sunrise fade with a pink, orange, white and yellow, combo or a dark green cruiser with red spokes and a white seat. Baby blue, pink and red are popular, though black is the color of choice for men. Check out various styles, including classic, stretch or hot rod cruisers to see what suits you.
3. Take the bicycle for a test ride. The best way to determine if the fit is good is to request a test ride at a bike store. Then you can determine if the size and style are right for you. Also ask about the difference between men’s and women’s frames and what material the frames are made of.
4. Determine price and quality. Around $200 is a starting price for a well-assembled cruiser bike. Bikes can reach up to $700 for a frame made of aluminum instead of steel, coupled with more unique styling, expensive paint and higher-end components.
5. Add accessories. A cruiser bike is even more fun with a basket, light and horn. Look for bells that resemble chili peppers, ladybugs and soccer balls. Horns may come in animal forms like dolphins and pandas.
6. Safety first. Locks and helmets are necessities for security and safety. Riders age 18 and under must wear helmets.