Author Andrew Small
If you hit the beach this summer, you’ll see them. Fat tires. Wide handlebars. Candy-colored retro-looking frames.
That particular kind of bicycle is known as a “beach cruiser.” While it looks like a nostalgic holdover from the Eisenhower era, the bikes that ramble along boardwalks of America’s beach towns were born in mid-1970s. And, as Marketplace chronicled a few years back, they found their way to the beach thanks to the efforts of one man.
Back in those days, American bike consumers had limited options, defined by age group. Kids rode fat-tired, wheelie-friendly frames—think of the bikes ridden by the kids in Stranger Things. Grown-ups got 10-speed road bikes with skinny wheels. Larry McNeely, who owned a bike shop called Recycled Cycles along the boardwalk of Newport Beach, California, did good business modifying vintage bikes for bike motocross (or BMX-style) stunt riding, and the most common bike that McNeely had been adapting was the Schwinn Sting-Ray, the iconic kid-bike used in his day by paperboys.