Cruisers were the primary types of bicycles made in America in the 1950s. During the latter part of the 1950s and into the early 1960s, roadster-style bicycles were imported from Europe, and many American manufacturers began producing these models as well.
Frank W. Schwinn developed the cruiser-style bicycle in the 1930s. He incorporated thick ballon-style tires from Germany with a solid and broad double-joisted frame. The bikes were heavy but aerodynamic and very sturdy. Schwinn used the cantilevered frame with two top tubes that he borrowed from motorcycle designs. Within a few years, most American bicycle manufacturers followed suit.
The 1950s saw the pinnacle of cruiser bicycle designs, with bike manufacturers Roadmaster, Colombia, Shelby, Monark and Huffy all focusing on the style. Many bikes were designed with themes and distinctive features, such as cowboy models with leather-fringed saddlebags and cap gun holsters and motorcycle models with chrome and gas tanks. An AM radio was built into the top bar of Huffy's Radio Bicycle. The bikes were heavy and usable mainly on flat surfaces, but were popular with paperboys and bicycle couriers.
Toward the end of the 1950s, European road-racing-style bikes began to appear. These were lighter and nimbler and incorporated multiple gears for easier riding on different terrain types.