Comfort bikes are often misunderstood. People think they're bikes that are only meant to be comfortable, but not particularly useful or fun to ride. Well, that might've been the case at some point in time in the past. It is certainly not the case today, as comfort bikes are extremely popular and fast.
Depending on what kind of bikes you're looking at, they're all made for different purposes. Some, like road bikes and fixie bikes, are made for long and fast rides on asphalt. Mountain bikes are made to conquer trails and off-road paths. Both types are fast when you ride them like they're meant to be ridden. And both are very fun.
However, neither of them is particularly comfortable, nor useful in terms of practicality. As we said, comfort bikes didn't use to be too fun, but that has all changed. They've taken some of the key components of road bikes and mountain bikes, improved on them, and now are an incredible way of getting around town.
Whether you're looking at men's comfort bikes, or women's comfort bikes, you will find plenty of comfort seat bikes out there. They have comfort bicycle handlebars, comfort bicycle grips, and other components that are specifically made for comfort. There are also bikes for seniors, as well as comfort electric bikes, even though we wouldn't really recommend them. And even though you might find comfort bikes at Walmart, or comfort bikes Target, or even men's comfort bikes at Costco, they're far from your best option.
What are comfort bikes?
Comfort bikes also umbrella Dutch bikes as well as cruiser bikes. They're the ones you'll see around the beaches in the summer, as well as all around town. They have a characteristic frame shape, especially step-through ones, and come with a host of accessories and well thought-out components.
If you're looking for a bike that will be comfortable through and through, whether you're just going to buy groceries, or you're going on a longer bike ride, comfort bikes are where you want to be.
On the market nowadays, you will actually find quite a lot of brands that make comfort bikes. As we mentioned, they have a few things that set them apart from road bikes or mountain bikes. The problem is, finding all of those things in a single bike is a difficult task. Some will give you a comfortable saddle, but put an atrocious handlebar that messes completely with the geometry. Others will get everything right, and put it on the wrong kind of frame, and again, mess things up.
Fortunately, there are brands that really know what they're doing. Brands that know what comfort bikes must have, and make sure to include everything. A good example is the Peace Bicycles Dreamer Step Thru (above), which comes in a sporty, diamond frame configuration, as well as a Dutch-styled step-through frame option. It has all it needs to fit the comfort bikes category.
But, what does that comfort bikes category require? What are all those things that make comfort bikes so comfortable? Let's find out.
Where does the comfort come from in comfort bikes?
When discussing comfort bikes, there are actually quite a few things that impact the comfort itself. And some of those things actually don't make such a difference individually. But, when put together on one bike, they make quite the difference. Let's take a closer look at how comfort bikes are made, and see what impacts the comfort that much.
The first and most important comfort factor is the seating position. Even though you might find claims that road bikes and mountain bikes are comfortable, that's only true for some people. Racers who get used to these things over a period of time won't find them uncomfortable, but someone who doesn't intend on spending time getting the bike to fit and just wants it to ride well out of the box will obviously have an issue. These bikes have a seating position that puts you leaning over the handlebars very often, which puts a lot of stress on your neck and shoulders, as well as your lower back.
If you want to avoid this, comfort bikes might be the solution. To begin with, whether you get a step through frame, or a diamond one, the frame is built for comfort. The good brands use a steel frame. Even though a bit heavier than aluminum, it absorbs vibrations a bit better. On a good bike, like the Dreamer mentioned above, the weight is balanced by using aluminum components on a steel frame. The geometry of the frame also puts you in an upright position, almost at a 90-degree angle. With the saddle lower than the handlebars, you're pretty much completely upright. This puts absolutely no stress on your neck, shoulders and lower back, and is a lot more comfortable in the long term.
Aside from the frame, there's also the handlebars and the seat. How they're made and positioned on the bike also has quite the impact on comfort. However, more on that later, when we go over the components of good comfort bikes and see how each impacts the comfort and riding experience.
Why is the frame so important?
The frame is the key component of your bike. With that, it's also the largest one, and the most expensive and difficult one to upgrade. You'll find frames made from a myriad of materials, but a steel one is where you want to be with comfort bikes, for the reasons mentioned above.
The main choice you'll need to make is whether you get a step-through frame as explained here, or a diamond frame. They're both excellent in their own regard, and it's just a matter of taste and what you prefer more. Step-through frames, for example, are mostly known for their looks and practicality. You can get on, or off, a step-through frame even when wearing a long dress or a skirt, as you don't have to lift your leg over the horizontal top tube. However, a diamond frame looks sportier and more aggressive. You can also put a bottle cage on it, as well as various other cool accessories.
The next decision is the frame size. This will have a huge impact on comfort, so taking correct measurements and choosing accordingly is key. You'll want to measure from the floor, to the bottom of the crotch, while standing. Make sure it's at a 90 degree angle. This is the most important measurement when you're choosing the frame.
Once you've made sure you got the right frame, and you've chosen the correct size, the next discussion point are the components. Let's take a look at them.
A few of the bike's components
Even though with comfort bikes, the main comfort comes from the seating position, that's not all. You can't have a lot of comfort if the components themselves aren't comfortable, too. Let's take a look at this through an example.
If you have a Dutch cruiser bike, which has the right frame, handlebars angle and seat construction, you should have comfort guaranteed, right? Well, not quite. What happens if that seat is built well, but the material on top is too stiff and doesn't let you get to the comfort of it? What if the tires are skinny and require a lot of pressure? Such tires won't absorb any impacts or vibration. That's a major hit on comfort.
Good comfort bikes will give you the ideal combination of frame and components. A combination that is durable and high quality, yet extremely comfortable. We spoke about the frame, let's now discuss the components, one by one. We'll see how each of them impacts comfort, and what you want to get to maximize it.
The first order of business are the handlebars
The handlebars aren't just a method of steering your bike. They influence a host of other things, from posture and stamina, to control and your overall ability to ride your bike. They're also the place where you put accessories such as your lights and your bell, and key components like your brakes. And, if you do fall sideways, chances are they'll absorb most of the impact.
The handlebars, if you want them to be comfortable, should have the correct angles in terms of upsweep and backsweep. Upsweep is how upwards the ends of the handlebars are pointing, while backsweep is how backwards the tips are pointing. With both angles correct, you'll have the most control over your bike. You'll also be in the most comfortable seating position, too. For example, the flat handlebars below aren't all that great for comfort.
That right seating position will put much less stress on your hands and arms. This directly results in easier steering and more control over where the bike goes. It just gives you one less thing you'll need to be concerned about, which is always a bonus.
A typical Dutch bike handlebar will put you in a completely upright position, at a 90 degree angle to the ground. For a comfortable riding experience, even for longer periods of time, this is where you want to be.
If you want to know more on beach cruiser handlebars, how to choose one if you're buying, as well as how to install it, you could learn quite a bit from this helpful guide.
The next major factor are the grips and the saddle
The grips and the saddle are the main contact point between you and your bike. You'll find the grips at the end of the handlebars, and they're often a component that manufacturers neglect. However, they're extremely important in terms of comfort. What a good manufacturer will do is put a pair of comfortable grips on your handlebars.
There are a few ways to go about this. However, for comfort bikes in general, you'll find that thick grips with a lot of padding work best. For example, the ones found on the Dreamer above are plush and comfortable. Another added bonus is that the material of choice won't slip when it gets wet, which adds some security.
Next, we have the saddle. Here's a good, in-depth guide which explains things in detail. The key points, though, are that you'll want the saddle to have a lot of padding and a good cover material. If these two things are taken care of, you can be sure that your bike will be comfortable.
What should you look out for with saddles on comfort bikes?
Whether you're upgrading your saddle, or looking at saddle options for a new bike, there are a few important things you'll want to pay attention to. There's a lot of difference between saddles on comfort bikes, and racing saddles, but the basics are almost the same, so we'll touch upon them.
The first thing is the cover material. More expensive saddles might opt for leather, but it isn't really necessary with comfort bikes. A good saddle will have a weather-resistant cover, and you'll want to avoid seams and reinforcing panels that might chafe. Oh, and a breathable material is a nice bonus, too.
Next, you have the shell and padding. This is where the shape and comfort of the saddle comes from. A common solution is a nylon shell, with gel padding. Another option is a thick polyurethane padding, which is also comfortable. This material also doesn't require any grooves or cut-outs, as it's comfortable on itself.
The good thing about comfort bikes is that you don't have to be picky, at all, with the saddle. Since they're comfort bikes, they're made to be comfortable, and the saddle is carefully chosen to fit that description. Well, at least with the Dreamer we spoke about, that is the case.
Last but not least we have the comfort bikes tires
We spoke about how you make contact with your bike. But how does the bike make contact with the surface you're riding on? Well, through the tires, of course. This is why the tires are the last crucial component of comfort bikes. So, what are important things to know?
First of all, we have the tire thickness. A skinny tire, like the ones found on road racing bikes, is not comfortable. It absorbs little to no vibrations, and it's very easy to puncture. A mountain bike tire is a bit better, but the tread will slow you down and create rolling resistance. The ideal compromise is wide, balloon tires.
Balloon tires, such as Schwalbe's Fat Frank have little rolling resistance, yet are wide and comfortable. They'll absorb most of the vibrations from the road, making for a really comfortable ride. If you choose carefully, you'll also get puncture protection. There's a layer of Kevlar inside the tire, a really tough material that's nearly impossible to puncture. This will make sure your tires are as puncture resistant as possible.
All of the aforementioned components make comfort bikes as good as they are
The components we spoke about will make for a really comfortable bike all around. However, it's important to note that for the maximum amount of comfort possible, you'll want all of the components to be carefully chosen. A plush seat and good handlebar won't do much if the tires don't absorb vibrations from the road.
A bike that's made well, and comes from a reputable manufacturer, such as the Peace Bicycles Dreamer, will have all of these components carefully chosen. Not just one or two. This is what you should be aiming for.
Are comfort bikes just about comfort, or is there something else to it, too?
Of course there's something else to it. While the main goal of comfort bikes is obviously comfort, you'll also want them to be safe and practical, too. Practicality makes sure that you can use your bike for more than just riding. It lets you run your errands, carry documents and items to and from work, go grocery shopping, and much more. Safety, on the other hand, ensures you can see your surroundings well, notify them you're there, as well as be seen by others. Let's take a look at all the things that make up safety and practicality.
The most important safety features are the lights and the bell
Comfort bikes aren't only meant for riding during the day. Some of us ride them after the sun has set, too. Unfortunately, since there's less available light, this might be a problem. For starters, you may not see a pothole or an edge and potentially fall from your bike, hurting yourself in the process. The other thing is that cars and other kind of traffic might not see you riding on the bike lane. You know what that might mean.
Lights will solve both of these issues. A front light, a white one, will shine plenty of light in front of you. You will be able to clearly see potholes and other obstacles. This will also let upcoming traffic from the front know that you're there - another benefit of a front light. The rear light, on the other hand, will let traffic that's coming up from behind know that they should overtake you and give you enough room.
The other component, or accessory, that has to do with safety, is the bell. We witness pedestrians walking on bike lanes all around the world. If you thought that's only the case in your town, well, you'd be wrong. Even though they shouldn't be doing this, aside from a bell or shouting there is no way of letting them know you're coming up from behind them. Having a bell that's loud and clear will let you warn people from a distance, so they have plenty of time to get out of your way.
Practicality comes into play with a rear rack, front basket and double kickstand
The last thing that's worth mentioning when discussing comfort bikes is that they're incredibly practical as well. You can very well use them as your main means of transportation, and you won't feel like you're missing out on anything. If you have concerns as to where you would carry your day-to-day items, such as your work documents, or your groceries, a basket and rack will solve that.
A rear rack is more useful than you would ever think. It has a very stiff way of mounting on your bike, which makes it suitable for carrying heavier items. If your backpack is heavy, you can just tie it down to your rack. Yes, you're still carrying the same weight, but you're much more comfortable. This way, there's a lesser impact on your riding experience. There's also the option of attaching a basket to the rack as well, for additional storage. This comes in handy when you're buying groceries, for example. The front basket is where you put items that are more likely to wiggle around. It has a stiff bottom and sturdy walls, so whatever you put in it, will stay inside.
To round out the package, you have a double kickstand. You might be thinking that a regular kickstand will do the job, and a double one is too much. However, think about this. When you're loading groceries in your front basket, would you prefer your bike to be upright, or not? Obviously, yes, and only a double kickstand will ensure it stays that way. That's why it's an essential component of good comfort bikes.
Wrapping things up - are comfort bikes a good daily driver?
If you go through everything we've spoken about above, you see that comfort bikes are a versatile thing. First of all, they're extremely comfortable. A careful choice of components makes sure of this. And yes, you want all of the components to be comfortable, not just some of them. The next key thing is the practicality and convenience, and they're unparalleled here, too. For people who are looking for the ultimate in comfort when they're riding their bike, comfort bikes are absolutely the way to go. You won't find anything better.