What Is the Best Retro Bike?

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Whether you’re looking for comfort or style, there isn’t a better fit for a Sunday outing than a retro bike.

Retro bikes are true beauties that will definitely secure you a few compliments and lots of adoring stares.

Sadly though, a restored genuine vintage bike costs a fortune. Luckily, I found the best new retro bicycle that won’t break the bank.

Here are the best retro bikes:

 

 

What Is a Retro Bicycle?

If you’re anything like me—a huge fan of anything vintage—then a retro bike is the pinnacle of luxury rides.

However, because of the high price tags on most—if not all—restored vintage bicycles, they’re often out of reach.

Fortunately, because the style is so popular, brands have, for a long time, been recreating it into new, modern bikes.

Modern retro bicycles are designed to mimic the features and characteristics of vintage styles.

For instance, you won’t see this type donning a carbon fiber frame. Instead, they consist mostly of good old steel—except for the fancy brands using aluminum.

Retro bikes sport classic geometry and often minimalist looks that you can style with baskets and carriers.

Typical Retro Bicycle Characteristics

I guess because of the popularity of this style, a lot of brands are marketing their models under the retro/vintage niche. However, not all of them comprise the characteristics of this classic style.

Here are a few typical retro bike characteristics:

  • Upright position: In the good old days, cyclists were almost always seated in an upright riding position; this was mostly because the bike was merely intended to get you around town—not for speed and aerodynamics. Because of this, most retro bike recreations will have a frame and handlebar stem that promotes this position.
  • Commuter/urban bike: Most retro bicycles are within the commuter/urban cruiser style. The original bikes would feature a diamond frame, intended for general use. Back then, there weren’t many purpose-built bicycles, like mountain bikes or road bikes. So, don’t expect to find your new racer in this category.
  • Functional accessories: In the early years, these bikes were used for function rather than leisure. Because of this, they’d often include more functional features like built-in headlights, fenders, chain guards, and integrated racks and baskets. Unfortunately, not all these features are standard on today’s retro bikes.

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Choosing the Best Retro Bicycle

Although I mentioned some characteristics above, there are a few additional things to consider when deciding on a bike.

Frame

With retro bikes, the norm in terms of materials is steel. As I said earlier, some manufacturers may try to cut the weight down by using aluminum, which is also quite durable.

The next thing to consider when it comes to the frame is the design.

Most retro bicycles have a swooping frame—step-through design—which allows you to mount and dismount your bike easily.

There are variants for men with the typical straight frame that you have to swing your leg over. But expect the handlebars to sit in a way that promotes an upright riding position.

Gears

Retro bikes are often very uncomplicated cycles; this also means that most only have one gear.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it makes maintenance and leisure rides effortless, and again, uncomplicated—there’s no worrying about which gear to shift to.

It also limits the weight of the bike, which may help maintain speed and control.

With that said, if you’re looking to use a retro bike for your daily long-distance commute, gears are necessary.

Luckily, several clever manufacturers are offering their retro-inspired bicycles with multi-gear options. They usually have three or seven gears—rarely above that.

I’d also recommend that you opt for three or more gears if you live in a hilly neighborhood. It’ll make hills a lot more manageable.

Accessories

Looking for a bike with all the bells and whistles might sound like a good idea, but I’d say it’s better to keep the included accessories to a minimum and then add as you go.

Sometimes—depending on the manufacturer—included accessories are of poor quality, and before you know it, prove useless.

So with your retro bike, it’s better to stick with the basics, like front and rear fenders and perhaps a rear rack.

Then once you have your bike, consider accessories such as a retro-inspired bell, basket and lights. Fortunately, most modern bicycles are made to be customizable, so adding new items is no biggie.

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Brakes

The typical retro-inspired bike includes a coaster brake—the type where you pedal backward to stop. Often manufacturers are trying to make them as simple as possible, which means that lever brakes are off the table.

Without levers, it generally gives a clean, lightweight appearance to the handlebars, which sort of reflects that old style.

Coaster brakes are also functional and often safer; they allow you to brake abruptly without falling over the handlebar. If you aren’t used to this type, it may take some time to get used to.

Still, there are bikes within the retro-style genre that include hand brakes. Although, it’s mostly cycles that have gears.

Many have a hand brake for the front and rear wheel, which prevents those nasty over-handlebar accidents.

What is the best retro bike

Review of the Best Retro Bicycle

Following extensive research, I managed to narrow down the candidates for the best retro bicycle to my top six.

Let’s take a look:

Our Overview

At the top of my list, I found the Navitas Organics Urban Lady by Firmstrong. In my opinion, this retro-styled bike comprises several good-to-have features and retro bicycle traits.

This is a 26-inch women’s single-speed cruiser, designed for relaxed, laid back riding.

One of the standout points about this bike is the curvy design. It embraces retro roots with a flair of modern appeal, plus it’s available in 13 colors.

The bike consists of a 15-inch sturdy steel frame with aluminum wheels. It’s sized for women with heights between 5 to 6 feet, and it’s capable of carrying any plus size rider.

But I will say, the cherry on top with this retro bicycle is the white-wall balloon tires. They give off a Grease-like vibe, perfect for cruising the city or boardwalk.

These tires also provide lots of cushioning while you ride—they’re thick and wide. Firmstrong boasts how smooth and effortless the Urban Lady is to ride. To top it all off, you have a broad comfort seat and easy-to-use coaster brakes.

That said, although this bike is great for weekend trips, it probably won’t withstand everyday use.

Specs:

  • Wheel size: 26-inch.
  • Weight: 38 pounds.
  • Brakes: Coaster and hand brakes.
  • Frame material: Steel.

Pros:

  • Curvey, retro-style frame.
  • Durable steel frame.
  • Aluminum wheels.
  • Available in 13 colors.
  • White-wall balloon tires.
  • Cushioned ride with a comfort seat.

Cons

  • Not suitable for everyday use.
  • Susceptible to rust.

Our Overview

Hybrid bikes are perfect for cyclists who need a versatile bicycle. And the EvryJourney by sixthreezero combines a commuter bike and comfort with some retro vibes.

The EvryJourney is a versatile bike—you can take the kids to school or follow them on a leisure ride around the neighborhood. It comes with a seven-speed Shimano derailleur and front and rear handbrakes, excellent for long-distance commutes.

What caught my eye with this bike was its swooping, low 17.6-inch steel frame. The step-through design places you in a comfortable, upright position.

It has a low center of gravity, making it easier to mount and dismount, while also keeping your legs extended properly.

The pedal position and foot-forward seat allow you to quickly stop and place your feet flat on the ground while remaining seated. This suggests it’s both a great option for multitasking moms as well as new riders who are still finding their balance.

Moving onto its design, I must say, the cushioned seat finished with brown synthetic leather and matching hand grips makes it easy to look at. It features classic stitching for those fine details.

The ride is also smooth, thanks to the 2-inch semi-slick tires. They provide both cushioning and some shock-absorption.

Lastly, it comes 85 percent assembled. But, the instructions seem to be poorly written, so what was supposed to be a breeze might become an hour of swearing—better keep the kids inside.

Specs:

  • Wheel size: 26-inch.
  • Weight: 45 pounds.
  • Brakes: Front and rear handbrakes.
  • Frame material: Steel.

Pros:

  • Super-versatile.
  • Swooping frame.
  • Seven-speed gear.
  • Front and rear handbrakes.
  • Excellent for newbies.
  • Synthetic leather seat with classic stitching.
  • Thick, 2-inch tires.

Cons

  • Difficult to assemble.
  • May squeak or make noise while riding.
  • Quite heavy—weighs 45 pounds.

Our Overview

The Huron beach cruiser from Schwinn is a durable, single-speed retro bicycle. It’s a 26-inch bike, suitable for riders between 5 feet 4 inches and 6 feet 2 inches.

The Huron comprises a steel frame and fork, which provides a comfortable, smooth ride. For that retro look, it features front and rear fenders that also work wonders at keeping mud away from your legs.

For the wheels, you have aluminum alloy rims that are lightweight yet durable. What I find pleasing is the padded cruiser saddle with springs; this suggests it’s ultra-comfortable to ride, even over bumps in the road.

Another great feature is the handlebar with an upright stem; this enables you to sit upright, increasing comfort for your back and shoulders.

To further that retro vibe, you have easy-to-use coaster brakes, making stopping smooth. Another fantastic detail is the finish—you can get the frame in matte black, glossy grey, or matte red.

Although this option has a single-speed drivetrain, it’s also available as three-speed and seven-speed. These would be better choices if you’ll use the bike for your daily commute.

Sadly, it seems that some of the parts aren’t as durable as hoped, particularly the front brake lever.

Specs:

  • Wheel size: 26-inch.
  • Weight: 45 pounds.
  • Brakes: Coaster and hand brakes.
  • Frame material: Steel.

Pros:

  • Front and rear fenders.
  • Aluminum alloy rims.
  • Padded saddle with springs.
  • Upright handlebar stem.
  • Three finishes available.
  • Comes almost assembled.
  • Limited lifetime warranty.

Cons

  • Not as durable as hoped.
  • Poor customer service.
  • Some may find it difficult to ride on hilly terrain.

Our Overview

Touring bikes are excellent whether you live in the city or cruising the countryside. The next option is the Ride in the Park men’s touring bicycle from sixthreezero.

This is a take on a classic city touring bike, finished with a low-profile, lightweight aluminum frame.

I want to begin by mentioning the handlebar. The geometry of the handlebar encourages an upright riding position, which helps your arms, shoulders, and back remain relaxed.

Then on the handles, you’ll have soft synthetic leather in a brown finish, which perfectly complements the black frame. And for the finish, there’s classic stitching for that vintage-vibe.

For the tires, the bike features 26-inch wheels with double-wall rims, ensuring a smooth ride. The seat is another comfort feature, consisting of synthetic leather that matches the handles.

At the rear, you have a rack for optional baskets, which is suitable for carrying groceries or a picnic basket.

Also included is an internal Shimano hub with a Nexus shifter; this type is super easy to use and is suitable for a range of rides, ranging from long-distance to short leisure. Additionally, you’ll have front and rear handbrakes.

The retro bicycle is suitable for riders between 5 feet and 6 feet 2 inches in height. It also comes 85 percent assembled, but the instructions are a bit misleading and difficult to interpret.

Specs:

  • Wheel size: 26-inch.
  • Weight: 30 pounds.
  • Brakes: Front and rear handbrakes.
  • Frame material: Aluminum.

Pros:

  • Lightweight aluminum frame.
  • Comfortable handlebar.
  • Synthetic leather on handles and saddle.
  • Double-wall rims.
  • Rear rack for basket.
  • Shimano hub and Nexus shifter.

Cons

  • Some riders may find it difficult to assemble.
  • The seat could use some cushioning.

Our Overview

Up next, we have another beach cruiser. The women’s three-speed beach cruiser from sixthreezero provides one of the comfiest rides.

The beach cruiser comes with an internal Shimano three-speed gear shifting system, which I recommend for riders who are climbing hills or doing long commutes.

What sets this bicycle apart from the rest is its retro-styled, chunky, curvy 17-inch frame. It places the rider in an upright position, excellent for cruising. At the front and rear wheel, you have matching fenders that keep mud and dirt away.

As for the tires, the cruiser includes balloon tires with coaster brakes. They contribute to the smooth ride by absorbing bumps. It also features an extra-wide comfort saddle with dual-springs.

This bike also comes with specially crafted crank mechanics; this increases the smoothness of the ride across most paths, whether they’re paved or dirt.

The bicycle is suitable for riders with heights between 5 feet 4 inches to 6 feet 4 inches. It’s available in a variety of colors with matching seats and grips.

However, the pedals seem to draw on the positives; they appear to be of poor quality, which is a bit of a letdown. Fortunately, you can always replace them.

Specs:

  • Wheel size: 26-inch.
  • Weight: 37.5 pounds.
  • Brakes: Coaster brakes.
  • Frame material: N/A.

Pros:

  • Very comfortable ride.
  • Includes a high-quality Shimano hub.
  • Chunky, curvy frame.
  • Retro-style fenders.
  • Wide saddle with dual-springs.
  • Suitable for a range of rides.

Cons

  • It includes some low-quality parts.
  • Difficult to assemble.
  • The seat can be challenging to fasten properly.

Our Overview

Lastly, we have the Wayfarer hybrid cruiser from Schwinn. I chose this retro-styled cruiser as my honorable mention because it’s certainly worth a look.

The Wayfarer offers a retro city frame and fork for a comfortable and stylish ride. It comes with a Schwinn seven-speed twist shifter and rear derailleur for quick gear changes.

In addition, the retro bicycle includes front and rear linear-pull brakes, which ensure secure and precise stops. To emphasize the retro vibe, it comes with front and rear fenders that also protect you from mud.

At the rear, you’ll have a classic carrier, providing an opportunity for convenient onboard storage.

The bike is available as either a 16-inch or 18-inch, so it isn’t suitable for tall riders. It’s nonetheless comfortable and very stylish. Also included is a limited lifetime warranty.

Specs:

  • Wheel size: 18-inch.
  • Weight: N/A.
  • Brakes: Front and rear linear-pull brakes.
  • Frame material: Steel.

Pros:

  • Retro frame and fork.
  • Seven-speed twist shifter.
  • Features both front and rear linear-pull brakes.
  • Front and rear fenders.
  • Classic rear carrier.
  • Comfortable ride.
  • Adjustable seat.

Cons

  • Only available as a 16-inch or 18-inch.
  • Some may find it difficult to assemble.
  • Not suitable for long rides—the seat lacks some cushioning.

 

What Is the Best Retro Bike?

The retro style is making a major comeback, and I’m here for it. A retro bicycle provides a nostalgic riding experience that’s also ultra-comfortable.

This is also why I’ve chosen the Navitas Organics Urban Lady by Firmstrong as today’s winner.

With its white-wall balloon tires and retro-styled frame, it’s a bike you want to ride for hours around the city or boardwalk.

It’s also simple—one-speed drivetrain and coaster brakes—as well as a lightweight frame. So for me, this is a clear winner.

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