There's a simple formula for every great beach cruiser: It should be easy to ride and be able to take a beating. That's why it's no surprise that Priority Bicycles, the company that made the $US400 ($526) maintenance-free bike, has built a cruiser for use in places we need durability the most — at beaches and boardwalks. The Priority Coast is a brand new beach bike that is designed to be nearly indestructible and almost completely immune to the negative impacts of water, sand and salt. Every single component has been chosen to prevent degradation over time. The bike uses an aluminium frame and fork to prevent rusting. It also has a carbon fibre belt drive that will never rust, and never requires grease. It has stainless steel hardware and sealed bearings throughout the body of the bike, which means that no sand or water can sneak in and damage the components. In short, the Coast was built to last a lifetime on the beach.
For those that are unfamiliar with taking a bike to an oceanfront, it's an especially tolling test because tiny sand particles get lodged in the bike's bearings and salt water eventually rusts and corrodes the components. The nuts and bolts are especially susceptible to degradation because they're often made using cheap metal. But Priority Bicycle's founder David Weiner has hand-selected every single part on the Priority Coast, resulting in a classic beach cruiser capable of rivalling one of the most iconic bikes ever made, the classic Schwinn cruiser.
Weiner knows all about making great bikes. The New York-based entrepreneur spent six years as a bike mechanic in his hometown of Walnut Creek, California before leaving to build the financial and logistics software for some of the world's biggest bike manufacturers. His lifetime of experience as a mechanic and logistics employee has given him a unique perspective into what makes a great bike company: He knows all the big players, where they get their parts, what problems people experience most with their bikes, and ultimately, how to address those issues with the perfect mix of components. The result is a bike that's been built by obsessing over detail. Everything fits together perfectly.
Let's start with the drive train: The single most important component on the Priority Coast. The belt drive system used on the Priority Coast is a Gates Carbon Drive that is typically used only in high-end bikes that cost more than $US1,000 ($1,315).
The belt drive lasts about 10 times longer than a metal chain, never requires fresh grease, and gets rid of the clunky chain derailleur altogether — allowing for a ridiculously smooth ride. I've been using a belt drive for about a year, and I will gladly say I'm never going back to using a chain. The belt drive is by far and away the best way to power your bicycle.
Aside from the ridiculously nice belt drive system, the Coast comes with two puncture-resistant tires set on rust-proof stainless steel spokes. Although the bulky tires look orthopaedic at first glance, they prove they're value over time by holding up to almost any environment.
I've ridden a pair of the same puncture-resistant tires through New York City for an entire year, and I've never had a flat or ever had any issue with them at all. Because the aluminium frame of the bike is so light, the added weight of puncture resistant tires is almost negligible. Plus, let's be real here — I'm not racing through the streets like some aspirational Tour de France cyclist. I'm just looking for a nice, clean ride, and the puncture-resistant tires on the Priority Coast give me exactly that.
Although the tires and chain will be easiest for most people to notice when the start riding the Priority Coast, it's what's happening in the hubs that is probably the most important to the overall ride and durability.
The Priority Coast uses sealed cartridge bearings throughout the bicycle — including in the pedals, the front hub and bottom bracket — which keep sand, salt, dust, mud and anything else out of the bearing chamber. The sealed cartridge bearings are one of the other important details that Weiner picked up on. In most cases, beach cruisers aren't equipped with the same durable bearings that fight salt, sand and water. They just use whatever is cheapest. That's not the case on the Coast.
The bike comes in two frame styles — standard and step-through — and it's available in 12 different earthy colours. The Priority Coast starts at an introductory price of $US369 ($485 plus $300 shipping to Australia) and will eventually be sold for the price of $US449 ($591). It's set to ship in July 2016, but if you're in New York now, you can check out the bikes at the Priority Bikes workshop listed on the company's website.