Cruisers are motorcycles which have a riding position in which the rider leans back in the seat with his/her feet somewhat forward. The most well-know cruisers are Harley Davidsons, but there are many other perfectly nice (and cheaper) models out there.
The relaxed ride position may contribute to the fact that cruisers seem to be used as more weekend recreation than daily transport.

A motorcycle built for long rides, including touring and camping. Cruisers have comfortable seats and long forks with lots of travel. They are intended to be ridden by one or two people in a semi-reclining position, with the driver's feet on the front pegs.

Also, a BMX bicycle with 24" (rather than 20") wheels, designed so that people of taller stature (read: people who used to race 20" BMX but got old) can get back into the sport. I use one for riding around campus, it's really pimp, and isn't as likely to get stolen as a multi-speed bicycle.

Category of warship intended for independent long-range operations and scouting purposes but not powerful enough to stand in the line of battle; the steam age successor to the sailing frigate. Its prime characteristics are/were (a) enough speed to get away from anything bigger and (b) enough range to get to interesting places unaided; guns and armour were secondary. They were leading players in the imperial powers' gunboat diplomacy of the era.

In the pre-Dreadnought period (up to 1906) two classes of cruiser developed: light cruisers, usually carrying guns up to 6.1 inch/155 cm calibre but really intended to get out of trouble at the earliest opportunity, and armoured cruisers, slower but more capable of looking after themselves, carrying guns up to 9.4 inch/240 mm calibre. The latter proved to be an unsatisfactory and vulnerable compromise, particularly when battleship speeds became faster with the use of steam turbine engines after 1906 and the battlecruiser class was developed with battleship guns and cruiser speeds; during the first world war light cruisers of increasing size were the only ones built.

In the inter-war period the naval treaties between the great powers signed in London and Washington limited individual cruiser sizes to 10 000 tons displacement with a maximum of 8 inch guns for a new heavy cruiser class and 6.1" guns for light cruisers, and many designs were built to these limits (although both German and Japanese designs secretly exceeded the maximum size). Limits on total heavy cruiser numbers led to a number of ships being built as light cruisers but designed for rapid conversion to carry larger guns in time of war.

During the second world war cruisers served in most theatres of operations on a wide range of duties. The German heavy cruisers (Prinz Eugen, Admiral Hipper)saw service as commerce raiders, while British and American vessels were used for fast troop transport, scouting and patrol missions and widely as convoy escorts where surface and air attack was considered likely (they generally had little to offer against submarines, however); new British (Dido) and US (Atlanta) classes were designed with smaller dual-purpose armaments to improve anti-aircraft capability for use on convoys and in carrier operations.

After the second world war the importance of gun-armed warships diminished rapidly, while the global presence role was taken over by the nuclear submarine; there was little room for relatively big, expensive and vulnerable surface vessels with large crews, so most were scrapped or sold off to third-world navies, although the largest vessels in the missile-armed destroyer and frigate categories were getting up towards the size of cruisers of earlier generations. Both the US and Soviet navies did nonetheless build a number of guided missile cruisers to operate with carrier task forces.

US Navy pennant number prefixes (often used as shorthand for the vessel types):

  • CA - heavy cruiser, armoured cruiser
  • CL - light cruiser
  • CLAA - light anti-aircraft cruiser
  • CLG - light guided missile cruiser
A few notable preserved cruisers of earlier eras which can be visited:
  • Giorgios Averoff (1906) former Greek Navy flagship and the last surviving Armoured cruiser - Palio Faliron, Greece
  • Avrora (1903) light cruiser - a veteran of the disatrous Tsushima expedition - whose shelling of the Winter Palace (with blanks) marked the beginning of the October revolution, Saint Petersburg, Russia.
  • HMS Belfast (1939) - large light cruiser which say heavy action in World War II, London, UK
  • USS Olympia (1895) - protected cruiser, Admiral Dewey's flagship at the Battle of Manila Bay - Pitt's Landing, Philadelphia, USA
  • USS Salem (1949) - the last generation of heavy cruisers, pretty much obsolete when completed; the only surviving 8" gun heavy cruiser in the world - Quincy, MA, USA
  • USS Little Rock (1945) - guided missile cruiser, converted from a World War II light cruiser, former flagship of 2nd and 6th fleets - Buffalo, NY, USA

The Cruiser Powerplay Joystick

The Cruiser was, quite simply, the best joystick available in the 8-bit computer era.

The look

Whilst many joysticks of the day like the popular Quickshot range were bulky devices with finger grips and trigger buttons, the Cruiser was a lesson in practical design and understatement. The base was rounded at the front and flat at the back. The stick protruded from the centre of the rounded section and was about 200mm high with a thin shaft and larger head. There was a collar around the base of the shaft. The flatter section of the base was adourned with two round fire buttons -- both buttons had the same effect but made the device suitable for left or right-handed play.

The cruiser was available in three colour schemes:

Everything was black. The base, the leads and the buttons. Think of Disaster Area's stunt ship from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and you'll get the idea.
Green base, yellow buttons, blue collar and, ahem, a pink stick.
The body of the joystick was transparent plastic allowing you to peek at the gubbins within. Never saw one of these for sale, but my friend had one.

The Feel

This is where the cruiser came into it's own. The stick was the perfect size, allowing you to control it in any of the accepted ways. The collar on the base could be twisted to adjust the tension in the stick's movement. There were three settings: easy, medium or hard. I almost always used easy because it suited my tip-of-the-finger joystick style.

The bottom of the base featured suction cups. These were supposed to be used to attach the unit to a table or other flat object so you could use it freehand. Usually though, a better method was to hold the base in the palm of one hand with your thumb curling over to use the buttons whilst the stick is controlled using the other hand.

There was a nice audible click from the microswitches on both the stick and buttons. The unit felt solid and responsive. There was quite simply no joystick that was as comfortable to use until Nintendo bought out the N64 over a decade later.


The lead came with two plugs attached. The grey one was a Sinclair-type 9-pin D plug. This was designed to fit a Sinclair Spectrum via an Interface II. This was also compatible with the joysick ports on later Amstrad-ized Spectrums such as the +2A and +3. The black lead was a standard Atari-type 9-pin D plug. This was compatible with most 8-bit and 16-bin computers, including the Spectrum via a Kempston.


Strangely, there are two stories of the Cruiser's lastability. Some maintain that the device is invincible and that they still use ones they bought all those years ago. I, however, find myself on the other side of the fence. I regularly had to replace my cruiser, in fact it became a regular christmas present (always a black one).

The fact is, though, that this was offset by the price. The cruiser was much cheaper than it's inferior alternatives and buying a new one every now and then seemed a small price to pay for the gaming edge it gave you.

Cruiser bicycles are a somewhat lesser known breed of bicycles but seem to be making a comeback in popularity these days. Cruisers come in two flavors: the classic cruiser and the BMX cruiser.

The classic cruiser is easily identified by its retro 1950's look. Curved toptubes and downtubes (the two long tubes that makeup the main triangle of the bike frame) and wide, heavily swept back handlebars give the bike smooth lines; a glossy paint job with racing stripes and you've got a pretty slick ride. I believe it was the Elgin Bluebird in the late 1930's that made these bikes so popular (since Elgins were sold through Sears) but it was Schwinn that really glorified the cruiser by producing tons of after-market upgrades. These bikes are built for speed, stability, and comfort, not to mention style, and often come equipped with front and rear fenders and wide padded seats, rolling on 26" and, less commonly, 24" wheels with tire widths of 2" or greater. A high stem that raises the handlebars and a toptube shorter than found on mountain bikes (MTBs) allow the rider to sit up straight more or less unlike the hunchover seen on road bikes or the halfcrouch for BMX and MTB. I see professors sometimes riding a cruiser in a tweed jacket, trimmed white beard and wiry glasses, and damn do they look respectable.

The BMX cruiser is essentially a slightly larger BMX bike. The BMX cruiser is generally used for racing and has a slightly longer toptube, but keeps the basic geometry of the standard 20" BMX. The main differences between the standard 20" BMX and the BMX cruiser are the wheels, the fork, and the handlebars. Obviously, a cruiser has 24" wheels, usually the same width as 20", about 1.75" to 1.95". These wheels are built up from a 36 hole hub with 3/8" axles (though if you're builing a cruiser for street riding and tricks, you can build on a 36 hole, 14mm hub). A 24" fork is used though since your selection is rather limited in this size, you may find it possible to run a 26" fork. Standard BMX handlebars have about 7" to 8" of rise (height) and a width ranging anywhere from 28" to as little as 23" and shorter if you take a hacksaw to it. Cruiser bars on the other hand only rise about 5" and tend to run on the wide end though they're subjectable to custom trimming. Another option is to use a MTB stem and flat bars. It's really a matter of personal preference since the same heights, angles and offsets can be achievd with either setup.

Classic cruisers can be purchased at your local bike dealer, Wal-mart, or any number of online outlets since even traditional race companies like Felt are even selling classics now. BMX cruisers for racing are also readily available at high-end or specialized shops. Of course, you can always build it yourself or buy the components individually and have a shop build it up for you, the advantage of which is learning a lot about the workings of a bike and a tailored fit but at a greater monetary cost.

Cruis"er (kr?"z?r), n.

One who, or a vessel that, cruises; -- usually an armed vessel.


© Webster 1913

Cruis"er (?), n. Specif.: (Nav.)

A man-of-war less heavily armed and armored than a battle ship, having great speed, and generally of from two thousand to twelve thousand tons displacement.


© Webster 1913

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