Banana seat bikes
Banana seat bikes created a revolution in the bicycle market in 1963 when the Huffy Dragster began mass production on 3rd March. The chopper styling was quickly followed by the Schwinn Stingray, which was released in June of the same year.
Banana seat chopper bicycles exude style, and symbolized the laid back attitude, free-living, and beach culture that was central to American dream in the 60’s.
Capitalizing on the hugely popular chopper motorcycles that had established a following in California, the distinctively long banana seat bicycle mirrored the look of the increasingly popular motorcycle style.
It seems obvious now but in the 60’s the idea was radical. Bikes with banana seats seemed ridiculous and presented a huge risk.
most bicycles of the time were designed for comfort and practicality rather than style. Bikes were viewed as much as a commuting aid as a leisure pursuit.
Although previous decades had seen bike styling change to mirror motorcycles, putting a banana seat and Ape-hanger bars on a bike was a departure from practicality.
Banana seat bikes were styled to mimic the long saddles of laid back, chopper motorcycles.
The long seats could accommodate pillion passengers on motorcycles but were simply about appearance on bicycles.
The exaggerated ‘Ape-hanger’ handlebars and small wheels were additional departures in bicycle styling that accompanies the banana seat.
Banana bikes, as they became known, were essentially the bicycle world’s first major departure from the traditional world of commuting. The Huffy Dragster injected style and fun into bicycles helping to change the commuter tool into an enjoyable pastime to share with friends.
Are banana seats comfortable?
Although banana seats were mainly a styling feature, the longer shape allowed manufacturers to include more padding. Extra padding, along with the additional seat area, provided greater comfort.
Unexpectedly then, banana seat bikes were also found to be practical. The length allowed the rider to adjust his position on the bike for greater comfort and banana seats provided more padding and greater seating area. The seat design was typically more comfortable than a regular saddle.
As bike models progressed, banana seats became wider with improved padding and contouring. As demand grew, aftermarket seats often included springs to further increase rider comfort.
Bike with banana seat and sissy bars
Bicycle sissy bars became commonplace later in the 60’s. Again, sissy bars were useful for passenger comfort and safety on chopper motorcycles but were simply to add style on banana bikes .
Street motorcycles were commonly chopped up and rebuilt to suit the long straight American highways. Engines were often Harley Davidson V-Twin power plants that had stunning, effortless acceleration.
As rear-seat passengers had no handlebars to grip, a quick twist of the throttle could easily see the pillion roll off the back of the banana seat and tumble along the tarmac. You had to be macho to ride as a passenger unless you were prepared to hug the rider in front!
Sissy bars were added as a functional stylish feature to accompany the banana seat. The sissy bar let the passenger sit back and enjoy the ride rather than strain to stay on the seat.
What was the first chopper bicycle?
Chopper style bicycles cover a broad range of styling. The name was born from cutting up (or chopping) motorcycles and refabricating a more purposeful machine. The original chopper motorcycles were stripped down, lightened motorcycles with drop bars which became known as Café Racers.
By the 60s, chopper motorcycles were being built with stretched front forks, ape hanger handlebars, far rear tires and small, skinny front wheels.
The Huffy Dragster (or Penguin as it was called while in development) was the original chopper bicycle as it was the first production bike to have ‘over the top’ ape-hanger bars. This is the bike that started the trend but it opened a niche ‘dragster’ sub-category.
Following on from the success of the Huffy Dragster in 1963, Schwinn began production of the Stingray Chopper bicycle a few months later in 1963. The original Schwinn Stingray was very similar in appearance to the Huffy Dragster.
The Stingray took the chopper to the next level continuing with the original styling until the 80’s. As chopper motorcycles developed, the Schwinn changed to styling to the fat rear tyre style that continues to be mainstream today.
The present Schwinn Stingray is a far cry from the styling of the original 60’s model that bears the same name.
The chopper now identified as a banana seat bicycle is a big departure in styling from the original Huffy.
Schwinn banana seat bike
The 80’s Stingray added a much fatter rear tire, a stretched frame, low riding position, and had regular handlebars rather than the ape hangers of the Dragster.
The seat on the redesigned Stingray presented unique styling.
The banana seat widened further and became sculpted into the low frame. The fat, low, banana seat has a sissy bar to compliment the stretched frame and fat rear end.
Until the release of the Stingray, saddles were long and narrow and had been raised above the bicycle frame and wheels. The Schwinn banana seat was fat and sunk into the center of the bike. The saddle hugged the frame and was relatively wide and curved.
Banana seat bike 70's
In 1969, the Raleigh Chopper was released in the US, and in 1970 it was introduced in the UK. The Raleigh Chopper followed the styling of the later Huffy’s and Schwinn with a smaller front wheel and a taller sissy bar to compliment the ape handlebars, banana seat, and frame-mounted gear lever.
This became the bike of a generation in the UK who had not had easy access to the earlier Schwinn Stingrays or Huffy Dragsters.
Will a bicycle engine fit on a banana seat bike?
Adults often ask ‘Will a bicycle engine fit on a banana seat bike?’ I think that the images in this article answer that question adequately. We rarely encounter any major issues with fitting a bicycle engine kit onto banana seat bikes.
The fat rear tyre requires the engine and rear sprocket to be slightly offset to the left of the bike. The standard chain in bicycle motor kits are, however, just a fraction too short for most installations. It is simple to add a few links to extend the length of a standard bicycle motor chain.
There are rarely any issues in creating clearance for the chain to reach the rear sprocket and the installation is relatively straightforward as the pictures here show.
Similarly, the original Huffy style banana seat bikes are straight forward to install.
Can you put a banana seat on any bike?
Banana seats come in a variety of shapes and forms to fit just about any bike on the market. Schwinn style seats are usually fitted on top of a standard saddle stay.
Banana saddles of every shape and size are available so you should be able to find one for your bike. The question is more about styling. Would your ride look good with a banana seat?
Girls banana seat bike
Note here that although bicycle engines can be fitted to any bike, some models are easier than others. Girls banana seat bikes are amongst the more difficult bikes to fit motors to.
The issue is that girls bicycles have two parallel tubes in the frame rather than a crossbar. If motors are fitted in front of the rider, the engine is high, awkward, and exposed. Fitting the fuel tank also presents an issue.
The best place to fit an engine on a girls bicycle is behind the seat. Although many have done this, it requires a higher level of DIY and a few more tools than fitting to men’s bicycles.
Lady’s banana seat bikes like the Schwinn Fair Lady are great bicycles. Be warned, however, that if you want a motorized bicycle, we would recommend electric conversion rather than a gas powered motor kit.
Todays banana seat bikes
The comfort and style of banana seats bikes continues today. Lowrider bicycles often feature lavish, velvet covered ‘thrones’ that add style that cant be replicated with plain old bicycle saddles.
In addition, mountain bikes are emulating motorcycle styling. Many manufacturers are extending their mountain bike styling to mimic Moto-Cross / Scrambler dirt bikes.
The ‘Stealth Bomber’ electric bicycles feature powerful electric motors with banana seat styling.
How old is your Huffy Dragster?
The Huffy Dragster began design in 1962 but was not marketed until 1963. The Dragster was in production until 1971 when bicycle safety regulations banned many of the features of the bike.
The Huffy banana seat bike design spanned less than a decade but there were style changes over the years that will further narrow down the year of manufacture.
In 1966, Huffy extended the wheelbase of the frame by a little over 4”.
In mid 1968, the flaming stack chain guard was introduced to mirror the styling of Stingray side pipe exhausts of the time. Later in the year, the wheel sizes were modified to 16” front and 20” rear. 68 also saw the introduction of a car style steering wheel bicycle which was known as the Huffy Rail
In 1970, Huffy replaced the 3 bar frame with a 2 bar frame.
Modern banana seat styling
The banana seat bike is not confined to a bygone age. The comfort and styling have progressed.
Todays bicycles continue to resemble motorcycles and Motocross styling is popular on modern bikes.
Todays bicycles are higher but the comfort and style of the banana seat remain.
Lowrider bikes in 2021
Finally, I have to give a big shout out to the bicycle set in Las Vegas. I was lucky enough to see some of the radical builds that are coming out of the city – The styling, workmanship, paint and lighting are beginning a whole new trend in bicycle styling.
The new era of banana seat bikes takes their cues from the Huffy Dragster for the most part, but re-style the original with a Liberace flamboyance.
I would love it if some of the Vegas guys, or the California bike stylists, or anyone else, could post some of your pics here. I’d love to know more about where you guys are pushing the trend.
Banana seat bikes are making a comeback. The classic icons of the 60s and 70s are as radical today as they were in the day and a huge market is developing for classic bicycles.
In addition, a new age of enthusiasts are reinventing and advancing the nostalg 60 designs and bringing bicycles into the digital world.
We hope that some of the builds shown on this page give you an understanding of why these bikes are gaining in popularity.
If you have inspiring lowriders or banana seat bikes that you would like to share with us then please let us know. We love to see pictures and hear about your project.