26″Ain’t Dead: The Ultimate Cool Commuter and Cruiser?

Some of our staff (myself included), have been reigniting our love for the 26″ Mountain Bike. With most riders now opting for a 29er or Gravel bike for off road riding or commuting, it’s a rarer sight to see a 26″ nowadays… We decided to dust the cobwebs off ours and give them a little modern flair and a well deserved love (and a much needed service of course)!

Let’s start by taking a look at some ‘bikespiration’, here’s some of Merlin Cycles’ staff owned 26″ commuters.

Pictured Above: Rob’s 90s GT with Moto Bars, Fabric Saddle, Billy Bonkers 26″ Tyres, Carbon Forks, 1x Chainring. Rob created this ‘Frankenbike’ after being given the frame by Mike in our returns department. He now uses it as a commuter and weekend bike, enjoying rides along the Guild Wheel in Preston! “It’s a joy to ride and I’ve really had a blast putting this bike together.”

Pictured Above: My Merlin Malt 2, featuring Cannondale Carbon Bars, Raceface Stem, 1x Chainring and Billy Bonkers 26″ Tyres. This bike was given to me by my dad and I decided to make it into a commuter/cruiser for my leisurely ‘recovery’ rides and trips to the coffee shop. It’s a really comfy ride and the wide bars I added just feel refreshing compared to my drop bars on the gravel bike I usually gravitate to.

Pictured Above: Joe’s US Made (very rare) Rock Lobster 26″, featuring Chris King Headset, Kenda Tyres (perfect for gravelling), 1x Chainring, Thomson Syncros bars and Thomson Elite Stem, XT Groupset. Joe bought this bike to use for gravel adventures and paying homage to the classic roots of Merlin Cycles and the Rock Lobster range from the 90s! Due to too many bikes in his collection (if that’s really possible) he is looking to sell it sometime soon… Drop us a message if you want to make him an offer (don’t wait too long, a Lobster in this stunning condition is snapped up quickly)!

In this guide, we’ll explore how to achieve a similar transformation, from adding distinctive features like “Billy Bonkers” tyres and wide modern handlebars to optimizing your bike for urban adventures. Get ready to turn heads as you cruise through the streets in style! Of course you can add as little or many upgrades to your bike as you like…

1. Upgrade Your Tires: “Billy Bonkers” All the Way:

Start your transformation by swapping out your traditional mountain bike tires for the unique Billy Bonkers tyres. These fast rolling, dirt jump bike tyres not only add a playful retro vibe but also provide excellent traction and stability, making them perfect for urban riding. Available in both black and tan wall!

2. Wide Handlebars and Grips for Comfort:

Replace your narrow mountain bike handlebars with wider ones to create a more comfortable and upright riding position. Pair them with ergonomic grips that offer a comfortable and secure hold during your rides.

My Merlin Malt 2 has Cannondale HollowGram SAVE Carbon Riser Handlebars which I feel really update the look of the bike and just add to that wide bar cruiser bike feel. The grips also needed a refresh as they had seen far better days, so I opted for a pair of Token Lock on Grips in gold.

Rob’s purple bars were taken from an old Motorbike in the garage! So you don’t always have to spend extra to get that unique flare of a one of a kind cruiser bike! It might be worth asking around or seeing what old bikes family members or friends have tucked away in their garden shed…

3. Embrace the Simplicity of a 1x Chainring:

Swap to a 1x chainring setup with a chainring of your choice to suit your desired riding style and your elevation gain. This change simplifies your bike’s drivetrain, reducing maintenance and creating a cleaner aesthetic. You’ll appreciate the ease of shifting and the enhanced chain retention.

Find our full range of MTB chainrings here.

4. Puncture-Resistant Inner Tubes for Peace of Mind:

For your urban adventures, install puncture-resistant inner tubes to reduce the likelihood of flats. These tubes are designed to withstand urban or gravel debris and offer added peace of mind during your commutes. With weight not being a priority on a cruiser bike you needn’t worry about a few extra grams for the added protection.

5. Refresh Your Cockpit: New Stem and Top Cap:

Give your bike a modern touch by replacing the stem with a new one that complements and fits your wider or updated handlebars. Choose a stem length that suits your riding style and enhances your comfort. Complete the upgrade with a fresh top cap for a polished look. The stem featured here is the Race Face Aeffect 35.

I added a gold top cap to my Malt 2 just to match the rest of the gold upgrade colour scheme. It’s a cheap addition that just finishes off the sleek look…

6. Opt for a Comfortable Saddle:

If your existing saddle isn’t as comfortable as you’d like or has seen better days… Consider upgrading to a new, more cushioned option. A comfortable saddle is crucial for enjoyable rides, whether you’re heading to the pub or cruising to work.

My saddle was plenty comfortable enough but Rob only starting with his GT frame decided to go with a Fabric saddle and he is very pleased with the support it offers on the daily commute “It’s mega comfy!”. At an affordable price and unparalleled comfort you can’t go wrong with a Fabric Scoop Sport Saddle.

To explore our full range of MTB Saddles click here.

Your Stylish Retro Pub and Commuter Companion…

With each upgrade, your 26″ mountain bike transforms into a one-of-a-kind retro pub and commuter bike that captures attention wherever you go. You can opt to customise your bike as little or much as you’d like. Simply adding Billy Bonkers tyres to your old MTB is a game changer which may save you buying a hybrid bike.

Will you embrace the fusion of retro flair and modern practicality? If so, get ready to make cruise in true style whilst giving your old 26er the love it deserves…


  • Alex Cowie

    Outdoor Leadership and Coaching BA (Hons) Keen cyclist, runner, and outdoor enthusiast. I have been cycling since I was very young and always had a love for the outdoors. I have completed many long distance events including ultra marathons such as the Chester 100, Berkeley Marathons UK and Gravel Century rides.

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