A Huffy Panama Jack Cruiser offers a return to the basics of cycling, where enjoyment and comfort are more likely to head of list of priorities, rather than speed or performance - all at the lowest possible cost.
Huffy cruiser bikes are all about comfort, about relaxed riding and fun in the sun, about attractive frame colors, baskets for (very small!) pets or something to drink, built-in bottle openers, and carriers for your beach gear.
No one on a cruiser will be trying to break any speed records. They are far more likely to be cruising the neighborhood with friends or family, pedaling down country lanes, making a leisurely visit to a local shopping center, or cruising the beachfront and boardwalk.
Owners and their friends are more likely to use words like “cute” and talk about frame colors rather than gear ratios, clipless pedals and cranksets.
So if you are into outdoor enjoyment in a way that won’t break the bank, take a look at the Huffy cruiser bikes, and in particular at the men’s and women’s options in the Panama Jack cruiser range, and the Nel Lusso Huffy cruiser bikes.
Huffy is not a fly-by-night company; it has been around a long time.
The original company first started manufacturing bicycles back in the late 1920’s.
The first Huffy-branded bicycle appeared in 1949 – a bike for children with training wheels. By the mid-1960s the company had become one of the largest manufacturers of bicycles in the United States.
While it later went through some tough times, it never lost sight of its mission and continued to innovate and expand its range to satisfy as many customers as possible.
By 2006 it had sold 100 millions bicycles worldwide and it continues to innovate and release new models. At present all its machine are manufactured in China.
Panama Jack and Nel Lusso Ranges
There are a number of variants in the Panama Jack and Nel Lusso ranges:
- Huffy 26" Nel Lusso Women's Cruiser Bike
- Huffy Nel Lusso (aka Panama Jack) 26" Womens Cruiser
- Huffy 26" Nel Lusso Men's Cruiser
- Huffy26” Panama Jack Beach Cruiser
- Huffy Beach Cruiser 6-speed 26" Panama Jack
(This list includes clickable links, if you want to check the bikes out right now on Amazon. Be warned that the naming is not consistent across Amazon, and the same machine can sometimes have a slightly different name.)
Spot the difference
The Huffy cruiser bikes vary only in some details, so rather than repeat six sets of very similar information, here is an outline of the common attributes. You can check out the table below to see the individual differences.
The machines in the Panama Jack and Nel Lusso ranges are designed around the company’s trademarked Perfect Fit frame, which positions the rider slightly further back and lower; this drops the center of gravity and makes the bike more stable.
As a result, this body position and the raised and swept back handlebars combine to make for a much more relaxed ride and help cut fatigue (not that you should aim to get fatigued on a cruiser bike anyway!)
Furthermore, this lowered frame makes it easy to keep both feet on the ground when you’re stopped, keeping you in control and making for a confident, relaxed ride.
There is a limited 10-year warranty on the frame.
Wheels and Tires
All the men’s bikes have 26 inch wheels, with color co-ordinated tires, fenders and trim. The tires are 26 ins x 2.125 ins balloons, which obviously make for an easier ride along the beach (although don’t expect miracles in soft sand) and on gravel roads and gentle trails.
And of course they are wonderfully comfortable for surfaced spaces in urban areas.
Maximum Weights and Sizes
On a general note - Huffy makes adult bikes in 20-, 24- and 26-inch sizes. The maximum weight capacity for a 20-inch bike is 150 pounds. For a 24- or 26-inch bicycle, the maximum capacity is 250 pounds.
Huffy manufactures children's bikes in 12-, 14- and 16-inch sizes. The maximum capacity for a 12-inch bike is 60 pounds, and 80 pounds for a 14- or 16-inch bicycle.
The Huffy beach cruisers reviewed here are positioned as being for “Adults”; the makers recommend a minimum age of 13 and a minimum rider height of 5 ft.
Maximum rider weight is 250 lbs, but remember to check the ratings for the individual bikes.
If you'd like a little more guidance, you can find an online sizing and weight chart on the Huffy site here.
For men and women it offers the same limits - from 4 ft. 6ins. to 7 ft. and weights from 100 lbs. up to 250 lbs. As the company itself suggests that the minimum rider size should be 5ft., the chart is a little optimistic in the range it suggests.
Both the handlebar and seat heights can be adjusted to suit individual riders.
Unsurprisingly, users love the casual, beach-oriented colors. While colors vary by range (and what’s available at the time), sellers offer pink, orange, yellow, gold, white/green, white, black and blue.
Panama Jack and Nel Lusso Ranges Very Similar
There are some differences between the Panama Jack and Nel Lusso ranges (although Amazon itself rather confusingly refers to the “Nel Lusso (aka Panama Jack) cruiser”, so does not seem to be trying very hard to distinguish between the two).
In practice, the Panama Jack range has a few more bells and whistles than Nel Lusso. In fact, even the title “Nel Lusso” is something of a misnomer, as it can be roughly translated as “In luxury”, but the bikes in this range have steel frames rather than aluminium (and thus are somewhat heavier and less resistant to corrosion), and also have fewer extras – and of course are less expensive.
Brakes and Gears
All the bikes, except the 6-speed, are single speed and have the old-style coaster brakes – you pedal backwards to apply the brakes.
They work perfectly well, particularly at typical cruiser speeds, and those of you who rode this type of bike in your youth will remember the wonderful skids you could induce!
The 6-speed has a Shiman0 TZ-31 rear derailleur twist shifter. It also has linear pull brakes coupled with machined alloy wheel rims to provide superior stopping ability.
Finally, here is a table showing only those attributes where there are differences between models.
Here are the Differences Between Models
Panama Jack Womens 26"
Panama Jack Mens 26"
Panama Jack 6-speed Men
Nel Lusso Men
Linear Pull Brake
Shimano 6-speed Derailleur
Alloy Wheel Rims
More info on Amazon
Seats, Fenders, Extras
The wide seats come with a combination of spring and padding for added comfort, and have a quick-release adjustment option. As a result they are quite comfortable and make for a relaxed ride.
The fenders are color co-ordinated with the colored balloon tires, so you stay dry and look cool as well.
All bikes have a handlebar carrier of some sort (either a basket or a cooler bag), a cup holder and a rear rack. Other extras vary, Extras vary, but may include a cell phone holder and a bottle opener.
The rear rack is rated for 20 lbs. Please note the weight limit – you cannot put a child on the back
The bikes require some assembly (Huffy and Amazon say they come “90% assembled") and this is a process that certainly does give problems to some people. See the more detailed discussion on assembly below.
And note that if you buy from Amazon, the bikes are only available within the United States.
What Customers Say
Seeing the advertising is all very well – but what do real customers say?
“Love” is a word you hear often. So are “classic”, “retro” and” cool”.
Assembly is a problem for some, but most assemblies seem to go pretty well, and take between one and two hours.
Boyfriends and husbands seem to do their reputations no harm when putting the machines together, even if they sometimes have to scratch around for the right tools.
Owners love the ride, the way the machine handles, the way it looks – and the low price.
As mentioned earlier, assembly was a definite sticking point with some buyers.
Both Huffy and Amazon say that a bike “arrives with all tools needed for assembly”, but a consistent theme from buyers is that you do need additional tools.
So which is correct? Well, here’s an extract from the manual which shows that you will indeed need some tools. Of course, this manual covers several models, so the specific requirements are not spelt out clearly in each case. It’s certainly worth checking when you order.
Consequently, this list seems to tie in very well with a comment from one buyer: “A little warning: MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ALL THE RIGHT TOOLS FOR ASSEMBLY!
"You'll need a small adjustable wrench, an open-end wrench, a flat-blade screwdriver, a Phillips screwdriver, pliers, metric Allen wrenches, a pedal wrench, even a bike pump in case the tires are flat from shipping!”
Furthermore, there is an additional
problem with assembly. The manual covers a number of models, so you may find the instructions referring to parts you do not have and processes that you do not need to follow.
On the other hand, one woman had no trouble at all: “I even enjoyed putting together. I have read so many questions on the difficulty of putting it together, it wasn't hard at all, especially with the Huffy video on putting it together, straight forward. “
If you need a copy of the manual, you can find it here, together with some instructional videos.
A number of buyers had problems with the seats; all emphasized the need to make sure that everything was screwed and bolted together really tightly (particularly the seats) before setting off on a ride.
While long handlebars are a key part of the relaxed riding position, their length does mean that you need to get your knees out of the way when turning – particularly if you are making a sharp turn.
Some buyers had problems with missing fastenings or damaged components; be sure to check the contents carefully so that you can decide whether you want to return the item and ask for a refund or replacement BEFORE you start the assembly process.
The bikes themselves seem to inspire extreme opinions. Buyers were either very positive or extremely unhappy - there were very few "average" ratings. Buyers seemed to allocate 4/5 stars, or 1! However, it was noteworthy that their were far more positive comments than negative ones.
Replacement parts are not an issue - the Huffy website will ask you to identify the place and date of purchase (if you can) and then ask for the model number, which you will find on the bottom of the frame below the pedal arm. Once you've entered the data you'll be able to search for/order the part(s) you need.
However, in case you are worried about spares and/or replacements immediately after purchase, here is the official Huffy policy as it appears on their website:
Returns & Cancellations
"What are the Huffybikes.com return and order cancellation policies?
If your order arrives damaged from the carrier, contact Huffy within 72 hours at email@example.com.
If parts are missing or damaged, please contact our Consumer Service Department using our contact us link or call us at (800) 872 – 2453.
All product returns must be made within 30 days of purchase, using the original packaging material. The customer is responsible for all return shipping and handling fees. Returned products must be in new, unused condition. Contact Huffy at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a return authorization number and return shipping information. "
Accordingly, the better option appears to be to replace missing or damaged parts; it would probably be more expensive to return the product.
Likes and Dislikes
The Bottom Line
If you want high-quality components, lightweight machines, trail-bike performance or high speed road trips, then these machines are not for you.
They are not designed for long trips or demanding off-road trails.
Rather, the Panama Jack and Nel Lusso bikes are for people who fancy white rim tires, handlebars styled to look like wood grain, slow and comfortable journeys with the promise that you have a bottle-opener on hand to satisfy the thirst you will no doubt have built up over the course of a casual ride.
So if you fancy pedalling in a leisurely fashion round your suburb visiting friends and family, taking a quick trip to the local store, cruising down to the beach or the boardwalk, drifting down country lanes and along gravel roads to get some gentle exercise, then take a look at what the Huffy Panama Jack Cruiser offers, and the machines in the Nel Lusso range.
They promise outdoor enjoyment at the lowest possible price – and they deliver in spades.
If, on the other hand, you fancy a little more speed (also without spending a lot of money) take a look at this review of the GMC Denail Road Bike.