A Nurse with a Gun

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Coaster Brake Comeback

When I returned to bicycling, I was wanting a durable, simple bike similar to the ones I remembered from my youth. I also wanted an adult bike, one that fit well, and rode well. Click to enlargeThere was a void between the cable wrapped, derailleured monsters and the colorful cruisers at the local bike mart. After a hybrid, which I still use, a fixie and a series of cruisers and clunkers, I installed a coaster brake on an old ten speed frame with 27 inch rims. The result was spectacular. Then I did it again. Same result.

Coaster brakes are generally thought of as being brakes for slow moving beach bikes and kid's bikes. The fact is, they are virtually bullet-proof, and they require no cables, levers and accessory mechanisms to function. They are also quiet when coasting. They require little to no maintenance. They work in rain, sleet or snow. You always have the ability to apply the brake, regardless of hand position. The coaster brake allows the use of the stronger, less stretchy 1/8 inch chain. Click to enlargeOn flat terrain, where multiple gears are frequently only used to get the bike up to speed, the coaster brake has the advantage of greatly reduced weight over all the extra gears, levers and components of a modern multi-speed velocipede. The simplicity of the bike allows the rider to enjoy the ride rather than fret over whether he is in the best gear.

I was cautioned about several things. First, I was told the narrow tires would have less stopping power with a coaster brake than a caliper. This is ludicrous. A caliper does not result in a larger rubber/asphalt contact patch, unless both a front and rear caliper brake used simultaneously is compared to the coaster brake. I was told the spokes would stretch and eventually result in a sloppy rim, as they are designed for braking by rendering the rim motionless rather than the hub. This has not been my experience. My 27 inch and 700c coaster brake rims have remained true and tight.

It looks like I am not the only person who has found a strange void in the types of bicycles available. If you want to experience the joy of uninhibited bicycling ease, yet are reluctant to take the plunge into wheel lacing and rolling your own, there is now another option.

OSO Bike

Why didn't I think of that? ><((((º>

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Blogger Glenn Bartley said...

I have been thinking of getting abike for a long time, too long because the pounds keep adding one. I used to love bike riding almost more than anything but that was long ago, and I have not ridden in a long time. Is there any type of bike you could recommend for street driving with a fairly heavyweight on it (225 at last look), but that also might be able to ridden off the street, say on a fairly level trail in a city or town park? I am hoping to spend $750 or less, but my last and recent look in a biking magazine showed prices from a few hundred to more than I paid for my last new car.

Or maybe you can tell me a good place to look for that kind of info.

All the best,

8:58 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

Glenn, the usual answer to that question is a cruiser or hybrid type bike. In fact, if you want gears, a hybrid like the Raleigh Passage I own is just the ticket. I'm no lightweight myself, and my bikes seem to be holding up well. Of course, the wear and tear is being split among many bikes. The thin tires make pedaling easier, less friction. The coaster brake makes things simple. I would avoid dual suspension mountain bikes at our weight. Almost anything else is game. A real bike shop can help fit you to a bike properly, and that makes all the difference.

Sheldon Brown placed many many articles on the internet that may be of interest. Also, the bike blogroll here contains several good resources at the top, as well as cyclist blogs.

Chances are, you should be able to find a decent hybrid bike that will meet your needs for under $500, easily. If you want simplicity, go with a cruiser, but get one that fits you. Trek makes good cruisers up to 21 inches. Be willing to order the right bike.

9:41 PM  
Blogger lee n. field said...

Hmmm. Sturmey-Archer 3 speed with built in coaster brake? I remember these from way back when. A buddy of mine in college also had a 2 speed coaster brake bike -- a quick back pedal would shift the rear hub to the other gear.

What is the current state of the internal hub gear market?

5:59 PM  
Anonymous Kristopher said...

You know ... they do make internally geared pedal cranks these days.

Add a single gear coaster-brake rear hub, and you can have your cake while eating it.

4:36 PM  
Blogger laredoshane said...

You may want to check out the new Osobike slide show on youtube. It is just one minute long.
The Osobikes should be here in about a month if they don't get delayed.

7:37 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

I really liked your conversions! So much that I'm converting a World Sport. What is the tooth count of your front and rear sprockets? My front gear is 52 and I think the rear one I'm getting is 18. Will that work? Did you use a Master Link to shorten your chain?


7:55 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

18 rooth rear cogs. I believe the front chainwheel is a 48 tooth.

Yes, I use a master link with a 1/8 chain.

A 52 and a 18 should work fine!

8:51 PM  
Blogger Nicholas said...

i converted a 10 speed 70s peugeot to a single speed coaster brake on 700cc wheels and your experience matches mine. i think there is a lot of mythology around the problems of coaster brakes. only scary to ever happen to me is when a branch knocked off my chain. the brake itself never fails.

12:47 PM  
Blogger helena said...

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4:30 AM  

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