[Looking for an unbiased bit of information about coaster brakes? Check out Lovely Bicycle's post on coaster brakes.]
The above photo is from Amsterdamize’s unbelievable collection of images of Amsterdam’s citizen cyclists.
A lot of the bikes we sell come equipped with coaster brakes (you know, the kind that make you pedal backwards to stop the bike), and we always run into a big wall of, “I hate coaster brakes” when people come in looking for a new bike. From our $1,300 Pilen Lyx bikes all the way down to our lowly $120 Firmstrong beach cruisers, the moaning about how “weird” these brakes are never stops.
Ah, coaster brakes. I myself am a fan of them and I think I have figured out what to say to let people know that they are actually a pretty bad ass thing to have on your bike.
Another image of “How people that ride a bike everyday ride bikes” and not “How people think others should ride a bike”. Viva La Coaster Brake. Image via Amsterdamize.
First, raise your hand if you’ve ever ridden a bike with a cell phone, umbrella, frosty beverage, bag, surfboard, musical instrument, or child in one hand. If you have, get thee on a coaster brake bike to feel the difference!
Have you ever tried using a hand brake with only one hand on the handlebars? It is a disaster! The instant you apply force to the hand brake, the bars begin pulling in the direction of your hand – and you have to quickly shift your weight to keep from twisting the bars in front of you. So, first and foremost, coaster brakes allow you to ride irresponsibly – carrying stuff, drinking stuff, talking on the phone, etc. and still have the ability to slow down smoothly. A coaster brake can be the difference between your surfboard or your groceries dumped on the ground on top of your bike or simply swinging a bit at the motion of you bringing your bike to a controlled stop.
I used my coaster brake equipped beach cruiser in college to ride from my house in Isla Vista to my physics classes on the other side of campus no handed during the winter months. The judicious application of a soft back pedal in the turns kept my hands where they belonged on those cold Santa Barbara mornings: stuffed into the front pocket of my hoodie.
So, before you dismiss them, think about the possibilities: sipping coffee without fear in Downtown astride your bike; blithely talking on the cell phone on the boardwalk bike path; swinging a gallon of milk in your left hand while the right hand does the steering; or, best of all, safely picking a booger out on a dry day of cycling (yes, I am being gross – but who hasn’t had to do this on a bike?!). All of this awaits you in the wonderful world of coaster brakes!
Charlie from Team Flying Pigeon on his custom Flying Pigeon Racer in Race #2 of the January 2011 Coaster Brake Challenge. Image by Mikey Wally.
Second, brodies dude, brodies. That is, you can bust some awesome skids with a coaster brake.