Help - Coaster or Hand Brakes?

Discussion in 'General Questions' started by scokes, Sep 18, 2009.


Which do you prefer? Coaster or Hand Brakes

  1. Coaster Brakes

  2. Hand Brakes

  3. Brakes? - We don't need no stinkin' brakes

  1. scokes

    scokes Member

    Trying to help out a friend who can't decide on a bike. There are many options out there on a different bikes, but in my opinion, the only major difference between the two he is looking at are the brakes.

    I have hand brakes on a seven speed, but I have always wondered how the coaster brakes would do on an MB.

    Anybody have both and care to comment?

  2. HoughMade

    HoughMade Guest

    The short answer is no- coaster brakes alone will not do it. There is nothing inherently wrong with coaster brakes in their proper context, but on the speed MBs carry, as well as the correspondant reduction is time to react, faster response is needed.

    Front brakes are 70-75% of your braking- you lose that with a coaster brake alone. Coaster brakes get hot and fade badly...and possibly lock up. Rim brakes work well (v brakes better than calipers). The gold standard is discs and between the 2 are drums.

    I have rim brakes front and rear and a coaster, but I seldom use the coatser.
  3. Shadeslay

    Shadeslay Member

    I'll echo Hough, you'll want front brakes regardless. Hand brakes are an easier install, as coaster brakes require a few extra modifications.
  4. Reid

    Reid Member

    Why I am a coaster brake man:

    I live in flat-florida.
    I don't have to deal with long downhills, that would COOK a coaster brake.

    Coaster brakes have been perfected for over a century.

    There are no cables, no pads, no rim-wear-outs, no disk,
    and a CLEAN look for a cruiser bike.

    Do they STOP fast? Depends!
    From bike speeds of normal bikes (say, under 18mph),
    IF you lean back, IF, you put most of the weight over the rear tire,
    and IF you have a good, soft, non-skid tire (I favor Bontrager Hanks),
    the rear-wheel brake bike is good at stopping fast.

    IF you skid, it will only fishtail you, not DUMP you over the bars,
    or make the bike fall over.

    Coaster brake bikes are not really suitable, imo, for powered bikes,
    however, I have a home-assembled cruiser, good for 20mph unassisted,
    an e-bike. It has only a coaster brake.

    We have no hills. I know the bike's limits (Big Hanks really grip asphalt, wet or dry).

    So, for me: simple is best. It's such a clean look, too,
    and easy to service, and...

    ...for a minority of riders, but not for powered-bike riders,
    and not for hilly-terrain riders, a coaster brake works just fine,
    just like it did a century ago. My opinion is just that, and each
    must make his or her own choice.

    Man, I've had road bikes and hybrid bikes and derailleur bikes,
    ever since the Schwinn Varsity first came out.
    I was a child. I got about one mile. Beginner-me hit the front brake
    on a slimy-wet sidewalk, at about five-per. New bike fell down,
    scratched its new green metalflake paint. And I then learned how to curse.

    OK. Enough of my op-onions? I don't really cry; I just tend to go my own way.

    A front wheel braked bike is best for most all riders.
    It is extra safety, almost always, yet, the front brake CAN cause a spill if mal-used:
    too much-applied by the inexperienced or panicked rider. OVER the bars, one can go,
    at worst. Or the bike just lays down when front wheel lock occurs.

    Coaster brakes don't "cause" crashes, unless the wall is approaching very fast!
    Be careful on any bike of any brake. Front brakes, in theory, stop twice as quickly.
    Sometime that double-quick stop causes a disaster...again, in panic stops or if you hit
    a patch of sandy, wet asphalt...the cat that crosses your path, unexpected, for instance.

    Summary: front brakes, almost always, pos-o-lutely, yes.

    On the other hand, for casual, manual pedaling.,
    whether in city or not-hilly country,
    the coaster brake is safe and sure-enough

    Recall that early bikes dealt well enough with either no front brake,
    or, even no brakes at all: the fixie of old being the instance;
    and iron-strong legs of young men were the sole the braking power.
    Leg muscles would be of no help to them if they "scorched",
    feet at rest on the foot pegs, speeding down a long incline:
    they were then, at high speed, pedals hard-whirling, at the mercy of very thin Luck.

    The coater brake must be in good order, good chain, chain not too slack nor out of line.
    Coaster brake and internal geared rear hub bikes rarely, or never, drop or jam their chain.
    But, if you run a wreck of coaster brake bike, and that chain or reaction arm fails:
    you are sunk if you are speeding. LOOK MA! I'm gonna die!
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2009
  5. bryant

    bryant Member

    Thanks for the info.Looks like front wheel brakes would be a smart add on with a bike that has coaster brakes.
  6. Reid

    Reid Member

    Yes, yes, yes, indeed!

    Most all LBSs sell cruiser bikes. That's where to get a "low end" bike,
    but one of some quality. They don't sell junk-in-a-box bikes.

    I paid but two bills for my J&B Import, private labled, high quality "Sun Kruiser".
    It has no front brake.

    Yet, for a few dollars more, one can get that J&B brand with a front brake, or a big-name bike that has that front rim brake already fitted. OR you can obtain a fork, from J&B, all set up with the braze-ons, and convert a coaster-only, Sun Kruiser, or the like, to a two-wheel-brake-bike.

    Am a fan of all-steel bikes for bikes that will be power-assisted or ridden hard.

    I will not advise others to go coaster-brake-only unless they are manual-riders only, and then, only if they don't have long hills to descend, which will cook the vital lubricant-grease that makes the coaster brake live long.

    The Sun Kruiser, for instance is of hi-ten steel. It weights, in stock form,
    but 22 pounds. Now, it has only a single speed. It is geared for easy, 14mph riding.

    Put power to it and go twenty or more mph? Then it would be prudent to have a front brake.

    I have technical reasons, applicable only to my own set-up,
    that allow me to ride my e-bike at twenty-per, and still stop FAST.

    Let me show you a video of the e-bike, which is at present, off line due to
    a crash that was MY fault: don't pedal through acute traffic circles on any bike, really, if that inside pedal may strike the roadway. I took a header at twenty miles per hour, but landed in the dirt. The bike required a new front fork, is all, and I have yet to re-wire the torn cable that feeds juice to the e-Zee front hub motor.

    But here is that bike on a sunny day last spring.
    It was my first real ride of the converted Sun Kruiser.

    It is real life and it was a good day, health wise, for me.
    Usually, I am pretty much confined to the house (SLE).
    Here, this is a sweet story, part B of two parts.

    Meet the neighbor children via an electric bike; the first they have ever seen:
    It is a coaster brake-only, bike, fitted with an eZee front motor and a PING 36V 20Ah pack.

    Kind and happy regards to everyone here.
    Life is sometimes good, after all. And there is more to come.
    But where to plant the next video? It's remarkable, I promise you all.
    That video was just made, and is in YT upload. In a few hours, it should be
    share-able with the world.

    BTW: we live on fumes here...not rich like you'd think.
    No pride, and no fear of things, worse, :confused: that are coming.
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2009
  7. Happy Valley

    Happy Valley Active Member

    Good advice is to seek the best bike, and components, your budget allows.
  8. suspect

    suspect Member

    heres my 2cents, and id like to offer it since i feel i know of which i speak(as i mostly dont on here).


    - looks nice, esp on a cruiser/fixie
    - no, or almost no maintenance


    - they can be accidentally applied all too easily, ESPECIALLY at vital moments like when taking evasive action.
    - they prevent back pedal, which can effect balance.
    - they can lock far too easily, only the best types of cruiser brakes do not, in fact the cheapest types often only have one brake setting, so you cannot adjust speed without skidding, even the best cruiser brakes are still very sticky.
    - your breaking reaction time is much, much slower.
    - if your chain falls off, you are going to be wishing you had real brakes.

    i currently have two bikes with cruiser brakes, and ive owned and ridden countless with regular brakes, best brakes ive ever used were the disc brakes on my kona stinky, very responsive to say the least, worst brake is the cruiser on my new stretch beach cruiser, im quite concerned about that as i am adding a motor to it next week.
    my other biltema beach cruiser has an excellent cruiser brake, it came with front brakes but as the fork has been badly damaged by the previous owner i only have the cruiser brake now, its fine most of the time, except when it tricks me here and there, and worse, when the chain comes off(am planning to tension the chain with a small wheel or chain guide tho)
    just the other day i had to dismount at speed and use my foot as a brake has the chain had come off.

    an above poster compared cruiser brakes to front brakes only, i believe this incorrect and misleading, front brakes are important, especially on a motored bike, but id agree that rear brakes are more important but both really need each other to function correctly, my advice would be to install disc brakes both front and rear and dont bother with dangerous cruiser brakes.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 15, 2015
  9. bryant

    bryant Member

    Ok, I am a believer. No question at all about the need for front brakes on a coaster bike. I will sure install them if I decide to use the coaster bike. Thanks, Tom
  10. sparky

    sparky Active Member

    Just wanted to comment that that's why you switch the handbrake levers around. Rear brake should be on the left side, and front brake should be on the right side. That way, when you're travelling 25mph and ya need to stop, but your right hand is already tied up with the throttle... your left hand will naturally stop the MB in a safe manner, then you'll have plenty of time to react with letting off the throttle & grabbing the front brake, if necessary.

    Dunno why somebody would like coaster brakes for any reason other than aesthetics. Hand brakes and fixies FTW!
  11. suspect

    suspect Member

    yep, at speed coaster brake and hand front brake still seem dodgy as **** to me, for an MB i would think coaster brakes shouldnt feature at all.
  12. bryant

    bryant Member

    The break lever swithe from left to right and right to left seem to make a lot of sense. Whenever I get my motored bike going I am going to do that.
  13. sparky

    sparky Active Member

    Just make sure to warn your friends if you even decide to let them ride your dream machine. No doubt they'll let off the throttle at top speed and slam on what they thought was the rear brakes.

    I don't understand why bicycles have to have opposite brakes from motorcycles, since a motorcycle is the natural progression for all 2-wheeled rebels.
  14. suspect

    suspect Member

    i realised i left out an advantage of the cruiser brake over cantilever and caliper brakes, as i took off down my very steep driveway last night in the rain, that is, it works in the wet, but its not an advantage over disc brakes, which also work perfectly fine in any weather.
  15. sparky

    sparky Active Member

    I have no problems with V-brakes in the rain. I do have problems with mud getting ALL OVER my clothes, tho.

    You can even order some kevlar brake pads that might even wear your rims down before they completely wear the pads themselves. I do believe the brand & model was "Clark's VCR" from the UK. I woulda bought 'em for my bike, but the guy at the bike shop told me they wouldn't fit on my "off-beat" Chinese bike.
  16. bryant

    bryant Member

    Ok, I don't think I will let any of my friends ride it. Would probably get a law suit against me if one did get hurt.
  17. Shadeslay

    Shadeslay Member

    I have no problem with my v brakes in the rain either, other then the godly noise they make.
  18. Reid

    Reid Member

    You guys are right; don't think that I'm arguing -against- a front brake.

    Can only say that I've had both.
    The Sun Kruiser's coaster brake is of superb, smooth, non-locking, non-fading,
    and is a copy of a 1913 USA patent design. Its hub is thick, fully hardened steel. The shoes are steel.

    I have my weight fully over the rear, STICKY, grippy Big Hank slick.
    This just happens to work fine for me.

    I am able to run a mere 10PSI in the front tire (Big Hank).
    Now, that seems absurd on the face of it, saw those boys squeezing
    that soft tire?

    When I had my stufu-accident, the Weinman rim did not bend, the tire was not damaged, even though it all took a FULL impact right to the concrete curbing.

    The very soft, yet -ample cushion- of that "underinflated" front tire
    surely saved my eZee from ruination. The motor's plastic planet gears are not damaged in the least.

    Now, say I fit a front brake to the Sun Kruiser: then I must, must, run at least thirty PSI, for the front braking affect on the Big Hank at a -lower pressure- causes severe sidewall wrinkling.

    I used to have a Mongoose Retro e-cruiser, and upgraded it with extra battery voltage. It had these same tires, that I fitted. I had to run at least 25PSI in the front tires. The bike ran 25mph unassisted by my legs.
    It was OK, but being an SLA powered, very heavy frame, weighed quite a lot!

    Now, the current bike is weight biased all to the rear. There is no braking strain on the front wheel and its tire and motor, even if I HIT a curbing, as I did.

    All that happened was the front fork's soft steel dropouts "spread" apart and allowed the motor's axle to wind several turns, ripping wires.
    The fork itself was not bent. And it was a heck of a header.
    Had I not landed in the swale, I'd have been hurt bad.
    And no front brake would have saved me from that particular spill.

    I can stop FAST on my current e-bike. But, again, NO WAY would I advocate others to follow my lead: accidents will happen.

    I do know enough to use good chain and unworn, steel sprockets...but,
    yes! A failure of the chain or the rear sprocket to hub key-ing, means
    NO BRAKES. Hence, it is not a good plan for regular riders, and certainly
    not a good plan for hill work or over-20mph riding.

    So, we are all on the same page. No arguments. No concrete opinions fit all riders.
  19. Reid

    Reid Member

    paste-in of this noob's avoidable accident, not brake related

    The images are externally hosted so are not a drag on this forum's server at all.
    The accident was a wake up call, not so much that I need a front brake,
    but to NEVER corner a cruiser bike with wide, platform pedals, leaning hard through a traffic circle at high speed: inside pedal hits ground:
    bike and rider continue, airborne. The bike flipped over me, and landed after I hit the dirt.

    Any experienced rider would not have had this accident.
    Yet, note the lycra riders? One of them is just a hair's distance of pedal to the asphalt.
    So this must be a fairly common sort of accident for Sunday riders.
    I learn by near-death experiences.

    Summary: front brakes for all but for myself,
    and never corner too hard whilst pedaling a bike with a low-slung bb.

    See the second image, see the slight dip in the curb height?
    My point of straight-on impact was right there, just to the left of the curb dip.
    Posited: no regular tire and wheel combo would have survived that hard an impact.
    The wheel is not even bent the slightest from true. The ten PSI super-phat Big Hank
    is the reason why: it is a true balloon tire. And the rim is double walled, etc.
    In retrospect, torque arms on one or both sides would have saved the fork and the ride, completely;
    I would not have had to pedal the half mile back to the house.
    I will be fitting at least one torque arm when I get around to fixing my error above.
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2009
  20. suspect

    suspect Member

    hahah hilarious