How Does A Coaster Brake Work?

The braking magic of the coaster brake or backpedaling brake as it is known is in the rear hub of the bicycle. A bike’s hub is the wheel’s central component that is attached to the spokes. The bike’s rear axle also passes through the hub.

When you pedal backward, the coaster brake halts the wheel’s movement by engaging a brake shoe against the inner edge of the spinning hub. The shoe engages the brake, thus stopping the rotation of the rear hub, which in turn halts the movement of the bike’s rear wheel and Voila! The bike stops.

Explaining The Coaster Brake

Explaining The Coaster Brake

The coaster brake is the most manageable bike brake to maintain. Components necessary for the braking system are enclosed in the coaster brake hub; hence no component is hanging outside to be banged around.

The brakes are synonymous with kids’ bikes. The brakes are deemed easy to use and maintain as their design is simple.

What Are Coaster Brakes?

As I have mentioned before, coaster brakes are commonly featured on kids’ bikes, triggered by backpedaling. Besides, the braking system featuring kids’ bicycles is also found on cruiser-style bicycles for adults, but you will not find them in technical bicycles like road or mountain bikes.

Spotting a bike using coaster brakes is not tricky. The brake arm of the coaster braking system features prominently on the bike’s chainstay for your eyes to spot it.

Why Are Coaster Brakes Predominantly Featured On Kids Bikes?

It is viewed that hand lever brakes are complicated for young kids to master. So it is feared that kids will be unable to use them properly; hence, accidents emanate from over braking. It is further assessed that coaster brakes are straightforward for kids to master. This line of reasoning has led to the legal requirement by the US consumer product safety that all kid’s bikes must have a coaster brake.

Although the coaster braking system is easy for kids to grasp, parents should ensure that they have practiced maximally at low speeds to estimate the necessary stopping distance. The kiddos need to understand that the bike requires slight backpedaling for a coaster brake engage.

With enough practice at low speed, the kid will be able to coaster without necessarily bringing the bike to a stop.

The Upside And Downside Of A Coaster Brake

The Upside And Downside Of A Coaster Brake

Even though the coaster brake has its benefits, it too comes with some disadvantages.

The Upside

1. Easy To Maintain

The hub at the rear wheel houses all components of the coaster brake; hence no loose components are hanging out, wear and tear of the coaster braking system is rare. In other words, maintenance of the brake is zero. No cleaning is required to the brake, and it is uncompromised by the rainy season. A coaster brake at its prime stops the bike without whiplash.

2. Smooth Braking

The brake provides smoother and soft stopping power that is characterized by consistency in city traffic. You will not feel any jolts with the coaster brake as you bring the bike to a complete stop.

3. Bike Control

With the coaster brake, all your hands are free to guide the bike, and you are at liberty to use one hand to signal other road users while braking. Additionally, it becomes easy to modulate coaster brakes at a slope without giving away momentum.

4. Suitable For People With Hand Issues 

People with nerves on their hands find it hard to apply braking pressure using handheld levers. In such a situation, coaster brakes are essential.

5. Easy To Master

Some riders find it intuitive to backpedal; thus, to them, the process of accelerating and decelerating using their feet is stress-free.

The Downside

1. Confusing

Pedaling backward sometimes happens when learning to bike. If by mistake you pedal backward with no intention of stopping the bike, the brake will engage and bring the wheels to a stop. This act might throw you down, causing harm to your body.

2. Losing The Ability To Regain Balance

If you lose balance while riding, backpedaling remedies the situation, and you get back the desired balance. However, if the bike you are riding is equipped with a coaster brake, your backpedaling will stop the bike, robbing you of the balance regaining ability.

3. The Difficulty Of Resetting Pedals

The start position is a situation where one pedal is in a higher position. This position is essential for giving riders a higher starting momentum that translates to better speed. If the bike is equipped with a coaster brake, it is difficult to move the pedal back to the desired position, as they will be stopping the motion forcing you to lift the rear wheel to move the pedal forward.

4. Potential Brake Failure

Imagine a scenario where you are riding downslope, and the chain is jammed or comes off. In such a situation, you will be unable to stop the bike since coaster brakes rely on the ability to backpedal, a feat you can’t achieve minus a functional bike chain.

Removing A Coaster Brake

Removing coaster brakes is not a simple task. Remember the brake is incorporated into the bike’s hub; thus, disengaging the brake requires that you modify the rear hub or replace it altogether.

Before modifying the coaster brake, first, be sure that your bike has a functional rear handbrake. It will be unsafe to rely on the front handbrake alone. There are possibilities of the rear wheel popping up and throwing you off if you Ove apply front braking pressure.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Coaster Brakes Effective In Adult Bikes?

The ability of coaster brakes to heat up rapidly discourages their use in adult technical bikes that can ride faster. At a higher speed, applying the stopping power of a coaster brake comes as a jolt that will be uncomfortable to bear. If you must use a coaster brake, stick to low-speed riding.

The Takeaway

Yes, a coaster brake requires zero maintenance and is easy to use. However, beware that it is dangerous to ride at high speeds if your bike is equipped with a coaster brake. At top speed, the coaster brake will not only give you jolts when applying braking pressure, but it will also overheat and decrease its efficiency. 

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