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  1. #1
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    4 yr old first two wheel bike - coaster brake or hand brake?

    My 4.5 yr old son is progressing very rapidly to being able to ride without training wheels. He's fairly good now at his balance bike. And he's still super fast with his training wheel bike.

    Last night he chose to ride his training wheel bike this time and we did one lap with his training wheels at the normal height setting. Then for the second lap, I raised his training wheels as high as they could go to see how he would do. He did manage to ride upright for some of the time (i.e. without relying on his training wheels), but he also did the "lean" to get the training wheel to hit the ground on purpose. I think after about a couple weeks or less, he'll be able to ride normally and not try to lean towards the training wheel.

    His balance bike has a single hand brake, which he uses well (perhaps too well LOL). His training wheel has a coaster brake, and I notice that he has a hard time braking when his feet are at the noon and 6 o'clock positions. It's hard to pedal backwards with enough torque to engage the brakes at that position for anyone.

    Then it got me thinking. For a new rider, if they are trying to use a coaster brake, they can't exactly put their feet on the ground for balance and brake at the same time.

    Is it better to get him a bike with a hand brake so he can brake while putting his feet on the ground for stability? Plus, he can use the hand brake to stop the bike from rolling away from him while he tries to get on/off the bike. Or have your kids done fine with just the coaster brake when you first removed the training wheels?

    I've looked a little online and retailers have both coaster and hand brakes for the 12" and 16" bikes...there is no majority. It was about half and half.

    I think I would feel better if he had a hand brake bike when starting off...but just wondering if I haven't thought of any reasons to stick with his training wheel bike with the coaster brake and just remove the training wheels.

    Any advice? Thanks in advance.
    2012 Brompton H6L raw lacquer, hub dynamo lights, eazy wheels, C + Mini O bag, Ergon GP-1 biokork S grip shift, Lightweights spoke reflectors, Saddle Adapter pin.

  2. #2
    Senior Member BruceHankins's Avatar
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    A hand brake bike may be hard for him to grasp unless he has some big hands. My 6 year old has a hard time in his 20" mtb, not so much on the 16" coaster combo. I would say get a 16" bike with a coaster and front brake. Get him using the front lever (I had to adjust my sons so the lever was almost all the way in at first and adjusted the brakes as he grew), as that's the one you should use to stop any hand brake bike. The coaster will be there as a backup and if he is feeling confident then take off the rod and install a rear cantilever brake also.

  3. #3
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    Go Islabikes - http://www.islabikes.com/us/

    All components designed and sized for each size of bike, including the best proportioned children's brakes I've seen. Probably look a bit pricey, but UK experience shows that you can get up to 90% of original purchase price back on ebay as much as 18 months later, so net cost is low.

    We use them as Kids Club bikes without any problems regarding size/proportions/exceptional ease of use, etc.

    Now they have a base in Portland and have been well reviewed (see bikeportland.org.), they are much more easily obtained.

    I have no, repeat no, connection with either the UK or the US company.

    The latest models are about 0.5 kilo lighter than those we bought and they are the best bang per buck I knkow of.

  4. #4
    Senior Member delcrossv's Avatar
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    I'm in the "why have them learn one thng to have them unlearn it later" camp.With the little MTB levers hand brakes aren't a big problem. I put them on my 4 y.o. 's bike and he ignores the coaster brake completely.
    Lightning P-38 / M5 M-Racer/Ryan Vanguard

  5. #5
    Senior Member rekmeyata's Avatar
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    I agree with delcrossv above. I would teach him now how to use what he will be using in a few short years anyways. And teaching a kid to use coaster brakes is just as difficult as to teach him to use hand brakes! so why bother with the coasters? It can be done of course, I learned to use coaster brakes when I was kid but then later had to transition to hand brakes and it was a bit confusing in the beginning specially in panic situations where I was pedaling backwards and not stopping! But in short amount of time I was using hand brakes without a problem, but again why bother teaching with coaster brakes only later to teach handbrakes?

  6. #6
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    The hand brakes on inexpensive little kids' bikes are generally cheap stamped metal bits in my experience, and the rims tend to be steel with no real brake track. If a bike has *good* hand brakes, I'd be comfortable putting my kids on that bike. But if they have the cheap bakes I'm used to seeing, I'd have a lot more confidence in a coaster brake.

  7. #7
    Senior Member rekmeyata's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkyDog75 View Post
    The hand brakes on inexpensive little kids' bikes are generally cheap stamped metal bits in my experience, and the rims tend to be steel with no real brake track. If a bike has *good* hand brakes, I'd be comfortable putting my kids on that bike. But if they have the cheap bakes I'm used to seeing, I'd have a lot more confidence in a coaster brake.
    Keep in mind with hand brakes they do have two of them, with coaster brakes you only get one, and it's on the rear where the brake and tire has less of the braking power then the front could do. I think I would rather have two cheap hand brakes then one good coaster brake, thus the kid can use two tires to stop with and the most important tire, the front, does most of the braking.

    I have seen kids bikes with coaster brakes for the rear and a front hand brake (again a cheap brake) but kids get even more confused trying to pedal back wards to activate the coaster brake and then squeeze the brake lever.

  8. #8
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    Update - I got my son a 14" Tony Hawk bike that has three brakes (front and rear hand brakes + coaster brake). He is no longer cramped in his 12" bike cockpit, however, the bike is a bit too heavy for him to pedal. He got tired a lot quicker going up the slight inclines of the neighborhood. I guess we'll be switching between his three bikes this summer (12" balance, 12" training wheel, 14" training wheel). And I better research on how to adjust the hand brakes to make them easier to pull. I got the front brake lever to get closer to the handle grip, but I will need to adjust the brake cables if I want to pull them in closer. He really has to stretch his hands to grab onto the levers. Thanks for the advice all!
    2012 Brompton H6L raw lacquer, hub dynamo lights, eazy wheels, C + Mini O bag, Ergon GP-1 biokork S grip shift, Lightweights spoke reflectors, Saddle Adapter pin.

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