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  1. #1
    BxTS gh-ap's Avatar
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    Coaster Brake (jimv!!)

    so my gf has an old coaster setup 700c rear, and i've been thinking about slapping it on my old frame.
    the problem is, i don't know jacksh!t about coaster brakes. what are the quality vintage ones? what are the quality newer ones? how do they work? anything you've got will be helpful.

    specifically, what is this?


    i think i understand the basic logic in the brake, but probably not. i've never been too mechanically inclined. what does the part that attaches to the frame itself do? what's that called?

    thanks in advance

  2. #2
    Senior Member jimv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gh-ap
    so my gf has an old coaster setup 700c rear, and i've been thinking about slapping it on my old frame.
    the problem is, i don't know jacksh!t about coaster brakes. what are the quality vintage ones? what are the quality newer ones? how do they work? anything you've got will be helpful.

    specifically, what is this?


    i think i understand the basic logic in the brake, but probably not. i've never been too mechanically inclined. what does the part that attaches to the frame itself do? what's that called?

    thanks in advance
    Well (rolls up his sleeves and grins) First off, for normal riding, almost any reasonable coaster brake can be made to work fine. If the brake is less than 20 years old, it's most likely a KT (Kun Teng) these are/were sold under the Hi-Stop, Shimano, KT, Suntour, and other names. They are cone-clutched brakes as were most of the coaster brakes made since the late 1800's. I don't know if you saw these drawings I made a while ago but they give an idea of how this type of brake works. If you want more of an explanation I'd be happy to give it. There's also this 'how-to' using a middle of the road Bendix brake. It might help to look at this and the drawings together to see 2D and 3D (sorta') representations of the parts and how they fit together.

    The lever that attaches to the chainstay is the brake arm and is used to prevent the non-drive end of the hub from rotating. Basically, what your're doing is creating a friction connection between the hub and the drive-side cog while pedaling and a friction connection between the hub and the bicycle frame (via the brake arm) while braking. It naturally follows that there is no friction connection to either frame or cog while coasting. Look at the drawings and the position of the cone-clutch in those three modes.

    The brake on my Rodriquez and my steamroller are Velosteels made in the Czech Republic. I have a nifty slotted, stainless tab welded to the chainstay of the Rodriguez to secure the brake arm. The Velosteels are a really nice hub when properly greased and bearings (cones) adjusted. Sadly, they come from the factory virtually dry of grease so they need work before they are ready for use. The Velosteels are pretty much impossible to get in the US right now which is sad. It's based on a 1904 Sachs design and is not a cone-clutch design but uses a roller-clutch (see my avatar to get a rough idea of this mechanism).

    Regarding the best hubs to buy. I'm partial to older German (Sachs, Fichtel & Sachs) hubs. Sachs designs/patents were also licensed to companies like Renak, Perry and Excel so those are nice too. Another slight variation is the Musselman hubs (sometimes branded as Higgins and Elgin). Of course we can't forget the Bendix which range from really nice to reeeealllly crappy. The older units had hub bodies fashioned as a single piece (no pressed-on flanges) but a properly maintained Redline (redband) is a good useable hub. The last hubs bearing the Bendix name were made in Mexico and these are very low quality .... not worth using in my opinion. They're clearly marked Made in Mexico on the brake arm. I would avoid the Blueline (blueband) hubs as well. These are all cone-clutch except (as mentioned) certain models Sachs hubs that were roller-clutched.

    Another sweet hub is the Sturmey-Archer SC-1 but they are very hard to find. Penultimately, the Cadillac/Rolls-Royce of hubs is the Morrow. These are really sweet but are quite complicated and require a tricky adjustment, during assembly, to work properly. It's not likely you'll find one lying around anyway. In fact, the reason the slot is so long on my Rodriquez is to accomodate the longer arm of the Morrow that I am slowly rebuilding.

    Finally, the New Departure brake, like the Bendix redline, are the easiest hubs to find. New Departures were the first real coaster brake made (1896) and are cone-clutched but they do not use brake shoes like all other coaster brakes. Instead, they used a stack of disks like a motorcycle clutch to provide the braking action. From a design point of view, they're really nice but for braking action, many feel the leave alot to be desired. I have a few of them but have yet to lace one into a wheel to try it. After reading old articles about the early Repack race, the general concensus seemed to be that ND's always burnt up half way down the mountain and that Morrow and Musselman brakes were preferred. But for normal riding they may suffice.

    Remember, coaster brakes (like all friction brakes) stop by converting forward motion into heat. Because the braking is done in a small area (inside the hub as opposed to the circumference of a rim), heat build-up can be extreme especially if the brake is used alone during a long decent. For this reason I would suggest adding a front brake to any coaster braked bike unless you live and ride in the flatlands.

    So what's the practical differences in all of those brakes I've listed? Mostly in the amount of drag the hub exhibits during coasting and pedaling. Some hubs like the Sachs use a spring clip to actively retract the shoes while others simply allow the shoes to rest on the inside of the hub. Morrows actually 'disengage' the braking mechanism at both ends to reduce drag and the Musselman hubs use a split cycinder shoe to achieve the same type of shoe retraction as the Sachs and Morrow. The roller-clutched hubs have less drag as well. But for all practical purposes, the drag in any hub is acceptable if it is well-lubricated and adjusted. The only hubs that I feel are rediculously draggy are cheap Joytechs and Mexican Bendix hubs.

    There's also the 'smoothness of braking' properties too. That is, how 'linear' the braking action is between slight braking all the way to lock up. Brakes that lock up with too little back-pedal force are undesireable. Most of the brakes I've listed do well enough in this area.

    Caveats Marketing departments being what they are, some hubs aren't necessarily what they appear to be. For example, Morrows were made by Eclipse Machine Company which was purchased by Bendix in the mid 1920's. Many years later when Schwinn decided to release a classic fat tire cruiser to commemorate some anniversary, they purchased the coaster brake from Bendix. Bendix, whose entire brake production had, by then, moved to Mexico, thought that it would be a great idea to give the brake a classic feel by stamping Morrow (in it's classy script font) on the brake arm (they did own the trademark).....travesty! I have seen these lowest-of-quality brakes for sale as Morrows. Beware. Back to Schwinn for a moment, Schwinn used coasterbrakes from just about every manufacturer out there. Most of the time, the brake arm is stamped with the words 'Schwinn Approved'. Some of these brakes are superb (like Sachs) and some are not (like the fake Morrow and Mexican Bendix) so you can find gems here but be careful. A German hub should have 'Germany' stamped on the body and would likely have an oil port on the side of the hub too.

    What hub is on your girlfirends wheel?

    I hope this isn't too long-winded for you ..... I'm just getting warmed-up 8-)

    Take care

    Jim

  3. #3
    BxTS gh-ap's Avatar
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    no, you're a great resource.

    i'll check out the gf's wheel when i get home, now that i know what i'm looking at.

    thanks a lot.

  4. #4
    Frankly, Mr. Shankly absntr's Avatar
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    jimv - you should head up a coaster hub subforum. You truly are the king! The coaster stuff floating around these days is pretty darn interesting. I'm now considering maing the English style randonneur bike I'm planning on building have a coaster hub. We shall see.

  5. #5
    Gone, but not forgotten Shiznaz's Avatar
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    I now know more about coaster brakes than roughly 100% of the world's population
    I'm biking across North America on the Internet!
    http://thedoublecross.blogspot.com/

  6. #6
    ******** modmon's Avatar
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    was thinking about putting a coaster brake wheel on my gf's bike. only problem is that she wants to start riding clipless pedals. it seems to me that riding a coaster brake bike with clipless pedals could be a bit awkward on quick stops/dismounts. never have ridden one with that setup so im not certain. im sure things might be a bit easier with a front brake.

    better off going with a freewheel?

  7. #7
    Senior Member jimv's Avatar
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    Hi all...

    Thanks for the nice comments. I'm not sure why I'm so 'into' coaster brakes but I do find them fascinating and elegent in their design. Like the bicycle they're attached to, the coaster brake was largely set in stone early in the last century. It's really interesting to me that every now and again people can come up with an idea and get it right almost from the start.

    Quote Originally Posted by gh-ap
    i'll check out the gf's wheel when i get home, now that i know what i'm looking at.
    Excellent. I'm curious which brake it is.

    Quote Originally Posted by absntr
    I'm now considering maing the English style randonneur bike I'm planning on building have a coaster hub. We shall see.
    Very cool. My girlfriend and I have been talking about this too. We want to do some multi-day bike tours ... not crazy over the rocky mountain stuff but reasonable get-aways. She also rides singlespeed and we've decide to build a set of 3 or 5 speed internal-geared coaster brake hubs that we can slap onto our bikes along with some racks. Around town we still prefer 1 speed. I've taken apart Sturmey-Archer 5 & 7 speed hubs and Sram 3 & 5 speed hubs to see how they work and must say that the Srams are very well nice. The technology is the same but the finish work in the Srams convinced me it's the way to go. Have you decided on a hub? Tell me more about the bike you're designing (I might steal an idea or two ;-)

    Quote Originally Posted by shiznaz
    I now know more about coaster brakes than roughly 100% of the world's population
    Well then I guess that makes you the NEW king 8-) So, do you think you might build a coaster brake bike?

    Quote Originally Posted by modmon
    only problem is that she wants to start riding clipless pedals. it seems to me that riding a coaster brake bike with clipless pedals could be a bit awkward on quick stops/dismounts. never have ridden one with that setup so im not certain. im sure things might be a bit easier with a front brake.
    Hmm... I think clipless and coaster brake could be happy together though I've never tried it. I like clips and straps. Certainly with a front brake she could unclip before she reaches a dead stop so that would definitely work.

    BTW if anyone out there knows of an old geezer or someone knowledgeable in the ways of coaster brakes mainly in the area of coaster brake company histories I'd like to chat with them. I'm always looking for more info on the companies themselves.

    Jim

  8. #8
    Sweetened with Splenda
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    JimV- Any opinion on the Sachs Torpedo three-speed? They seem to be reasonably available... I'm thinking of using one on my new commuter.

    Thanks!

    -chris

  9. #9
    Ride it, don't fondle it! Wheel Doctor's Avatar
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    Darn, Now ya got me thinkin about another bike. Hmm I have a slew of coaster brake hubs. Don't most CB's run in the 118 to 125mm or so. I guess I could retrofit longer axles and spacers if I wanted to use a MTB frame. I have a Shimano 3C somewhere also. Darn now I got to start collecting parts and lookin' thru my 30 year collection of parts and I just finished my SS/MTB project.

  10. #10
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    I have to say, I've become really inclined to buy/build a coaster brake bike after I saw one of jimv's pics with a coaster brake on a nice track frame and stuff. I had always associated coaster brakes with clunky leisure bikes, something I didn't particularly want, and to see the great coaster brake put to work on a frame I would really ride was enlightening.
    --
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  11. #11
    Senior Member jimv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brokenrobot
    JimV- Any opinion on the Sachs Torpedo three-speed? They seem to be reasonably available... I'm thinking of using one on my new commuter.

    Thanks!

    -chris
    I have no direct experience with 3-speed Torpedos but hope to find one to play with. Their quality varied depending when they were made. Pre WWII they were roller-clutched but after the war they were built more like the S-As. From what I've read, and the modern Sram is a direct decendent of the Torpedo. They were all very nice except for the last few years of production which I think was the late 80's (don't quote me on that though). As a commuter hub I think it would be fine (atually, if it's from the 60's-70's I suspect it would be fine for any purpose.

    Jim

  12. #12
    Senior Member jimv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wheel Doctor
    Darn, Now ya got me thinkin about another bike. Hmm I have a slew of coaster brake hubs. Don't most CB's run in the 118 to 125mm or so. I guess I could retrofit longer axles and spacers if I wanted to use a MTB frame. I have a Shimano 3C somewhere also. Darn now I got to start collecting parts and lookin' thru my 30 year collection of parts and I just finished my SS/MTB project.
    A slew you say??? 8-) Anything interesting? Or should I ask anything interesting for sale?? I have quite a large collection now but am always looking for hub models I don't currently own. Hub spacing is the #1 gotcha. Most that I've measured are 110mm and when you find one that is marked as 120mm it usually just has a longer drive-side cone so the chainline is almost always the same (as if it were 110mm) which is around 39-40mm. Playing with some spacers and maybe a slight redish, it's quite easy to make most hubs work with a 120mm spaced frame. For wider frame spacing, I would look at cold-setting it, but there are other ways to get it to work. schwinnbikelove has a coaster brake bike and her LBS had to reverse dish the rear wheel to get work and that's cool too.

    Another useful aid is offset or dished cogs. They can help with chainline issues alot. One thing to remember about coaster brake axles (on the older units) is that they were pretty soft. It's a good idea to use tugnuts so the axle nuts don't strip trying to prevent axle slip.

    I'm not familiar with coaster brakes designed for use with mountain bikes so everything I said above may not apply to that application.

    Jim

  13. #13
    Senior Member jimv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wfisher
    I have to say, I've become really inclined to buy/build a coaster brake bike after I saw one of jimv's pics with a coaster brake on a nice track frame and stuff. I had always associated coaster brakes with clunky leisure bikes, something I didn't particularly want, and to see the great coaster brake put to work on a frame I would really ride was enlightening.
    Thanks for the compliment. You know, there was a time when people would get together and brag about the coaster brakes on their bikes. It was the crowning jewel of components. I don't know if those days will ever return but I think they're wonderful devices. I like my bikes clean and pretty and coaster braked ;-)

    Jim

  14. #14
    Senior Member jimv's Avatar
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    Yes, this is a bump. This discussion just died!! Did I say something to turn ya'll off to coaster brakes???? I wanted to hear about the good Wheel Doctor's 'slew of coaster hubs' and absntr's touring bike.

    Jim

  15. #15
    Sheldon Certified Jaminsky's Avatar
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    Dude, I think you just started the bike trend to replace fixies. Genius

  16. #16
    The King of Town manboy's Avatar
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    I've thought about putting a coaster brake on an MTB. It's so crazy it just might work.

    Besides, everyone loves a bike with no brake levers.

  17. #17
    coasterbrakelockup lz4005's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by manboy
    I've thought about putting a coaster brake on an MTB. It's so crazy it just might work.
    That was what the OGs did racing the Repack. (thus the name, even)

    Since this is turning into a general coaster thread, I have to say I'm chomping at the bit to get my new bike finished. The parts are in and all it lacks is getting the rear wheel built after the holiday weekend. Surly Steamroller with mustache bars and coaster rear.

    Want it now, dammit!

  18. #18
    Sweetened with Splenda
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    I'm still looking for a good coaster hub here in Colorado to put on my commuter... hoping to catch a steal on something at Monday's memorial day half-price sale at the thrift! I *almost* bought a Bendix last week, but then remembered JimV's comments on the Mexico Bendix and thought better of it...

  19. #19
    Senior Member jamey's Avatar
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    my next bike is going to be a nice fold up with a coaster brake..i get excited just thinking about how much fun i'm going to have with that guy!

  20. #20
    Dictator trystero's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jaminsky
    the bike trend to replace fixies
    I'm so old school.

  21. #21
    Lord Carlton of Worksop ETQC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by trystero
    I'm so old school.
    My only hope is that this trend picks up before summer officially gets here, so we can see cute girls on nice coasters classics around town. Something about wicker baskets just gets me going.
    Falling down is Newton's way of saying you suck.

  22. #22
    Crapzeit! mcatano's Avatar
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    The bike I rode for about 5 or 6 years until I built up my first fixed last year was (is!) a coaster brake equipped cruiser. It's been sitting idle for a while, but this thread has definitely inspired me to go clean it up and take it out for a spin.

    It even has a golf ball kick stand... how cool is that?

    m.

  23. #23
    Love me some Crown... Plinkerton's Avatar
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    Here in sunny Santa Barbara, California, 90% of all the bikes you see are coaster brake beach cruisers. Those things are everywhere...

  24. #24
    aspiring dirtbag commuter max-a-mill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by manboy
    I've thought about putting a coaster brake on an MTB. It's so crazy it just might work.
    just don't go skiddin down the trails!!! seriously, why not just two v-brakes on an mtb??? not that i am anti-coaster brake; but i might be anti-off-road coaster brake(too easy to lock it up and skid on trails).

    jimv - your a freakin awesome resource! keep it up! let me ask you this: you think a modern shimano coaster hub can be built into a good reliable commuter wheel? how would you say they stack up vs. the older stuff?
    - the revolution will not be motorized -

  25. #25
    hateful little monkey jim-bob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by max-a-mill
    just don't go skiddin down the trails!!! seriously, why not just two v-brakes on an mtb???
    Isn't that sort of an odd question in a forum where people are all gung-ho about making sure their twitchy track bikes don't have hand brakes?

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