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  1. #1
    Senior Member Lalato's Avatar
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    Coaster Brakes OK for Winter?

    This is probably a stupid question, but are coaster brakes OK for winter use? The concept of winter is still relatively new for me. I grew up in Florida where winter is a myth told by bitter transplants from northern states. Or at least I thought it was a myth until I moved to Illinois.

    --sam

  2. #2
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    I think coaster brakes are ideal for winter cycling. They are reliable regardles of the wheather and do not need any maintenance. And of course on slippery road it's safer to have a good rear brake. At least that is my experience. When I lived in Northern Finland the temperature was as low as -30 C and my bike's coaster brake never failed. That bike was a single speed.

    Mara

  3. #3
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Coaster brakes are dumb in any kind of weather...perhaps even worse in cold weather. Unless you just like to skid, a coaster brake is useless for actual control. There's a reason you only see them on cheap bikes. Hand actuated brakes on the front and rear whether rim or disc offer much more control and modulation.

    A rear brake, at it's best, offers only about 20% of the braking power of a bike. If you only have a rear coaster brake, that means that 80% of your braking power is nonexistent. To make matters worse, braking...whether on the front or rear...transfers weight to the front wheel. This lifts the rear wheel and makes it more prone to locking and skidding. A sliding tire has even less braking power than a rolling wheel so you've cut the braking power down even more. Might as well just Fred Flintstone it to stop the bike. It'd be more effective.

    Leave the coaster brakes on the Hellmart specials. Use something that at least gives you a chance to stop the bike.
    Stuart Black
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  4. #4
    Senior Member Lalato's Avatar
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    cyccommute... now tell us how you really feel.

    I was just thinking of getting a cheap Dahon Boardwalk for winter and it uses coaster brakes. Another option is the slightly more expensive one that has hand brakes.

    --sam

  5. #5
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lalato View Post
    cyccommute... now tell us how you really feel.

    I was just thinking of getting a cheap Dahon Boardwalk for winter and it uses coaster brakes. Another option is the slightly more expensive one that has hand brakes.

    --sam
    Spend the extra money unless you really like falling on the ground.
    Stuart Black
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  6. #6
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    I trust cyccommute is right he is obviously bigger than me ;-). What I told was my experience I used to bike to school year round in Northern Finland and later to work. I guess it is different to control a bike using coaster brakes than using hand operated brakes.

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    I've ridden snow and ice with front and rear hand brakes and a fixed gear with a front brake. In my experience relying heavily on a front brake on ice and hardpacked snow risks locking the front wheel and going down (although if you have beefy tires with plenty of traction this is probably not as much of an issue on hardpacked snow). If the snow is really bad you're really not going to be going so fast to need more than the rear very often.

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    Unless you have studded tires (and outside of very modest limits, even if you do) using the front brake on ice is likely to send you down. A bike is stable even if the rear brake is locked.

    Consequently, the lack of a front brake, while it does adversely impact stopping distance in the summer, is much less of a problem during the winter. A front hand brake and rear coaster brake would be a good combination for year-round use.

    Paul

  9. #9
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PaulH View Post
    Unless you have studded tires (and outside of very modest limits, even if you do) using the front brake on ice is likely to send you down. A bike is stable even if the rear brake is locked.

    Consequently, the lack of a front brake, while it does adversely impact stopping distance in the summer, is much less of a problem during the winter. A front hand brake and rear coaster brake would be a good combination for year-round use.

    Paul
    No. Over using a front brake on ice will send you down. Used judiciously, a front brake is an important part of any stopping system on a bicycle...as is a rear brake (I don't subscribe to the 'use only the front brake' idea, either...in any kinds of conditions. Locking the rear wheel will also put you on the ground.

    But coaster brakes can only be applied at certain crank positions and only by back pedaling. Your feet and body are not allowed to move as needed for shifting weight to avoid having the wheel slide out from under you. With hand brakes your feet can be in many different positions and your hips and body can follow to adjust your balance. With coaster brakes you are locked into one place and must stay there until you have slowed or stopped.
    Stuart Black
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  10. #10
    bikes are sexy Lebowski's Avatar
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    theres no medium with coaster brakes, its hot or cold with them, IE locked wheel no braking at all. handbrakes all the way, and for the record for winter i hate rim brakes, discs all the way.
    [2010] Specialized P3 - [09] Origin8 Scout 29er - [08] Specialized Epic Comp - [08] Specialized Allez - [06] - Specialized SX Trail II - (((In Pieces - '08 Jamis Parker -- '07 specialized Hardrock Sport -- 2005 KHS DJ200)))

  11. #11
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    Cyccommute Your arguments sound quite theoretical to me. In real winter with snow and temperatures around -15C -30C, roads ploughed if you are lucky you dont ride 50km/h you dont need the same stopping power as at the Tour de France.
    When you need to stop the bike using coaster brakes you just do it, it is quite automatic you dont start to wonder how your feet are (Are your hands always on brake levers?). I learned it as a child and learned to keep my balance while braking Im sure anyone can learn it.

  12. #12
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by maranen View Post
    Cyccommute Your arguments sound quite theoretical to me. In real winter with snow and temperatures around -15C -30C, roads ploughed if you are lucky you dont ride 50km/h you dont need the same stopping power as at the Tour de France.
    When you need to stop the bike using coaster brakes you just do it, it is quite automatic you dont start to wonder how your feet are (Are your hands always on brake levers?). I learned it as a child and learned to keep my balance while braking Im sure anyone can learn it.
    Do you mean snow like this?






    That sticks around for 7 or 8 weeks and is added to on a nearly weekly basis? In ice sheets 12" to 18" (30cm to 45 cm) deep with ruts down to the pavement and not necessarily linear? Where you can go from packed snow (pretty easy to ride on) to glare ice in a matter of a few feet?

    I assure you that I have plenty of experience riding on snow and ice without benefit of plowing and in cold temperatures. I also have enough experience with coaster brakes to know that they aren't of much use unless you are 10 years old and trying to lay down skids. That's why I gave up on them when I was about 10 years old.

    I also have enough experience with braking in marginal conditions (mountain biking since 1983) to know that well modulated hand operated brake beats an on-off brake like a coaster brake in all conditions.
    Stuart Black
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  13. #13
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    Quite impressive winter you have there! You have much harsher winter conditions than we have in Southern Finland. Im convinced that you have enough experience to back up your arguments.
    I agree whit what you said: well modulated hand operated brake beats an on-off brake like a coaster brake in all conditions..
    Coaster brakes are a compromise ease of use for some people (you can have your warm mittens on and still operate the brake), maintenance free (may be a good point in winter conditions no cables to freeze), but less stopping power. But there is stopping power enough to be adequate in winter conditions.

  14. #14
    Biscuit Boy Cosmoline's Avatar
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    I used coasters my first winter without trouble, but then again I didn't move very fast on that cruiser. Disks are ideal. Disks and studs.
    ''On a bicycle you're not insulated. You're in contact with the landscape and all manner of people you'd never meet if you were in a car. A fat man on a bicycle is nobody's enemy.''

    Tom Vernon.

  15. #15
    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    For the riding I do, normally around 15 mph, give or take a bit, coaster brakes work just fine. Better, in fact, than the crap brakes on my $100 mountain bike, which were getting downright scary when it was stolen.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post

    That sticks around for 7 or 8 weeks and is added to on a nearly weekly basis? In ice sheets 12" to 18" (30cm to 45 cm) deep with ruts down to the pavement and not necessarily linear? Where you can go from packed snow (pretty easy to ride on) to glare ice in a matter of a few feet?

    I assure you that I have plenty of experience riding on snow and ice without benefit of plowing and in cold temperatures. I also have enough experience with coaster brakes to know that they aren't of much use unless you are 10 years old and trying to lay down skids. That's why I gave up on them when I was about 10 years old.

    I also have enough experience with braking in marginal conditions (mountain biking since 1983) to know that well modulated hand operated brake beats an on-off brake like a coaster brake in all conditions.
    whatever, that was an exceedingly abnormal winter for denver.

    I havent ridden a coaster brake since i was about ten, but the ability to move your feet shouldn't have that much of an effect on being able to balance with a locked rear wheel. It's nice having a front brake and it would be a good idea to have it with the coaster brake, but if your not time trialing it to work you generally won't need more stopping power than the rear can provide and there will be nothing wrong with having a non hand brake on the rear.

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