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Coaster brake vs freewheel

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Coaster brake vs freewheel

Old 07-15-21, 04:50 PM
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Coaster brake vs freewheel

I’ve been playing around with a couple of old rigid mountain bikes , converting them over to single speeds .
I already had several 26” SS coaster brake wheelsets from messing around with my Electra C1’s . So it was only natural that I start off trying out a conversion using a coaster brake .
I added a front Vbrake mainly because I use my front brake more than the rear .
I had to cold set the frames to accept the 110mm axles.
Worked pretty good . I experimented with different gear ratios by changing out the rear cog on the SS hub . Easy to do .
Easy and fairly quick to swap out wheel sets with different tires and gears for different situations.
Removing the brake arm screw and nut was the only thing that really slowed the process .
Then I got to thinking about trying a freewheel with a front and rear vbrake. Thinking it would be quicker and easier to swap out wheelsets .
I ordered a freewheel wheelset and thought I would go all out on my freewheel and ordered a 21 tooth White Industries ENO freewheel . I already owned a Shimano 18 tooth and a ACS Claw 23 tooth.
Today I got both bikes together to where I can ride and compare them .
If I could go back and change anything , I would stick with the coaster brake rear hubs . They seemed easier to line up even with the brake arm that has to be attached each time .
And the coaster brake hubs are almost silent when riding .
The freewheel sounds like a bunch of cicadas when coasting . Even the expensive White Industries is loud .
I’m sure the freewheel is probably the more durable setup , but I don’t plan on abusing either of them .
The black freewheel bike actually now sports some BMX bars . They were the most comfortable out of about five different stem/handlebar combinations I tried .


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Old 07-16-21, 03:35 AM
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I prefer a freewheel to a coaster brake.
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Old 07-16-21, 04:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Jax Rhapsody View Post
I prefer a freewheel to a coaster brake.
if you donít mind , Why ?
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Old 07-16-21, 05:35 AM
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Question on cold setting the MTB frame - why not just add spacers to the hub?
I've cold set a road frame from 126 to 130mm.
I also bought a vintage rear hub to keep the spacing at 124mm (I think, it seemed odd, it wasn't 120mm or 126. The frame is a mid-70s Schwinn Super Le Tour 12.2.).

I'm a fan of coaster brake single speeding for rainy season dirt road riding. My coaster brake wheel needs a re-build. Keeps breaking spokes.
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Old 07-16-21, 05:47 AM
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Originally Posted by kirby999 View Post
if you donít mind , Why ?
Because I can change where my pedals are without pedaling forward.

This can be useful when setting up for a corner and I donít want the inside pedal to be down. Also when bunny hopping, jumping, manualing, or picking up the back of the bike to go up a curb.

Also,I think I snapped a couple spokes on one of the Huntington Beach rental beach cruisers by showing off for my wife. ďHereís the only thing coaster brakes are really good for.Ē Lock up back tire and skid.

I am not saying I do not have fun on coaster brake bikes.
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Old 07-16-21, 05:51 AM
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Originally Posted by mrv View Post
Question on cold setting the MTB frame - why not just add spacers to the hub?
I've cold set a road frame from 126 to 130mm.
I also bought a vintage rear hub to keep the spacing at 124mm (I think, it seemed odd, it wasn't 120mm or 126. The frame is a mid-70s Schwinn Super Le Tour 12.2.).

I'm a fan of coaster brake single speeding for rainy season dirt road riding. My coaster brake wheel needs a re-build. Keeps breaking spokes.
^ This. I think wheels bigger than 20Ē and coaster brakes are hard on spokes.

Last edited by SkinGriz; 08-20-21 at 08:58 PM.
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Old 07-16-21, 05:56 AM
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I have a few cruisers and none of them are set up as a single speed. A coaster brake cruiser is the ultimate low-maintenance commuter. The coaster brake is unaffected by weather and requires almost no service. I've been commuting on the same cruiser for over 30 years. If I'm going to mess around with hand-brakes, I'd rather have an IGH than a single speed.
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Old 07-17-21, 02:29 AM
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Originally Posted by kirby999 View Post
if you donít mind , Why ?
I like to coast and although some coasters coast better than others, sometimes I back pedal while doing so, even ever so unintentionally slightly, I might engage the brake, or back pedal for other reasons.
They often have large sprockets on them, My Diamondback DrifterĻ had a sprocket bigger than what you find on walmart cruisers. It was a 22 or 25 I think. Slows them down. I'm not fond of cruisers with wrap around chain gaurds either, because it necetates a smaller crank chainring Like the Next LaJolla, or Kent Onyx. But I swap them out anyway, but a bike like a cranbrook will have a conventional 38-40 tooth, and are faster bikes.

I like going fast and a coaster on say a Cranbrook or Nel Lusso is barely adequate at stopping those bikes at their top speeds with factory 40/17 gearing. The braking distance on one going 12mph is just a few feet shorter than full lock, with level pedals.
Ultimately the reason is braking power is dependant on pedal position. Pedals at 3&9 o'clock, and 2&8 o'clock are like the most optimum pedal positions for braking. Pedal orientation is an extra step I'd rather not have in planned braking. Anybody trained to drive a commercial vehicle knows total stopping distance is; perception distance, reaction distance, brake lag, and stopping distance. In case of a coaster brake stopping without full lock-up; pedal position screws up brake lag, stopping distance, and reaction distance. How quick the brake engages and how hard it stops depends on pedal position. Even if you're going slow, emergency braking might not be there, especially if something jumps out at you, and you happen to be at 12&6 o'clock or 1&7 o'clock, and need to stop under 8'. I don't want to think too much about braking to brake, just brake when I need to with however much power I put in to it.

Plus I like going fast. I had a cruiser once that had a 52/62 crank I found on a Murray MTB. I ran it on the 62t chainring. Full speed stopping was some planning.

Originally Posted by mrv View Post
Question on cold setting the MTB frame - why not just add spacers to the hub?
I've cold set a road frame from 126 to 130mm.
I also bought a vintage rear hub to keep the spacing at 124mm (I think, it seemed odd, it wasn't 120mm or 126. The frame is a mid-70s Schwinn Super Le Tour 12.2.).

I'm a fan of coaster brake single speeding for rainy season dirt road riding. My coaster brake wheel needs a re-build. Keeps breaking spokes.
I've never cold set a frame, I've always just forced a frame to bend just enough to drop in a wider hub. Only once I had to physically bend the rear triangle to get it done. I just stepped on one side and pulled.
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Old 07-17-21, 09:48 AM
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I had a coaster brake bike for a couple of years, but jettisoned it in frustration. As mentioned earlier, the inability to put your pedals where you want them is a real impediment, and wheel changes and chain tensioning can be a chore. But mostly, I thought the braking itself was terrible.

IMO, coaster brake bikes are perfect for beach cruising, but are a needless handicap for anything resembling real-world riding conditions.
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Old 07-19-21, 08:07 AM
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Updated picture of my black MTB SS conversion.
Swapped out the cranks for some 170’s and added BMX bars .
White Industries SS freewheel.
Front and rear brakes.
Finally found the correct seatpost .
I’m beginning to like this bike .

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Old 07-20-21, 05:00 PM
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Originally Posted by kirby999 View Post
Updated picture of my black MTB SS conversion.
Swapped out the cranks for some 170ís and added BMX bars .
White Industries SS freewheel.
Front and rear brakes.
Finally found the correct seatpost .
Iím beginning to like this bike .

Nice. What size freewheel?
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Old 07-20-21, 05:26 PM
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Originally Posted by SkinGriz View Post
Nice. What size freewheel?
It’s a 21 tooth freewheel . With the 30 tooth chainring, I spin out around 8.5 mph and makes it easy to climb the hills around here .
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Old 07-31-21, 03:36 PM
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I think Coaster 1 2 and 3 speeds are the way to go. I especially like the Sturmey Archer Kickback 2spd with a coaster brake. I've been using Bendix, New Departure, Shimano and even Komet for a long time. There are special Brake arm brackets that have 2 screws. One to clamp to the stay, and one for the arm, this makes it a bit faster easier to switch out also. If one was real serious about it, these little bolts could even be with wing nuts.
Freewheels are a much lighter option. But the noise and extra rear brake are turn-off for me. Although my SA two speed does have annoying 2 tier gear clicking, most all styles of single speed I can think of, have no noise.
Of course, I grew up on a coaster brake 1spd bike so they come natural to me. But on some you can even change the length of drawback swing up to a half revolution if somebody wanted that much play in the brake.
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Old 07-31-21, 04:59 PM
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Something I’ve thought about doing for years , but have resisted. But , lately I’ve gotten back into my SS’s .
I decided to convert my Specialized Hardrock over to SS . Since it doesn’t have horizontal dropouts , I’m going with a chain tensioner if I don’t luck up and get the perfect gear combo that will give me the right chain tension without a tensioner.
Should have it switched over by the middle of the week and I’ll post a picture.
I’ve ordered some BMX bars for it .
Will definitely be a cassette freewheel.
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Old 08-01-21, 05:17 PM
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Here’s how she looks so far .
My BMX bars should be here tomorrow.
I’ll trim the brake cables once I install the new bars .
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Old 08-02-21, 02:54 PM
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Although, my bikes are never ďfinishedĒ , my Hardrock conversion is considered done .
Took me a good bit of trial and error to get the chain length and tensioner working correctly. May be Iím just not used to setting up a SS freewheel this way .
Still has a little chain/gear noise , but the chain isnít slipping on me now , with increased pedal pressure, like it was when I first set it up and took it on a test ride this morning.
Going up a steep hill , the chain jumped a gear a couple times on me . I guessed the chain was too long .
Now , Itís ready to ride . Complete with my BMX bars .
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Old 08-03-21, 09:40 PM
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My main bike is a Raleigh Tripper and I bought it because of the coaster brake! I love it. Swapped the bars for some riser bars and got a different saddle but other than that it's pretty much stock.

Coaster brakes are so simple and really fun. Yeah, I know you can't pedal backwards with coaster brakes but I still prefer them over hand brakes.
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Old 08-05-21, 10:30 AM
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I pulled the tensioner off my Hardrock today . Just didnít like the grinding gear noise created by the tensioner wheel .
Test rode it after removing and it was like night and day difference in feel and in definitely the sound . Almost totally quiet now .
The chain has a little more slack than I like but during my test ride , I didnít experience any problems.


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Old 08-07-21, 09:01 PM
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The Fuji got a new set of wheels today , and a rear vbrake.
Set this one up with a Sturmey Archer freewheel.
Nice freewheel . A lot quieter than the White Industry, although itís gotten quieter , the more I ride it .

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Old 08-07-21, 09:17 PM
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Originally Posted by kirby999 View Post
The Fuji got a new set of wheels today , and a rear vbrake.
Set this one up with a Sturmey Archer freewheel.
Nice freewheel . A lot quieter than the White Industry, although itís gotten quieter , the more I ride it .

Cool bike. Was it intended for single speed? Generous room in the dropouts.

I like it.
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Old 08-08-21, 10:28 AM
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Originally Posted by SkinGriz View Post
Cool bike. Was it intended for single speed? Generous room in the dropouts.

I like it.
Bike came as a 3x7 . The dropouts were the reason I grabbed it up at a yard sale . I think I paid $30 for it . Over 10 years ago .
I had to put the tensioner back on the Hardrock this morning. I swapped the rear cog for a lower tooth and couldn’t get the chain length right without it . I oiled it up good before installing it and it’s a lot quieter now .
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Old 08-09-21, 03:02 PM
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Originally Posted by kirby999 View Post
Bike came as a 3x7 . The dropouts were the reason I grabbed it up at a yard sale . I think I paid $30 for it . Over 10 years ago .
I had to put the tensioner back on the Hardrock this morning. I swapped the rear cog for a lower tooth and couldnít get the chain length right without it . I oiled it up good before installing it and itís a lot quieter now .
Take a look at a half link chain. This way you should be able to remove the slop in that chainline.
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Old 08-09-21, 03:32 PM
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Originally Posted by tds101 View Post
Take a look at a half link chain. This way you should be able to remove the slop in that chainline.
Tried a half link and it wouldnít work with my narrow wide chainring. The chain would rotate just fine until it reached the half link , then stop .
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Old 08-09-21, 03:37 PM
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Originally Posted by kirby999 View Post
Tried a half link and it wouldnít work with my narrow wide chainring. The chain would rotate just fine until it reached the half link , then stop .
I had replaced an old chain with a complete half link replacement chain. Too bad that wouldn't solve the problem.
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