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Old 03-23-07, 12:32 PM   #1
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Hand vs Coaster Brake

I'm in the process of building a 20" bike for my son to ride and am pondering brakes.

I had initially planned on a coaster brake rear wheel, but after hefting two wheels side by side and seeing the resistance from the coaster brake, I'm thinking about going with a freewheel rear and caliper brakes.

Since he's just learing how to ride, do you think it'll be any harder to teach him to grab the brake lever to stop as opposed to pedaling backwards? I figure he'll have to learn the hand brake technique sooner or later when he steps up into a better bike.
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Old 03-23-07, 01:07 PM   #2
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I am not an expert but I agree with your 'he needs to learn sooner or later' and most kids are more nimble or dexterious than us adults anyway. The only factor that might tilt me one way or the other would be the strength in the hands as opposed to pushing with the feet. On the other hand if they are adjusted, does not take much 'muscle' to pull hand brakes either. I say go for the hand brakes. one opinion ... peace
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Old 03-23-07, 08:02 PM   #3
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Try backing out the cone nut on the right side of the hub before giving up on the coaster brake. You need to find the sweet spot between free spinning and side play.
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Old 03-23-07, 09:59 PM   #4
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Just add a front brake for safety purposes. Coaster brakes can be fun. I remember using it to drift around corners at some insane speed (for as a kid back in the day. But nowadays freewheeling and hand operated brakes is the style so you can do tricks and other stuff.

For a child just learning how to ride a bike, coaster brakes are good enough and can arguably be engaged faster and more natually than hand operated brakes. The learning curve is usually shorter too. It also depends on how coordinated a child is, their hand strength, and if their fingers can grasp a brake lever without their hands slipping off the handlebar grips, esp during braking...not a very pretty sight when that happens and may require a trip to the dentist and/or doctor. Only you know what your child is capable of. Personally, I rather not rush them into things even if I know it's going to cost me some cash in the future to upgrade their bikes or buy them a new one. The idea is for them to have fun riding their bikes, build up their confidence, and using a brake system they can get comfortable with fairly quickly.
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Old 03-24-07, 09:08 AM   #5
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It is one of the perennial questions. As noted above the coaster brake gives simplicity and familiarity. The hand brake introduces a new skill. The hand brake also lets you get a geared bike. I think gearing is the only advantage with hand brakes. But again, another skill they will need to pick up. I went back and forth and finally decided to go with hand brakes and gears when mine was turning 7. It worked well. IMHO, the problem with kids geared bikes today is that you cannot get a geared MTB bike without shocks. They are pretty useless for them at that age and just add weight. It is a good thing I did buy the geared non-suspension bike when I did because they have not been available from any manufacturer since ('06), and I have been looking.
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Old 03-24-07, 03:48 PM   #6
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Why not both?

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