Guest Article: Coaster Brakes, by Shane Stock of Oso Bike

Shane Stock of OSO Bike riding his Coaster Brake Bike.

If you were a kid during the seventies, you may remember the old Schwinn Stingrays–they had banana seats, and thick tires in the back for skidding. My friends and I used to ride those bikes around all summer and we were pretty hard on them. We would race them around the bumpy dirt trails of the vacant lots in the little town of Othello, Washington. We would make ramps out of boards and cinder blocks to make our bikes fly. Or we would go to the elementary school and go under the monkey bars, Then we would grab the bars and let our bikes go flying out into the lawn. The bikes were pretty much all singlespeeds with coaster brakes. I do not recall ever having a coaster brake go bad, which I think is remarkable considering the abuse they took.

Schwinn World that I fixed up from the flea market.

If you go to Asia you will see a lot more adults riding bikes, and many of them are riding singlespeeds with coaster brakes. Why do coaster brakes seem less popular in the U.S.? Some of it has to do with the fact that 10-speeds have become popular, and it is not possible to have a conventional 10-speed with coaster brakes. If a person rides around on a 10-speed with caliper brakes for 10 years, he gets so used to the caliper brakes, that it feels weird to go back to coaster brakes.

Cruiser that I bought from Walmart for about $100, then spent another $100 modernizing it. It already had a coaster brake, but I changed the crank to a higher ratio.

I have always liked singlespeed coaster brake set ups. The places I have lived have been fairly flat, so I don’t need all the gears. If I hit a hill that is too steep I just zig-zag up it, which has the same effect as gearing up. I like coaster brakes for the following reasons:

1. They almost never require maintenance or adjustment. And, contrary to what some people believe, they can be serviced if needed (which is almost never).

2. They don’t make any sound when you are coasting (no tick-tick-tick “fishing reel” sound that you get with other setups).

3.Your foot is always on the brake. With caliper brakes you sometimes have to move your hand to a different position to grab the brake lever.

4. You don’t have the risk of braking too hard on the front wheel and flipping over, which happened to me one time and wasn’t fun.

5. They do not get wet and slide when it is raining.

Another Schwinn World from the flea market. I had to buy another bike for $20 just to get the handlebars (threw the bike away, saved the handle bars).

For more information about OSO Bikes or coaster brakes, check out www.osobike.com


9 Comments

  1. Mike April 14, 2008 8:02 pm 

    Say… won’t you run out of room to adjust the torque-arm bolt back way before you run out of dropout for the axel?

  2. Aaron April 14, 2008 8:14 pm 

    I was thinking the same thing….how that going to adjust with the coaster brake lever all the way back?

  3. Ghost Rider April 14, 2008 8:36 pm 

    I remember reading on another forum (FGG) that the above photo is from a prototype of the OSO frame. The position of the torque-arm mounting bracket has been changed to allow for proper chain tension adjustability, if I am remembering things correctly.

  4. Shane April 15, 2008 2:27 am 

    Goast Rider,
    That’s right.
    Shane

  5. Marrock April 15, 2008 7:17 am 

    This past sunday I got a few bike like items from the ’70s for free off Craigslist, and aside from the Motobécane Super Mirage that just needed air in the tires and a good dusting and a Raleigh LTD-3 with a cute little S-A internal 3-speed hiding under the grunge, I also got an old gaspipe Columbia frame and wheels, one of which has a SS coaster brake hub.

    Now I’m debating putting the SS coaster on my old Soltar folder instead of the S-A and trying to Restore the Raleigh.

    Oh well, I’ll think about it while rolling around on the Motobécane in a few minutes. 😉

  6. Clancy April 15, 2008 7:45 am 

    Great concept…. I think simplicity is where the bike world is going- coaster brakes and internal hubs.

  7. Phil Kratz January 2, 2009 9:26 pm 

    I Own An Oso bike and I am VERY pleased with it . the tab on mine is fixed, so there is plenty of room for adjustment (unlike the proto type pic above). There really is nothing that needs to be changed on this bike right out of the box. its a simple maintnence free bike that you could put many fun miles on. The frame Is Very nice and stiff and good quality built. Also it’s very light weight. If you’re considering owning one of these bikes, I really think you should buy one. It Is alot of fun to ride.

  8. Darias October 11, 2009 3:22 pm 

    … funny how Shane and Phil Kratz use the same grammar “rules” and both capitalized random words in the middle of sentences…

    hmm

  9. Shane Stock December 11, 2011 11:04 am 

    Nope, not the same person. Just for your info, all of the 121 Osobikes sold a couple of years ago (except for the two that I kept), so if you didn’t get one, too late.
    Shane

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