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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