A lot of planning and consideration goes into buying a bicycle for the kids. You cannot just walk into the store and choose any random bike.
You have to check and make sure that the bike is perfect for your kid down to the finest detail.
Also, You need to inspect closely the type and the quality of your bike’s parts like seat, handlebar, tires, gear, and especially brakes.
Many parents have raised concerns about what kind of bike brakes would suit their child’s bicycle.
There are two kinds of bike brakes to choose from- coaster brakes or hand brakes.
Read more about Different Types of Brakes on a Bike.
What are Coaster Brakes?
Coaster brakes are also known as backpedaling brakes or foot brakes. It allows the bicycle wheels to roll forward without forcing the pedals to turn.
This function is the ‘coaster’ part of the brakes. It is a brake that operates by turning the pedals backward.
The paved and flat surfaces are some ideal surfaces for riding coaster brake bikes. So, make sure to let your kid practice braking at a slow speed to determine the accurate stopping distance.
Also, let them practice slight backpedaling, which is needed to engage the coaster brake while stopping the bike.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission in the US legally requires all bicycle manufacturers to manufacture a 12″ and a 14″ and sometimes even a 16″ bike with coaster brakes.
Thus, your kid has to start his riding journey with coaster brakes no matter what.
So, let’s check out some of the pros and cons of riding a coaster brake bike.
- Coaster brake bikes work well even in wet conditions.
- They require less maintenance than any other kind of brakes.
- Bikes with coaster brakes are easy to ride for disabled children with insufficient arm strength or an amputated arm.
- They need a low level of coordination, making them relatively easy to learn and ride for your kids.
- A bicycle with coaster brakes can coast backward with stationary cranks, which are helpful in acrobatic cycling.
- There are no cables on the handlebars, which give the bikes a tidy appearance.
- Coaster brakes skid a lot, causing excessive tire wear.
- They heat up quickly, making it hard to ride in mountainous areas.
- These brakes may fail suddenly due to chain breakage or derailment.
- They do not provide any backup system in events of brake failure.
- The brakes are not compatible with derailer gearing or chain tensioners.
- Coaster brake bikes are heavier than regular bikes due to the extra weight of coaster brakes.
What are Hand Brakes?
A bike with a freewheel hub has rear and front hand brakes.
Hand brakes are the brake levers present on both the right and left sides of your handlebar. They generally control calipers on both sides of the wheels.
When using handbrakes, it is necessary to use both brakes. You have to make sure not to squeeze them too quickly either.
If you use the front brake only, it may result in bike flipping in extreme cases. If you use the rear brake only, it may not provide enough power to stop in rainy weather.
Now, let’s see if hand brakes are worth their money or not.
- They help the kids in modulation.
- They provide better stopping power.
- It allows the kids to learn backpedaling (internal motion in one direction) pretty soon.
- They prevent internal motion in the other direction (forcing the bike to move forward).
- They provide proper control while biking on off-roads or hills.
- Kids can coast and backpedal on rugged trails without expending much effort.
- Many bike experts argue that kids do not have enough coordination and control to use hand brakes right away. So, the levers must be child-specific.
- They do not work as well as coaster bikes in rainy seasons.
- You cannot let the kids ride hand brake bikes on their own from the beginning. It needs a lot of supervision and practice to get them used to it.
- Brake levers on the handles might be too big to hold for the little hands of kids.
- Kids with disabilities find it hard to ride a hand brake bike.
Coaster Brakes vs. Hand Brakes
|Coaster Brakes||Hand Brakes|
|1. Coaster brakes require riders to anticipate the approximate stopping point and position their pedals in advance.||1. The front and rear hand brakes function effortlessly to halt the bicycle instantly when pressed.|
|2. They make it difficult to place the pedals into launch position during propulsion from a stop.||2. Launch position is easily managed without any hitch.|
|3. A 12” to 14” coaster brake bike has short crank arms that reduce leverage during pedaling and braking.||3. They perform well enough regardless of the position and size of bike crank arms.|
|4. Coaster brake bikes usually do not have front brakes. So, there is a chance that the rear brake might lock up and skid while sliding downhill.||4. Hand brakes get wired to calipers which use brakes shoes to stop the bike by squeezing on the wheels.|
|5. Coaster brakes are not serviceable. Once the tire gets worn down, it is time to get a new one.||5. They are serviceable. The pads and brake wires can easily get replaced when they wear out.|
|6. Coaster brakes do not require the wheels to spin round. So, they usually get fitted on low-end bikes with inferior wheel quality.||6. They come with high-quality wheels without any out-of-roundness or lateral dancing.|
Why are Hand Brakes Better for Kids?
It is necessary for your kids to master coordination with brakes to ride any bicycle. They should be the most efficient with brakes as it is the saving element on the bike.
For this purpose, hand brakes are the one.
Here are the five reasons why:
Hand Brakes are more In-Tune with Reflex Action
Hand reflexes are better than leg reflexes since fingers are more precise in applying force than feet trying to backpedal.
Your kid is more likely to press the hand brakes faster than trying to stop with their legs to avoid any accidents.
Hand Brakes are Inevitable
All the bikes over 16″ pedal have hand brakes. Usually, all advanced bikes have a hand brake. So, hand brakes are going to be an inevitable part of the riding journey of your child.
Thus, it would not be a bad idea to get them used to hand brakes early. It will only accelerate their learning since they will not have to re-learn how to break on adult bikes.
Hand Brakes are Safer and Easier to Start
Sometimes, kids might have to take their feet off the pedals for stabilizing on a bumpy road or a steep hill. Coaster bikes need your feet to be on the pedals to operate.
So, taking the feet of the pedals becomes dangerous. But hand brakes can start with or without keeping the feet on the pedals.
It is easier to start the bike with one of the pedals in the 10 o’clock position. Your kid can freely spin the pedal backward when stopped to get the pedals into the correct position with a freewheel hub (a hub with hand brakes).
The kids have to step on the pedal to give the bike an initial push then they are good to go.
Hand Brakes are Lighter and have more Braking Power
Hand brakes do not add any extra weight to the bicycle, unlike heavier coaster brakes. Coaster brakes weigh around a pound, making it difficult to maneuver for the kids.
Braking on both wheels is better for stopping the bike faster. While braking, the weight of the bike shifts on the front wheel.
Hence, the front wheel has significantly more braking power than the rear wheel. But coaster brakes only work on the rear wheel on a bike.
Since hand brake bikes have both front and rear brake levers, they are the better choice.
Modern Hand Brakes are way more Advanced.
Hand brakes have developed over the years and are way more effective, like Tektro hand brakes by Prevelo Bikes.
These modern hand brakes need only a little strength to operate, so your kid would not have to get exhausted a lot.
They also come with child-sized short-reach levers, making them comfortable even for little children.
From a developmental standpoint, it is better to start early with the hand brake bikes. But hand brake bikes for little kids are hard to find on the market.
Since the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) has legislated, manufacturers have to produce bikes with coaster brakes.
But those laws do not apply to you if you want to remove those coaster brakes and install hand brakes instead on your bike.
Many brands come with their freewheel kit to install a freewheel hub on the bike. You can swap the coaster hub with a freewheel hub yourself by following the instructions in the guide.
Despite the suitability of hand brakes over coaster brakes in kids’ bikes, why do the manufacturers produce bikes with coaster brakes?
Well, I have answered this question in my article: Why Do Kids Bikes Have Coaster Brake instead of Handle Brakes?
As concerned parents, you should be aware of the brakes on your kid’s bikes. Whether they are properly functioning or not?
If not, proper adjustment is necessary, which you can learn from my article: How to Adjust Kid’s Bicycle Brakes?
Make sure to choose the right brakes and ride safe!