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Coaster brake vs. hand brakes



We are often asked by parents whether they should be looking for a pedal bike with hand brakes or a coaster brake. We believe that all kid's pedal bikes, including those with coaster brakes, should include a hand brake so all the pedal bikes we sell have a hand brake

Onto the real question: Should I buy a bike with a coaster brake or a freewheel hub? 

Coaster Brake: a brake on the hub of rear wheel; braking is applied by rotating the pedals backward

Freewheel Hub: allows the pedals to be rotated backwards without engaging the brake

When considering which to choose, we recommend taking into consideration both safety and your child's cycling skills and future development.

Coaster Brakes

  • Recommended for a child's first pedal bike, particularly if the child is transitioning from a balance bike or tricycle without a hand brake.  At this stage, children commonly use their feet to stop. A coaster brake will be a natural and safe transition.
  • Coaster brakes require less strength, dexterity, and skill to operate properly so they are a great backup while a child learns how to properly use their hand brake.
  • Ideal for handicap riders or those lacking the dexterity or strength to work a hand brake. A coaster brake provides a safety backup.
  • Coaster brakes do not allow the pedals to rotate backwards, making it hard for riders to start in an optimal pedal position. This may result in more falls due to lack of proper starting momentum.
  • Coaster brakes are “On/Off” which can result in skidding. Coaster brakes do not allow braking modulation like hand brakes. This makes it harder to control speed going down long hills or gently slowing into a stop. This is why a child should be taught hand brake control when they have developed the skill and hand dexterity to use one.
  • As freewheel hubs are common on all bikes starting at 20”, children who learn to brake using coaster brakes will eventually need to learn how to properly use hand brakes without using a coaster brake.
  • Check out our full line of pedal bikes with a coaster brake here.

Freewheel Hub

  • Recommended on a child's second pedal bike or for children learning to ride on a 20" bike or larger.
  • A freewheel hub forces the rider to learn how to properly use a hand brake from the very beginning. 
  • As pedals can be rotated backwards, it makes it easy for the rider to place pedals in an optimal position before starting.
  • Check out our full line of pedal bikes with a freewheel hub here.