A cruiser bike is one of the bike types that comes with brakes. It is a bike classification recommended for young bikers because of its relaxation. The cruiser bike was created to provide comfort and safety for the biker, making brakes essential.
Three brake options can be installed on a cruiser bike: the traditional coaster brake, the rim brake, and the standard disc brake. The main difference between these brake types is their ease of use and stopping power.
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Where Are the Brakes Located in a Cruiser Bike?
Traditionally, cruiser bike brakes are located at the rear wheel. This was the initial design for cruiser bikes which fits its initial purpose of providing a casual and light biking experience.
The initial composition of cruiser bikes progressed and improved to suit the biker’s needs as generations passed. Cruiser bikes are modified to fit specific road types, give a better biking experience, and control the biker.
The three brake types previously mentioned used for cruiser bikes have different locations. Traditional coaster brakes are located in the rear hub of the bike. The cruiser bike’s hub is the center part of the wheel where the spokes are attached, and the bike’s rear axle passes through. Basically, the entire brake system of a cruiser bike when using a traditional coaster brake is located all in the brake hub.
As the name implies, rim brakes are located at the rim part of the cruiser bike. Friction pads are attached near the rim of the bike’s wheel. When the biker triggers the brake, the friction pads apply a strong stopping force to the rim of the rotating bike wheel. Friction pads are typically made from leather, rubber, or cork.
Lastly, the disc brakes. Newer bike models tend to have disc brakes. This brake type has its mechanism mounted on the cruiser bike frame near the upper portion of the bike wheels. Disc brakes are usually located at each bike wheel’s center and are activated by triggering a brake pad.
How Do Cruiser Bikes Brakes Work?
Cruiser bike brakes work differently depending on the brake type. A traditional coaster brake is the most basic classification for most bicycle types. For cruiser bikes with traditional coaster brakes, as long as the bikers can pedal forward, they can activate the brake by reverse pedaling.
Cruiser bikes that use rim brakes need to be triggered with a brake lever. This lever is attached to either handlebar of the bike. It has a cable attached to it that goes all the way down to the rim brake mechanism.
Once the brake lever is pressed by the biker, the arms of the rim brake mechanism will instantaneously clasp themselves near the bike’s rim. This causes the friction pads to stop the bike wheel’s motion. Upon release, the arms will loosen, and the bike wheels may continue their rotation.
The last type of brake system is the disc brake. It is designed to stop a specific rotational motion like the rim brakes in a bike. The only difference is where and how it does its job. Since it is located at the center of the cruiser bike’s wheel, disc brakes focus on stopping any motion from this location.
There are two classifications in disc brakes, mechanical and hydraulic. Mechanical disc brakes are accompanied by a cable system, just like rim brakes. The trigger is located on the bike’s handlebars and should be pressed by the biker to stop the bike’s motion.
On the other hand, hydraulic disc brakes use a more advanced stopping power which involves a special hydraulic fluid. When the brake is activated, this fluid is pushed through a hose connected to the disc brake mechanism, which initiates the halt of the bike’s motion.
3 Different Types of Cruiser Bikes Brakes Explained (Pros and Cons)
The discovery of bicycles as a form of more accessible transportation was obviously not the end. People realized that they had to gain more speed control, which created bicycles with brakes. Karl Drais was the pioneer of the concept of bike brakes.
Drais designed a specialized pivoting shoe made of steel pressed against the bike’s front wheels to slow it down. More inventors designed and created different braking systems to provide better stopping power and ease of use.
The following are some braking systems being used today in cruiser bikes. Each brake system would be compared to one another along with its pros and cons.
1. Coaster Brakes
Traditional coaster brakes are also called back-pedal and foot brakes. They were first used in bicycles in the late 1890s. It is a standard brake system that can be found on most kids’ bikes up until today. In fact, it is the most common brake system found in cruiser bikes today. In 1097, the integration of the traditional coaster brake system into bicycles was patented by Harry Pond Townsend.
The Pros. The traditional coaster brake is relatively easy to learn. Its concept isn’t as complex as other modern brake systems and can be easily maneuvered. You have to remember the forward pedal to move, the backward pedal to stop. This is the reason why it is mainly used in kids’ bikes.
Aside from being intuitive, traditional coaster brakes have fewer parts. Compared to the rim brake and disc brake, the traditional coaster brake does not involve using a series of cables attached to the bike’s frame. Not only it makes the brake parts easier to understand and maintain, but it also makes the bike look tidier too. The minimalist approach of traditional coaster brakes makes them more appealing to most bike users.
A traditional coaster brake is a less expensive option for a braking system. Since it has fewer parts, it also has fewer brake components and requires little to no maintenance. Furthermore, coaster brakes are young-biker and disabled-bikers friendly. It is the optimal brake system for individuals that have grip problems. It is also the safer option for kids who are new to biking and struggling with activating hand brakes.
The Cons. On the downside of the traditional coaster brakes, they often cause skidding, resulting in excessive tire wear. Pedaling in reverse tends to be a natural movement, especially when taking an uphill route. This unconscious back-pedaling causes an unintentional trigger for the brake.
This may then lead to bike accidents. Another drawback of the traditional coaster brake is no backup if the brake fails. Also, due to its simplicity, it is not recommended to be used on specialty bikes such as mountain bikes.
One example of a cruiser bike that uses traditional coaster brakes is the Firmstrong Urban Man Single Speed Cruiser bike. It is a cruiser bike model ideal for teenagers and adults between the heights of 4’ and 5’2’’. It offers a smooth riding experience, simplicity in operating, and a minimalist appearance.
2. Rim Brakes
The initial design for rim brakes was first created by Abram Duck in November 1897. It was initially called the Duck Roller Brake. The brake uses a rod operated by a lever attached to the bike’s handlebar. A pair of rubber rollers will then be pulled against the front wheels causing the front wheels to stop. Rim Brakes then became an industry-standard around 1094.
The Pros. Rim brakes are lighter than traditional coaster brakes and disc brakes. Typically, rim brakes are lightweight aluminum, making it lighter around a pound than the rest. Rim brakes are also more aerodynamic and cheaper than disc brakes. This brake system is ideal for bikers who want a sound brake system but have a tight budget.
It is also easier to adjust and repair and does not require much maintenance than disc brakes. The makeup of the rim brakes is a lot simpler than disc brakes making it less complicated to make modifications. Aside from that, rim brake parts are easier to find than disc brakes.
The main component of the rim brake, which requires replacement or readjustment, is its friction pads located nearest to the rim of the bike. Some also find rim brakes aesthetically appealing. The cables connecting the triggers on the handlebars down to the brake mechanism attached to the bike’s rim make the bike sophisticated-looking.
The Cons. Compared to disc brakes and traditional coaster brakes, rim brakes have lesser stopping power. Since it is less mechanical than disc brakes, it also has less power to offer in the long run. Rim brakes tend to heat up faster on steep descent rides, causing air pressure on the wheels that often blow off the rim mechanism.
In addition to this, rim brakes have less lifespan compared to disc brakes and traditional coaster brakes. Rim brakes tend to wear off quickly due to the heat on their friction pads, weakening the mechanism over time.
Another disadvantage of rim brakes from the rest is that it isn’t ideal in wet weather. When the friction pads get wet due to rain, they do not produce enough friction to the rim of the bike wheel and often just slide off. This inability to produce stopping power when drenched with water isn’t ideal for some bikers.
An example of a cruiser bike that uses rim brakes is the Electra Cruiser Lux 7D Step-Over Cruiser bike. It is a beach cruiser bike designed to provide the biker a new level of comfort and control with its 7-speed drivetrain and patented flat-foot technology. Bikers also invest in this model due to its classic appeal and capability for bike accessories such as baskets, bells, and even surf racks.
3. Disc Brakes
The concept of disc brakes was initially created to revolutionize the brake system for race cars. Frederick W. Lanchester invented the disc brakes and obtained a patent in 1902. It was later used for bikes in 1962, pioneered by Schwinn Manta-Rays.
The Pros. Compared to the traditional coaster and rim brakes, the disc braking system offers the most stopping power. It has a more complex mechanism that enables it to create more power in stopping the bike’s motion with lesser effort to be exerted. It also offers consistency in its stopping capability. Unlike the traditional coaster brakes and rim brakes which depend on the chains and the friction pad, respectively, disc brakes apply the same strength in stopping the bike as it is situated in a better brake location.
Unlike the rim brakes, which depend on the amount of friction to stop the bike wheels, the disc brakes perform better in wet weather. It has no delay once triggered by the biker. It also does not wear off the wheels because it requires no friction and does not cause heat to build upon the bike’s rims. Furthermore, this does not affect the performance of the brake mechanism during long and steep descents.
The Cons. Since the disc brakes have more mechanisms and a more complex function, it also requires more maintenance. For example, hydraulic disc brakes may require a more complicated rectification once something goes wrong in its parts. Also, disc brakes need “bleeding” in cases where air bubbles are trapped in their primary mechanism.
Bleeding is the mechanical process of removing air from braking systems. Aside from this, on instances wherein the disc brake rotor gets bent or misaligned, the biker may experience a disc brake rub. Brake rub is a typical issue with disc brakes. It may cause the bike to slow down and prematurely wear out the disc brake pads and rotor.
Another is that disc brakes tend to be heavier than rim brakes and traditional coaster brakes. This is not ideal for bikers who aim for a lighter biking experience. It affects the speed and tends to exhaust the biker faster. Also, disc brakes are more expensive. In fact, a disc brake pad may have the exact cost of three rim brake pads.
A great example of a cruiser bike that uses a disc braking system is the Electric Bike Company Model X Cruiser bike. It is an electric-assisted cruiser bike model which offers customizability, safety, and superb comfort. This particular bike model was awarded as the top-rated E-Cruiser in the USA by the Electric Bike Review of 2018, 2019, and 2020.