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I am looking to buy a bicycle with a front disc brake and a rear foot brake. I am asking this because I have mild muscular dystrophy and lost almost all of my grip strength so it is very difficult for me to stop with hand brakes. Maybe there is another solution other than a rear foot brake and I am open to other suggestions. If not can you recommend a good bike with a rear foot brake. I would like the 21+ gear option but I am not sure this is possible. I don't want to go too expensive but I want a good bike.

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    Generally, for a "foot brake", you're limited to single-speed "coaster brake" bikes (though there may be an oddball solution out there somewhere). You could probably kluge something up on a tricycle, using two hubs on a single axle, but it would be (more) difficult on a 2-wheeler. – Daniel R Hicks Jan 15 '15 at 19:01
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    @DanielRHicks There are 3, 5, and maybe 7 gear hubs with coaster brakes as well... – Benedikt Bauer Jan 15 '15 at 19:48
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    Shimano Nexus have up to 8 speed hubs with coaster brakes. It would be an expensive option as it is likely you would need to buy the bike and IGH separately. However it wouldn't limit you to any bike style, rather what you wanted. – DWGKNZ Jan 15 '15 at 19:51
  • OK, if you Google "multi speed coaster brake hub" you will get several hits. They appear to be mostly 3-speed units, though I see reference to a Shimano 7-speed unit. – Daniel R Hicks Jan 15 '15 at 19:54
  • And I also see several complete bikes with 3-speeds, such as jbikes.com/… – Daniel R Hicks Jan 15 '15 at 19:56
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A coaster brake is really your only option for foot-operated braking, and most complete bikes sold with coaster brakes have the coaster as the only brake. My experience is that mixing hand and coaster brakes takes some getting used to, and most people don't want to bother.

This limits the selection of coaster brake bikes to mostly cruiser and city bikes. Most of those are single-speeds or 3-speeds. Both Shimano and SRAM offer 8-speed internally-geared hubs with coaster brakes, but I don't know whether any current production bikes come with 8-speed coaster brake hubs from the factory.

If you wanted to have a more versatile bike with a wide range of gears and a braking setup that includes a front brake, one way would be to have a rear wheel built using one of the 8-speed hubs. The considerations for that include:

  • The frame would have to be able to accommodate an internal or single-speed rear hub. This means it would have to have either horizontal/track type dropouts or an eccentric bottom bracket.
  • Most internally geared hubs are limited to one chain wheel in front and one cog in back, so you're limited to the number of speeds inside the hub itself.

  • Both the Shimano and SRAM hubs come only in 36-hole drilling, not the more popular 32-hole. This would somewhat limit your rim choices.

  • The derailleurs, chain wheels and cogs from the derailleur drivetrain would become surplus, along with the rear brake and its lever.

If you wanted to start with a bike that's really close, the Breezer Uptown 8 or Downtown 8 come with 8-speed hub gears and hand brakes for both wheels. You could purchase the coaster hub and have a bike shop rebuild the wheel, keeping the rim, shifters, cog and chain wheel. I wish I could say that you could just buy a kit to convert from one type of brake to the other, but to my knowledge, the hubs have different internals. Current cost would be a $600-800 bike, $200+ hub, plus labor. You could probably sell the old hub and get a little bit back.

Another option might be to get a cruiser with an 8-speed hub and add a disk brake, but this would require replacing the fork and front wheel. Probably more cost-effective but more of a challenge to find a compatible fork. Too many variables to estimate what that might cost.

Good luck in your search.

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    "most complete bikes sold with coaster brakes have the coaster as the only brake" - might be true in your country, however laws in many countries require two working brakes on a bike so its not generally true. – mattnz Jan 15 '15 at 21:00
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    I do not think 36 hole rims are something that it is hard to find, or is limiting in choices. – Davorin Ruševljan Jan 16 '15 at 8:02
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In the UK (you don't say where you are) independent front and rear brakes are required on all bikes (unlike most of the rest of the regs this is a use not a sale requirement, though with several exemptions). This means that a bike with a coaster brake will have a front hand brake -- though it will probably be a rim brake.

From my limited experience of disc brakes, at least the cheap cable ones aren't so very much sharper for a modest pull than rim brakes. This might mean you need very good disc brakes (a retrofit on all but the most expensive bikes I'm sure) to get the performance you want. Or it might mean that there's not actually all that much difference between disc and rim braking performance (under ideal conditions of course). I hope I'll attract comments form people with wider experience, but also how absolute is the disc requirement?

I'm sure the UK regs aren't the only ones requiring independent brakes, just the ones I know about. Given the international nature of most manufacturers and their designs, adding a front rim brake to a bike with a coaster brake might not be that hard.

Just a thought, on top of all that: It might be possible to use both hands to operate the same cable front brake to increase the force you could apply. A product exists apparently (2nd option at that page).

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  • 100% agree with you on the disk vs rim discussion. Cheap discs provide significantly worse braking than good rim brakes. Do not discount good quality parallelogram V brakes (if you can still get them) - I could lock my the rear wheel on my old MTB with one finger and control it easily with two. (Rims are harder to set-up correctly which is why on most bikes the rims work no better than discs.) – mattnz Jan 15 '15 at 21:08
  • @mattnz I've also found considerable variation between cheap V-brakes - with the same pads I seem to have to adjust my bog-standard Shimano brakes much less often than my wife's Tektro (meaning proper adjustment - the barrel adjusters are to trivial to notice). – Chris H Jan 16 '15 at 10:01

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