My first bike was a 1976 Raleigh Strika. It was brilliant and was distinguished by having only a front brake lever. To get the rear wheel to stop one simply back-pedalled. This was a v. efficient way of stopping and had the bonus of making your bike skid in a most excellent way.

I have a simple 8-speed hybrid mountain/road bike now and was wondering if anyone knew if there was any way of modding it to replicate the behaviour of my beloved Strika. I guess I might lose my gears after such an alteration, but I can live with that.

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    My first bike was also a Raleigh Strika. Mine had standard brakes front and rear, so not quite so cool. – Tom77 Nov 2 '11 at 10:21
  • Yes I noticed when I was Googling myself into a nostalgic frenzy that the (post-1980?) Strikas seemed to have front & rear brake levers. A great shame imho. – 5arx Nov 2 '11 at 11:01

Unfortunately, it's not really feasible to convert that particular bicycle to use a coaster brake. That bicycle has vertical dropouts, which means that the chain is kept taut using a derailleur or other spring-based chain tensioner. A chain tensioner only applies force opposing the forward direction, however, so when you attempt to pedal backwards to actuate the coaster brake you'll only end up bending the tensioner back around and dropping the chain rather than stopping. (Without a tensioner of some sort it's extremely difficult to set the drivetrain up with the correct amount of slack; sometimes involving chain half-links and filing the dropout can get you close but there are no guarantees.)

Depending on your preferences, you can get up to 9 speeds with a coaster brake using the SRAM i9 internal hub; cheaper options also exist for 8-,7-,5-,and 3-speeds. I personally have a soft spot for the Sturmey Archer 3-speed coaster brake for it's balance of simplicity and a relatively wide (33%) gear spacing, but your mileage may vary.

Your best bet is to look for a relatively inexpensive single speed, fixed gear, or already-coaster'd bike to start from. If it's got horizontal dropouts or track ends you're in business. Frames purpose-built for coaster brakes will often have a tab brazed onto the non-driveside chainstay for screwing the anti-rotation arm to (lest the brake simply spin the hub backwards instead of stop you) but a p-clamp or hose clamp can be used as an adapter trivially.

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  • Thanks very much for the detailed answer. My memories of my Strika are very happy ones. I think I'm going to do as you suggest and buy an old frame and see if I can do the mods myself. Are there any brands of bike/frame and hub you could suggest as a starting point? – 5arx Nov 2 '11 at 9:29
  • If you want new bike I can suggest Kellys bikes: kellysbike.com/… – Crowley Nov 2 '11 at 12:14

This is called a coaster brake. To install one of these, you'd need to replace the rear hub, and remove the existing rear brakes, which sometimes means replacing the rear wheel, and there may be other complications. I recommend retaining your current front brake as a backup; if the chain snaps, you lose your rear brake. (That's happened to me exactly once over the years, and that bike had handbrakes, not a coaster brake.)

While Shimano makes an internal hub with seven speeds and a coaster brake, I'm not sure if their 8-speed hub has one.

Can you tell us more about your current bike? Does it currently have gears in an internal hub on the rear wheel, or is the gearing via conventional derailer gears?

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  • Thanks for the speedy and knowledgeable response. Please see my update. – 5arx Nov 1 '11 at 16:57
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    You have a bike with derailer gears. I'll let the wrenchers here give the final word on this, but I'd think it'd be a lot of trouble to retrofit a coaster hub, as the frame won't have a hookup for the brake. The frame is also aluminum, which could be a problem if you need to bend the frame to get the new hub inside. Does anyone know if they make coaster hubs without internal gears that can be hooked up to the existing freewheel/cassette rig? – Goodbye Stack Exchange Nov 1 '11 at 17:44
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    (Oh, and coaster brakes are wonderful. I have one on my around-town bike. Being able to brake without your hands is wonderfully convenient.) – Goodbye Stack Exchange Nov 1 '11 at 17:46
  • I remember the Strika braking was immediate hence the skid. Do adult coaster brake setups allow more gradual braking? I'd imagine the rapidity of the back-pedal brake could pose some problems e.g. in traffic. – 5arx Nov 2 '11 at 11:03
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    I think it depends on the model of brake hub. The Shimano hub I have is definitely weaker than the front rim brake. My other experiences with coasters were similar, but those were all beach cruiser rentals and likely didn't have the best components. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Nov 2 '11 at 18:30

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