The most common bike share bikes in the Boston area are BlueBikes, which use drum brakes. As a result, braking these heavy bikes takes a considerable amount of squeezing force. In my own experience, this limits the uses of the bike, as one cannot rely on the brakes to stop quickly at high speeds.

Do they have to use drum brakes? What would the alternatives be? Can braking performance on this brake type be improved?

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    Drum bikes can operate well, and are even used on certain e-bikes in rather large numbers (eg. the e-bike provided by Swapfiets is very popular in Europe). However the share bikes you used are probably fitted with cheaper models. See for example Shimano Rollerbrakes for higher quality drum brakes. Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 15:17
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    The bike share bikes in my city have Shimano roller brakes. They are nowhere near maintained rim or disc brakes, but they work.
    – ojs
    Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 16:23
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    This really depends on the company. In Prague there are two main companies and their brakes differ a lot. Not only in their type but aso in he stopping power. Rekola has a normal rim brake or a disc brake in the front and a coaster brake in the back and it brakes very well. Commented Aug 30, 2022 at 13:36

1 Answer 1


Mostly it is about maintenance costs and reliability. Drum brakes require the least maintenance of all brake types and have lower initial cost than disk brakes. They are also not affected by damage to rims or discs and work in rain just as well as in dry weather (i.e. not effective, but no sudden loss of braking either).

The low braking power is more a benefit than problem for bike share bikes. These bikes are not expected to be ridden fast enough to need powerful brakes, but an inexperienced rider can throw themselves over the bars with the front brake and poor brake reduces this risk.

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    Agree that the most likely reason is lower chance of damage: it's in an enclosure and protected from elements and knocking about. That's what keeps them going. Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 15:13
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    In Prague, I find the braking power of Nextbike bikes almost insufficient and I must be very careful when going down from a bridge or to an underpass (both happen on my way to work). Rekola uses a coaster brake and a rim brake (sometimes disc brake) in front and brakes perfectly. One just have to be careful, that the only brake lever for the right hand is the front one but any endo is extremely unlikely given the wight of even the lighter Rekola shared bikes. Commented Aug 30, 2022 at 13:39
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    I guess it depends on how much risk the company is willing to take. In Helsinki the yellow shared bikes are paid by the city so injuries are part of their operating costs, but electric scooter operators really don't care until they are forced to. I haven't tried the Freebike myself.
    – ojs
    Commented Aug 30, 2022 at 15:11
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    Also much less prone to accidental damage and vandalism. Rim and V brakes can both be easily damaged.
    – mattnz
    Commented Aug 30, 2022 at 20:31
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    @rob74 that's not really now endos happen or brakes work at all.
    – ojs
    Commented Aug 31, 2022 at 7:38

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