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I recently purchased a used Electra Townie 3i for my first bike. I don't know the exact age, but I'm guessing it was manufactured sometime between 2012 and 2017. I was looking at Electra's current lineup, and the Townie fit my needs perfectly. Finding this old girl in the shop seemed like a bit of serendipity that I couldn't pass up. The old 3i has coaster brakes that work fine, but I want to make this bike work for me as my needs change. The first thing I noticed was the inconvenience of the coaster brakes for getting the pedals in position to start riding. If I change out the rear wheel to a freewheel hub, I'm going to lose half of my brake system, but I can't seem to find any brackets for mounting either a rim brake or disc brakes on the rear fork.

Has anyone run into this problem on older cruiser bikes (particularly old Townies), and what was the remedy? If the answer is buy a new bike, I'll eat that cost when it happens, but I'd rather upgrade my current bike if I'm able.

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  • Back in the coaster brake days I learned to leave my pedals in a position that was good for starting. It became an unconscious habit and it's cheaper than getting another bike or changing the wheel and adding brakes.
    – David D
    Jan 4, 2023 at 20:38
  • Can you show a picture of the area on the rear of the bike where we would normally mount a rim brake? It's usually called the chainstay bridge, where the chainstays meet the top of the seat tube. On most bikes with rim brakes, there's a bridge between the two stays with a hole drilled for rim calipers.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Jan 4, 2023 at 23:31
  • Aside - consider modifying your stopping technique, so that your primary start-foot pedal is up in the air. You can also start off with a push on the ground, essentially scootering briefly then catching the pedals. Third is when stopped and your weight is on the ground via one foot, lock up the front brake, push the bars forward which raises the rear wheel, then push the crank around to a starting position - with the rear wheel off the ground there's minimal resistance.
    – Criggie
    Jan 5, 2023 at 1:55

3 Answers 3

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Getting rid of the coaster brake and adding another brake are two separate problems.

Your coaster brake 3-speed hub is an expensive and involved to replace part of the bike and as there's no good way of disabling the coaster brake function, you're basically talking about replacing it.

You could replace it with a rim brake wheel with a 3-speed hub with no brake function and then add a long-reach caliper rim brake. That would all work, but the problem is those kinds of brakes are weak and you may find you went through a lot of hassle for an unsatisfactory result you are now locked in to. The question of what you're doing with the bike and where is therefore important here. If it's a fair weather, flat ground bike only, it might be fine.

You could look at replacing it with one of the various options for IGHs with drum brakes (Shimano and Sturmey both have options) that are able to use a band clamp on the frame as their torque anchor. This category is all over the place in quality and brake power, but you might find there are options that can work for you.

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  • Actually, do we know that there's a rear brake bridge on that bike? I'm unable to tell, but it seems possible there isn't one. There are unclear images available on eBay listings, but none show the chainstay bridge area.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Jan 4, 2023 at 23:26
  • @WeiwenNg That's a good point. I was making assumptions based on how (to my understanding) all Townies have fender capability, but this one probably only has a radial eyelet on the bottom of a wishbone tube, not seatstay bridges. If true than that makes putting rim brakes on unlikely. Jan 5, 2023 at 0:27
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I have the same bike, and mine does have a chainstay bridge for the fender. I had modified mine with an old Nexus 8 (which has failed), that has a roller brake. I also dislike coaster brakes not just for starting but also for cornering when I may want to be able to rotate backward to get the inside pedal up. I have a better Alfine 8 which has no brake so will be adding a rim caliper. But roller brakes work great on a rear wheel, and are cheaper and more durable than discs. Shimano makes a 3sp with a roller brake, but you will have to add a brake lever and change the bar shifter. https://bike.shimano.com/en-EU/product/component/nexus-inter3/SG-3R75-B.html

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  • Welcome to Bike Exchange, and nice first answer!
    – Ted Hohl
    Feb 3, 2023 at 20:04
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Though there are clamp-on adapters for disc brakes, they are not robust, and any disc brake would exert too much bending force to your seat stays.

The best way which I use is to weld or braze a thickish steel plate to seat stays,right behind seat tube, to create a bridge. This makes it possible to use u-brakes or road bike type caliper brakes. Road bike brakes have different pull ratio, but some levers, like most Tektros are adjustable for those.

İf you don't want to weld or braze, use 2 thick plates, and bolt them together with at least 2 bolts, below and above.

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