Kids Coaster Brake vs Freewheel Bikes Explained
Kids bikes have historically come with coaster brakes. The traditional logic has been that coaster brakes are more intuitive for kids to learn to ride. All your child has to do is spin the pedals in reverse to stop the bike.
The coaster brake is considered a safety feature and in some cases is the law. We recommend starting a first time pedaler on a bike with a freewheel if possible. Most kids first starting to pedal accidentally pedal backwards sometimes. If the bike has a coaster brake, pedaling backwards slams on the brakes and can startle the young rider. We have seen even the most confident balance bike rider start to get nervous when trying to learn to pedal using a coaster brake. Not to mention a coaster brake hub adds more weight to the kids bike.
With a freewheel, there are no negative consequences for accidentally pedaling backwards as you learn. Only positive results as the bike propels forward as the child pedals in the correct direction. Additionally, the hand brakes on kid's bicycles these days are made to fit tiny hands and be operated easily by a small kid's hands. They have come a long way over the years.
Regardless of whether you have a coaster (foot) brake, we recommend finding a bike with hand brakes so kids will get used to them and for the extra braking power. Many places in extreme hilly areas do not even allow bikes without hand brakes to ride on the mountain because they don't have the necessary braking power to sufficiently slow the bike without them.
Keep in mind, if the bike only has hand brakes only, ensure your child can reach the brake and squeeze it easily while holding the handlebars. Also ensure your child is very comfortable using the hand brakes before riding any hilly terrain.
To get more tips on choosing you kids bike checkout our full Guide to Choosing Your Kids First Bike.