Saturday, June 16, 2018

How Bicycle Coaster Brakes Work

1960s coaster brake service manual cover.
I can see a puzzled look suddenly come over the young woman’s face as she picks out a cruiser bicycle to ride at the C and O Canal Bicycle Loan program at Great Falls, Maryland. She sheepishly asks, “Where are the brakes?”

“Just pedal backwards. The bike has coaster brakes.” This information doesn’t quite compute.

“Pedal backwards. Really?”

“Try it out. People have been riding bicycles with coaster brakes without a problem for more than 100 years. The one on this bike is a Bendix Coaster brake that was popular in the 1960s.”

The forty or fifty year old bike she is going to ride is Columbia bicycle that is very popular in the program. The brake is a Bendix Model 70. Bendix began manufacturing coaster brakes in 1924 after deciding to diversify from its car parts business and to start producing bicycle components. The company produced bike parts until the demise of its bicycle division in the 1980s. During the 1950s and 1960s Bendix coaster brakes were quite common on Schwinn, Columbia and many other major bicycle brands.

Friday, May 25, 2018

A Short History of the Bicycle Coaster Brake

The coaster brake has been in constant use on bicycles for over a century, but it seems to get no respect. Compared to other bicycle components such as wheels, derailleurs, shifters, rims or tires, the bicycling community does not pay much attention to coaster brakes. The probable reason is that they are found mostly on low cost bicycles. Despite this lack of respect, coaster brakes are still sold in high volumes in the USA and throughout the world. In addition, they were a key invention during the 1890s, an era when innovations defined the modern bicycle.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Measuring the Business Benefits of New, Improved or Extended Bicycle Trails


The value of new bicycle trails is often underestimated in terms of overall benefits, but this is particularly true for business generation. The lack of admission fees to directly measure the willingness to pay for new or improved trails means that it is not easy to measure business benefits of such trails. This is not a new issue and parallel difficulties in valuing public parks and other community venues. Standard techniques have been developed for measuring the willingness to pay for the benefits of public trails and greenspace (McConnell and Walls 2006; Krizek 2006). Although there are established ways to measure general benefits such as increase in home value, the measurement of benefits for local businesses has been less common. This article concentrates on ways to measure the business benefits of trails or trail improvements.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Renewing a 1976 Motobecane Grand Jubile

Road Bike on plain background

I have my doubts. The C and O bike loan program has just received a donation of a vintage 21 inch Motobecane Grande Jubile bicycle. The program manager had saved it from the junk pile especially for me. He says, “Doug, do you want to take this on as a project. I don’t know much about it. What do you think?”

The silver and red two-wheeler is leaning against the bicycle shed adjacent to the Great Falls Tavern in the C and O Canal National Historic Park near Washington, DC. The first impression is not a good one. The bike is covered in grime from years of sitting in a garage. This bike has the look of an over-powdered aging French Madame, down on her luck. The silver frame is covered with years of garage brown dirt hiding the imperfections of aging. The thin 27 by 1/8 inch tires are cracked and sagging. The rubber brake hoods are marbleized and wrinkled. The formerly bright ruby red cables have faded to an austere, dark maroon brown and are frayed at the bends. At first glance I balk at the thought of renewing this bicycle, considering it too much work.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Christmas Bicycle Story from the 1950s


(Photo: Doug Barnes)

My brother Russ asks John the golden question, "What're you gettin' for Christmas?" It's just after Thanksgiving and Russ, John Gronski and I are just beginning to discuss the upcoming holidays. The setting is the 1950s in the small town of Uniontown, Pennsylvania.

This dialogue is a recollection of one cold Christmas day warmed by memories that I had almost forgotten. My brother Russ resurrected my memories about this act of friendship about 10 years ago and I enjoyed all over again the gift of giving a bicycle for Christmas in times that were less complicated than today.

Self assured, John says, "I'm gettin' a new bicycle." At 9 years old John is a constant companion at our house, coming early and staying late. He often joins us for lunch.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Gender Equity is an Issue for the Transform I-66 Trail Design

The main beneficiaries of the currently proposed Transform I-66 bicycle and pedestrian trail will be male bicyclists who feel comfortable riding near or in traffic. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) should build a trail that will be popular among a wider variety of bicyclists and pedestrians. This would then expand the benefits of Virginia’s investment in the trail.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Lost Benefits of the Transform I-66 Multi-Use Trail

The widening of the I-66 Corridor in Virginia just north and west of Washington, DC offers the rare opportunity to finance a state of the art bicycle and pedestrian trail for commuters interested in getting to work, for children going to school and for casual riders wanting to get from one neighborhood to another. The Transform I-66 project will cost the state and private investors $3 billion, so sufficient funds are available to have a state of the art bicycle facility that does not detract from the main goal of the project, which is to widen and improve the I-66 corridor outside of the Washington, DC beltway. Unfortunately, the design of many parts of the trail means that for bicyclists and pedestrians the project will not be transformative.