Urban Velo

Coaster Brake Challenge


Photos by Charles Cetto

The first Sunday of the month marked the beginning of the Coaster Brake Challenge, a regular series of races held on fire roads and mountain trails in the hilly fringes of L.A.’s West Valley. Scarcely promoted and hardly understood, the Coaster Brake Challenge is hosted by Atomic Cycles owner Paul de Valera and draws only the most dedicated bike nerds–the ones who have the gumption to put a coaster brake on a mountain bike, outfit a cruiser for mountain biking, or build up a 26″ BMX-style ride. The rules are simple: A qualified bike must be single-speed coaster brake with no other braking mechanism. Each ride is rated for spectator-friendliness, meat pylons (aka pedestrians), and brake-age (or breakage when a coaster wheel heats up and explodes).

A couple dozen chilly cyclists gathered while the sun inched into the sky, before the sheen of frost melted from the grass. Held twice a year and in its 11th edition, the Coaster Brake Challenge meets at 7 a.m. and hits the trail shortly after 8, in a different park and on a new course each race. For $20 each participant gets a t-shirt, patch and and the chance to test their strength and adaptability skidding and stopping with a coaster brake in all four races of the series. Double-bar cruisers, one-piece cranks, carbon risers and clipless pedals all become commingled in the madness of the Coaster Brake Challenge.

The first race in the series consisted of a large loop with the second half repeated for a roughly 10-mile course that delved into a 2,900-acre parkland of rolling hills. On the inside of the loop, the city ceased to exist and coyotes wandered through the open space between the trails. Challenging climbs were coupled with the brain-twisting trick of mountain biking on a coaster brake, sliding down hills and lining up to brake for left and right turns.

Click through the photos below from the first CBC 11 race and visit atomiccycles.com to check out some more coaster brake bikes and for details about the rest of the Coaster Brake Challenge series.


About Krista Carlson

A regular contributor to the print edition of Urban Velo, Krista Carlson is a cyclist obsessed with bike polo, baking, pickles, and all things bike-y. She is a native Angeleno and is madly in love with the city and everything that makes it the beautiful, crazy place that it is.

View all posts by Krista Carlson →

One Comment

  1. ThrasherJanuary 13, 2014 at 10:50 pm

    So much fun!

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