Today I had time to take the restored Malvern Star 2-star for its first decent ride of around 15km on mostly flat terrain. It has been quite a while since I have ridden a single speed coaster braked bike on public roads, and today’s adventure was mostly about coming to grips again with this type of brake. Firstly its gradual nature, as the fifty year old Perry hub is not the last word in stopping power – the name of the game is anticipation, or the fine art of “what if ?”. This comes naturally to me from my motor cycling days, trying to first guess the traffic. Having said that, this isn’t the bike for cut and thrust city traffic and all of its surprises. The brake stops reasonably well when one has the pedals in the quarter to three o’clock position, ready to stand hard on the back pedal, but the time taken to get to that position adds extra stopping distance as well, if not anticipated – as sometimes happened.
This is a bike for flat back roads and cycle paths, where the hub is silent when coasting, like the Nexus 8 on my Gazelle, and the big wheels soak up any stray bumps – (it’s the only bike I’ve tried the Electra spinner bell on that doesn’t let it ring loudly over bumps) – it is also the lightest bike I own partly due to the minimal accessories. The gearing is about right for me at 48-20, and riding single speed is all about large variations in cadence and pedal pressure. I would rather push it up the steep hills than stress the poor cotter pins too much. The Brooks B18 is firm but comfortable so far, and looks a treat. The bike rolls freely and tackles smaller hills quite well. Getting used to having to position the pedals by hand sometimes before starting off took me back in time too, though I must say it is a pleasant change to be able to roll the bike backward without the pedals turning and catching the kick stand – there are swings and roundabouts here. I am also starting to appreciate the simplicity and clean, cable-free appearance as a real virtue.
Problems ? Well, the left hand pedal spat its ball bearings into the end cover, so it’s new pedals unless I can sort it. No luggage capacity. And some toe overlap on the front guard that I have to compensate for. Otherwise, a rewarding old-world ride, the first of many, I wish !