A good friend of mine and his wife took their son to college late last summer. One of the first things they did when arriving on campus was to buy him a bicycle, since he was without one. At age 16 in high school, he had quickly evolved from his old, small BMX unit and went straight to driving cars.
Even though the newly minted freshman was coming from a family of substantial means, he didn’t arrive at his university in a BMW, Corvette, or upscale SUV. A wise decision, in my view. However, he did need practical and reliable transportation across a campus of formidable size. So, a bicycle was the ideal solution.
For those of you high school seniors who will be traveling to campus for the first time this fall, what solutions have you plotted for covering all the real estate of your new higher education home? Trust me; as someone who had to speed-walk between well-spaced classes at a Big 10 university, I would have loved to have had a bike. It would have saved me a lot of time and worn shoes.
So, I thought I would share some consumer-friendly advice that I received from Campus Grotto about the ins and outs of buying a bike for college transportation. Their highly informative release was entitled Best Bikes for College: Tips from a College Bike Expert [named “Dylan”]. Here are some excerpts and illustrations from his perspective:
Bringing a bike to college is not only a great idea for ease of access in getting around campus, but also in the affordability and fun it provides as both a transportation device and a hobby.
While bringing a car to campus isn’t always an option for some students, it’s nice to have some way to easily (and affordably) get around. This is where having a bike in college comes in handy. Having a bicycle in college is such a convenience you will see some students pick one up who haven’t ridden in years.
Regardless of how far you will be living from campus, a bike can even become useful for travel between classes, given how large some university campuses are. A bike can also be used to help carry your heavy book bag to and from class when equipped with a rack and panniers …
[Note: “Panniers” are defined as “one of a pair of packs or baskets hung over the rear wheel of a vehicle (as a bicycle) — Middle English: from Old French panier, from Latin panarium ‘breadbasket,’ from panis ‘bread.’”]
… What buying tips would you give a college student looking to purchase a bike for use while at college?
Buy a new bike. Lest you have a perfect steel framed Japanese bike that fits you perfectly and is in mint condition, there is nothing better than going to a professional bike shop in order to secure a warranty of service, but also guarantee the quality and reliability of something that may very well replace your car or take you off of crowded buses.
Buying a new bike is good idea, the initial investment is high, but it secures resale value and bike shop salespeople and technicians are professionals. Bike shops want to get you on a bike that not only fits you in size but also in needs for utility and price. Buying a bike blind is not recommended, you want to be able to compare and contrast models and materials in order to see what feels “right” to the rider.
Shops also have wide varieties of accessories and can facilitate the installation and care of these many add-ons to the bike.
Are there any particular models you would recommend for students?
Specialized Sirrus in any trim, Giant Defy (beginner road bike), Jamis Coda, Trek Fx 7 series, *Specialized Diverge in aluminum [*see below] if they’d like to carry racks, and carbon if they want an all around versatile bike for sport …
Buying a new bike isn’t always in the budget of a college student. New, good-looking bikes may also become a target for thieves. Therefore, you may want to consider bringing an inexpensive bike to campus by buying used.
Bike Tips for College Students
Dylan offers the following tips for buying and managing a bike in college:
– Fit is extremely important. A bike that does not fit is bad for the body and even worse for morale. There is nothing worse than being very tired and worn out from riding a POS bike that breaks down often. A bike that fits is confidence-inspiring as well as a great tool to improve health of body and mind. A bike ride is an unwind, even when it’s to or from a place of work or stressful class, the ride is therapeutic.
– Buying a bike online in a box is a bad idea, unless you can put it together yourself because that’s your job, it’s not going to work out as well as you’d imagine.
– GET A RACK and PANNIERS! This will change your life! You will go to all grocery stores and you will schlep everything you need, on your bike, with efficiency and will look cool doing it.
– Get effective lights. Safety is huge, you want to see, but also being seen is extremely important. Along with having a helmet and gear such as reflective elements or hi-vis rain or cold weather gear, lights can save your life.
– Wear a helmet. You’ve committed to going to school and paying it off afterwards, why would you want to fall and not be able to get up? Safety is key as well as making you more confident because you’ve made a serious commitment to something rather than treating it as if it was casual.
– Get a lock that seems like overkill. You think that your lock is good enough, but it almost never is. Kryptonite, manufacturer of quality locks recommends that you spend 20% of the cost of your bike on a lock. If you buy a $500 bike, $100 for a lock is a good idea and it ensures that if you have to leave it on campus or off that it will be there when you get back, also, for the pub crawling students who insightfully choose not to ride buzzed, it will mean that the bike will be there in the morning especially in high-risk metro areas. Security add-ons like anti-theft skewers and hardware are recommended, such are saddle leashes and taking your lights off of the bike each time you leave the bike unattended.
– Furthermore, it is important that every cyclist carry an extra tube or two, a patch kit, a multifunctional tool and a pump that matches the type of tires that you are riding on. The bigger the pump, the easier it will be to fill the tube and get back on the road. Being stuck without a tube or a patch kit is a rider’s own choice, one has the ability to be self-sufficient and get themselves out of a pickle like a piece of glass or staple.
Any final thoughts or input you have for students regarding using a bike in college?
“Riding a bike in college is a perfect way to practice discipline and self-sufficiency by improving your fitness, gaining a community of supportive people, and learning skills for independence and technical aptitude in simple mechanics.”
I hope that Dylan’s Campus Grotto tutorial will be of some help when your son or daughter heads to college this fall. Bikes are good for the environment, legs, and general health. They provide a highly efficient means of getting from place to place, one that requires no gasoline or expensive fees or maintenance. They are the perfect solution for practical campus transportation.
Be sure to check out all my college-related articles at College Confidential.