As college campuses grow in size, reasonable and convenient transportation is a necessity. For many decades bicycles have been the answer for the young college student to have access to classes, and live near campus. One of the difficult aspects is knowing what to buy.
One key focus is cost, students rarely have a lot of money to spare, so we will identify what is most cost-effective. Let’s start with what I think is the best bike for college, the 6KU Fixed Gear Single Speed Urban Fixie Road Bike. Look for this as a used, or previously assembled bike from Amazon. It will save you quite a bit, and get you a bike for below $100. That is the key, low cost. Bikes are stolen off of campuses, why spend a lot and risk that?
This single speed bike is perfect for riding to school. It is simple, has larger wheels and easy to ride. There is no need for a complicated, 21-speed bike with suspension when we are just talking basic transportation.
There are two factors I look at when it comes to recommending a bike for a special purpose, such as local transportation. Cost and simplicity. The Murtisol Folding Bike 20 Inches is easily both. Thus my top pick.
Transportation shouldn’t be expensive. When you must leave a bike outdoors, perhaps in the rain or snow, knowing it will take abuse, why spend hundreds? This bike is well below $100, will fit most every rider, can be folded up and taken inside, or put in a car. There is quite a bit of good happening here.
A folding bike like this is not really the target of thieves. While stealing the entire bike is a possibility, the reality is if the bike is locked well, which is easier to do on a folding bike, that it should be reasonably safe. The parts on a bike like this are not all that targeted, as they are not easily swapped onto other bikes.
This bike is quite functional for short trips. I think about my university campus, and the distances involved. Most of them are around a mile. This is the perfect bike for that. It even includes a rear rack where you can put bags or other items making it easier to haul more stuff.
I’m adding in a serious commuter angle, as some shoppers will find that a better quality bike is needed due to the mileage involved and the need for a better fit. This bike will be more expensive, since it will have better quality componentry. The net result is a bike that is dependable and requires less maintenance.
While it is easy to spend thousands on a bike, perhaps a specialty touring or similar bike that would be easy to miles on, we have to remember this is headed to a campus and being locked up outdoors. I think the Vilano Shadow 3.0 is a good choice here. While it might seem expensive, this is a low priced road bike that has great features allowing you to ride increased miles more easily.
I chose a narrow tire road bike, with disc brakes and a reasonable drivetrain here. At this price point, the bike can handle some wear without falling apart unnecessarily. That is really the key when the distance increases. On any particular bike, will the brakes and the drivetrain hold up with increased usage.
The 16-speed drivetrain is more than enough to get through common commuting. This bike could be upgraded with a wider range cassette if a lower gear was needed. The brakes are more than enough for any usage type. The only thing missing here is rack mounts. This could be overcome quite easily with alternate hardware.
One of the lowest cost bikes I found that seemed reasonable for a campus was the Avigo Double Divide. This bike was basic but came in well below $100.
The reality is that few universities have indoor bike parking or any security. That means leaving a bike outdoors for 4 years to face the elements. Why buy something expensive, knowing that the chain will rust, and the rest of the bike has to endure?
The Avigo is low enough in price that even if it rusts after a year or two, the cost was low enough it won’t matter. When you contemplate 200 or more trips to campus, perhaps more per year and the cost per trip plummets well below .50 per use. To keep your costs low, try to make the bike last more than a year.
While the Avigo has suspension and gears, this is really the lowest cost bike that makes any sense. Don’t have high expectations of performance, comfortable fit or anything like that. It is just a cheap bike. The only thing is to find a bolt instead of a quick release for the seat post. That will prevent the seat from being stolen.
One of the most simple and easy to ride bikes available is a cruiser. They come in men and ladies versions and a variety of wheel sizes so that shorter riders can find something that works by going to a 24″ version.
Since there isn’t hand brakes, multiple gears or anything, it is a simple bike with ultra-low maintenance. Just keep air in the tires and generally, you are mobile in a flash. Take a look at the Kulana Men’s Cruiser Bike as an option. Ladies versions are available as well.
These bikes run a pretty typical Schwinn copy frame in steel. The rims are ok but are steel. Steel rims are not optimal on a bike and will bend over time. Aluminum is a much better quality.
The colors are basic, but for transportation to campus, you don’t want something flashy and drawing attention. Bikes and parts are stolen on a daily basis, don’t make your bike a target.
When I first attended university, I made the mistake of wanting a high quality bike to ride back and forth. I was riding 9 miles one way to get to campus, so I wanted a bike that worked really well.
I was lucky that my high end bike didn’t get stolen back then. Thieves spot expensive bikes in seconds. Look around, and you will even see many bikes missing parts. Even low cost bikes get stolen, so make sure to lock it securely.
With these issues in mind, there are some key features of a campus bike that are a must have. First is, no quick release wheels. You will want bolt on wheels, they are harder to steal.
Simplicity is Key
Try to buy the most simple bike possible. Maintaining a bike with front and rear brakes, and 21 speeds for 4 years does not equate to simplicity. Cables corrode, chains rust and the bike takes abuse falling over, and other things. The less extra options, the easier it is for the bike to last and be low maintenance.
Campus bikes stay outdoors constantly. With the weather, UV sun rays, and a host of other aspects, there are a few things to consider. Plastic parts are going to fail quickly. Like plastic resin pedals, they come apart and crack easily in the elements. Tires and grips will come apart. Saddles will fade and tear. Most cheap bikes will not resist UV light, and due to that have problems.
All tires lose air pressure naturally. Sealant helps slightly. Using Slime, Orange Seal, or a similar product can prevent flat tires. I prefer to sell Orange Seal since it reacts faster and is formulated for bikes.
A bike doesnt have to be a take it or leave it situation. Most cheap bikes have bad saddles. It is rare to find one that fits well and is comfortable But seats are cheap, so change it out.
There are so many choices for transportation by bicycle for a college or university. I have seen anything from classic bikes to BMX and I have even ridden my own road race bike to class before.
The schools near me have a huge theft problem, so making wise choices to prevent theft is quite important. Invest in a good lock, not just a simple U lock. Something like a link lock from Abus is a great choice, as you want to walk outside and see that your bike is where you left it last. U locks are easy to cut through now.
My top choice was a simple fixie style bike. It has great looks and is basic. Basic in this sense is good because it has few parts to fail. Check out the 6KU Fixed Gear Single Speed Urban Fixie Road Bike as a great on campus choice. They come in almost a dozen colors!
I think a cruiser is also a good choice. It too is a simple bike, with no frills, which means nothing to fail. The upright position and smooth ride make for a winning combination for local short trips. I liked the Kulana Men’s Cruiser Bike for its cost and simplicity. The fenders are also great if it rains.
Finally, contemplate a folding bike. While we talked about leaving a bike outdoors causes unnecessary deterioration, a folding bike might solve part of this problem. Take a look at the Murtisol Folding Bike 20 Inches as an option. Since the bike is portable, bring it indoors and put in a closet or balcony.
Every year parents and students look for ways to solve transportation needs while going to school. The solutions come in a huge variety, but a basic bicycle is still the number one choice everywhere. Campuses are patterned to allow for bike commuting. Take advantage and save thousands on transportation costs.