Preparing for College

Tour de Campus

July is always a great month for sports watching. Since I was once a competitive tennis player, the Wimbledon Championships always hold my interest across that special fortnight.

The other, much bigger scale, European event is the Tour de France, which covers three weeks, across some insanely gorgeous and punishing roads. As I write this, the Tour is winding down and heading for its climactic stage Sunday in Paris.

Speaking of bicycles, have you considered how you are going to be getting around campus this fall? If you're going to be on the campus of a small liberal arts college, chances are that, other than for recreation, you won't need a bike for transportation. However, if you're on a big, sprawling campus, such as most state universities are, you may want to consider this convenient, relatively inexpensive, and very “green" mode of locomotion.

I score on two counts here. First, I was on a huge college campus: Penn State University. Thinking back, I recall having the unlucky scheduling dilemma of two consecutive classes on opposite ends of PSU's massive campus. Getting to that second class on time should have spurred another sport in my life: racewalking. It was good for my general aerobic health, though.

The other aspect of my experience that applies here is my six-year stint managing a professional Schwinn bicycle dealership. I even graduated from Schwinn's so-called “A" school for mechanics. Yes, I can change a flat bike tire in a flash!

So, combining these memories leads me to the core of my post today:

Consider a bike for college. If you do, you'll need to know how to go about getting the right one for your needs.

Since both my college and bike shop managing days overlapped in the Seventies, I thought I would use the power of a search engine to find some current information about bikes. My memories of days in the shop include dealing with troublesome three-speeds and “beach bombers," among other antiquities. Much has changed.

So, I found How to Choose a Bike, According to Science – 10 Factors to Consider written by Jen Miller of Jen's Reviews. Once I glanced down across this compendium, I knew beyond a doubt that I have lost touch with the latest evolution in two-wheel technology.

Thus, for those of you who feel that you may need the ease and time savings of a bicycle, I thought that — with Jen's gracious permission — I would cite portions of a few of the 10 points in her excellent tutorial — just enough to perhaps get you interested to click over to her full analysis. Be prepared to take notes!

Her introduction nails it:

.. Only when you know what you want to ride your new bike for can you determine your perfect match. You might want a bike for training, touring, commuting, or for day rides around town. Some people require more rugged bikes to handle difficult terrain and the bumps, dirt, roots, and grass that comes with it. …

… it's no surprise that there are many factors to look forward to before choosing a bike.

1. Do You Need A New Or A Used Bike?

Every once in awhile, when you think about buying a vehicle, the thought about buying a used one at a lower price seems tempting. Correct me if I'm wrong, but buying a used bike is an excellent way to budget, especially when you want to a rugged bike for adventure riding.

When wanting to buy a used bike, you must have a lot of questions wavering in your mind. How many kilometers has the bike been ridden? How many times has it been repaired? Is regular servicing of the bike required? And such. To avoid a heated conversation between you and the seller, here's what you need to know. …

2. Finding The Right Size

When you end up with the wrong bike size, you'll always feel uncomfortable and slow to adapt. Not to mention, it might cause neck pain, back pain, and other stress injuries. Other readers have also reported loss of balance, slow riding speed, and frequent falls.

A correct bike size can prevent foot problems and stiffness. For that reason, you must take each bike component into consideration before deciding one the final one. These components include:

– Frame size

– Saddle

– Pedal position

– Handlebar height

The first step is to take your body measurements, starting with the inseam measurement. You want your legs to be fully extended with a little bend in the knees for a comfortable riding position. So measuring the saddle height and pedal is important to create a downward stroke without hurting your foot or knees. …

4. Choosing The Right Gearing For A Bike

… When considering the right gearing system for your bike, there are two important factors to make sure of. A bike with lots of gears is more efficient at maintaining a comfortable riding speed unless you're a strong cyclist. So the number of gears you get or have depend upon how strong you are and what kind of terrain you'll be riding on.

If you are going to ride your bike on hills and bumpy terrain, you need as many gears as you can get. For flat surfaces or pavements, opting for low gears isn't a bad option. It makes the bike lightweight and easier to handle. You don't have to ride a bike with too many gears if you're a strong cyclist to begin with. …

5. Do You Have The Right Wheel Size?

Knowing what wheel size you will be able to work with will be a major deciding factor on narrowing down your ideal bike. If you're newcomer to buying bikes, this is the kind of information you're expected to know for a good purchase. It goes without saying that bikes offer versatile wheel sizes based on your type of riding.

That said, here's what you need to know about the various wheel sizes most common in the industry. …

7. Make Sure Your Bike Lasts Long

How can you know the bike's shelf life when you do not know the strengths and weaknesses of its frame material? Bikes are designed for both competitive and recreational purpose. You can find a bike that's both lightweight and durable or find one that's either one.

Such frame materials come with their own pros and cons, so you should be able to differentiate one from the next with the help of this guide: …

9. Where Would You Ride Your Bike?

Considering how well you can ride and where matters because it determines the type of riding you will be doing for a very long time. If you plan to commute with your bike and need to get on and off of public transport frequently, a folding bike would be your best bet.

There are bikes suitable for pavement riding, rugged trails, dirt roads, and non-paved terrain. And there is the tandem bike designed for riding with someone else to make it more interesting.

Recent research papers have placed emphasis on bike-sharing systems in certain cities for easier bike transportation on roads. A 10% increase in availability of standard and road bikes in cities can boost 12% ridership. This means you have more reasons to buy a professional bike and there's plenty of resources available to help you maintain one. …

10. Picking The Right Bike Type

You have many bikes to choose from. From mountain bikes that handle dirt roads excellently to a cruiser bike meant for casual riders and commuting, and even an electric bike for those who want that extra boost. It's all a matter of preference and performance, especially for beginners who've never bought a bike before.

It's important to remember that not all types of bikes are suitable for general commuting or adventure trails. Buying a specific type of bike lets you make the most of both its design and the money you pay for it. For your benefit, let's look at the different bike types and their features: …


I've just lightly skimmed seven of Jen's ten points that comprise her 7,000-word review about how to apply common sense — and savvy — to bicycle selection. Read all 10. Then, even if you won't be scaling the Alps or Pyrenees on two wheels, you will be ready for your Tour de Campus!


Be sure to check out all my college-related articles at College Confidential.