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College commuting cycling gear

July 17, 2019

College Commuter Cycling Gear

I am heading into my senior year in college and I have taken my bike to school every year. At this point, I am no longer on a meal plan or living on campus, so having a way to get to the essentials like classes, pharmacy, hardware store, or the supermarket necessitates a way to cover a bit more distance than is comfortable on foot. Of course you can use something like Uber or Lyft, but why do that when you have to wait to be picked up, and the cost adds up quickly. A bike makes the most sense for anyone in a college town or city. Over the last few years, I have found what works for me and what does not. This list is my own recommended college commuter cycling gear, and will probably not look like your list, or someone else’s. This is to give a general sense of what is out there and what I would recommend given my experiences.

The bike:

You cannot ride a bike without a bike now can you? You can buy a new bike, and that certainly has its advantages, but a used bike represents an excellent value for someone starting out their life in higher education. Typically an older road or hybrid bike is the way to go for the kind of riding a college kid will do. If you have a bike, then great! Even if it isn’t in great shape now, just get a tune-up and get that bike up and running for your college needs.

A lock:

A lock is absolutely essential. The level of security is dependent on where you are going to be locking it up, but stepping up on security is never really a bad call. I currently use the Kryptonite Kryptolok for locking my bike up in Baltimore, and I have had nothing but good things to say about it and have used it for the last 3 years. Kryptonite also has an excellent service called their Anti-Theft offer. Essentially, you can register your lock and bike on Kryptonite’s website and they will reimburse the value of the bike (up to $1,750 in the case of the Kryptolok) if your bike is stolen by someone breaking through the lock.

Lights:

I will not say that having a pair of blinking front and tail lights is a bad idea by any stretch, but I have not found them too useful for me. This is where my commuter cycling gear list might look very different from yours. If you go to school in a city, the roads are probably well lit. If you don’t have that kind of lighting, then you should definitely have some sort of lighting. Lights can be had that either illuminate a path ahead of you, or simply blink so that others see you in low light conditions. For suburban or rural environments, lights are a must-have. If you are in an urban environment, I would say they are a take it or leave it.

How to carry your stuff:

If you are taking a bike to pick up something like groceries, you need some way to carry your stuff back to your dorm or apartment. I have the Ortlieb messenger bag and it serves those needs perfectly. It is a super simple, one compartment bag with a velcro roll-top closure. It holds an incredible amount, 39 liters, or a week’s worth of groceries, and I have never had a problem with any rain getting into it.

A bike pump:

When I came back from my freshman year, I specifically asked to get a bike pump to keep in my room. A bike’s tires should be topped up roughly weekly, and you will really notice the difference in tire pressure when you are riding back home with a literal sack of potatoes on your back. Proper tire inflation will make the ride easier, and can prevent one of the most common tire woes: the pinch flat. The pumps we stock can inflate both types of valves without having to fiddle with adapters or the pump head, so you can lend your pump out to fellow cyclists and meet people with common interests without hassle (wink wink, nudge nudge).

Chain lube:

A little bottle of chain lube kept in your room is a super smart move. With a $10-$11 bottle of lubricant, you can vastly extend the life of a chain, which can cost over $25 by itself. A quick application every few weeks will help clear the road grime out of your chain, and reduce noise and wear on your chain and cassette.

Being Smart:

This one should be on anyone’s list. Being intelligent and mindful with and on your bike will reward you. Wear a bicycle helmet, avoid using headphones, and be smart about sharing the road with cars. When you are locking up, be careful about where and how you lock your bike up. At minimum you should be running a cable or U-lock through the front wheel and the central triangle of the bike frame. The item you lock to should be sturdy as well. Most racks or railings you come across will be suitable, but sometimes they won’t be. Story time: I locked my bike up at the Baltimore Amtrak station overnight. I came back to find myself bikeless. The auxiliary rack I had locked my bike to was only secured to the cement with junky bolts which had been cut overnight and the bikes had been taken off. Most properly installed bike racks will be more securely fastened. If you need to lock up overnight, then try to find something sturdy, and preferably well lit, to lock to.