College campuses are always filled with bikes for lots of reasons. First and foremost, bikes are an affordable means of transportation. Paying for gas can be a real strain on a college student’s limited budget, and riding a bike costs nothing after making the initial purchase. A reliable bike will probably get the job done more consistently than a lemon used car, without the costly repairs. Students are usually allowed to ride bikes across campus, which beats walking when you’re in a hurry to get to class. Most students either live on campus or nearby, so driving to school is totally impractical. Plus, bikes produce zero carbon emissions, which means they’re about the greenest choice around. Riding a bike is also an easy and fun way to stay in shape after a late night pizza binge, too. For these reasons, parents should put a bicycle at the top of their back to college supplies list.
Buying a bike for college can be a bit tricky, though. Most college kids are more concerned about appearances than practicality. This means they tend to pick bikes that look cool, but don’t work very well. For example, visit the campus for a day tour and you’ll probably notice that the bike racks are filled with large beach cruisers. These ultra stylish bikes usually come in awesome colors and patterns, which is why they’re consistently popular with the college crowd. Still, getting a cruiser isn’t a good idea if your child plans on riding it for more than a block because they’re extremely heavy. This is especially problematic for young women. It’s never a good idea to buy a bike that you can’t lift, and cruiser bikes weigh a ton compared to other models. They are also not equipped for riding uphill or on rough surfaces. In short, cruiser bikes are made for coasting down a beach boardwalk, not daily travel.
BMX bikes have their own set of drawbacks. Young men in particular are drawn to these because they’re built for speed and impressive tricks. That’s fine on a half pipe, but not for much else. BMX bikes are small in size, which makes them difficult to ride for longer distances. They don’t typically have different gears, and that means you can forget about riding them up steep hills. Mountain bikes aren’t much better, although for different reasons. They tend to be pricier than the previously mentioned styles. But their tires are made for gripping off road terrain, not plain old pavement. Some mountain bikes are extremely light; however, these are among the most expensive bikes on the market. Lower priced mountain bikes are often fairly heavy since they’re loaded down with features like super absorbent shocks. A mountain bike might be the right choice for a school in a woodsy environment, such as the University of California, Santa Cruz. In an urban setting, you will end up with way too many unnecessary all terrain elements.
The best choice for the majority of college students would be a hybrid or street/urban commuter bike. Take this model for example: http://www.schwinnbike.com/usa/eng/Products/Hybrid/Rigid-Fork/Details/1407-S10SPO-Sporterra It’s a Schwinn hybrid model that costs around $370. There are similar versions available at department stores, including Target and Wal-Mart that cost even less. That might sound like something beyond your price range; keep in mind that buying a quality machine is the only way to ensure that you’re getting something that will last throughout the duration of your child’s college career. No matter what brand you choose, be sure to get street tires. These are the only kind of tires that are truly safe when navigating in a metropolitan area. Protective gear is a smart investment, although college kids aren’t known for exercising the best judgment. Overall, you should be able to find the perfect bike for less than $400. Be sure to have your son or daughter test ride the bike to make sure it’s the correct size and desired level of comfort.