Friday, September 23, 2011

Buying a Bike to Ride Around Your University? -- Read This First!

Anyone who has been to a university for more than a day knows the wonders of owning a bike. Parking on campus usually has a ridiculous price tag, and even after you get on campus, you often find yourself walking for at least 10 or 15 minutes just to get from one class to another-- just enough time to say hi to one of your passing friends for 2 seconds before bolting off to the next class.

However, anyone who actually has owned a bike understands the perils associated with it, including large crowds of people, other bicyclists texting or doing other stupid crap while riding, endangering you and other people, both walking and riding bikes, skateboarders, whom for whatever reason are more daring than anyone else when it comes to weaving in and out, including but not limited to people riding longboards or ridiculously small skateboards, and of course cars that think that you don't exist or for whatever reason believe they have the right of way. (God, how's that for a run-on sentence... I need to work on my punctuation; I'm pretty sure that sentence could have used at least 3 or 4 semi-colons, but let's get back to the point....)

I've had a series of problems myself with riding my bike to school, most of which having to do with the bike itself, but I've also heard some stories from other people and have seen some incidents which have given me some intuitive knowledge about owning a bike. Here's a few things I've learned, all in list order to make it easier to read than these big walls of text:

1. Lock your shit up! -- This is very important as your bike WILL be stolen if you don't. You can be like one of those annoying cheapskates who are too cheap to actually buy a lock and just drags their bike into class with them, but don't do that; just get a lock.

2. Lock that shit up good! -- Secondly, don't be cheap on your locks. If you get a cable lock, your bike WILL be stolen. It takes two seconds with the proper wire cutters to snap that lock off your bike and ride off into the sunset. Just ten minutes ago, I saw some douchebag running off with someone else's bike. Either that or he really likes riding two bikes at once, but I'll let you be the judge. Not only that, but if you don't lock up your tires and your seat as well, or take them with you, those will also be stolen. I have seen bikes locked up with a nice sturdy u-shaped lock, which is the only kind of lock you should get, but everything on it: tires, seat, peddles, handle bars--were all stolen because they decided to just go with a single u-shaped lock, and probably left the bike there for several days.

Personally, I have 3 u-shaped locks, and I lock at least one of them to the frame and to a secure bike rack, and the other two I lock to the tires and the bike rack, or I lock the tires to the main frame. On top of that, I have a fairly good wire lock to lock my seat down and would use another u-shaped lock if it fit on there. However, I am pretty confident that if it comes between a decision to steal my wimpy little bike seat locked up with a cable lock or a whole bike that's locked up with a single cable lock, he's gonna wanna take a whole bike; so I'll take my chances with that one (since I really don't want to carry that seat around).

Remember, bike thieves want the most money for the least amount of effort. They specifically look for bikes that are easy to steal, and the more locks you have and the higher grade those locks are (the u-shaped ones being known for being the best for their money--a more than sufficient in their own right), the less likely a thief is to even try to steal your bike.

3. Don't go with a really expensive bike! -- As mentioned above (kind of), bike thievery is a problem at university campuses. Don't go with a really expensive bike because you will really regret it when it gets stolen. Plus, unless you plan on taking it out for dirt biking and mountain biking and around terrain that is tough to navigate and usually reserved for more sports-oriented biking, you seriously won't get much out of a more expensive bike. In fact, the price of the bike doesn't at all necessarily amount to the quality of the bike itself. If you want a bike for more sporting purposes, look at things other than the paint job and the price tag; otherwise, just go with a good ol' cheap walmart bike.

Now, I've had my share of problems with cheap bikes, but most of the problems are associated with the cheapest and easiest to replace parts on a bike, including the seat and the peddles. If you get a cheap bike, it probably has plastic peddles, and unless you're a particularly small person, you might want to pay the extra $10 to get different peddles; but it's better to spend $80 + $10 (peddles) for a cheap bike than it is to spend $150 on a bike that's not all-too-much better, especially if you're not going to properly lock it up and just get it stolen anyway.

4. Register your shit! -- The last thing I want to recommend is registering your bike. Most colleges have some form of bike registration so that under the highly unlikely circumstances that a stolen bike is retrieved, they can return it to you. This is usually free and takes very little time. It's your last resort for keeping your bike safe. If you lock it up properly and such and such, you probably won't need this, but since it doesn't cost you anything or very little, might as well do it just to make sure.

--Koi