I'm looking for a good bike for college. I need to be able to go across paved roads, brick roads, cut across grass- and possibly jump down 5-6 stairs.

This video is from the school I plan to attend:

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. My price range is $400-$600

Do I need a road bike? Dual sport? Mountain bike?

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    Used. And cheap. Nov 29 '13 at 21:31
  • 2
    Get whatever you want, but save $80 of your budget for a good disc cylinder U-lock. Kryptonite's New York U or OnGuard's Brute are great; hard to cut, nearly impossible to pick, and you'll never need another one.
    – joelmdev
    Nov 30 '13 at 1:22
  • 1
    I'm not sure on the New York Lock or the OnGuard Brute. I have the Fahgettiboutit and it weighs about 4.5 pounds, which is a lot for moving around campus. Something like a Kryptonite Evolution Mini 5 with proper locking technique is probably better for commuting, since its fairly hardy and small (so its hard to jimmy it open). They were also on sale at my LBS for a bit under 40 a few months ago. The brute and new york lock standard lock effectively have to be carried on a rack as well (NYL has a hard frame mount) while mini can be clipped to the frame.
    – Batman
    Nov 30 '13 at 6:23
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    Whatever you get, stick to the roads. Jumping down stairs and cutting across the grass are good ways to hit pedestrians and/or get in trouble with campus security. It also just makes you look like a jerk and is bad PR for cycling in general. If you need evidence, just re-watch that video. He spooks a group of pedestrians right at the beginning and another group later around the 2:00 mark. Both times were going onto or coming off of stairs. He also does some other stuff throughout the video that looks sketchy but is hard to tell for sure without actually being there. Don't be that guy.
    – jimchristie
    Nov 30 '13 at 19:35
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    The video looks like the classical Darth Vader -- "Hey, I'm wearing a Fullface helmet, I can ride anywhere I want, and oh, get out of my way while you stare!" And by the way, that guy doesn't really seem to look left or right at intersections, which is, imho, rather stupid, because they are the places where commuters are typically hit by cars or other commuters.
    – arne
    Dec 3 '13 at 9:23

The most important thing for a college campus (and commuting in general in places where there are a lot of potentially not nice people) is to have a cheap bike and locking it properly - in particular, one that doesn't attract attention. Old and scuffed up bikes are best for this. I think an old mountain bike or flat bar hybrid (like a 80s/early 90s specialized hardrock/rockhopper or an old giant boulder is ideal) with a rack attached are pretty good options, along with some slick tires and lights and a helmet. The total for this should be around 210 dollars (lets say 150 for the bike + any work it needs done like derailleur adjustments, possibly new tires, etc., a helmet for 30 and lights for 30). Add 30 if you want a cheap rack, and another 40 or so for a decent lock (say, a Kryptonite evo mini, or if you're paranoid spend a bit more and get a Kryptonitefahgettiboutit). A U-lock is recommended - chain locks give you a bit more diversity for locking things, but they're too heavy to carry around for good ones (and most campuses which are bike friendly have plenty of places where you can ulock to). Fenders/mudguards may also be a decent investment for rain (though college students are a mess anyway, so I don't think it makes much difference). I don't think a road bike is necessarily a great idea given the short distances involved and the not necessarily useful geometry for commuting on most of them. However, if you do find one which you like, take it out for a spin and see how it does.

Ask around the community and see whats there for used bike shops and try to find a decent bike there - you'll also probably get some help on fit there as well. Jumping down stairs depends highly on the type of stairs, but it is too reckless behavior for most college campuses. If you are hitting a lot of bumps while commuting, a rigid bike with fat smooth tires or one with front suspension may be helpful (though, I think for 99.99% of commuters, rigid is the way to go). Stay away from full suspension (which you will only find on the Walmart level of bikes). Also, it is good to have non-quick release wheels + seat post.

  • Pretty well put, and I'll 2nd that locking it up properly is just as important as the bike, assuming you want to keep it. I'll add that you should always lock it up somewhere conspicuous and well trafficked, and try to avoid always locking the bike up in the same spot if you can. Remember that your bike lock is only as strong as what you're running it through as well. I've seen people lock up bikes with good locks to wooden banisters and chain link fences, only to have the banister kicked out or the fence cut.
    – joelmdev
    Nov 30 '13 at 1:30
  • Thanks for the input! I already planned on buying a U-lock from kryptonite for the back tire to be hooked to a post, and a cable to hook front tire to frame. The place I'd end up leaving (overnight) is a bike rack. I'll be living on campus. There will be 10-20 other bikes there at all times. The rack is maybe 20ft from the dorm rooms, someone would likely see/hear a thief in most ours of the night, most defiantly if they brought power tools. A friend suggested this bike? It doesn't really fall in the old mountain bike though: mongoose.com/usa/2012-switchback-sport-fem-19089
    – Isaac
    Nov 30 '13 at 6:59
  • @Isaac - Keep in mind that with the proper tools the thief can be gone in 30 seconds. He can "case" the situation for days and plan his moves before striking. Nov 30 '13 at 13:12
  • Just because a lock is from Kryptonite doesn't mean it is good (The Kryptonite Keeper locks are pretty lousy in fact, but I use one for a front wheel lock when parking at home). As for the bike your friend suggested, its a bit above walmart and not really going to let you go off road - the fork is more of a fashion statement on that bike (fat tires will be more comfortable on a rigid). You'd get a better (but less flashy and a bit more scuffed up) bike if you went used from a non-Walmart brand. Also, expecting college students to listen for those things is a bit too much to expect...
    – Batman
    Nov 30 '13 at 16:37
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    I work at Walmart, I'm a bit put off by buying one of our bikes. I've seen several brought back in shambles days after being purchased. I do like the idea of buying a used bike though. Should I just search around on craiglist, ebay, and so forth? I also plan to go by a local bike shop in the next week to see if they sell used bikes. ------------ Also, this is the lock I planned on ordering: amazon.com/Kryptonite-Standard-Bicycle-Transit-FlexFrame/dp/… Also suggested by my friend. It seems rather heavy-duty.
    – Isaac
    Dec 1 '13 at 3:08

A quick note on pannier racks: I switched from a rucksack to panniers in my second undergrad year, and I must admit that it wasn't incredibly useful at first. Carrying a few books and lecture notes, a rucksack is only inconvenient on the bike if you're cycling more than a few miles. But then when you arrive and get off, you're probably spending a few hours carting that bag around lecture halls and libraries, which is much easier with a rucksack than a pannier bag.

In short, there's a trade-off. While you're on the bike, if you've heavy cargo (such as groceries) or a long distance to travel, it's much easier to make the bike carry the load in panniers. But when you get off, if you're walking around, a rucksack is easier to carry. Some pannier bags have shoulder straps to make that easier, but I find with my Ortlieb Back Rollers the straps are too much faff. You can also find pannier bags that transform into rucksacks, but I've no experience with those.

Having a rack on the bike means that even if you think a rucksack is the best option, you can change your mind later, or have both and use them at different times (e.g. panniers for shopping, rucksack for lectures).

A last quick note: if you can't afford to invest in a fully waterproof rucksack or panniers (they're a good investment when you can!), keep a plastic bin bag in them to stop your books getting wet in the rain. Also, you might want to stuff a plastic bag under your saddle, so it's handy to keep that dry when it rains. You don't want a damp bum distracting you in lectures, or inviting speculation on your nights out.


Ride like that video, and you won't make it to sophomore year.

As for protecting the bike, you might consider a fixie - most people wouldn't be able to ride it away.

  • I dont think a fixie is really a security option, especially given how common they're getting lately (hipsters).
    – Batman
    Dec 5 '13 at 4:30

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