How to Choose a Bike for College

By: Michael Graham Richard, Planet Green
Commuter bike photo
Getty Images

It will soon be time to go back to school for most college students. Many live on campus and can simply walk to class, but others live too far for that and have to find something faster than feet.

Many will take the bus (cheap and green) or drive (not so cheap, not so green), but what I'd like to talk about today is biking to school. The bicycle is still the most efficient mode of transportation, and it is perfect for many college students who don't live too far from campus.


Some Tips on How to Choose a Bike

The first thing you need to do is determine what type of bike you want. For most people cycling to college, a road or commuter bike will be the best choice. Look for a light and durable frame (aluminum or lugged steel, no need to pay more for fancy carbon fiber frames unless you have lots of money to burn - they're lighter, but they might not handle potholes as well and cost a lot more to repair).

Make sure to get a bike that either comes with fenders, or is compatible with them. That's extremely important. Also make sure that the bike you pick allows you to carry all the things you will need for school. You can always use a backpack, but many commuter bikes will also have racks/panniers that can make your life easier.


Road bikes can be faster - and at first that might seem like a big benefit - but remember that the seating position can be less comfortable than on a commuter bike (which has a more upright seating position), and that if there are lots of traffic and red lights on your route, the extra speed won't matter too much. Better to be comfortable, because if you don't enjoy riding, chances are you'll just give up.

If your college is in a flat area, you can save some money by getting a single-speed or fixed gear bike. But if you are in a hilly area, probably better to go for a multi-speed bike unless you are very fit and want the challenge.

Finally, make sure you get a good helmet and wear it.

For more on about a green college experience, check out Back to School Green.