Ticket to ride
The complete college student’s guide to a happy bicycle
In case you haven’t noticed the miles of bike racks lining the downtown streets near campus, Chico has a riding population dwarfed only by Beijing and Amsterdam. OK, we’re exaggerating, but only a little.
In fact, many incoming students, as well as other newcomers to the area, decide to jump on the proverbial bandwagon because of the numerous benefits bicycling offers in terms of health, convenience and the environment, not to mention that it’s way easier (and cheaper!) to fix a bike than the family’s old station wagon.
And Chico is a great bicycling town. It’s flat, the weather is good, there are numerous bike lanes and designated bicycling corridors, and you can get from one side of town to the other in 20 minutes. What’s not to like about bicycling in Chico?
Here are the basics on the subject:
If you don’t have one, get one.
During the next four (or five, or six…) years, your bike will become your best friend, your main mode of transportation and your designated driver. Think of the perks! No gas money, no more $1,000 transmission replacements, no bus schedules—with a reliable bicycle you can get anywhere in Chico, and get there in style.
If you weren’t fortunate enough to inherit grandpa’s old bicycle, you should look into purchasing one once you get here.
For used bikes, you may want to look through the local classified ads or check the bulletin boards around campus for ex-students and friendly Chico folk who are looking to get rid of theirs. Make sure to find a friend who knows a little bit about the structure and mechanics to take along with you when you’re searching through the prospective buys. This will lower the potential for bad-apple bikes from the start.
But remember, you get what you pay for. Used bikes are always a better deal at the time, but, in the long run, if you’re planning on making this a purchase you are going to use for years to come, you’ll want to check out the prices at the local bike shops. One worker at Pullins Cyclery on Main Street suggested that students buy new bikes if they plan on sticking around for a few years because most bike shops will give you a decent, if not lifetime, warranty for repairs the bike may need. And if you’re using it often, this could save you a pretty penny in the end.
In terms of new wheels, the Electra beach cruisers, with their hip old-style frames and classic banana seats, are really popular right now among the college crowd.
Above all, make sure this is a bike you are going to use. If you are paranoid that someone might vandalize or steal your wheels, you may not want to invest in a more expensive product. Just pick a bike that fits you, and your personality, well.
Where to go for what you need.
As with most things in life, bicycles need a little TLC to keep running smoothly. If a second-hand bike is what you’ve ended up with, fear not, because there are numerous places in town that can help you fix it up.
Whether you’re dusting off dad’s college ride from the ‘60s or you’ve purchased one from your sweet old neighbor, it’s probably a good idea to take it in for a tune-up before you plan on going too far. At most places, this will include an overall cleansing of the bike (no more cobwebs!), a brake adjustment and a few other tests to make sure everything is in safe working order.
You will also, at one point or another, need to fix a flat tire. Most bike shops provide this service. For example, Sports Ltd., with its repair shop in the back of the store, fixes about 20 flats a day when summer hits and students are out riding more. This small job will probably run from $5-$10 at most places and will include the new tube and installation.
Always look both ways.
When it comes to safety, the road can be a scary place. It may be wise to look over your old driver’s-ed book, or pick up a new one at the DMV, to remember the hand signals.
Also, especially when riding downtown, where traffic can get congested at times, pay attention to traffic signals and be aware of what’s going on around you. Ride with traffic, but stay in the bike lane, if there is one, and be respectful of drivers and pedestrians alike.
And remember, just as Mom told you, it is extremely important to wear a helmet. Not only is it the law if you’re under 18, but it can quite possibly save your life in case of an accident. According to the Web site www.helmets.org, approximately 90 percent of bicyclists killed annually are not wearing helmets, and most of these deaths occur in urban areas like downtown.
As you’ll see, most of the students and casual riders in Chico are often seen sans helmet, but it is a simple means of guarding your most valuable commodity: your life.
Nighttime is particularly dangerous because of many of the poorly lit streets in the residential areas and the atmosphere of the downtown “party life.” Lights are a necessity after dusk and can be purchased fairly cheap at any of the local bike shops. Riding drunk and driving drunk are essentially the same, which means you can be arrested for a DUI even if you’re riding a bike home from the bars. Not only that, but over a third of the people sent to the hospital with bike-related injuries tested positive for alcohol consumption, according to helmets.org.
Take good care of your baby.
Now that you and your cycle are in great (and safe) working order, it’s time to make sure that no one runs off with your goods.
Never, ever leave your bike in the racks on or near campus for an extended period of time—even overnight. You will inevitably come back to find it stomped or otherwise flattened and broken. This is not good, especially if you’ve spent lots of money on a pretty new Schwinn.
And because riding is so darn fun here, many people want to take your bike out for a little spin and never return it. Salesman Budd Schwab from Campus Bicycles offered his advice for new bike owners: “I think the main thing is to get a lock you will use. Most bikes that are stolen are not locked.”
Locks can range from a simple piece of chain link and a padlock to the more expensive Kryptonite super-locks that will prevent anyone from running off with anything.
Ready, set, go!
You’re ready and rarin’ to go. Either take your bike for a casual outing through the streets of downtown or make it an afternoon trip out to Upper Bidwell Park to experience the numerous bike trails available for all skill levels. These paths can offer a great workout, a total adrenaline rush, or simply an enjoyable ride to the perfect picnic spot.
Now hop on, hold on, and go, go, go, go, go!
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