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Old 06-28-10, 08:35 PM   #1
Recedite
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Cheap "Beater" Bike for College

I'm planning on using a bike for the next four years or so for college. When I learned that the old bike in my shed was actually valuable and not something worth getting trashed, I realized that I know very, very little about bikes.

What I'm looking for is some help on picking out a cheap, sturdy bike that I can still use without it falling apart. I have a tiny budget in the bike world, $200, but I don't really want to just pick out the prettiest or cheapest bike in a department store and hope for the best. To make matters worse not only am I going to be in a collegetown, but I'll be pretty far up north, where there's as much salt as snow on the road! It's actually those reasons why it was suggested I leave the bike I already have at home, because road salt is nasty stuff.

Used would be great, but I don't know where to start looking. Suggestions on brands, websites to browse, or any other information would be madly helpful. Thank you!
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Old 06-29-10, 07:16 AM   #2
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This is a frequently asked question.

My advice is to buy a POS from a thrift store or garage sale. That way you won't feel so bad when it gets stolen. (College campuses are notorious for bike theft.) As a bonus, next spring when your bike is all rusty from living outside all winter, it'll be cheaper to buy another POS than to retune your beater.
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Old 06-29-10, 07:23 AM   #3
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And, surprisingly, you can get a pretty nice POS from Target of WalMart, for your price point....... Unbelievable, but true. Maybe even check Performance, for good sale prices on bottom of the barrel bikes.
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Old 06-29-10, 08:59 AM   #4
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Depending on the college, many college seniors don't bother taking the bike home after graduation. Better even if there's summer session, you might find the student bulletin board with bikes for sale.

There's your beater bike. Not even the saddle is worth stealing. Cover it with duct tape.
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Old 06-29-10, 09:18 AM   #5
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I like the thrift store idea. Around here (Reno, Nev.), you can get really decent bikes for less than $50, sometimes way less. My wife commutes on a Specialized Hard Rock (adequate mountain bike from the late '80s or early '90s) that I bought at the Salvation Army for $10 or $15, I forget. It didn't need anything but lubricant, though I did spend a few dollars on road tires for it.
Choosing one that's in good shape can be tricky since you admit you don't know much about bikes, but they aren't very complicated. Ride it and see if it feels OK. If it squeaks or rattles or goes WHAM-lumpa-WHAM-lumpa, try to figure out why and see what's required to fix it.
If the campus and surrounding area are fairly flat, you might want to look for a cruiser (one-speed) or old three-speed. Demand for those is sometimes lower, and there's less to go wrong than with a multi-speed bike with a derailleur hanging out where it can be damaged.
Finally, the uglier the better. Both my kids had their college bikes stolen a couple of times, and they were just cheap mountain bikes. When my daughter got hers back, we covered the seat with duct tape, put some flat black paint on it and scuffed it up a little to make it look ratty. It lasted two more semesters.
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Old 06-29-10, 06:16 PM   #6
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Thanks for the advice! So I guess I will poke around the thrift stores and Craigslist of my intended area, and hope for the best.

One more question: would it be worth it to get a slightly nicer bike and keep it under lock and key if I was planning on doing more than just class-to-dorm riding? The area I'll be in has pretty nice bike trails that I'd love to check out, and assuming it doesn't get stolen in a nanosecond I think a better bike would be more enjoyable for riding, anyway.
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Old 06-29-10, 06:43 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Recedite View Post
Thanks for the advice! So I guess I will poke around the thrift stores and Craigslist of my intended area, and hope for the best.

One more question: would it be worth it to get a slightly nicer bike and keep it under lock and key if I was planning on doing more than just class-to-dorm riding? The area I'll be in has pretty nice bike trails that I'd love to check out, and assuming it doesn't get stolen in a nanosecond I think a better bike would be more enjoyable for riding, anyway.
Will you be able to store it in your living quarters? (dorm, apartment)
If you're just leaving it out during class, you might be okay locking it up. Less likely to get stolen in broad daylight when campus is busy.
If you can store it securely in your room, maybe worthwhile to get a $25 Craigslist special and save a little bit to get yourself a nicer bike. Keep the nicer bike inside and ride the beater to/from class & leave it locked at the rack outside.
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Old 06-29-10, 06:48 PM   #8
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Hmm, not sure about where I'd be able to store it. I know that some of the dorms have bike rooms, but I don't know yet where I'll be living. Still, keeping it inside or having two bikes are not bad ideas. Thanks!
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Old 06-29-10, 07:36 PM   #9
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If you go the WM route get a Mongoose Paver it has been discontinued, but some of the store still have them. Also check out the area where you plan to go to college and see if there is a bike co-op or bike kitchen. Also check the funky bike shops near the college, some of them will do used bikes for cheap. I have been working in Iowa City, IA for the past few months and they have both a co-op and a couple of shops that deal in inexpensive used. There are also numerous thrift stores, and don't forget CL.

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Old 06-29-10, 08:26 PM   #10
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My son is using an old industrial bike that I picked up cheap down in Houston. Fine for flat lands, and stuff.

You can do a lot of riding on most any bike, for exploring bike trails and stuff.

My son mentioned they have a lot of unclaimed bikes up there at college, I assume they auction them off periodically? You might check with your college to see if that's the case.
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