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Bike for College

Old 06-27-12, 12:19 AM
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smarties1126
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Bike for College

So I've been researching potential bikes for college these past couple of days, and I've reached a bit of a predicament. I will be attending the University of Texas at Austin next year, and Austin has quite the bad reputation for bike theft. I don't want to buy a nice, but expensive bike just to have it stolen, but I do want a durable bike suited for Austin's hills as well as just commuting through campus. I also have about a $300 budget.

I've tried looking on Craiglist for a nice, used bike, but I don't know enough about bikes to really make an educated decision on my own. If any of y'all had the time to give me a few tips or even pick out a few good ones (I live in Houston and I'm looking for a ladies bike), that would be just fantastic!

Also, is buying a department store cruiser really that bad? I don't think I'll be getting into any serious biking--just biking around campus and maybe downtown once in awhile.

Thoughts?
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Old 06-27-12, 03:20 AM
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Welcome To Bike Forums, Smarties!

If you have hills to climb, you'd be better off by avoiding a single speed. However, a single speed would be the best solution for a college student with a budget of $300 and only had a flat terrain to traverse. You could purchase a brand new chromoly steel single speed and get a warranty.

Of course, the best route to take, would be to monitor your Craigslist and look for an old 80's styled 10 speed road bike. You should have someone accompany you who "knows bikes". That will be your expert. Have your expert inspect your bike, both before and after your twenty minute test ride, before you seal the deal with a cash exchange. Your expert should be responsible for informing you about the overall condition of the bike and whether or not the bike looks like it's a good fit for you or not.

You should join a nearby bicycle co-op, as soon as possible. The co-op leaders and mechanics can assist you in locating a bicycle frame, upon which you can build with the available components at the co-op. If you're patient, eventually one should surface, if you have a thriving co-op.

Besides using the local Craigslist and the co-op as resources for locating a bicycle or frame, you should also check local yard sales, eBay, and second hand stores. You can also purchase a frame online and build it up at the local bicycle co-op. Your goal should be to locate a used chromoly steel bike in fair to excellent condition. If you can't locate a complete bicycle, then your expert should be able to advise you about the details of obtaining the proper frame.

You might also purchase an entire bicycle online and complete the assembly at the bicycle co-op.

The following bicycles may be of some interest to you:

1) The Dawes Eclipse 1 ~ $260
www.bikesdirect.com/products/dawes/eclipse1.htm

2) The Gravity Dutch ~ $250
www.bikesdirect.com/products/gravity/grav_dutch_xii.htm

3) The Trekking Bike ~ $300
www.bikesdirect.com/products/clearance/trekkingbikes.htm

Of course, OTOH, if you could slightly increase your budget and secure your best bet with a Giant bicycle dealership. You could then get properly fitted and purchase one of the following chromoly steel bicycles:

1) The Giant Boulder ~ $360

www.giant-bicycles.com/en-us/bikes/model/boulder.w/9043/48966/

2) The Giant Sedona ~ $350
www.giant-bicycles.com/en-us/bikes/model/sedona.st/9025/48885/

3) The Giant Cypress ~ $350
www.giant-bicycles.com/en-us/bikes/model/cypress.st/9019/48871/

Good Luck!

Last edited by SlimRider; 06-27-12 at 04:12 AM.
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Old 06-27-12, 03:51 AM
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Take a trip to Austin and see for yourself what your classmates are riding.
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Old 06-27-12, 06:36 AM
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I have a couple of general suggestions.

A bike bike with eyelets for fenders (or one that comes with fenders) is nice for everyday use. Even if you don't ride in the rain you may ride on wet streets and fenders will keep your back from getting a dirty streak on it.

There are rear hubs with gears in them (like Shimano or Rolf) and because they are sealed they are very, very low maintenance. The exposed gear shifter (derailleur) in the back will need cleaning and adjustment from time to time and is susceptible to damage.

Be careful using craigslist. While a lot of perfectly legitimate people buy and sell on CL it is also becoming rife with scams and down right dangerous criminals. Always take a friend with you to a meeting and insist on meeting in a public place.

That said placing a want to buy on CL may help. Or shopping thrift stores - especially thrift stores sponsored by affluent churches.

Good Luck and work hard in school.
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Old 06-27-12, 06:58 AM
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Where are you going to park it overnight?

If you're going to have to leave it outside all the time, I'd think hard about just getting a semi-disposable POS. Next summer you won't even have to figure a way to transport it home.
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Old 06-27-12, 07:00 AM
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Here are just a few single speeds:

The KHS Urban Soul ~ $400
www.khsbicycles.com/06_urban_soul_12.htm

The Nashbar Hounder ~ $200
www.nashbar.com/bikes/Product_10053_10052_504148_-1_202614

The Windsor Timeline ~ $300
www.bikesdirect.com/products/windsor/timeline.htm
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Old 06-27-12, 07:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
Where are you going to park it overnight?

If you're going to have to leave it outside all the time, I'd think hard about just getting a semi-disposable POS. Next summer you won't even have to figure a way to transport it home.
+1

This is quite true and excellent advice!

I hear that the GMC Denali, the Schwinn Varsity, and the Mongoose Sinsure are popular with the college kids these days!
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Old 06-27-12, 07:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
Where are you going to park it overnight?

If you're going to have to leave it outside all the time, I'd think hard about just getting a semi-disposable POS. Next summer you won't even have to figure a way to transport it home.
My recommendation too.

I haven't had to live on a college campus in quite a few years but I still do work at a lot of them. General observation: Lock it up with a decent lock. Park it in the middle of the pack. Ride something that is comfortable, durable, but not flashy. Something from Target/Kmart/Walmart with basic gears and no suspension.

I am sure there are bike co-ops/kitchens in the Austin area, hit them up. Also check with the university and find out what they do with abandoned bikes at the end of the year. In several cases they may be for sale in a thrift shop environment.

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Old 06-27-12, 07:45 AM
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Garage sales this summer, or school auction/sales beginning in the Fall. They will sell off all of the bikes that are left behind in the Spring. Bring along a friend who knows something about bikes. Find one that fits and functions and is cheap. Get a good lock. Replace the tires and tubes as necessary and tune the brakes/shifters to the best you can. Don't spend a lot of money. The bike will be a rust bucket in four years anyway...

I have one daughter in college in Waco and one that just graduated last Spring. Seems that bikes are generally single speeds or older mountain bikes. Nothing fancy - this isn't a fashion show. You want the bike to get you to class and maybe a weekend errand or so. You want it to work and not get jacked by the shady types that seem be everywhere in Austin (was there a few weeks ago) once you get off campus.

Good luck.
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Old 06-27-12, 08:41 AM
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I tried the Univ Texas Austin bikes, and came up with their annual bike auction. That is impressive. Go to that link and to the bottom of the page is the phone number to the school's Transportation dept. Call them and they do this every year.

https://www.utexas.edu/parking/transp...g/auction.html

Also, they have another web site: https://www.utexas.edu/parking/transportation/biking/

Look up the Orange Project and that seems to be where you would get a lot of help for your decision making process.

Last edited by Garfield Cat; 06-27-12 at 08:45 AM.
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Old 06-27-12, 09:49 AM
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Think Schwinn Varsity. Ugliest color you can find with chrome fenders and mousetrap rack. Put a couple of Justin Beiber stickers on it and one strange colored tire on the front. You probably won't even have to lock it.

Really though, old 10-speeds and steel rigid framed MTBs make good college commuters and you won't lie awake at night wondering if you should have added just one more lock.
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Old 06-27-12, 10:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Myosmith View Post
Think Schwinn Varsity. Ugliest color you can find with chrome fenders and mousetrap rack. Put a couple of Justin Beiber stickers on it and one strange colored tire on the front. You probably won't even have to lock it.

Really though, old 10-speeds and steel rigid framed MTBs make good college commuters and you won't lie awake at night wondering if you should have added just one more lock.
^this

Even cheap bikes, when new, will attract theives. Old, scratched up, well used bikes are much less likely to be stolen. Like metioned above, an older mountain bike with no suspension, or an old 10-speed are great choices.

But the most important thing to look for is fit... you have to be comfortable riding the bike. Make sure whatever bike you buy is comfortable to ride, and that you get proper leg extension (leg almost straight at the bottom of the pedal stroke with the saddle adjusted so there is at least approximately a fistful of seatpost out of the frame. Maximum of three or four fistfulls of seatpost out of the frame, depending on the bike.

Then - lock it up well (if you have a quick release front wheel then remove the front wheel, place it next to the rear wheel, and lock up both wheels and the frame in one go. THat way, if someone wants to steal your bike they have to cut the lock then reassemble it before they can ride away. There is no way to make a bike completely theft-proof, but you can make it so other bikes nearby are more attractive targets.
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Old 06-27-12, 11:24 AM
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Having attended the UT Austin for several of my many years on this earth, I have a few observations.

Most of the hills in central Austin are short. The steeper they are, the shorter. Gears are helpful but not absolutely essential, I spent about a year commuting to campus on a single speed. I've gone up the MLK/Lamar hill on a vintage 3-speed. A year of riding the same route will make you fit for it no matter what you ride, and by and large if you're living within 3 miles of campus (from North Loop/Koenig in the north to Pleasant Valley/Chestnut in the East) you can make it with pretty much any bike that has handlebars and air in the tires. If you live further, like at Riverside or Far West, you should start looking at issues like weight, aerodynamics, and carrying. Do yourself a favor and get a rack. It got to 109 in Austin yesterday, and it'll stay in the 100's and upper 90's through September and sometimes into October. Sweating season is 9 months out of the year, and having to wear a backpack full of books only makes it worse.

I recommend a used bike for commuting, either an early-to-mid 90's rigid MTB with slicks or a "ten-speed" road bike. As several other posters pointed out, they blend in well and have pretty nice ride quality.

The police impound bike auctions are not worth going to. The kinds of bikes they impound are the ones that people have left behind because they don't want them. They're that bad. If you can't adjust brakes, true wheels, replace a chain, adjust derailleurs, and patch tubes on your own, it'll cost a fair penny to get those bikes back in working order at a bike shop, and if you can do all those things, you're better off spending your efforts looking at bikes on Craigslist or one of the above mentioned BikesDirect bikes.

If you want to learn HOW to do your own maintenance, the big bike co-op in Austin is the Yellow Bike project, which requires you to take the 12 bus all they way east to Weberville Road. They teach skills, have spare parts, and even sell used bikes, mostly of the rigid MTB and "Ten-Speed" variety. If you're short on cash they have a volunteer-for-bike trade program (you can do it even if you're not short on cash).

Also, use a U-Lock. I always lock through my front wheel and frame. Don't even bother with cable locks. There's a good chance you'll have a bike or two stolen, but most of the bikes that I know have been stolen (including one of my one) were stolen from people's yards, not on campus. Store your bike inside, or at least in a secured back yard. My former roommate's bike was stolen when somebody ripped out the railing on our front porch that the bike had been attached to, in broad daylight.

Feel free to ask me more specific questions if you know where you'll be living, I can point you to some resources in your area and good routes to take.
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