School is coming. You are ready to make something of yourself. You think you are ready to delve deep into the treacherous sea of assignments, final exams and long lectures. Being the smart person that you are, you bought a pen, a pencil and practiced your "sick voice" impression just in case things get desperate. You even came up with a detailed exit-strategy in case you get seated next to a creepy one.
But of course, you didn't forget the most important tool - a trusty bike to help you tackle the challenges of college and school life. However, going to back to school during fall has many hidden nuances that may in fact end up ruining your entire school experience.
Having commuted to college on a bike for a very long time during my college career and hanging out with colleagues who also bike to school, I know these problems very well. I have compiled a guide that sums up the collective knowledge of many people who bike to school so that you can go and just enjoy the bike ride. You can focus on the important things.
Here are the 10 Biggest Biking Fails New Students Make When Going Back to School.
1. PUTTING TOO MANY OBJECTS IN YOUR POCKETS
How terrified are you at the thought of losing your phone, your keys or your wallet? Many new students end up forgetting to secure these valuable items. They are small and easily slip out of your pockets when you are seated on a bike. Being in college, you are bound to have that one day when you are late for class and everything just becomes automatic. It's best to form good habits to prevent this type of problem from ever becoming a big deal.
HOW TO FIX
Don't use your pockets - The easiest and most practical way to solve this is by simply moving the items out of your pockets permanently. Some people use lanyards for keys, put their items in the bags etc.
Rubber band - Right before you go, wrap your items with a rubber band. It keeps them stable and the rubber band grips to your clothes reducing the likeliness of slipping.
Use velcro - An ingenius tip from a redditor. This one requires more effort but can potentially solve things permanently. Turn your pockets inside out and sew a small piece of velcro to the side of it. Stick the partner piece to the back of your phone or wallet. This will allow you to easily secure and remove your items from your pockets without fear of them ever slipping off.
2. UNDERESTIMATING MOMENTUM AND OVERESTIMATING STABILITY
New and seasoned bikers fall prey for these common mistakes. Sudden turns, road level changes, loss of control etc. are handling nuances we all have to deal with. Kissing the pavement is usually how we learn to respect the laws of gravity when riding on two wheels.
HOW TO FIX
Brake before a turn - Never make the mistake of braking during a turn. All that momentum will be transferred to centrifugal motion and you'll be thrown off the bike. It's a good way to end up being featured under the #fail tag in social media.
Don't put your weight upfront - If road level descends never put your weight at the front wheels, instead put the weight at the back wheels to improve stability while changing road level.
Avoid over-leaning on wet road - Don't lean your bike on wet pavement while making a turn. Your tires' tire threads will lose grip and and you will slip sideways.
Know how to use your brake - Knowing how to brake in a variety of situations is very important. Make it a habit to slow down down when there is either too much traffic or the road is either wet or unstable.
3. NOT MAINTAINING YOUR BIKE
Fixed-gear bikes are renowned for being relatively low-maintenance compared to other types of bikes, but completely ignoring your bike is just is asking for trouble. Leaving some room in your backpack for a small repair kit is not only smart, it's not even that big of an inconvenience. You can pretty much buy bike repair kits anywhere - a very small amount of work for peace of mind and preparedness.
Be extra prepared - If you want to complete the package, you can also include a mini-pump or a portable floor pump so that all the tools you'll need to maintain your bike. Bicycle Habitat has constructed a very easy to follow bike maintenance chart.
4. IGNORING WEATHER CONDITIONS
We all do it. We see a single drop and we assume its just going to be a drizzle. Next thing you know, mother nature decides you need a shower. Not only will it ruin your day, it will ruin any electronic devices you have on you.
HOW TO FIX
Bring a raincoat or umbrella - if your area is prone to rain, its a good idea to always bring these. There is this popular new umbrella called Sport-Brella All Position Umbrella which can be clamped on for general bike use when there is light rain. I wouldn't use it during a hurricane (or be anywhere outside). Here are some good cheap and popular raincoats for men and women.
Learn to read cloud patterns - With all the modern technology doing all the thinking for us, many people have forgotten just how handy it is to read cloud patterns. Here is an easily understandable guide on how to read cloud patterns to predict weather.
5. NOT EATING ENOUGH
Biking is an effective and easy way to lose extra body fat, however, new bikers tend to overdo their calorie deficit and end up depleting glycogen stores. Low carb diets are often the reason for this. Individuals who regularly engage in strenuous activity like biking need to eat a good amount of carbs.
Refeed - "Refeed" is a technique used by bodybuilders to prevent over-depletion of glycogen stores while losing weight and engaging in intense training. It is done by maintaining the same calorie target for the day. You reduce fat and protein intake and increase carbohydrates intake. This will allow you to keep losing weight while eating a lot of carbs. A refeed is usually done once every few weeks.
Keep a candy in your pocket - No, its not to lure unsuspecting children to your creepy van. You can eat a candy to quickly reintroduce glycogen to your bloodstream when you start feeling symptoms of glycogen depletion. Though its not as good as eating complex carbs like rice or wheat bread for sustained energy, it lets you borrow some temporary boost to get where you want to and worry about fueling later.
6. NOT PLANNING YOUR BIKE ROUTE
Mapping out the roads and trails to your destination can help you estimate the biking time it takes to get there. It can also let you know whether a particular route goes through a dangerous area.
HOW TO FIX
Google maps - you can easily look up your bike route on google maps by clicking the tiny car icon top left of the app. It will then show you a train, walking and biking option to calculate the time and route. Obviously you'll want to click the bike icon.
Be aware of your surroundings - A great tip from Megan Lynch. Make sure to pay attention to the rules of road. One thing you should watch out for are pedestrians, pets, children, seniors and disabled individuals unaware of your presence. Also watch out for branches, glares (wear shades), and most importantly don't make the mistake of biking with your mouth open (afternoon bikers know this very well).
Use biking apps - You can get a relatively cheap phone mount for your bike bar online for around 25 dollars and it lets you release the full potential of your bike. Get access to millions of biking routes, elevation, average speed, biking community and even voice operated directions. Mashable has a nice condensed list of the 5 best biking apps.
7. BUYING UNRELIABLE BIKING EQUIPMENT
Buying a cheap bike that will fall apart within a few uses is a real good way to waste money. It may also put you in unnecessary danger and embarrassment if it breaks in the middle of a ride. General maintenance improves the longevity of your bike, but you can only do so much to save a horrible product.
Know your biking style - If you are like me who can't bike without racing random squirrels and rabbits, you will probably want to get a thicker frame to handle daily abuse. I remember I borrowed a friend's bike bought from a typical retailer and I somehow twisted both the saddle and the handlebars after one use. If your biking style is fairly tame and relaxed, any bike frame should be good for daily use as long as you get a quality brand like yours truly (shameless self-promotion).
Wear a helmet - Aside from bike helmets being mandatory for anyone under 18 in most states and mandatory for all ages for some areas, bike helmets are simply practical and gives you peace of mind. There are some affordable bike helmets starting at only 15 dollars.
8. NOT SECURING YOUR BIKE
It's always a good idea to lock your bike whenever you leave it. Thieves nowadays are extremely efficient and run in groups. Don't make things easy for them by leaving your bike unsecured.
Know the different kinds of locks - U locks are the best types of bike locks because they are the hardest to break. Next are chain locks because they offer good protection with some added flexibility. Cable locks are convenient locks which is better than having no locks at all. There are ones such as o-locks to secure your wheels and locking skewers to prevent specific parts of a bike. wikipedia source
Use a combination of locks - The best way to lock your bike is by combining several types of locks to dramatically increase security. The best combination is using the U lock to lock the rear wheel with the bike frame and use cable locks to secure the rest of the bike.
Register your bike - The next step in securing your bike is going beyond securing. Registering your bike will give you written documentation that you in fact own it. If it is ever stolen or misplaced or if there is any doubt that your bike belongs to you, officials can simply look up its registration documentation.
It also makes it easier for police to track it down in case someone tries to sell it. NBR is the most popular bike registry offering tamper resistant NBR bike identification labels. Bike registrations are very cheap and certain cities also fine bikes without registration.
9. NOT ADJUSTING YOUR BIKE
You can't just get on a bike and expect it to magically adjust to your personal preferences. To some people adjusting a bike perfectly to ones body type and personal taste is an art form. How you adjust your bike dictates how well you will be able to control it.
HOW TO ADJUST
Bike size - Make sure you buy a bike size that suits your height. In general 5'2" to 5'6" matches a 50cm/20inch bike frame, 5'7" to 5'10" suits a 55cm/21inch bike and 5'11" to 6'4" will need a 60cm/23inch bike size. If you want a more detailed sizing you can go use this online bike size calculator.
Saddle Height - As a general rule of thumb, the saddle height should be high enough to make room for your legs to move freely, but low enough that your knees have a slight bend in them at the very bottom of the rotation.
Saddle Angle - Make sure that the angle of the saddle prevents you from sliding off the bike seat. It's bet to start with a horizontal saddle and make slight adjustment to determine the most comfortable angle.
Saddle to Handlebar Distance - This is one has eluded me for a good deal of my biking life. I would always feel like its too far back or too far in. The secret to getting it perfectly lies with your knee alignment. Once you have adjusted your saddle height and angle. Place your hands on the handlebars as if you are going to ride out.
Now position the pedal crank completely horizontal and position your foot on top of the pedal comfortably. The edge of your knee should be right on top of the edge of the pedal crank, so that it would be lined up perfectly. Basically if water was to drop from your front knee, it should barely kiss the tip of your pedal crank.
10. NOT EXPRESSING YOURSELF
Back when people were hunting deer and rabbits for food, they just simply saw clothing as a necessity. They don't care about the color or the style as long as it kept them from freezing or getting injured. You can't really blame them. If there is a chance of a saber tooth tiger mauling you when you go out, I doubt you will care whether your jeans matches your shirt.
The New Generation of Expression
But things are different now. People use their clothing to express their personality as a way to communicate who they are. It's a form of individuality. In a way its an art form.
In the same sense, we are now living in that era where bikes are a seen as a way to express individuality: to express personality. You don't have to buy the same exact style of bike as everyone. You can now pick and choose the color and style of your bike to best reflect who you are. There are several stores that allow bike customization, but CityBicycleCo also has a comprehensive bike customization program if you feel like checking it out.
You might be thinking this is unnecessary since a bike is simply a tool you use to get from point A to point B. That is true, but biking is also an experience. It is an experience that will shape who you are and how you see the world, so it's best to build it and form it in a way that would make you feel like someone.
Tell your story
You are not just some random guy on a bike, but you are the guy that people see who just happens to be on a bike that reflect his exact aura and personality. Don't be a guy on a bike, let the bike be a part of who you are.
So there you go the 10 Biggest Biking Mistakes Students Make When Going Back to college. It's always good to take things slowly and learn the basics of biking before doing something crazy. That way you have developed all the skills and muscle memory to effectively control your bike in case things get out of hand.
You can put this list down on paper so that these habits eventually become automatic or you can bookmark it. Right before you ride your bike or when you feel a bit lost just glance over the bullets list real quick to refresh your memory. Better to have a back up than to need it and have nothing to fall back on.
If you know someone who rides a bike regularly, forwarding them this list may save them from a ton of trouble. School is near, we are all here to make something of ourselves to change the world for the better or perhaps to just be totally badass (I don't judge). I hope these pointers somehow help you in your quests and adventures. Until next time. Happy Biking.