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Commuting to college can be a quick, cheap, and easy experience, or a relatively pricey and time-consuming challenge. Where you live and what your living conditions are can have a big impact on the costs associated with travel to and from school each day. Here are some tips on how you can save money while safely travelling to campus.

Consider Your Public Transportation Options
Your travel options depend heavily on the area you live in. If you live in a city, you likely have more types of public transportation available than you would in a rural location. If you have a bus stop near you, riding the bus can be a reliable and easy way to save money. Similarly, in some areas you can ride the train. Using a train to get to college can be useful for longer commutes and for avoiding the heavy traffic often typical on freeways in large cities.

Use of these options comes with the added benefit of saving you money on parking fees at school, and avoiding the hassle of hunting down a parking spot every day. You also eliminate the risk of getting into a car accident and potentially needing to hire an attorney.

Is Carpooling an Option for You?
Sharing a ride and dividing the cost of gas can be a great way to save money when you live in a dormitory with other students, or have students in your neighborhood looking to carpool with someone. Even if you live at home, you might be able to ride to school with a family member or friend who commutes to work near your college.

Walking or Riding a Bike
If you’re one of those people lucky enough to live near your campus, you can save a lot of money and get some exercise by walking or riding a bike to school. A dormitory located very close to school creates the ideal situation to walk.

If you have a bit more distance to cover to reach campus, but still not far enough for a drive, riding a bike is the cheapest and most efficient way to commute. Not only do you save money on gas and parking, you get exercise that can help wake you up for those early classes and you’ll be traveling in an environmentally friendly way. Be sure you have a bike lock and a place to lock up your bike as well.

As a college student, you likely have a limited budget and need to make the best of the funds you have available. Before you start school, make sure to consider your living situation and plan ahead to meet the costs associated with frequent travel to school. Knowing and investigating your travel options early can help keep your mind off the commute and focused on your classes.

This article was contributed by Eileen O’Shanassy.

Image by Bre Pettis, Flickr

Image by Bre Pettis, Flickr

You’re almost set to hit the pavement, but first, it’s important to learn some quick maintenance points. A well-maintained bicycle is the best defence against breakdowns. However, no matter how much you dote over your bike, it is inevitably going to get a flat. Keep a kit on hand:

  1. Bike pump
  2. Puncher repair kit
  3. Allen keys (varying sizes)
  4. Tire levers (used to pry off tire from wheel)
  5. Spare tube

You should also have bike lube on hand to keep your chain well-greased – a dry or dirty chain is more likely to snap. It’s also a good idea to periodically clean off dirt from your hub, cogs, brakes and frame. You should also try to get a tune up from your local bike shop every 4 months or so.

Security

A bike lock is the most important piece of equipment for keeping your bike safe. Firstly, try to lock your bike in an open and well-populated area. Make sure you lock it to something sturdy. Refrain from locking it to trees, because the lock damages the bark. Instead, look for bike racks, sturdy metal fences, and lampposts. When locking your bike, you should ideally use two locks. Always make sure one lock locks your back wheel and frame to a sturdy object. Your second lock should lock your front wheel to the frame.

Unfortunately, no bike lock in the world will keep a determined thief from pinching your bike. As a guide, you should aim to spend 10% of the cost of your bike on a bike lock. So for example, a $500 bike should have a $50 lock. The most recommended method of avoiding bike theft is to make your bike undesirable to steal.

Remember

Cycling is really fun, and the more you do it, the better you will get at it. The most important things to keep in mind when deciding to commute by bike are: do I have the right equipment? Do I know where I’m going? Am I being safe on the road? Keep these things in mind and you’ll have a fun and rewarding experience.

See you on the road!

Image by carljohnson, Flickr

Image by carljohnson, Flickr

So now that you’ve found the bike that’s right for you, you need to figure out what to wear. Don’t worry – you don’t have to wear those really unflattering bike shorts (although they’d certainly help). Here’s a list of some of the essentials, and tips on how to wear those cycling shorts without anyone noticing:

  1. There’s nothing more miserable than cycling when you’re cold or wet. Rain gear is essential for keeping you comfortable and giving you the motivation to continue cycling.
    • Galoshes: rubber moulds that go over regular shoes
    • Gloves: waterproof, padded and reasonably warm
    • Pants: slip-on waterproof pants that are lightweight and easily stored in a bag or pannier
    • Jacket: similar to pants, make sure it’s wind and waterproof, lightweight and covers your lower back
    • Hat: can be worn under your helmet
  2. Warmth is all about layering, which traps warm air close to your body. It’s amazing how quickly the body warms up, and if you start sweating and don’t have adequate ventilation, it will actually make you feel colder than you really are. Be aware that any exposed skin may lead to frostbite, so wrap up well.
    • Socks: cold feet are sad feet. Wrap up well with warm socks or double up on regular socks
    • Gloves: something warm that still allows you enough finger movement to work your brakes and gears
    • Base layer:
      • Cycling shorts (which are padded)
      • Long johns: don’t worry; wear them under cycling pants so no one has to see them
      • Thermal top: it’s tight and sits close to the skin to wick away sweat and trap warm air
    • Pants: something comfortable that stretches. Wind and waterproof is advisable
    • Some kind of long-sleeve cotton sweater or t-shirt to trap warm air. However, cotton should not be worn against the skin
    • Jacket should be worn over a warm base layer: look for something lined and warm, but also breathable. Cycling jackets are specifically designed with the rider in mind
    • Hat: warm toque to protect your head and ears
    • Face mask: if it’s really cold out, covering your face is a good idea to stop frostbite, especially when there’s a nasty headwind
  3. Summer is a great time to bike to school or work. The only thing you have to worry about is humidity and sweating.
    • Socks: ankle socks are best here. Something lightweight and breathable is preferred
    • Gloves: fingerless gloves are great because they allow a breeze but still deliver padding to your palms
    • Shorts: cycling shorts are great because they wick sweat away from your body and dry quickly. They also have built-in chamois (padding) in the bum area. If you’re uncomfortable wearing something that leaves little to the imagination, aim for a pair that are lightweight, quick-drying and breathable
    • Top: cycling tops are great for the same reason as shorts. They also have front zippers in case you get hot. Most cycling jerseys have pockets in the back
    • Shades: firstly, and most obviously, they keep the sun out of your eyes. Secondly, they stop dirt and debris from getting in your eyes

Remember, this is just a general guide. You’ll find from experience what works for you and what doesn’t. Dress for the conditions outside, and try not to get caught out in weather you didn’t prepare for. The Weather Network has now become your new best friend.

This is Part Three of a four-part series on Bicycle Commuting. Also check out:
Part One – Bicycle Commuting: The Benefits for Students
Part Two – Bicycle Commuting: Which Bike Is Right For Me?

Image by sekihan, Flickr

Image by sekihan, Flickr

Convinced about the benefits of cycling? Looking to make a change in your commuting habits? Great! Here’s a guide to what type of bike is right for you. There are tons of different bike styles out there, but below I’ve listed the ones most relevant to city commuting:

  1. Road Bike:

  2. Road bikes are fast, fun and light. They can weigh as little as 18 pounds and create a low centre of gravity and air resistance. Road bikes are great for commuting in warm climates, but they are not great for year-round commuters because most do not have room for fenders, panniers, or wider tires.

  3. Mountain Bike:

  4. Mountain bikes are great because they provide the rugged durability needed for all-season commuting. They have knobbly tires which can deal with the harsh realities of Canadian winters, but can also be fitted with narrower, smoother, summer tires. However, mountain bikes are much slower than road bikes because they are heavier.

  5. Hybrid:

  6. Hybrid bikes take the best aspects of road and mountain bikes to create versatile bike for commuting. Hybrid bikes are lighter and use slick tires for reduced friction. However, because hybrid bikes are a combination of road and mountain frames, it does many things well, but excels in none. Hybrid bikes are too heavy to be efficient road bikes, and too fragile to be efficient mountain bikes. However, for all-season bikes they are a worthy choice.

  7. Cruiser:

  8. Cruiser bikes are big, slow and luxurious. Big fat wheels eat up pot holes and bumps and its big cushy seat is like sitting on a cloud. If style and comfort is above speed then this is the bike for you. Just make sure you stick to the road…or the beach.

  9. Fixed Gear (fixie) and Single Speed (SS):

  10. Fixed gear means that the drivetrain is mounted to the hub with no freewheel mechanism. Basically, this means that you cannot coast: if you’re moving, then so must your pedals. Fixies, most commonly in road bike style, are even lighter than road bikes because they have fewer components. Braking on a fixie involves locking up the pedals to skid. If you’re just starting out, it’s best to also have a mechanical front break. Fixies offer the rider a fun riding experience and are easier to maintain with fewer parts that can potentially break. They are also much cheaper than other bikes.

    Single speed bikes allow coasting because the drivetrain is not welded onto the hub (the part that attaches the drivetrain to the wheel). Single speed bikes offer many of the advantages of fixies with the added bonus of coasting when you’re feeling tired or lazy, and a mechanical front and back brake.

  11. Folding bikes:

  12. Folding bikes are designed to collapse into a smaller form which allows for easier storage or transport. They’re most often used in busy downtown cores when a commuter may combine public transport and cycling. However, they are much smaller than regular bikes, heavier, have more moving parts and have very small wheels. For these reasons I would only suggest using a folding bike if you specifically intend to use it in the city centre or if you have limited storage at home.

The best way to decide what type of bike is best for you is to assess your needs. Are you a speed freak? Do you like to roll along at a slow and steady pace? Will you be cycling in the winter? Do you want to attach panniers so you can carry things? Are you going to take it off any sweet jumps?

Answering these questions will ultimately point you in the right direction. Here’s a quick cheat sheet:

Style
Pros
Cons
Road BikeLight, fast, excellent for smooth roadsLittle room for add-ons, can only be used on roads, expensive
Mountain BikeRugged, all terrain bike, easily upgradableNot very fast, bulky, heavy
HybridCompromise, sturdy all-round commuterOnly use on smooth roads, slower than a road bike
CruiserExtremely comfortable, stylishSlow, heavy, cumbersome
Fixie/SSLight, cheap, fast, easy to maintainNo gears, no coasting, no mechanical brakes (fixie), not ideal for hills
FoldingEasy storage, convenientSmall, heavy, small wheels, not suitable for long commutes

Bicycle fit is also really important to make sure you get the right size. A bike that is too small will make you cramp and will be uncomfortable to ride. It’s best to visit your local bike shop to get a decent fit.

Choosing the right bike for your commute is an important step in keeping you motivated and happy. Take the time to investigate the strengths and weaknesses of different bikes, and explore all of your options. Remember that your new bike is an investment that your body and bank account will thank you for!

This is Part Two of a four-part series on Bicycle Commuting. Also check out:
Part One – Bicycle Commuting: The Benefits for Students
Part Three – Bicycle Commuting: Do I Really Need To Wear Those Unflattering Shorts?

Image by Tejvan Pettinger, Flickr

Image by Tejvan Pettinger, Flickr

Cycling is an excellent mode of transportation for students – just think of the money you’ll save and the calories you’ll burn! You might think that the rain accompanied by spring means it’s time to put away your bike: however, there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad equipment!

Cycling is an impactful social, financial and environmental choice that drastically reduces greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. Not only that, it has great health benefits, too.

Health Benefits

Let’s imagine that we commute by bike to school, which is a 30 km (round) trip. It will take us 90 minutes to complete this commute. For an average male, that burns over 9000 calories a month – just getting to and from school. You could give up your gym membership and bask in the glory of your new-found mode of transport! Not to mention, getting an early morning workout will keep your brain active and your body fresh; cycling is a full body workout that improves cardiovascular fitness, strengthens muscles, burns fat and improves coordination.

Financial Benefits

Keeping your bike on the road is cheap and easy: you don’t have to pay any municipal fees or taxes, and maintenance is relatively hassle-free. It also works out to be cheaper than using public transit. For example, Toronto Transit Commission monthly student passes total $1296 per year. You don’t even have to commute everyday by bike to help reduce this price. If you were to only bike during the summer (3 months) it would reduce this total by $324 – giving you significant financial savings.

If you cycled our 30 km school commute instead of driving, you would save yourself over $75 per month just on gas. You can see for yourself with this nifty Commute Impact Calculator from Metrolinx’s Smart Commute program.

Environmental Benefits

Let’s not forget about the great environmental benefits of commuting by bike. The Seeds Foundation reports that the average Canadian produces roughly 5 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year. However, if you were to leave your car in the driveway and cycle our 30km daily commute, you would save 1.6 tonnes in greenhouse emissions per year!

Stay Safe

Before we go any further, there’s one issue above all others: safety. Cycling need not be a dangerous hobby or commute.

  1. Although helmets are not required by law in Ontario, they serve as the best type of defence against head injuries. A good solid helmet should cover your forehead and fit snugly.
  2. Lights are important for improving your visibility. White lights are used at the front of your bike, and red lights at the back. Reflectors also increase your visibility. These should come with your bike.
  3. In Ontario, a bell is mandatory for any bicycle. They are a cheap and effective way of audibly alerting pedestrians to your presence.
  4. Follow all road laws in your area. Pedal power does not exclude you from the responsibility of obeying proper road safety. No running red lights or stop signs, no riding on the sidewalk, etc.

This is Part One in a four-part series on bicycle commuting. Also check out:
Part Two – Bicycle Commuting: Which Bike Is Right For Me?
Part Three – Bicycle Commuting: Do I Really Need To Wear Those Unflattering Shorts?