Cycling at university - top tips from student cyclists

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School is just out, but it's not long before 650,000 new students head off for uni this autumn. CTC caught up with two experienced cycling students Stef and Jesse to hear why they go by bike.
Jesse on the Dunwich Dynamo
Jesse on the Dunwich Dynamo

Stef lives in South London and is studying at Goldsmiths College. Two wheels is her main mode of getting around, not only cycling the three miles to classes but also to work and visiting friends. It adds up to one to three journeys on her 'steamroller' most days in any given week.

She says: ‘I love being able to control the amount of time it takes to get to places; and being able to do journeys that would be quite difficult by public transport. For instance, getting from SE to SW London can be tricky on buses and trains.’

When it comes to security, the Goldsmiths campus has lots of bike racks – most of which are covered by CCTV. But when home, the bike lives securely inside.

It's an excellent way of getting around, especially at a university like Goldsmiths, where many activities are based around SE London just beyond walking distance. Steff, Goldsmiths College student

Would Stef recommend cycling to other students? She says: ‘Yes, definitely. It’s fun and liberating and can save you money on public transport and the gym. It’s just an excellent way of getting around, especially at a university like Goldsmiths, where many activities are based around SE London just beyond walking distance.’

But she emphasises that there’s a real lack of cycling infrastructure in London and recommends getting cycle training before taking to the city’s roads. In London, especially, it takes time getting to know the quieter routes. And, she says: "invest in a good lock!".

Cycling is also the main way of getting to and fro for computer engineering student Jesse Singleton, who studies at the University of Greenwich in Kent. Last year, Jesse was clocking up 6-7 journeys per week, including trips to the college rowing club, where the short cycling trip works as a perfect warm up.

"From starting to ride in January, I have gone from one to three bikes! I subscribe to the rule: 'you can never have enough bikes'. I ride road bikes mainly, because the university is in an urban and very hilly area, so a mountain bike just wouldn’t cut it. I’m currently riding a beautiful full carbon Colnago road bike, but I’m building a fixed gear road bike for when I return to uni in September. "

He continues: "My first year at uni, I lived on campus, so I mainly used my bike to get to town, around campus and to and from the rowing club. But this coming year I will be living 9-10 miles away from campus, so will be riding to my classes." 

I also save quite a bit of money by riding - £10-£15 per week, which adds up to quite a bit of money over the year." Jesse, 2nd year student, University of Greenwich

Would Jesse recommend cycling to fellow students? "Yes, though I would advise them to buy a second-hand bike, especially if attending university in a big city. Unfortunately bike theft is a serious reality. But don’t let that put you off.

There are many things I like about cycling; one is that it’s just so simple. You not only get to your destination but you do exercise whilst getting there. I also save quite a bit of money by riding - £10-15 per week, which adds up to quite a bit of money over the year.'

Jesse’s three top tips:

  1. Take it easy and be safe.  As much as I like to race, most of the time we are not in a rush, so being safe on your bike is the most sensible thing you can do. You can read up on the Highway Code to know how you should act on the roads. Riding will certainly give you a new perspective on cars and roads.
  2. Find other people who ride and are interested in bikes. Riding in a group is always safer and much more fun. You are bound not to be the only one riding, so find some other students, join the cycle society or the local club. Cycling in a group is a lot of fun and cycling has given me some amazing opportunities. I'm now working part-time in a bike shop and I'm shortly doing a 120-mile ride. All thanks to cycling. 
  3. Have fun! Cycling should be fun and should make you feel good. When it's tipping it down with rain, it's no fun - on such days, leave the bike at home. 

  Student cycling

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