So, you want to start biking to school (or just biking in general). Why wouldn’t you want to? Portland State is smack-dab in the middle of one the most bike friendly cities in the country. Plus, you can lower your carbon footprint and get into shape. It can be a daunting task though—you’re biking in a city, for god’s sake. Here are a few steps to get you prepared to bike to campus.
First, ask yourself: Do you have a bike? If the answer is yes, is it in proper working order? Meaning, has your bike been given a proper tune-up recently or has it been sitting in the basement-garage collecting dust and spiders? Then get your wheels to your local bike shop and get that thing looked at.
Because you’re now a student of this fine institution, take your bike to the PSU Bike Hub. For $15 per term, or $30 per year, you can purchase a membership to the Bike Hub. The perks of having this membership are access to a work station to fix your bike yourself, or to be taught how to do the necessary maintenance to get you riding your two-wheeled vehicle of engineering perfection. Also, with the Bike Hub membership there is a 20% discount on all their bike gear. But if you’re not mechanically inclined, stick with your local bike shop. This really shouldn’t be a step that is skipped.
What if you don’t have a bike? Well, living in Portland, you’re in luck. Just like Starbucks, you can practically find one on every street corner. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but seriously: We have a lot of bike shops. I honestly suggest you check out the ones in your area.
Get to know them (not intimately, that’s a bit extreme), and let the bike salesman know as soon as you start a dialogue what your budget is and what type of riding you’re looking to do. They will get you on your way to Valhalla, all shiny and chrome.
“But what if I don’t have a lot of money?” I would really suggest you stay away from big-box-store-built bikes (you know the ones). The person assembling is only marginally trained in the process and is only worried about the quantity of bikes, not the quality of the build. Honestly, if you want to grab a decently priced bike go on Craigslist. Be careful though, and make sure to consult a bike-savvy friend on the price and condition of the bike. It’s easy to buy a lemon.
Once you have your bike, it’s time to accessorize. Top three purchases that are a must for riding are a helmet, a quality U-lock and lights. You can pick these up at any bike shop or department store. All helmets are manufactured to American Society for Testing and Materials qualifications, so you can buy one almost anywhere, just don’t buy used.
For the lock and light, make sure it’s a quality U-lock with a cable loop (you can pick up one of the highest rated brands for as little as $35 on Amazon) Buy a bike light with the highest lumens available. This will make sure people can see you riding at night and you can see the road. Also, invest in some biking rain gear. It’s Portland, it’s fall and it will rain. Go to your local outdoor sporting goods store. They’ll have what you need.
You’ve got the bike. You’ve got the gear. Now how the hell do you get here? The city of Portland has numerous bike-dedicated streets and many main roads with bike paths that’ll help you get where you’re going. If you ask your local bike shop or even the Bike Hub, they will give you a map of all the major biking routes throughout the city. Google Maps has (in beta) a good majority of major bike paths and roads to get you where you’re going. Best way to figure out how to get to the university is to get out there and ride, explore and learn your route, and soon enough you’ll be to class or club meetings in record time.
I want to address the attitude that is needed for riding and it’s easily stated as such: Don’t be an asshole, but don’t be a shrinking violet either. Aggression or indecision leads to unpredictability, and that’s dangerous for everyone on the road.
Remember, you’re sharing the road with hundreds of people trying to get from point A to point B. Learn the rules that apply to all vehicles. The Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles website has a downloadable pamphlet about the expectations and safety guidelines while riding your bike around the city. Seriously read it and remember it, and it will help you ride safely.
Finally, just get out there and ride. If you’re a seasoned pro at riding through the city, you already know most of this. Hopefully it was a refresher. For those just beginning: Be safe, be predictable and know that no matter how far you ride it never gets easier, you just get faster.