Best Bikes for College Students and College Campuses

Many students have issues with time management, and one of the major reasons for this is the fact that college campuses in the US tend be to pretty massive. It’s hard to get to class on time when you need to walk for half an hour just to get to the right building.

Some students also choose to live off campus, which further exacerbates the issue – if you live off campus, how do you get around? Cars are expensive – you’re not just paying the sticker price, you’re paying for gas, parking, insurance and maintenance – and it’s not like you can afford to catch a cab everywhere.

It’s not surprising then that there’s an age-old tradition of college students getting around town on the good old fashioned bike. Bikes are easy to store, most college campuses are relatively bike friendly, and it doesn’t hurt to get a bit of cardio in before class either. Bikes are also environmentally friendly, relatively cheap (compared to the alternatives), and you know what? If you’re making your way home after a big night out and you use a bike to get home, chances are that the worst you’ll suffer is a few scrapes and bruises even if things go sideways.

Because bikes are such a great choice of transportation for college students, we decided to put together a list of what we think are the best bikes for college. We’ve looked into each bike’s functionality, durability, and most importantly, cost-effectiveness, and come up with a list of bikes that we think every current or prospective college student should think about picking up.

So without further ado – this is LearnU’s list of the best bikes for college.

Best Bikes for College Students

GMC Denali Road Bike

Best Bikes for College Students - Top Choice GMC Denali Road Bike

The GMC Denali Road Bike is the our favorite bike for the average college student. The GMC Denali is built for biking in urban environments – it’s lightweight and extremely durable, and the aluminum frame has a great ergonomic design that makes it really comfortable to ride. It also doesn’t hurt that the Denali is pretty competitively priced, so it’s great if you’re on a budget (which, given the cost of college tuition nowadays we guess most students are).

The GMC Denali Road Bike sports 700c (medium-big) tires – big tires are important because they can help you achieve higher speeds and also make it easy to cycle on flat surfaces (which is useful when cycling in a city because roads tend to be relatively flat). On the other hand, uphill climbs can become a bit of a chore if your tires are too big. 700c tires pretty much hit the sweet spot, and the Denali performs admirably going uphill despite its designation as a road bike.

The Denali Road Bike is a 21 speed bike, and the gear changes are quick and smooth. It’s incredibly durable – so much so that despite the fact that it’s a road bike, some people have managed to use it as a long-distance ‘touring’ bike without any issues. The one thing that might potentially be an issue with the Denali is the breaks – they’re a touch less forceful than they should be, but as long as you’re not going absurdly fast, this shouldn’t be a problem on a college campus or on a short commute.

The thing that we really love about the GMC Denali is the price point. It looks, feels, and performs like a bike that should be in a much higher price bracket. It’s good value for money, and it doesn’t hurt that the bike is also pretty durable.

For all the reasons listed above – we think the GMC Denali Road Bike is the best bike for college students.

Schwinn Men’s Network 3.0 700C Hybrid

Best Bikes for College Students - 2nd Choice Schwinn Men's Network 3.0 700C Hybrid

If you’re looking for something that would work as a suitable alternative to our top choice, the Schwinn Men’s Network 3.0 700C Hybrid holds up pretty well.

The Men’s Network 3.0 is a Hybrid bike – that means it falls somewhere in between a road bike, a touring bike, and a mountain bike. Essentially, hybrid bikes are one-size-fits-all bikes that value practicality over specialization. If your commute is a mixture of flat city roads and uphill climbs, the Schwinn Men’s Network might make for an even better purchase than our top choice.

The Schwinn Network has great suspension forks, and has a durable aluminum frame. One especially nice touch is the seat – the padded seat makes for a comfortable riding experience even if your commute is comparatively long. Thanks to the fact that it’s a hybrid and the type of tires it comes with, this bike also functions well on less predictable terrain – so if you’re going to college in a city where it snows, the Schwinn Men’s Network would probably be a good choice. It also makes for comfortable riding on the dirt/grass paths that you might come across on a college campus. It’s a 21 speed bike with smooth gear shifts and powerful breaks.

The one drawback to the Schwinn Men’s Network is that it’s not fully assembled upon delivery, so you might need help putting it together if you’re not familiar with basic bicycle mechanics. The pricing is competitive and it’s another bike (along with the aforementioned Denali) that feels and rides like it should be in a higher price bracket.

Roadmaster Granite Peak Men’s Mountain Bike

Best Bikes for College Students - Top Choice Roadmaster Granite Peak

This may seem to be an odd choice for a bike to use in college – until you think about the numerous university and college campuses that are located in and around the Northeastern US. These areas experience heavy snowfall virtually every single winter, and if you’re going to school somewhere that’s going to snow each and every winter, you want a bike that can handle the snow (and other rough terrain).

The obvious advantage that a mountain bike has over a road bike is the grip of the tire, which is going to be significantly better at navigating uneven or treacherous terrain. The Roadmaster also has good suspension, so bumpy or uneven terrain won’t be a bother – perfect for snowy environments, and unpaved, grassy areas that you find on campuses.

This doesn’t mean that the Roadmaster isn’t suitable for urban cycling however – it is called the Roadmaster after all. It rides reasonably well on flat roads despite the fact that it’s a mountain bike. If your campus is in an urban environment and doesn’t have a ton of uneven terrain, this might not be your top choice, but if you expect to come across difficult terrain, then the Roadmaster is well suited to your needs.

The two weakness of the Roadmaster are as follows. Firstly,it’s a little bit of a jack of all trades (and master of none). It’s not the best on flat surfaces, nor is it the very best on uneven terrain or on the incline – it’s good at both, but not specialized enough to be excellent on either. It performs admirably in both situations, but if your environment leans one way or the other, there may be better choices available.

The second weakness is that the bike is a little heavier than you’d want a college bike to be. At 71 pounds, it’s not obscenely heavy, but it’s definitely a little weightier than our top two choices, the Schwinn Men’s Network Hybrid and the GMC Denali Roadbike

Honorable Mentions

In addition to the three bikes we highlighted above, here are a couple of honorable mentions – these bikes were great, but just missed the cut due to the excellence of our top 3 choices.

  • Takara Kabuto Single Speed Road Bike
  • Critical Cycles Fixed Gear Single Speed Fixie Urban Road Bike
  • Aluminum Road Bike and Commuter Shimano 21 Speed Bicycle
  • Vilano Aluminum Road Bike 21 Speed Shimano
  • Sonoma Men’s Chainless Drive Evolution Urban Commuter Bicycle

The Different Types of Bikes and Whether they make Sense on Campus

When choosing the ideal bike, you should try and familiarize yourself with the different types of bikes available so you can make an informed decision as a consumer.

Road Bicycles

Designed to achieve high speeds and to ride well on flat surfaces, these bikes normally come with thin tires and drop handlebars that will help you get as little wind resistance as possible. Road bikes tend to be lacking in the comfort department and aren’t the best kind of bikes for carrying stuff around, so if your commute is long or you anticipate having a heavy backpack full of textbooks with you, you might want to make sure that the specific bike you end up with doesn’t have these particular weaknesses.

Cyclo-cross Bicycles

A variant of the road bicycle, this type of bike still sports the drop handlebar, but uses wider tires that allow for more off-road traction. Cyclo-cross bikes allow more for riding on uneven terrain.They’re actually specifically designed for participation in Cyclo-cross races, but in recent years, cyclo-cross bikes have gained popularity as commuting bikes. They’re versatile and lightweight – this means that cyclo-cross bikes might make sense for college campuses or daily commutes.

Touring Bicycles

This is the other variant of the road bike. Touring bicycles are designed for pavements and other flat surfaces, but tend to be more durable and are built more for long distance journeys (say, if you’re cycling across the whole of the US for example). They’re basically road bicycles, but with less emphasis on speed and more emphasis on being able to withstand wear and tear, so they do better in terms of general durability and practicality.  Also, because they’re designed for extended riding, they tend to be reasonably comfortable.

Mountain Bikes

Mountain bikes are designed to work well on rough off-road trails, dirt paths, and on surfaces like snow or other types of difficult terrain. The biggest difference between mountain bikes and other types of bikes is usually the presence of shock absorbers, which make bumpy surfaces easier to deal with. Mountain bikes tend to have flat or upright handlebars and multiple gear choices that facilitate smoother rides when faced with uphill climbs. A mountain bike might make sense if you’re attending a college in a city/town that sees snow frequently, or if your campus has a lot of dirt paths and grassy areas and is less of an urban environment.

Hybrid Bikes

Hybrid Bikes tend to be a good catchall solution if you’re not sure what you might have to deal with – they deal with rough terrains decently, and deal with flat surfaces decently. Typically, you’ll be sacrificing speed in exchange for flexibility. Also, while a hybrid bike will serve you well on tricky terrain, when it comes to conditions that are genuinely difficult (mountain trails, heavy snow and ice, etc), you may have trouble.

How to Choose a Bike

Normally, as a college student, you should be mainly focusing on how well your bike will handle an urban environment – even college campuses in small towns tend to have flat paved surfaces available to bike riders. Value for money is another important consideration – especially since bike theft on college campuses is always going to be a risk.

You don’t want to spend big bucks on a top of the line bike, only to have it stolen while you’re sitting in Econ 101. Think about what kind of environments you might be dealing with and think about how much you’re willing to pay. Durability should also factor into your decision – you’d rather buy one $200 bike that lasts you 4 years than 5 $50 bikes that last you a semester a piece.

If your commute consists mainly of flat surfaces, and the city or town that your campus is based in doesn’t really get a ton of snow, a road bike or a hybrid bike might be the smart choice.

On the other hand, if you’re dealing with dicier terrain, heavy snow, or if you want a bike that you can take on outdoor excursions, it’s hard to go wrong with a mountain bike.

Some useful tips when it comes to bike shopping:

Budget for more than just the bike: No matter your price range, you’ll still have to buy accessories like a helmet and a pump. Other accessories like bike lights or a more secure lock are other accessories that might be worth budgeting in depending on your specific needs.

If buying in person, test the model: bike shopping is almost like shopping for clothes – fit matters more than the style or brand of the product. There is no shame in asking for a test drive. You might even want to try and wear what you’d wear on your daily commute (especially with regards to footwear) so that you can feel first hand whether or not a specific bike fits well with what you typically wear to class.

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