Bikes vs. Boards: Which to Choose for College?

by Greg Rudolph August 19, 2019

A bike or a skateboard is a must for getting around a large college campus, but we know it can be hard to decide between the two! Here’s what to consider to make the right choice. 

First off, if you’re trying to decide if transportation is even necessary, the answer is a resounding YES! Especially if you don’t have a car, a skateboard or bike is practically a necessity. Not only will you be able to get to class faster (perhaps saving a valuable 5 minutes of sleep in the morning!), but it will also allow you to pack more into every day. Want to play on an intramural team, but the games start all the way across campus 5 minutes after class ends? No problem, if you’ve got a ride. Want to meet a friend for lunch, but worried you can’t squeeze it in between classes? With a bike or board, you certainly can! Most of all, transportation affords you a sense of FREEDOM so you don’t feel trapped on campus. 

Board Blazers was born at Arizona State University, so we know a thing or two about riding on campus. Here’s what we’ve found:

Practicality

In this category, a bike has several advantages that a board can’t match. Most of all, you can go faster and further on a bike. For these reasons, if you’re living off campus and looking for a way to commute to campus, you’ll definitely want a bike. Plus, bikes are much better for carrying stuff. If you’re taking books, a laptop, or a project to class, either use a backpack or get a bike with a rack or basket. Need to make a grocery run? Carrying all those bags home on a skateboard is going to be awfully tough. Plus, your bike can be used for recreation too! Invest in a solid mountain or road bike, then get out and explore the local terrain. Join a local cycling club to immediately make friends and get plugged into the local scene.

Cost

Score one for skateboards, and make sure to pick the right type of board. Longboards are common on campus, and will typically cost you $99 – $149. Penny boards (aka “plastic boards”) are a little smaller, and are often the best type of board for campus cruising.  A solid penny board usually costs between $49 and $99. If you’re going to buy a skateboard, make sure to visit a local skate shop, not a big-box retailer. Even if a local shop is a little more expensive, they’ll hook you up with better equipment, personal service, and local insider knowledge that’s worth the extra cash.

Bikes have a much wider price range, but you’re almost guaranteed to spend more than on a skateboard. Expect to pay at least $200 for a decent quality new cruiser, and even more if you want a good mountain or road bike. Plus, bikes require some maintenance. Fixing a flat and an occasional tune-up aren’t costly, but they’re expenses that skateboards don’t require. When buying a bike, a local bike shop is the way to go. If (and when) your bike needs maintenance, they’ll often fix it for free or a reduced price if you originally bought the bike there.

Lastly, remember to look for deals on used bikes and boards! Many students sell their rides when they graduate, so ask around. If you’re a new student, ask your campus tour guide if they know anyone selling a used bike, and which method of transportation they prefer.

Maneuverability

Bikes have brakes! College campuses are crowded places, so keep in mind that you’ll be maneuvering through crowds and dodging other riders. Especially at hilly campuses, bikes are better. Sure, you can always brake with your foot or jump off a skateboard, but then your board often goes darting off into a crowd. Many campuses have even implemented “walk-only zones” or other safety measures in an effort to decrease the danger for pedestrians and improve traffic flow. Potholes, uneven sidewalks, and even trash also pose a problem for unstable boarders. In this case, bikes are a better choice.

Storage

Once you reach your destination, don’t forget that you’ve got to lock up your bike every single time.Bike racks are common at many schools, but often so crowded they turn into a demolition derby. Sometimes, there’s no rack close to your destination, leaving less desirable options such as locking to a tree, post, or even just running the lock through the tires. Plus, if you move around campus during the day, it might be a hike back to where you left your bike.

After you arrive, you have to carry your skateboard, which has both advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, you’ve always got your ride with you, so you can hop on wherever you’d like. But, it can be a burden to carry around all day, and if it’s a particularly large longboard you’ll have to leave it by the door when you get to class. This is dangerous, because skateboard theft is common at many schools. Because of this, we highly recommend a penny board since it’s easier to carry and you can keep it with you at your seat in class. Or invest in a backpack that stows your board in place, like this one

Theft of both bikes and skateboards is rampant, so always keep your board with you, and be careful about leaving it in the back of a lecture hall. Or, if a bike is your thing, the phrase “buy a cheap bike and an expensive lock” rings true. Invest in a quality U-lock. Locking skateboard racks are becoming increasingly popular, but still aren’t mainstream.

In the end, choose whichever you feel more comfortable with or the option that best fits your needs. Check out your campus to see what’s most popular. That’s a good sign of the best option in your area. If you’re a commuter, have a lot of hills around campus, or just prefer the speed, practicality, and maneuverability of a bike, go for it! Or, if you’re looking to save some cash and don’t want to deal with the hassle of locking up a bike every time you stop, become a boarder.

What’s your pick? Hit us up on Instagram @boardblazers and let us know!



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