A Charlestonian’s Guide to Biking

Here in Charleston, we’ve got racks on racks on racks… of bicycles. No matter what part of the peninsula you’re on, chances are you’re tripping over bikes or searching for a light pole to call your very own. Biking in Charleston is a lot like driving or walking (aka dangerous), but there is a sense of freedom that driving doesn’t provide, and an escape from trudging to class through oppressive heat.

Here is a rundown of everything you need to know in order to successfully ride your very own bike around the city. From bikes to gear, CisternYard News has you covered.

The Beach Cruiser or “Don’t worry, I’m going to put on my dress flip flops before we go out.”

This being Charleston, a lot of students opt for a beach cruiser. If you don’t want to get to where you’re going very quickly or you want to look like you’re in a summertime music video when you roll off to class, this is the bicycle for you. Affordabike on Upper King is the place where you can build your dream bike or pick one that’s premade. With names like “The Chuck,” “The Queen,” “Coast” and “The Brewster,” Affordabike has something for everyone.*

*Everyone with at least $200 dollars for your custom cruiser.

The Fixed-gear/Mixtie or “Brakes? No. Lights change for me.”

The Holy City is also teeming with hipsters on their fixed gear bicycles. If you think owning a regular bike like everyone else is lame, or hate the idea of stopping pedaling at any point to rest, a fixie might be the bike for you. Fixed gear bicycles harken back to the early days of bicycling, when shifting speeds, following traffic and brakes were largely unneeded. Morphing from the urban sub-culture of bicycle messengers, fixies can be seen today resting indifferently outside of Black Tap and The Recovery Room. I would recommend a place to buy them, but they’re way too cool to be sold at your local retailer. Check Craigslist, and maybe pick up a typewriter while you’re looking. I would highly recommend keeping the brakes installed on your fixie; Charleston traffic is more of a stop and speed than constant flow.

The Road Bike or “I TRI so hard in my spare time.”

What if you’re too serious a cyclist to mess with cruising and only having one gear? A road bike may be the bike you’ve been waiting for. Road bikes are lightweight, and they typically have carbon fiber frames. These frames are stiff, and are meant to help the rider get the most power out of the pedals. A nice road bike will absolutely up the ante in your next bike polo match, but be warned that the skinny little tires of a road bike make Charleston’s famous pavement irregularities a bitch.

The Hybrid or “I swing both ways.”

Is indecision your forte? It’s OK. Hybrid bikes can’t make up their minds either. Answer yes to these questions, and you probably have a hybrid: Am I fast like a racing bike, yet comfortable like a cruiser? Do I look nice riding around town, yet stand out from those other Wal-Mart specials? Hybrid bikes, also commonly referred to as “commuter” or “comfort” bikes, take the best things from road and mountain bikes and give them to you in a mid-weight package. If your parents like evening rides around their New England Suburban neighborhood, this is probably what they’re riding. That’s not to say that youngsters can’t look boss on these bikes too; they get the job done in style and comfort. These bikes commonly come with fenders, and a rack or basket, which make this bike ideal for running errands and shopping.

 What’s a bike if you can’t do a little personalizing?

The bike add-ons that make the most sense for College of Charleston students are baskets and helmets; as convenient as it is, please don’t be the person with a cup-holder on your handlebars. A simple removable wire basket will run you at the most $20, and will take you from the farmer’s market to being able to take the goods, basket and all, up three flights of stairs.

About half the women on campus have baskets, and hipsters of both sexes have either a back rack or crate, but so far I’ve been lonely riding into campus with my helmet. All jokes aside, a helmet can save your life; the importance of wearing one cannot be overstated. Now that the weather is cooling down, sweaty helmet hair isn’t an excuse either.

Don’t want to look like an egg-head? Companies like Bern, Specialized, and Bell make skate-style helmets that will have you arriving to class without totally sacrificing style. The Danish company Yakkay even specializes in making helmets that look like hats, if you really don’t want to wear one.

If you bike to campus, chances are you also bike to King Street for a night out**.Biking at night means cars can’t always see you. Lights that attach to the front handlebars and back of your seat letting you see and be seen. You can purchase lights at the Bicycle Shoppe on Meeting Street, most chain sporting goods stores and websites like Amazon. Light&Motion.com also has an awesome selection of small lights that attach to your helmet.

Lastly, You can’t enjoy biking if you don’t have a bike to enjoy. A bike that is not locked properly is a bike that is easy to steal. A good lock is essential, and many students use chain or cable locks that are easy to cut. Is having a little more flexibility with locking location worth the potential for theft? Your best bet is a U or O lock. As a general rule, 10 percent of the cost of the bicycle should be spent protecting it. It is also worth mentioning that if Public Safety sees an unlocked bike, it will be confiscated and sold at SGA’s annual Bike Auction. See the box for a little information on how to lock up your bike.


** Please note that operating anything while under the influence of alcohol makes you subject to a DUI should you get pulled over.




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Leah is a managing editor of CisternYard News. She is a senior, majoring in Communication.

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