My cycling experience in Oxford
Aishah Prastowo is an Indonesian student studying Dphil/PhD Engineering Science at the University of Oxford who has been selected to be a student journalist for the Education UK website. Here she describes how to save money by cycling.
Cycling is a great way to cut down your travel costs to and from university. Oxford is quite flat and I am living in a cycling distance from my lab, so I decided to cycle daily. In my hometown Yogyakarta, Indonesia, I used to ride an electric bike since the roads are not that flat, so cycling is not something new. However I found it more fun to cycle here as there are many other students who do so. Also, the weather is not as hot as back home which means less sweat!
Buying a second-hand bike
Since I would only be living in Oxford during my studies, I chose to get a second-hand bike to save on budget. A second-hand bike usually costs around half the price of a new one. I browsed on a local site where people can post ads for selling second hand stuff. Compared to going to a bike shop I found it easier to compare prices and ask questions to the previous owner about the bike by email. I got my first bike shortly after I first arrived in Oxford for £70. After I’d settled in, I decided to look more carefully for a better bike and sold the first one to a friend. I got a nearly-new bike for £130 and have been using this bike for more than a year now.
Bike hunting is a fun experience. When meeting the owner, you can always test ride the bike first. There is no need to feel pressured to buy the bike if it is not comfortable, or if some parts are not working properly. You can also ask about how old the bike is, whether it has been taken care of properly, and bargain if the price is too high. You can also negotiate for the bike to be sold with its accessories like the basket, lock, lights and helmet since buying them separately would mean additional cost and trip to a bike shop.
I got a rear top case box with my first bike which I found very practical as I can leave my helmet, lights and raincoat in there. I got a nice D-lock and front basket with my current bike. I am still not very good at buying lights though; I kept on buying cheap lights and broke them after few uses. I should have invested in better quality lights instead!
Tips on cycling as a student
1. There are plenty of bike shops around to help you maintain your bike condition. However if you want to save more, you could find some bike workshops run by volunteers, where you can lend some tools and repair your bike yourself with the help of experts for free or with a small fee. In Oxford, for example, there is a workshop running weekly at Wolfson College.
2. Invest in a good quality lock to prevent your bike from getting stolen. Also be extra careful when leaving your bike overnight or in public places like a train station. I avoid doing it if I have more secure options, and when I don’t, I always put a second lock just in case.
3. For a budget-friendly and healthy weekend, you can find a lot of cycling routes near you in the internet. It can be a great chance to explore the beauty of UK countryside!
4. If you only cycle occasionally or you feel like cycling while visiting another city, you might want to consider renting a bike. Many bike shops also rent out bikes. Some websites offer an easy way to hire a bike where you can pick up at your nearest dock or there are also peer-to-peer bike hiring schemes available.