Two wheels are better than one

If you’re about to head off to uni, you’ll need to think about how you’ll get around when you’re there.

Whether it’s heading to a lecture, going to town or dropping in to see friends, two wheels – in the form of a classic pedal cycle, an electric bike (ebike) or a motorcycle or moped – could well be better than four when it comes from getting from A to B.

When you’re the type of student who is always on the go, commuting by bike can give you freedom, as well as helping you to avoid rush hour public transport. To help make your mind up, here’s a quick look at the options available…

Pedal power

As a fresher, you’ll probably have a whole new city to explore, and what better way to get about that a trusty bike? While public and university-provided transport should exist to some degree, it doesn’t hurt to have an extra travel option. Cycling is cheap, quick, convenient and great exercise without the need to shell out for a gym membership! Plus the complete lack of emissions that makes cycling the most eco-friendly option going.

Before you rush and out splash the cash on the new bike, however, you should make sure you have somewhere to store it. Most university and private halls of residence will provide dedicated parking space for bikes, but if these aren’t secure it may increase the risk of it being stolen. If you are renting privately, is there somewhere (such as a garden shed) where you could keep your bike, or will it end up being locked to some railings on the street? Either way, you’ll need to invest in a couple of decent locks, ideally one that’s a D-lock (also called U-locks) and one that’s a chain or cable, so a would-be thief has two different systems to tackle.

When buying a bike, there are some great deals to be had on sites like eBay and Gumtree, but make sure the seller has the appropriate documents and receipts to prove that they’re the rightful owner. Be wary of buying something that’s too cheap or too pricey – the former may prove to be a false economy (or hot property!) and the latter may just cause you additional worry every time you leave it locked up.

If money is tight, consider using a bike sharing service if there’s one in your universit city, and look out for ads from final-year students (especially those from overseas) who may be willing to sell their bike on for a good price.

Join the e-revolution

Electric bikes (ebikes) – regular bikes with the addition of a motor to assist you – are certainly gaining popularity in the UK. This is a hybrid form of transport, where part of the power comes from the rider and part from the motor, at least up to around 15.5mph, which is the current legal limit for electric assistance. Once you are pedalling beyond that speed, the motor will no longer kick in and it will be entirely up to you and your legs.

For the vast majority of today’s ebikes, the power is activated by pedalling instead of by throttle, so you’re still doing some exercise when you’re riding an ebike and it’s still a very green form of transport. Ebikes can fill the gap between journeys short enough for walking or pedal-powered cycling and longer trips where public transport or a car may be necessary. If you’re going to be mostly staying within your university city during term time, it could certainly be a viable alternative to a car. And as, legally, they’re in the same position as non-powered bikes, they offer all the advantages of cycling but without any of the red tape associated with motor power.

You can find out more about ebikes from this Which? guide.

Head out on the highway…

For students who need to travel longer distances or wish to return home frequently during term time, a motorbike or moped could be the answer. Compared with a car, a motorcycle is far cheaper to buy and to run.

A motorbike could significantly cut the journey time to that dreaded 9am lecture, and when you get there, it’s often easier to park a motorbike than finding a space for a car. Having a motorcycle or moped also gives you the freedom to get out into the countryside or explore neighbouring counties without the need for train or coach journeys. It can also be a lot of fun – simply put, there’s no feeling like the freedom of riding a motorbike on the open road.

Motorbikes provide many of the freedoms associated with cars, but with lower environmental costs. Generally speaking, they use less fuel than cars, and are more efficient around town as they aren’t slowed down by congestion in the same way as cars. And as technology progresses, electric motorcycles are starting to be real alternative to petrol bikes.

There are also health benefits linked to riding a motorcycle – not only can riding a bike help create healthier, stronger knees and thighs, it can also improve core strength, insulin sensitivity and increase calorie burning. Riding a motorbike can also benefit your mental health, especially as you will be exposed to the elements more than in a car, boosting your vitamin D exposure.

To ride on public roads on a motorcycle you first need to get a provisional licence and then complete compulsory basic training (CBT) to get a certificate. You must pass both parts of your practical test within two years of taking the theory test. If you do not, you’ll have to start the process again.

There are different categories of motorbike, and you’ll need to get the right entitlement on your licence and be old enough to do so. For example, you need to be 16 to ride a moped, 17 to ride a light motorcycle, 19 for a standard motorbike and at least 21 for an unrestricted bike. You can find out more from

When it comes to buying a motorbike or moped, it’s important you do your research and know what you’re looking for. This is especially true if you’re buying a second-hand machine, either through an online listing or from a dealer. This guide to 10 things to do before buying a used motorcycle offers some excellent advice for the first-time buyer.

You will need to get a helmet with protective eyewear or a face shield, and wear the appropriate protective gear. When you’re out of the road, following traffic rules and always riding defensively will help keep you and others out of danger. Whether you live in a village, town, or city, there will always be plenty of other vehicles and pedestrians on the roads, so being sensible about your actions is crucial when riding a motorcycle.

Once you’ve invested in your new pride and joy, may want to add your own personal touches to it. Companies like Number1Plates offer a wide range of customisation options for number plates in different styles for you to choose from to create a bespoke – and 100% road legal – plate for your bike.

A wise investment

As a student, keeping on top of your workload while maintaining a healthy social life can be difficult. Whether you go for pedal, electric or petrol power, having a form of two-wheeled transport will help you to get from A to B quicker, with the benefits of saving money, keeping fit and reducing your emissions thrown in for good measure.

Photo credit : Andrew Poplavsky/123RF

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