Beginners Guide to Biking at UCSB
by Lynnea Dally


Bicycling at UCSB is amazing. The terrain, the weather, the scenery  we have it all. While we can all handle pedaling without falling down, the nuances of actually riding a bike take a bit more work. There’s simply more to it, as you’ve probably already discovered your first few weeks around campus. So I’ve compiled a quick unofficial guide for inexperienced and experienced bikers alike.

The Basics

The first thing bicyclists have to realize is how to safely and courteously interact with other cyclists and cars. Follow Autobahn passing and cruising rules: always keep as far right as you can and only get over to the left for passing.

Slow and check before merging or passing and make sure you are not braking or stopping in front of anyone else. There’s nothing more dangerous to amateurs and professionals than another amateur cyclist.

Look out for and avoid pedestrians. Many lackadaisies are walking around on cellphones, listening to music, or simply not paying attention.

While bicycles technically have the right of way at UCSB, give skateboarders their due berth. Skateboards are much more difficult to steer or stop than bicycles, so be kind.

Avoid multitasking with activities such as texting, carrying things in your hands or anything else that might be a distraction around others. Realize that listening to music while biking not only acts as a distraction, but makes it more difficult to hear traffic clues from bikes, cars, skateboards and pedestrians.

Leave for classes a few minutes early to avoid the bike rush. When biking on streets, use hand signals to turn or go slowly through a crosswalk. Completely stopping at stop signs can often be inconvenient, so slow down and check for traffic before going through and be prepared to stop anyway.

Wear a helmet, especially if you will be around cars. (All you psychology majors have an interesting conformity case study on your hands when it comes to gaucho helmet-wearing habits.) When biking past parked cars, look out for people opening their doors.Â

To put your bike on the bus, grab the bus’s rack handle and pull it towards the rail with your hand to pull the whole rack down, (if its not down already). Grab your bike by the central frame with one hand, and the pivoting area of the handlebars with the other to get a good grasp of your bike and prevent the handlebars from clocking you in the face. Put the wheels into the farthest back rack possible. Then there’s a little hook that you pull out from the rack and swing up and above your tire that will help stabilize the bicycle. When you take off your bicycle, remember to return the rack to the upright position by pulling the handle towards the rail and pushing it back up. Know that some longer bikes, especially some beach cruisers, won’t fit on the buses.

Location, Location

Now, where to go to enjoy your newfound cycling abilities? There are a few immediately viable options.

The first is to go southbound from campus. Follow the UCSB bike path east, and it’ll drop you off to a trail that gets close to the 217 at UCSB’s main entrance. Ride down the hill and follow the “Obern Trail” along Goleta beach, through a small marsh (not towards the airport) and along a slightly wooded creek. If you follow it long enough, it’ll eventually thread through residential and horse ranches, hills and overpasses, and spit you out about where Hollister becomes State. The hill back up to UCSB is pretty killer, so plan accordingly for your return trip.

Unless you want to go on a four-hour plus bike ride, I recommend taking a bus for this next trip. Strap your bike onto the front of the 24x downtown. Get off at the transit center and go one street over to State. Ride State all the way down to the ocean and make a left onto the bike trail. You’ll be treated to a beautiful view of the ocean and bird sanctuary, and there are plenty of nice places to stop back downtown for a bite to eat.

In my opinion, one of the best places to bike to is to the grocery store. You ensure yourself regular exercise, save gas and the environment, and turn a mundane chore into an adventure.

I like to pack an empty backpack along with some reusable grocery bags. I can carry one on each arm and pack about two into my bicycle front basket as well as one or two in my backpack. I think the reusable bags from the Isla Vista Food Co-op work best because they’re cheap and designed to be slung over your shoulders instead of carried in your hands. Sure, you might not be able to carry as much as in a car, but you’re getting a workout and saving the planet.

There’s not too much to the north. You can bike around UCSB’s West Campus, which is most easily reached by going along Del Playa as far as it will go and farther. If you like the UCSB lagoon and want to see more like it, this is the jaunt for you. While there are beautiful beaches north of Santa Barbara, they are much farther and more difficult to reach via bicycle. You will have to go north along Hollister until you are basically forced onto the northbound freeway. Go along the freeway for many miles and you will hit the El Capitan State Beach, which has a trail to Refugio Beach after that.Â


If you don’t have a bike, but are looking into getting one, here are some suggestions. Try to find one on Craigslist, ULoop, a professional store in Santa Barbara, or even your hometown. I am slightly dubious of the bicycles sold in Isla Vista. They might not be of higher quality, and because of UCSB’s high bike theft rate, used bicycles are likely to be stolen property.

Look for a bike that will fit your needs. Do you want a transportation bike? A long-distance road bike? A cheap bike? A mountain bike? An occasional mountain bike? These are things to discuss with your bike salesperson. Also think about accessories: helmets, kick stands, baskets, side baskets, toe clips (allow you to pedal up as well as down), mud fenders, lights, water bottle holders, seat cushions and so on. Most or all of these things you don’t need, but might like to consider before you go in and get pressured to upgrade.

The most important accessory is your lock. You will definitely want a large U-lock (one without a circular key hole), and might also want an auxiliary wire lock that can snake through your easily-removable front tire, bike frame and bike stand. Look for a way to attach the U-lock to your bike while you’re riding (unless you have another way to carry it). Dangling a U-lock on your handlebars can throw you off balance.

Sunglasses and sunblock are things even amateur cyclists should be using. The glasses will protect your eyes from the sun as well as airborne bugs or debris. You should be fine if you go for rides using ordinary workout clothing such as shorts or sweats, a shirt and sneakers. You don’t need to buy serious bicycling clothing unless you’re looking for longer rides. Then you might need to look into padded bicycling shorts and padded bicycle gloves to protect your body from the constant pressure.

To sit properly on the bike, try sitting down on a hard surface. You should feel two bony pressure spots. These two spots should be take the grunt of your weight by res ting on the wide edge of the saddle.

Bikes benefit from occasional basic maintenance and repair. Every quarter or so, you should put air in your tires and spray WD-40 on your bike chain. This will make riding much easier for you; saggy tires and non-greased up chains will really drag you down. To spray your chain, flip your bike over, spray at the chain and turn the pedals with your hands so you get grease over every bit of chain.

WD-40 can also help with occasional bike squeaks. Free air and WD-40 are available at UCSB’s own Bike Shop, just west of the bus loop. Every year or so — when your bike chain starts to look dirty — you also might want to remove your chain, clean it and grease it. This will keep your chain in top condition and help prevent it from rusting. It’s not too much more work than washing a car, but it does require specific equipment. You might opt to have it done by a pro. If you’d rather do it yourself, remove the chain, soak it in a solvent or degreaser, and then scrub it with a hard brush. Use rags to remove the degreaser and repeat until the chain is clean. Make sure you’ve removed all the solvent before putting the chain back on the bike. Then grease it up with WD-40 or the lubricant of your choice.