not included  
with bike
Local experts offer advice on getting the most out of the biking craze


While many UF students ride cruising bikes to get from class to class, some seek the versatility and comfort mountain bikes offer. Riding around campus, to the grocery store or on the rocky paths of Gainesville, students can do almost anything and go almost anywhere on a mountain bike.

Mountain biking history
Mountain biking began in the mid-1970s when bike racer Gary Fisher and his friends started riding beach cruisers in the California mountains, says Mike Gann, manager of The Bike Route on 34th Street. So it’s only recently that mountain biking has developed a following.

“Fisher is credited for starting mountain biking back in ’77, but it has only been mainstream for 12 years,” Gann says.

What’s the difference?
There are two basic differences between today’s mountain bikes and cruisers: intended use and number of gears, says Robin Sansom, manager of Spin Cycle.

“A mountain bike should be used on mountains or difficult terrain, while a cruiser should be used to get people around town,” Sansom says. “You wouldn’t take a cruiser onto off-road, woody terrain because that’s not what they are intended to do. As for the gears, cruisers are typically 1 to 3 speeds [while mountain bikes have 15 speeds].

”It matters where you buy your bike. In general, college students don’t have $500 or $600 to purchase a bike to get around campus, so they purchase a bike at a retail or department store for about $150. But beware of forking over the cash. The large retail and department store bikes may not be all they appear.

Sansom says, unlike bike stores, retail chains and department stores don’t have to worry about product liability. If something goes wrong, the customer will take the bike to a professional repair shop.

“Bikes bought in a shop are better made because they do have to stand up to product liability,” Sansom says. “We can build bikes to suit each customer. We will see them again and again.”

Why are mountain bikes so expensive?
Front and back suspension, as well as the weight of the bike, add to the expense.

Front and back suspension adds comfort to the biker’s back when riding over rough terrain. The bike, not the body, takes the brunt of the rugged terrain. The ease of ride, while extremely important, pushes up the price.

But for the most part, the type of  frame makes the biggest difference in cost because it determines the bike’s weight. As Sansom says, “you pay more for less.”

Cro-moly (chromium molybdenum) is a common type of steel used to make frames. A cro-moly bike can start around $100 to $150 and has been the preferred bike of choice for students. With its reflexing frame, the cro-moly offers a more comfortable ride at a lower price. Speaking of price, Gann says the average price for a bike is $300.

What to shop for  when buying a bike
Jared Harris, manager at Streit’s Schwinn Cyclery, says the four most important questions to ask yourself when buying a bike are:

• What size is right for me?
• What type of frame and components do I want?
• How will I use the bike?
• What color do I want?

Believe it or not, color is one of the most important factors in buying a bike. Sansom offers an easy explanation: “People just want to look cool.”

Harris says the most common color asked for is black, a conventional color. Not every model bike comes in every color.

“Some mountain bikes that are designed for women only come in blue and purple, while the men’s bikes come in blue and red. Not a lot of choice,” he adds.

Gainesville’s hidden bike trails
While many of the bike trails in the area are on private property, a few are open to the public.The Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail is a multi-purpose, 16-mile, 10-foot tar-paved road that connects Gainesville and Hawthorne.

It starts at Boulware Springs off Southeast 15th Street in Gainesville and runs adjacent to Paynes Prairie State Preserve.

The most highly recommended trail by Gann, Harris and Sansom is Bellview Park in Ocala (also known as the Barge Canal by avid bikers). It’s a city-maintained mountain bike park with four trails, each color-coded based on degree of difficulty.

“It’s great to go out during the week when it’s quiet and not crowded,” Gann says. “On the weekends, the park is packed.”

If you decide to ride on private trails, be sure to obtain permission from the owner first.

Because mountain bikes are becoming more affordable and versatile, more and more students are turning to the mountain bike to get around town and campus and explore the hidden areas of Gainesville.

And of course the trail always beckons. So, shop wisely, be comfortable and enjoy the ride.
Tips for trail riding
  • Use trails that are open during daylight  hours.
  • Stay on the trail. 
  • Don’t create new trails or take shortcuts.
  • When passing pedestrians, follow four steps:
1) Give an audible warning.
2) Pass on the left of the pedestrian.
3) Be courteous.
4) Follow the markings on the   trail route.
  • Don’t frighten the animals. A scared animal can be dangerous to a trail biker.
  • Plan ahead. Bring first-aid kits and repair tools.
  • Always carry water.
  • Try to ride with a friend.
  • Don’t remove plants and animals from their environment.
Marcie Stenmark
Bicycle-Pedestrian Coordinator Traffic Engineering Department
City of Gainesville
Did you know?  
  • In Florida, a bicycle is considered a vehicle and must follow vehicle rules.
  • When riding on sidewalks, bicyclists must yield right-of-way to pedestrians.
  • When riding a bike, the bicyclist can be fined $39 for wearing a headset.
  • Eighty percent of all biking deaths occur at night, due to lack of proper bike lighting.
  • Starting January 1, 1998, children under 16 will be fined for not wearing helmets while riding.
  • Violating UF’s bike-parking rules, such as parking on the sidewalk, can land the biker a $5 ticket.
  • UF offers the Bicycle Traffic Safety School for bikers who receive citations or anyone interested in learning more about bike safety.
  • The most frequently broken bike laws on campus are: riding on the wrong side of the road and running stop signs and red lights. Both carry fines.

Lt. Nick Vellis
Community Services                       University Police Department 


Return to Table of Contents