Published: Aug. 25, 2022 By

bike tipsBiking is a great way to get around campus and Boulder, whether you’re looking to get some exercise or commute sustainably. Learning a little bike maintenance, knowing the rules of the road and being prepared can improve your bike ride.

Register your bike

Be sure to register your bike with the Environmental Center if you haven’t already. Bike registration is now through Bike Index, which allows police to track down your bike if it is stolen. If you registered your bike before the spring 2021 semester, you will need to register it again. It’s quick and easy to register online and then pick up your registration sticker from a campus bike station.

If you’re looking to learn how to ride a bike, visit the Environmental Center site to find out how! You can also rent a bike for a semester through the Environmental Center.

Know the rules of the road

As a cyclist, you have similar responsibilities to motorists on the road. Here are some tips and reminders:

  • Always stay on the right side of bike paths and bike lanes.

  • Pay attention to signage on bike paths and throughout campus for dismount zones where riding your bike is prohibited.

  • Pass on the left with care, and announce that you’re passing someone by saying “on your left” or using a bell. Make sure whatever you use is clearly audible.

  • Signal your turns, just as you do when driving a car. A left arm straight out signals a left turn, and a right arm straight out signals a right turn.

  • Ride sober: Colorado’s DUI statute includes bicycles under its definition of “vehicle,” so you can get a DUI for biking under the influence.

  • Lighten up: Boulder requires all cyclists riding between dawn and dusk to ride with a mounted front light and rear red reflector.

Wear a helmet

Wearing a helmet protects your head from serious injury and should be worn at all times while riding. Talk to the Environmental Center, your local bike shop or one of the CU Boulder bike stations to see if your helmet fits properly. You can also ask them about buying a helmet if you don’t already have one.

It’s also important to remember that bike helmets are only good for one impact. If you’ve been in an accident, be sure to replace your helmet as soon as possible. While you may not be able to see any visible damage, impacts can cause internal damage to the foam cushioning in most helmets. This leaves you more vulnerable if you take a digger in the future.

Pro tip: There is no such thing as a concussion-proof helmet. If you hit your head while biking, be sure to schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider to ensure you don’t have a concussion. Learn more about concussion care and symptoms from Medical Services.

Get more helmet maintenance and safety tips

Protect your bike from theft

Because 96% of bikes stolen on campus use a cable lock or no lock at all, it’s recommended you use a high quality U-lock to keep your bike safe. Make sure the lock goes through the frame of your bike, and not just the front wheel. Thieves can easily remove a front wheel and take the rest of your bike. If you don’t have a U-lock, pick up one for free when you trade in your cable lock at one of the bike stations during normal business hours.

Prepare for your bike ride

Regular bike maintenance is something you can do on your own, and it can help prevent expensive repairs or accidents. Before you ride, do the ABC Quick Check:

  • Air: If you can easily squeeze your tires, they need to be inflated. Check for the PSI printed on the side of the tire. They will lose air over time, even when just sitting around, so check them before each ride.

  • Brakes: Look at the brake pads and make sure they are aligned with the rim and do not rub the tire. Pull both brake levers and make sure you have at least a thumb-width of space between the brake lever and the handlebar. 

  • Chain: Pedal the bike backwards and listen for squeaking. If it’s noisy, it’s time to oil the chain. Drip bike-chain oil onto the chain and wipe off any excess oil to prevent it from attracting dirt.

  • Quick: If your bike has quick-release wheels (with a lever on the hub of your wheel), make sure they are closed properly. The lever should be tight enough to leave an imprint in your palm when you close it. Alternatively, if you don’t have quick-release, make sure your wheels are tightened. Most wheels take a 15 mm wrench.

  • Check: Check for anything loose or rubbing, especially around the brakes and gears. Gear and brake levers should be tight. Also, make sure your handlebars  and seat are tight and centered.

If you notice issues with these checks, have a bike mechanic check it out. If you’re in the Boulder area, you can visit our bike mechanics at the UMC and Folsom Bike Stations.

If you’re interested in learning even more about bike repair and maintenance: 

Have a backup plan

While we do our best to prepare for the unexpected, it’s good to have a backup plan in case you get a flat tire or get caught in the rain. If you’re near a public transit route, all RTD buses have bike racks and bikes are allowed on light rail trains. You could also use a ride share service or ask someone to pick you up. CU Boulder offers a guaranteed ride home to staff and faculty who commute by bike and have unexpected changes to their schedule.

If you’re planning to regularly bike a route where those aren’t options, consider learning basic bike maintenance skills and carrying a small repair kit to handle the little things that might come up.

Attend CU Bike Fest

Join fellow students at Farrand Field on Thursday, Sept. 1 from  2-6 p.m. for CU Bike Fest. Enjoy free food, games and giveaways while becoming part of the CU Boulder bike community. There will be a used bike sale!

The Rec Center is partnering with the Environmental Center for classes and clinics. Check out these events on the Rec Center’s website.

Sustainable Buffs is a series brought to you by the Environmental Center. Learn more sustainability tips and ways to get involved at