Tufts’ Bike Culture Attracts Commuters, Enthusiasts, Mechanics and Athletes – The Tufts Daily

Bikes and American college campuses seem to be tangled with each other. The bicycle is a special mode of transport that emphasizes sustainability. At Tufts, it’s the same thing, with the addition of a burgeoning culture of adventure, craftsmanship and sport.

Bike transportation is a relatively easy feat at Tufts if students take advantage of the resources available to them. Tufts Bikes offers and maintains a free bike share program, used bikes are affordable on resale websites, and Bluebikes is a reasonably accessible municipal service.

Once obtained, the bikes can be used for various excursions – grocery shopping, trips to surrounding towns or leisurely rides in The Fells. Members of the Tufts cycling team went even further with their bikes, going for coffee in Concord and competing all over New England.

Aidan McCreary, president of Tufts Bikes, explained the steps Tufts students must follow to gain access to a bike.

“I think the most accessible thing would be [to] check out Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist, or BuyNothing,” McCreary said. “It’s probably going to be a little rough around the edges, you [might] I have to fix some things, but I would steer people towards older, simpler bikes because they break less. And if it’s right [for] commuting, old bikes work just fine.

McCreary also offered another solution: the bike share program run by Tufts Bikes. This service operates through the Tisch Library reception and has a rental process similar to any other product available for loan.

Bluebikes, a public subscription bike-sharing system serving the Greater Boston area, is another option available near campus. Members of the Tufts community can sign up for an annual subscription at $67.50/year and can borrow bikes from stations found on the app. The closest stations to the Medford/Somerville campus are on Packard Avenue and Powder House Boulevard.

While there are several ways to get a bike, Tufts’ hilly terrain doesn’t necessarily make it a very bike-friendly campus. Therefore, it may be necessary to look beyond the hill for excursions.

McCreary noted that some Tufts students will cycle to Cambridge, as the path to get there is relatively flat. In Cambridge, there are many businesses to explore, as well as trails along the Charles River. More scenic options in the area include Middlesex Fells Reserve and Mystic River Reserve, which have tree-lined paths and streams.

McCreary has demonstrated that it is also possible to race on a bicycle, although this may involve some problem solving.

“I think you can definitely [run errands] on a bike. There’s a learning curve, … learning what’s the best way to carry things. Is it a backpack? Is it a crate on the back of your bike? said McCreary.

Through his experiences while running errands and traveling by bicycle, McCreary found both positive and negative quirks of the greater Boston area’s infrastructure.

McCreary noted that the presence of bike lanes in the Somerville/Cambridge area is well appreciated by cyclists like himself. These lanes allow freer passage for bikers, but McCreary still described how bikes compete with cars.

“I think the biggest hurdle is just feeling comfortable in traffic. … That’s where having a dedicated cycle lane would be helpful, because then you don’t have to negotiate with the traffic,” McCreary said.

The dedicated bike lane mentioned by McCreary is something that could be improved in the area, as he has found that there is a constant trade-off between utility (bike lanes that take you to the shops) and fun (serene, no-nonsense rides). crowd).

Poorly maintained roads can also cause bicycles to deteriorate. Tufts Bikes not only provides college-wide bike sharing, but also hosts mechanic hours to provide free bike repairs.

These mechanics hours are held for two hours each Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 28 Sawyer Avenue, and feature a quorum of passionate student-mechanics. These artists are ready to fix problems big and small and teach customers how to fix bikes themselves. McCreary said many of his fellow mechanics are avid cyclists, which allows them to develop an understanding of a bike’s engineering over time and experience.

McCreary joined Tufts Bikes at the encouragement of her sister.

“The summer before my freshman year, my sister decided to bike across Massachusetts,” McCreary said. “I followed her in a car and tried to fix everything that had broken on her bike. And then she said a lot of colleges will have a bike club or a bike mechanics club and I should be a part of it. So as a freshman, literally weeks later, I signed up for Tufts Bikes, and I really enjoyed it.

Tuft Bikes headquarters on Sawyer Avenue keeps a regular inventory of common parts – brake pads, chains and spokes. McCreary said some parts are in higher demand, particularly tubes and repair kits, both of which are used to repair tires.

McCreary also gave some tips for caring for his bike.

“The best thing to do is keep it indoors, or at least cover it when you’re not using it,…especially because the winters here have so much salt and…runoff that will rust your chain very quickly. “, said McCreary. “The other [tip] only replaces the rubber components. Above all [on] older bikes, the rubber dries out and cracks pretty quickly, or it dries out when you get it. … Replacing these components will make the bike much safer and much more fun to ride.

A bike’s age largely dictates its manageability, McCreary noted. Older bikes are easier to repair as they require metal rather than plastic, the latter being more fragile. The prices of old bikes, as mentioned earlier, are much lower than those of new bikes.

Alex Bobroff, captain of the Tufts cycling team, broke down the differences in the costs of new bikes.

“An entry-level road bike will cost $1,000 to $2,000, a good road bike will cost $3,000 to $6,000, and the top end will be around $15,000,” Bobroff said. “The cheapest [are] usually going to be aluminum [and] heavy. Also, the components, like the shifting…it’s not going to be that crisp. Once you start going up you get into carbon fiber frames, carbon fiber wheels, aero frames. …and once at the top level, it is designed by F1 engineers. It’s wireless, [with] electronic gear change.

Bobroff noted that he and other team members have worked at bike shops before — a major opportunity for discounts. Bobroff, in fact, was entitled to a 60% discount on bicycles while he was an employee.

Bobroff is part of a fleet that forms the Tufts Cycling Team: the collective of competitive, race-focused cyclists on campus. Most team members ride at least six hours a week, and some more upscale will spend sixteen to eighteen hours a week on the bike. The team also strives to include people of different skill levels, scheduling quiet walks in cafes, for example.

Outside of those rides, Bobroff described how the team strives to practice racing skills.

“In the fall, we do a lot of vocational training. A lot of people don’t realize it, but the sport, cycle racing, is very different from just riding a bike,” he said. “An analogy I like to make is to think that [since] you know how to ride a bike and [assuming] that means you would be good at racing is like thinking you are fast at racing and [therefore] you would be good at football. Because cycling is very skill and strategy oriented.

As the competition season approaches, the races become more intense. Practices are divided into two varieties: skills and group rides.

Skill practices are designed to instill running skills, such as sprinting. Bobroff explained that practicing sprinting skills trains the Tufts cycling team to practice the form required to achieve high speed in the last ten seconds of the race.

Bobroff also described group walks — practices aimed at training the legs by covering greater distances. These sixty to eighty mile trips do not include a coffee stop and are meant to maintain a good pace – around sixteen to seventeen miles per hour on average.

As winter approaches and the temperature drops, the cycling team is passionate enough to continue preparing for the upcoming season in the spring, according to Bobroff.

“[When it’s cold]we do inside [training] …many of us try to just roll [outside] during the winter… my threshold is… below 30 degrees… but if it’s like 32 to 33 [degrees]we will,” Bobroff said.

Bobroff noted that for the past three years, abnormal temperatures allowed him to resume training outdoors as early as the first week of February — a crucial time to prepare for the competitive season which begins in March.

In addition to collegiate-level competitions, the Tufts cycling team competes in general United States cycling competitions. Last year, representatives of the Tufts cycling team raced in the third of four tiers (Category C), with the exception of Bobroff, who raced in the second tier (Category B).

“[USAC competitions] are … on a higher level. But bike racing is an extremely experience and skill-based sport, so any experience is possible, even if it means, for example, that you [drop behind] the group where you’re doing badly, it’s always [an] important experience,” Bobroff said.

Ann Ward, education and outreach program administrator at the Tufts Office of Sustainability, said the office champions cycling as a sustainable activity and seeks to promote it at Tufts.

“The OOS supports and educates others about sustainable transportation, including cycling, on our campuses,” Ward wrote in an email to The Daily. “We’re partnering with BlueBikes on a discount program for Tufts Community members and sharing information about the Tufts Bikes student-run bike repair and share station. We maintain the Tufts EcoMap, which allows students to quickly find these and other cycling resources on our campuses. There is also a page on our website dedicated to accommodating all the ways students and employees can access and use these cycling resources.

Ward explained that the OOS had to pivot to make its sustainability initiatives compatible with COVID-19.

“In terms of bicycling specifically, the pandemic has made it urgent to partner with BlueBikes to provide a safe and sustainable, low-cost transportation option to the Tufts community,” Ward wrote.

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