My second summer in Rochester has certainly been one for the books. I tried new local cuisine, explored more of western New York, made new friends, and had a job that I absolutely loved. But what really set this summer apart from last year was that I spent so much of it on a bike.
As soon as I found out that I’d be spending my summer in Rochester I decided that I wanted to buy a bike. I’d always enjoyed having one back home and not purchasing one last summer was something I really regretted in hindsight. So on a Saturday in early June I headed to R Community Bikes.
I’d heard a lot of really great things about this particular bike shop, a grassroots nonprofit staffed completely by volunteers. RCB collects and repairs used bikes that they then distribute to community youth and adults, most of whom rely on biking as their main form of transportation. In addition to distributing bikes free of charge, RCB also does free repairs at various locations around the city and sells a number of higher-quality bikes to pay the bills. I was more than happy to support such an awesome organization with my business.
When I arrived at the shop, a man greeted me and the first thing he said was, “I’ve got your bike right here,” gesturing to the bike he was currently working on. “It just came in and it’s perfect for you.” I was a little confused at first, thinking maybe he had mistaken me for someone he’d spoken to on the phone. But he soon explained that based on my height and the kind of riding I’d be doing (he guessed correctly that I was a college student who wanted a bike to get around the city and ride on the local trails), the particular bike he was working on just so happened to be the best bike for me in the shop. And after a brief glance through their selection and a test ride up and down the street, I conceded.
Exploration made easy
In exchange for $140 in cash, I not only got a hybrid bike in wonderful condition, but a mode of transportation faster and immensely more freeing than my previous primary forms of travel (the bus and my feet). Truly, I had no idea just how much I was missing before I bought a bike. In these past two-and-a-half months, I’ve traveled miles in every direction on my bike. I’ve used it to get to work meetings and festivals; I’ve taken it on the canal trail into the suburbs; I’ve ridden it on the Riverway Trail through downtown and up to Seneca Park; and I’ve even gone on group rides with my friends. Discovering Rochester in this way has really been the highlight of my summer. I’ve had countless adventures that wouldn’t have been possible without it. It’s also been a wonderful form of stress relief I plan to take advantage of well into the semester.
While Rochester might not be the most bike-friendly city in the world, it’s getting there and all the local trails (including the WALL/THERAPY-adorned El Camino trail) are really a unique treasure.
In July, I got a flat tire. After having a friend who’s big on bikes look at it, I learned that I needed the tube replaced. Rochester has a variety of bike shops, all with their own specialties, but after doing some research and asking around, I decided to take it to Freewheelers on Mt. Hope, just down the road from the River Campus. The owner is very nice and had my bike fixed the very next day.
While I was living on the freshman quad this summer, I kept my bike locked up on one of the nearby bike racks. This year, I’m lucky enough to be living in Brooks Crossing, an off-campus dorm on the opposite side of the river that has an indoor bike storage room. But even if I weren’t living the luxurious Brooks life, my bike would be safe in the winter thanks to the free winter bike storage the University provides.
Biking for all
This summer may have been the first time I’ve owned a bike in Rochester, but it wasn’t the first time I’d ridden one locally. The University has a free bike-lending program called City Cycles that allows students to borrow bikes for up to 24 hours. During my first three years here, I used City Cycles bikes for the occasional biking adventure with friends. While the bikes might not be as comfortable or as high-quality as my new bike, they definitely get the job done and are a great resource for students who don’t have a bike of their own.