Road signs for bicycles showing directions to different parts of Turku.

On your bikes, students! There’s lots to see here in Turku

Welcome to Turku – the student city that it much more accessible on a bike than by a bus. This is the reason why many people rely on their bicycles to get to places they need to get to; and this is the same reason why in this blog post I will be actively selling you the idea of getting your own bicycle. At moments it will seem like I am forcing the idea down your throat, but trust me, I know what I am talking about when it comes to cycling in Turku… Or do I? Anyhow, BICYCLES… Let’s GO!

Why get a bicycle?

The city is compact like a match box, and everything is close to everything. That being said, you probably live in the student village which is about one kilometre away from any university building; and based on my absolutely strong experience on things, this usually translates to 15 minutes of relaxed cycling. See? I am saving you time here; because compared to taking the buses to school, you would be arriving right at your destination aaaall relaaaaxed (that’s a lie), not at aaaall sweaty (that’s another lie), and on time of course (that’s debatable).

Figure 1. See? These buses are standing in one place and not going anywhere.

Another reason is that you and I are students of a research university. We are the kind of people who do tons of research about the benefits of exercise, but never do any. I am eyeballing you, hard science students! For this, cycling to school would be a good way of squeezing in a few minutes of physical exercise everyday… except on weekends of course when you do not have school and rules of self-discipline and keeping in shape do not apply.

Finally, almost everyone rides bicycles in this city, and riding one yourself is one way to get you blending in with the crowd in no time. But in order to do this well enough, you need to first get familiar with the rules of cycling in Finland – something which I will be discussing somewhere below.

Where to get a bi-wheel-y? Asking for a friend

First things first, go secondhand! For some reason, most bicycles on the secondhand market are of really good quality. I am not at all complaining here; in fact, this if anything is an ideal situation where many students buy brand new bicycles then decide the cycling life is just not for them and end up selling their new bikes. This is where places like Facebook market place, the website, and Turku’s most famous secondhand shop Ekotori come in handy. This is where you, a newcomer, would find many people selling their barely used bikes.

While both Facebook market place and naturally exist online, Ekotori requires the extra effort of physically going to the shop yourself as they have no online shopping platform. How daunting, right? Get yourself a decent website, Ekotori!!!

But then, Facebook market place and are not all roses. There are scammers, thieves, and all kinds of bad people your mother warned you against playing with because stranger danger, which is why you should make sure of a few things when buying anything from Facebook market place or

  • Firstly, buy from sellers within Turku.
  • Secondly, meet the seller in broad daylight, hopefully somewhere public.
  • Thirdly, pay in cash.

And those were three tips for everyone’s safety, and three tips all mothers, including my mother, approve of. Love you, mum!

What to look for when buying a pair of secondhand wheels?

Save your conversation with the seller

First, a practical tip for making the purchase itself. Always make sure to save your conversations with the person you are buying the bicycle from, especially if you decide to buy a bicycle off of Facebook. This is because you need a proof of purchase, otherwise anyone can claim you stole their bike and did not buy it with your hard-earned money. Then, again, meet somewhere public, and in broad daylight! Now that we addressed the elephant in the room, which is being careful with people who might pose stranger danger to you instead of thinking too nicely of every stranger you meet and being fooled then crying afterwards; now we can talk about bicycles themselves. I wonder if bicycles have ‘selves’ though! Brilliant, Mostafa. BRI…LLI…ANT!

Take it for a test ride

When buying a secondhand bicycle, ask that you take it for a ride. This does not have to be a long ride, rather a short one to give you feel of the bike and whether you can spend the next two years of your degree studies riding it to school. While you are taking it for a test ride, right in front of the owner of course, be mindful of whether the bike leans to either side on its own.

You can also try lifting both your hands off the handlebar – if you can, because we do not want any accidents – and see whether you can balance yourself well on the bicycle without it leaning in either direction. If it leans, this means the bike frame is probably not aligned, which can be the result of a strong hit or fall. If you think this will not cause you problems when riding the bike, this can still be a strong bargaining point and you can use it to bring down the price of an already discounted bicycle. However, be honest and do not lie about this. The world is already full of bad people and you should not be one of them.

Check the spokes’ tension

Now that you think the bike frame is alright, it is time to check the spokes’ tension. These are the many stiff wires connecting the wheel rim to the hub. The spokes should be quite tight, and not at all loose. While you are doing this, take a look at the tyres and check if they have any tears on them. Check wheel bearings and front fork bearings, which are the small metal balls that keep your wheels, handlebar, and front fork from being wobbly. You can test this by rocking the handlebar up and down, and the wheels right and left. A good rule of thumb is that bad bearings, or bad spokes are usually bad deals which will cost you a fortune in repairs and will not be worth your money.

What’s the first thing to do after buying a bike?

You take a good, clear photo of it. Hopefully of you standing by it… And maybe a photo with the person you bought it from, and their pet tortoise… And the pine tree in front of their house… And their family. Maybe not the last four. But hey, you need a picture in case your bike gets stolen, and this will probably be it.

What gear to buy before taking your bicycle for a ride?

Let’s count!

  1. Rechargeable headlight. That is usually around 20 euros. Trust me, compared to the battery-operated ones, this will pay for itself.
  2. Red rear lights.
  3. A bell.
  4. A chain bike lock. Usually around 12 euros for a sturdy one.
  5. A pump for emergency situations (optional).
  6. A small repair kit (a wrench and a pack of Allen keys) (optional).

And now you are ready for your first ride!

Rules for rolling on two wheels

Cycling rules in Turku are quite simple and straightforward, if not intuitive. You do not ride your bicycle drunk, it is illegal; you ride on the right hand side of the cycling track always, and you give signal when making a turn to the right like this…

A person on a bicycle extending their right hand to show they are going to turn right.
Figure 2. Picture of a good student giving signal before making a turn.

And the same when making a turn to the left like this. See! Life is easy.

A mirrored picture of a person on a bicycle extending their right hand to show they are going to turn right.
Figure 3. Mirrored figure 2 because no one has the time.

At road crossings, you give way to pedestrians. If you are on a cycle track and cars turn to your side, crossing your way, they give way to you. You park your bike in places where there are bicycle racks, or markings similar to the one below.

Figure 4. A fossilised bicycle from the umpteenth ice age.

And a final thing, when there are no cycling tracks, you literally are a car. You ride on the right said of the main road, and you behave yourself like a well-mannered car would.

Figure 5. Blue, magic teleport buttons for cycling in Turku.

Where to go?

Why are you asking me? Cycle to school. School is important. School is nice. But also go to the supermarket for groceries and buy more than you or your bicycle can carry. Mark my words, this will happen to you (see figure 6). But also follow these signs (figure 5). They are magic, and they take you places. Go to Ruissalo by bike for a quick breezer, that will take you about an hour to get there and another hour to get back home. Well, get creative.
But do not come to me for advice. I am horrible at it; but also, go away, stranger danger! Good bye!

A picture of a bicycle with a plastic bag full with groceries in a bicycle basket and a plastic bag full with groceries on a handlebar.
Figure 6. Picture evidence of a student buying more groceries than they or their bike could carry.

Not ready for your own bike yet? Learn how you can use a wide net of rental city bikes.

If you are more interested in learning how to use Turku buses, read Esther’s post.

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