WORKOUT WEDNESDAY: The Five Most Important Biking Accessories (On and Off-Campus)

This blog post is written by Emily Wheeler and is published as part of our exchange with Tar Heel Tone-Up.


1. Helmet

Not everyone wears a helmet on campus, but we all really should, especially if you bike alongside road traffic. Having a helmet that fits properly and snugly to your head can be the difference between a crash that leaves you with a few scuffs and bruises and a crash that leaves you in the hospital for weeks. Sure, helmets aren’t the most fashionable accessories to wear around, but they aren’t made to be a fashion statement, they’re meant to protect your very valuable head. Most helmets consist of a hard plastic shell covering a stiff foam that is made to absorb the crunch of impact instead of letting your skull take the blow. You can learn more about how to properly fit a helmet and the different types of biking helmets available here. I assure you that concussions and other head injuries will cost you a lot more than a good helmet.

it's just like riding a bike

Image by Bill Selak of Flickr Creative Commons

2. Closed-Toed Shoes

Let me tell you a story: one day, my mom and I were at home and my sister was at a friend’s house down the road. We get a call from the friend’s mom saying that Jenny (my sister) had a bicycle accident and that we needed to come right away because she needed to go to the hospital. I was expecting a concussion or a broken arm, but as it turns out, she and her friend were biking around the neighborhood wearing flip-flops, and as they were speeding downhill, her foot slipped off of the pedal and it spun up behind her foot, ripping a big gash into the back of her heel. A few hours and at least ten stitches later, we were all just thankful that her Achilles tendon wasn’t damaged. The moral of the story is to wear shoes that are appropriate for an athletic activity, such as biking, which usually implies shoes that will stay snugly on your feet and cover both your heel and toes. Several long-needled numbing shots into an open wound were enough to convince all of us (but especially Jenny) that flip-flops should never be worn while biking.

3. Pants Leg Clips

Have you ever noticed that many bikers commute with one pants leg rolled up? Many people use biking as a form of transportation more than purely for exercise, which means that they often ride their bikes wearing clothes that they will be wearing for the rest of the day at school or work. Pants legs can be loose and floppy at the bottom, which puts them in danger of getting caught in the chain (causing you to crash, rip your pants, or both) or simply getting a nice black grease stain on them as you ride. Rolling up the pants leg on the chain side can help prevent this problem, but can leave you with freezing cold ankles during the winter or one oddly wrinkly pants leg for the rest of the day at work. Instead, many regular bikers choose to wear pants leg clips to quickly keep their pants held closer to their ankles and safely out of the way of the chain. You can find flexible metal clips or these reflective bands for extra safety at night!

4. Hand signal knowledge and lights!

As a biker on the road, you need to realize that you are considered a vehicle and must follow all of the same traffic rules as the cars, trucks and SUVs on the road with you. Make sure to have lights on your bike when riding anytime near or after sunset: typically a flashing red light at the back of the bike and a white light in the front. It’s also important for your own safety to make sure that other drivers know when you are turning and stopping to prevent devastating crashes. Make sure you know the three main bicycle hand signals, and remember that you typically do all of them with your left hand:

  • Left turn: Left arm extended fully to the side, parallel to the ground.
  • Right turn: Left arm bent at the elbow in a 90º angle with fingertips up toward the sky
  • Slowing or stopping; Left arm bent at the elbow in a 90º angle with fingertips toward the ground

5. Bike Lock

The sad truth about the fact that bikes are nice and often have expensive parts is that they are often a target of theft, especially in a campus-like setting where there are bikes galore all day, every day. Protect your bike by buying a sturdy chain lock or U-lock that is long enough to go through at least one wheel (preferably both), as well as the frame of the bike and the rack to which you are locking the bike. Bike thieves know that most people lock up the frame of their bike, but the wheels and tires are also valuable and can usually be quickly removed from the frame. Prevent this problem with an appropriate lock that can also lock up the wheels as well as the frame, and if you can’t carry your helmet around with you, you can always lock your helmet to your bike as well.

As an added measure of safety, if you ride your bike on campus you should consider registering it with UNC DPS to get a free bike permit, a coupon for 50% off a bike lock, and the serial number of the bike engraved into the frame.

Bonus: Mini bike pump and extra tire tube

You can buy surprisingly tiny bike pumps that will easily fit into your backpack in case you ever have an unexpectedly flat tire! If you’re really dedicated and you rely heavily on your bike to get you from place to place, you should also consider carrying a spare tire tube and patch kit in case of a completely blown tire in a rushed or emergency situation! Learn the simple process of changing a bike tire here.

With these key biking accessories, you’ll be prepared to use your bike to commute quickly and safely without fear of greasy pants legs or flat tires ruining your otherwise lovely day. And if you’re not an outdoor biker in need of various important biking accessories, you can walk on over to the SRC or Ram’s to bike indoors with Campus Recreation to kick-start your fantastic Labor Day weekend! Happy Friday!

Spring is Here! Get Outside and Visit Some Farms

The last two winters here in Chapel Hill have been a little rough for all you non-winter, non-cold weather people. But fear not, spring is here (no really I swear)!

Photo: "Blossom Time, Fuquay-Varina" by Universal Pops, flickr creative commons
Photo: “Blossom Time, Fuquay-Varina” by Universal Pops, flickr creative commons

The Azaleas, Dogwoods, and fruit trees are beginning to bloom and the forests are taking on a faint green hue as buds begin to turn to leaves. I love this time of year, and if the trees and bushes are awakening and growing, you know what else is…? Vegetables!

Though Orange County may be best known for Chapel Hill and UNC, farming is a large part of the culture and economy. It has over 604 farms and almost one quarter of the land is agricultural. Crops grown in Orange County include: corn, soybeans, tobacco, and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. It also has a number of dairy farms and farms that produce beef, pork, chicken, and other types of meat.

So, how does this apply to me or health, you might ask? Great question. Many people believe that eating local is good for your health as well as the environment, and this month Student Wellness is focusing on environmental wellness. The major benefit to the environment is that if you eat local, your food has to travel a much shorter distance from field to plate, which means a lot less fossil fuels burned in the process. Did you know that the average distance food travels is over 1800 miles!

Photo: "Baby Cows!" by Jason Adams, flickr creative commons
Photo: “Baby Cows!” by Jason Adams, flickr creative commons

One of the main reasons I am bringing all this up is that the Annual Piedmont Farm Tour is happening at the end of April (April 25th and 26th), and if you want to take improving your health and the environment one step further, you could ride your bike to one of these farms—Transplanting Traditions Community Farm and Chapel Hill Creamery are both less than seven miles from Chapel Hill.

But even if you don’t do the farm tour, you should try and get out on a bicycle in Orange County. What better way to get exercise than rolling past one picturesque farm after another, with the sun shining and a gentle breeze keeping you cool?

So before you leave Chapel Hill for the summer, visit a farm, go to the farmers market, or ride your bike to Maple View Farm to get some ice cream. You will be helping yourself, getting to know the people who produce your food, and helping the environment all at the same time.

“Eyes on the Street”: Why Be Active In Your Community?

There are plenty of personal reasons to walk, jog, bike or otherwise actively get around: it increases one’s own ability to get exercise, it’s cheap (or free!), and can have positive mental health outcomes like lowering stress and anxiety. But, actively getting around has greater altruistic benefits as well. Many of these are centered around the “eyes on the street” principle from sociologist Jane Jacobs:

“This is something everyone knows: a well-used city street is apt to be a safe street. A deserted city street is apt to be unsafe.”

The idea here is that the more eyes you have on a given street, the greater sense of community ownership and safety. The spirit of “eyes on the street” is not so much about watching what’s around us, but rather seeing and taking a part in what is around us, and thus, shaping the community. Here are the “eyes on the street” benefits of actively getting around campus and community by walking, biking, jogging, etc.:


"Just Walking"; Beverly Goodwin; Flickr Creative Commons
“Just Walking”; Beverly Goodwin; Flickr Creative Commons

Getting to know community and community members

It sounds like a no-brainer, but actively getting around campus and the community allows us to get better acquainted with neighbors and those around us. When we choose to walk or bike versus drive, we have the ability to interact with those around us by smiling, waving, taking a minute to talk, etc. In a local example: in the Chapel Hill community, these kinds of connections with surroundings and neighbors can help bridge the UNC campus to the greater Chapel Hill community.


Neighborhood health and safety benefits

Actively getting around a community also means actively taking part in it. That means acknowledging what we appreciate about a neighborhood, and, importantly, it also means spotting things that seem like they need attention—from a large crack in the sidewalk, to a stray dog, to a jogger who has fallen. This can lead to benefits in crime-reduction and generally making things safer.


Increases community norms around activity

Actively getting around campus and community is contagious. The more people you see walking around, the more likely you might be to walk around yourself! In this way, being an active commuter is a way of changing social norms around activity.



 These are just some of the community-wide benefits of actively getting around a community. Though we’ve focused on the benefits of actively getting around, it’s important to be safe while doing so. For more information on pedestrian and cyclist safety check out links at the UNC Department of Public Safety, and the Town of Chapel Hill.

Conquering the Sidewalk: 3 Ways to Get Moving this Summer


The bicycle, or bike, is a tried-and-true way to become active and cover some serious distance. According to, there are more than a billion bikes worldwide – that’s twice the number of automobiles. The country with the most number of bikes is China, followed by the United States.

Riding a bike is a highly effective exercise. Not only does it increase your heart rate and provide a cardiovascular workout, biking also works many muscles in the body. Many people think that biking just works out your legs; this simply isn’t true. Hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, and calves are the primary muscles worked, but the upper body also must perform. If you maintain an upright posture, with abs held tight, the muscles in your arms, shoulders, upper back, and abdominals will also get toned while you ride.

Ready to bike your way to health and happiness? The cost of a bike ranges from $80 into the thousands. If you live in a large city or are traveling, consider renting a bike to get from place to place. Remember to wear a helmet and follow the rules of the road!


Roller Skates

Roller skating is much newer than biking. It wasn’t until the late 20th century that technological innovations made outdoor “rollerblading” possible. The early roller skate designs are almost laughable compared to the sleek designs of today (see photo below).


1910 – A Swedish man sporting Edvard Petrini’s “pedaled roller skates” (Public Domain)

According to, roller skating is unique because of the balance and coordination that is required to remain upright. It works many of the same muscles as running – without the constant pounding on your joints. These muscles include those in your thighs, hip, butt, and calf. Try adding some uphill climbs to your next outing to increase endurance.

A quality pair of inline roller skates will set you back (or bring you forward) around $150. However, an investment in your health is never a waste! As with the bike, bring along the helmet for safety.


Elliptical Bike / StreetStrider

Do you love the benefits of the elliptical but hate the confined atmosphere of the gym? Check out the StreetStrider! This is the world’s first mobile elliptical trainer – though many copycat elliptical bikes have since hit the market. These hip fitness toys are not cheap though – they’ll cost you anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000.

Like the regular elliptical, the mobile version works the hamstrings, quads, glutes, triceps, chest, and abdominals.

If you want to plan ahead, check out the UNC Campus Rec listing of club sports to bring your fit summer lifestyle into the school year!

Yield to Heels Day!

Be Aware! Be Safe! Be Considerate! When it comes to pedestrian safety!

Yield to Heels day is Wednesday, April 13 at UNC!

Yield to Heels day serves to educate pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers around campus on the importance of visibility and awareness. The average college student is no stranger to walking or biking. Each day thousands of students at Carolina make the trek across campus, many by foot or bike, to attend classes and to participate in events and activities at UNC. It’s vital to remember safety when traveling from point to point on and around campus.

Implemented by the UNC Department of Public Safety and the UNC Highway Safety Research Center, Yield to Heels is an ongoing pedestrian safety awareness campaign that reminds all campus users to function as a team for a safer campus environment.  The campaign intends to remove myths about traffic and pedestrians and make helpful information about pedestrian safety available to the University community. Continue reading