San Jose and surrounding cities have worked hard in recent years to promote bicycling, making Silicon Valleyone of the top regions for bicycling in the country.
Hundreds of miles of bike lanes and trails, coupled with great weather have helped biking flourish as a safe and fun travel option. For those looking to explore Silicon Valley by bike, here are some tips from Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition to help you get started.
Getting a Bike
Visit your local bike shop to make sure you get the right bike for your needs. Bike shop staff are friendly and know their stuff; they’ll be able to tell you the difference between a fixie and a road bike, drop bars and flat bars, and anything else to guide you toward a bike fit for your size, use and budget. Bike shops also serve as mini bike community centers, so they’re a great place to find out about community rides and other bike-friendly events.
For those who are not ready to own a bike but still want to ride, Bay Area Bike Share is a great source for a low-cost introduction. Station locations include several in San Jose and other Silicon Valley hot spots, and with half-hour limits they are perfect for lunch meetings, sightseeing or other quick errands.
Once you get a bike, it’s important to keep it in good riding condition. Before every ride, go through the ABC Quick Check, a simple run-through of all the bike’s major components. Several local bike shops also offer free or low-cost workshops on how to maintain bikes, including Good Karma Bikes (also a good place to get a used, affordable and tuned-up bike) and San Jose Bicycle Clinic.
Gear and Getting Around
Appropriate clothing, a helmet, sunglasses, lights and reflectors, a pump and patch kit are important accessories for bicyclists. Other optional gear includes a mirror, saddlebag or backpack, and a lock.
Once you feel safe and comfortable, you can learn how to ride safe and comfortably. Check out Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition’s safety resources page, which offers a number of videos and articles designed to provide bicyclists with more information and confidence before they ride. SVBC and Bay Area Bike Share also offer free urban biking workshops that give riders a chance to ask an expert questions and test ride a Bike Share. Upcoming workshops in August are in Palo Alto, Mountain View, San Jose and Redwood City. SVBC also offers bike-commuting workshops with employers, schools and community groups.
Plan Your Route
Every year, more and more miles of bike lanes and bike routes are added to Silicon Valley streets, making the bike a more attractive travel option for work, shopping, sightseeing or other activities. Planning your trips to utilize these bike lanes or low-stress level streets is key to making your rides enjoyable and safe. Local city and county bike maps are available online. VTA or Caltrain can also be incorporated with routes for longer rides. Both services provide great videos to show you how to easily load your bike onto the train, bus, or light rail.
The best part of biking in Silicon Valley, aside from an improving bike infrastructure and flat terrain, are the number of activities you can do on your bike. Numerous trails, from the Guadalupe River Trail to the Stevens Creek, Los Gatos Creek offer great vistas and destination points. SVBC also offers free bike valet at several popular events throughout the year. Local bike clubs offer varying levels of bike rides, whether you are a newbie, a trained athlete looking for a new challenge, each offering fun trips and experiences to discover the gamut of Silicon Valley’s bike community and culture.
Carlos Velazquez is Outreach Manager at Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, an advocacy group that promotes a healthy community, environment and economy for bicyclists in Silicon Valley. Visit http://bikesiliconvalley.org for more information.