Features & Columns

Bicycling Culture in Silicon Valley

Bicycling has grown up alongside technology as a signature of Silicon Valley
San Joseans heading out for a ride, circa 1890, along Santa Clara Street Photo courtesy History San Jose

At almost midnight, 5,000 bicyclists of all ages on bikes of all styles are staggered along Brokaw Road. The beats thump from synchronized sound systems and a steady whizz of rubber accompanies. They're headed toward a regroup at Lowe's parking lot on Coleman Avenue. Here they'll find lego-lined food trucks, games for young and old, and lots of socializing. (And that may or may not mean lots of drinking and smoking.)

San Jose Bike Party, a volunteer-run, 17 to 24-mile ride held on the third Friday night of every month, brings together the families and the hipsters, the diehards and desperados tagging along on pegs. The atmosphere, however, is almost always one of unity. Each party sets out on a different route around San Jose neighborhoods, rolling through Japantown one month and maybe Willow Glen the next.

Just as the route varies, so does each ride's theme—riders may dress up and decorate their bikes accordingly. Last month's theme was the Neon Rave Ride. The theme for the July bike party, taking place July 18, will be Stars and Stripes.

With San Jose bike partiers, new bike lanes on San Jose city streets, Hellyer Velodrome, Bay Area Bike Share stations, recreation and racing clubs, the San Jose stage of the Amgen Tour of California race and charities like Turning Wheels for Kids and Good Karma Bikes, Silicon Valley has become a bicycling mecca.

But Terry Shaw says it always has been. Shaw learned the history from old timers and he made some of his own riding for the San Jose Bicycle Club, running his Shaw's Lightweight Cycles shops and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Tour de France winner Greg LeMond and locally grown industry pioneers Jim Blackburn, Jim Gentes, Tom Ritchey, Mike Sinyard and Phil Wood.

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