Frequently Asked Questions

When is the ride?

The ride starts (wheels on the street) EVERY third Friday at 8:00pm – with riders coming as early as 7:00pm, but most coming around 7:30pm. The ride starting point is rotated every month.  Check the SJBP website approximately 24 hours before every ride to get the exact address and route. This information will not be posted elsewhere. Additional useful information is posted throughout the month.

Help us to make the ride more driver-friendly.  Building community through cycling should welcome all types of vehicles and bikes to share the road!

Where is the ride?  How do I get there?

The rides starting point is rotated every month (since August 2009).  Check the website approximately 24 hours before the ride to get the exact address and route.

Please note: Parking is highly discouraged at all starting points. If you do drive please park AWAY from the core area, leave the core starting point CAR FREE. We want to keep the main area open so riders can mingle and meet others!

Note: Riders’ cars have been robbed, lots fills up quickly and the lots are nearly impossible to access once they fill with bicyclists.

Great Option: Ride your bike to the ride start point!  Pre-rides often gather (either formally organized or not) from various parts of town so you can ride together with others to get to the start. Please look for these Pre-Rides on the Ride Announcement (~24hrs ahead of each ride).

Public transit used to get jammed up so we discouraged riders from using VTA’s Light Rail. Lately this has not been an issue on the ride to the various starting points. But remember, VTA Light Rail was only designed for 4-8 bikes at a time, not 15-20+.  For the most part the only way to take VTA Light Rail home is if you end the ride short (if we happen to cross or go by one of the lines). But almost all rides in the last year have after the VTA Light Rail stopped running trains! So plan ahead!

Can I come?

EVERYONE is invited.  There’s no sign-up process or registration needed.  Bike Party is a public and open event, and we love new people.  Just be nice and follow the How We Ride rules.

Is the ride family friendly?

At Bike Party, we welcome all riders.  However, the atmosphere can be diverse and chaotic, much like a rock concert.

We strongly suggest you attend an event solo prior to bringing your children or allowing them to come.  All children under age 18 must (by law) wear a helmet, and we strongly recommend that a responsible adult accompany any children under age 16.

There is a large crowd, and things can get sticky at bottleneck points.  There are people who act badly, as you might see at any large event like a concert at Shoreline.  We strongly discourage inappropriate behavior, and through dedicated volunteers and average riders stepping up to the task.

Bad behavior has dramatically fallen during the Fall of 2009 and 2010. (The behavior we do not like largely appears during summer when schools are out of session) Still, no one can fully control someone else’s actions.  Most people are generally respectful, friendly, and helpful.

The large number of bicyclists of diverse skills also adds a significant risk of bicycle-on-bicycle collisions, which happen frequently and can occasionally be seriously harmful to riders and/or bikes.  All riders at San Jose Bike Party ride at their own risk. We are not riding in parks or closed tracks, and real dangers exist on our roadways that can injure or kill a bicyclist.

I am sooo out of shape – can I handle it?

Bike Party is not a race.  Bike Party is not even much of a workout.  Because of the size of the group, the ride tends to go very slow (5-10 mph).  We also attempt to regroup every 6-10 miles, so you may have time to rest.  In addition, the large group is like an adrenaline rush.  An average Bike Party ride in late 2009 through 2010 has been 25-30mi with 5-10-mile pre-rides, so be prepared to ride 30-40 miles in a night.  This is not as absurd as it might sound.  Most people have no trouble completing the ride, although your legs and butt might be feeling it in the morning!  Be sure to drink lots of water and eat a healthy meal beforehand.

When the ride ends at a different place than the starting point, what do I do?

Bike Party posts the route so you can plan ahead!  There are several options:

  • Ride your bike!  There will undoubtedly be others heading the same direction, so make a mini-Bike Party out of it and start a caravan!  A few extra miles won’t kill you, and it’ll definitely be more convenient than dealing with transit or parking.
  • Park at the ending point and ride (the most direct route) to the starting point.
  • Take public transit, such as VTA Light Rail or buses.  Watch out though! Many other riders take VTA and it can fill up.  Try to get to stations early.
  • End your ride as we roll past your neighborhood.

If the ride ends at a different place than the starting point, large groups will ride back together.  Its as easy as yelling “WHO IS GOING TO BACK TO….”

Bike Party tries to incorporate different ending points to keep the ride interesting and accommodate the diverse needs of local cyclists.  Many participants do not have cars and always ride or take Light Rail to the starting points.

Why don’t you have this?  Why isn’t this done yet?

We are volunteers.  We are spending our own money (with the aid of your helpful donations!) and using our own free time.  Sometimes we get busy.  Sometimes we are broke.  Do you want to make bike party better?  Help out.  Come to a meeting.  Scout a route.  Do it yourself.  Many people don’t realize how much time, energy, emotions, and effort go into planning these rides.  We love ideas and input but hate people with demands.

In addition, no two rides are the same.  We highly suggest you attend at least two rides before jumping head-first into the scary time-sucking world of “volunteer land.”  We have grown from 40 riders to over 2000 in less than two years and we continue to change our preparations for the ride to accommodate the growing group.

You guys should do a day ride, you guys should ride to this non-Friday event, why don’t you guys…?

Do it yourself!  Volunteers can give you advice and even promote it on our various sites.  Every now and then volunteers connected with Bike Party organize an event outside of the ordinary third-Friday night rides.  We call these “bonus rides” and publicize them, but they never take the place of the ordinary monthly ride.

Can you promote my bicycle ride or bicycle related event?

Most likely yes, as long as it is in the Bay Area.  Send us the information at sjbikeparty at gmail dot com with AT LEAST A ONE WEEK NOTICE.  Our mission is to “build community through cycling” and we look for any opportunity we can to support the larger bike community.

How did Bike Party start?

Bike Party isn’t the product of one person or event, and every participant has their own unique and fascinating story for how they began riding with Bike Party.  That said, here’s the short version:

In October 2004, a few riders with varying experiences from rides in other cities (such as Critical Mass in SF, DC, and elsewhere) came together through the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition e-mail list and the League of Independent Voters to hold a Halloween “get out the vote” ride that met at Plaza de Cesar Chavez in San Jose.  Around 15-30 people showed up and had a marvellous (albeit short) ride around downtown San Jose, with bikes and riders festively costumed and riding with cheerful aimlessness, looping downtown blocks repeatedly without a pre-planned route.

A year later (Halloween 2005), many of the same riders reunited to do it again, this time making it a monthly event called a “Bike Party” that continued for a few months before trailing off sometime in January or February.  Somewhere around then (fall of 2005, early 2006), another group of riders were doing sporadic monthly “San Jose Critical Mass” rides that similarly petered out.  The winter made it hard to get people out, and the wide variety of riding styles, philosophies, and approaches led to many people wondering what a long-term, larger ride in San Jose would look like.  Many conversations among involved riders led to the common conclusion that a ride styled after San Francisco’s confrontational and controversial Critical Mass would not work well in the car-centric South Bay, but we never arrived at a full consensus of what a “San Jose Bike Party” should look like.  All sat quiet and calm for a few years until a wonderful meeting of minds happened.

In the summer of 2007, one of the original organizers of the 2004 and 2005 “Bike Party” Halloween rides met a new roommate who had helped organize a bike gang in San Diego and had ridden with LA’s “Midnite Ridazz.”  Together, they determined to re-start the San Jose Bike Party idea, but this time to make it better with several major changes:

  • Riders would meet later, at the “party hour” of 8:30pm on Fridays, to allow people time to finish work and get dinner before the ride.
  • Volunteers would promote the ride not just by e-mail, but by social networking such as MySpace (big at the time) and fliering at downtown’s South First Fridays, as well as a few hip coffeeshops and restaurants (Good Karma was an early supporter).  We wanted to flier bike shops on a regular basis, but rarely got around to it.
  • Monthly themes and planned routes (this time stealing a page from SLO’s Bike Happening) would keep the ride interesting and constantly changing.

Needless to say, the new approach worked, although not instantly.  Starting in October 2007, rides remained between 25-40 riders each month until the spring of 2008, when a gradual climb from 45, 60, 80 riders brought us into the seemingly-enormous triple digits by summer 2008 and past 200 riders by our one-year anniversary.  Many of us proclaimed at the time that if it took us one year to reach 200 riders, we would aim for a goal of putting 1000 riders on the street within five years.  Amusingly, most people thought this was a very bold claim at the time – the idea of a huge monthly ride in San Jose still seemed hard to believe.

Just six months later, San Jose Bike Party would break the 1000-rider mark, following a long-running growth trend that during the spring of 2009 saw 50% growth in ridership PER MONTH – an astonishing rate that brough significant growing pains to the ride.  Suddenly, the sloppy behavior of a few people became the disastrous misbehavior of unruly crowds.  Endearing bike “traffic” that allowed us to feel comfortable taking the rightmost lane turned into overwhelming congestion at parking lot entrances and a difficult-to-corral mass of riders that often sprawled across 2 or more lanes, causing major headaches for other travellers passing by.

As summer turned into fall 2009, Bike Party volunteers were working in high gear, organizing and planning and finding creative solutions to the problems that plagued the then-2000-person ride.  Bike Party developed its first real semblance of internal organizing structure, volunteers began training other volunteers and building visibility of reliable volunteers on the ride (as “BIRDs”).  Route planning shifted from a single-person job in front of Google satellite maps to a well-orchestrated month-long process of test rides that allowed us to train riders as route capitans and “BIRD” volunteers while testing each road, turn, and regroup site under more realistic conditions with a diverse body of riders.

As this article was written (November 2009), Bike Party continues to improve monthly through the dedicated work of countless volunteers, making a ride of over 4000 riders often function more smoothly than previous rides of less than 500.  Bike Party is now likely the largest monthly bike ride in the Bay Area, if not farther, bringing welcome attention to our beloved city of San José, one of the most eminently bikeable cities in North America.

We invite you – become a part of this historic movement!

I have more questions…

E-mail us at sjbikeparty at gmail dot com or ask below (any none ride questions can be posted on the forum or ride reflections)