San Jose Bike Party Review: An Unparalleled Cycling Experience (with donuts!)

What happens when you combine 4,000 cyclists, over 30 miles of road, and free donuts?

Bike Party.

If you haven’t heard of it yet, Bike Party is a BLAST. Every month, the San Jose Bike Party volunteers plan a route leading out of San Jose, through the surrounding area, and back again. Their mission? To build community through cycling.

Despite it’s modest beginnings, Bike Party now attracts thousands of cyclists each month, many of whom decorate their bikes in outrageous ways. And while it’s difficult to completely describe the excitement and sheer adrenaline of biking with such a large group of people, my story (which happens to be a tale of tragedy and triumph) should give you a taste of what it’s like.

The Triumph

Oddly enough, the triumph came first. It all began when the friend who told me about Bike Party also happened to have a spare bike that I could use. (He’s one of those delightful characters who happens to love tinkering with fixed-gear bikes, yet somehow isn’t a hipster.) Unfortunately though, on our way to the Bike Party he realized that a part was missing from the front of his bike. And he wasn’t even sure if he had the part back at home.

Yet, as we walked down a San Jose street, I got the strangest feeling that the solution to our problem was nearby. I noticed that there was a bike shop farther up which happened to be open, but my friend was skeptical about whether or not they’d have the right sized part for his decidedly-unique fixie bike. I told him to ask anyway. “What’s the downside?”

Sure enough, after looking around for a few minutes, they were able to find the right part. (Some kind of nut, I think, which was ironic because I was about to see a LOT of nuts that night.) 😉

When we finally arrived at one of the starting points, I was surprised to see how elaborately some of the bikes had been decorated. Many of them had colorful LED lights, and a few were even towing small carts with speakers on them!

Energy Drinks & Free Donuts

Soon we were among waves of hundreds of bikes following a preset path through San Jose’s streets, stopping at break points along the way, eventually reaching Cupertino, and heading back to San Jose again. Even big sponsors like Red Bull showed up in a branded car. And although I don’t normally have energy drinks, I chose that night to have my first Red Bull. It helped, given the circumstances. 🙂

Later on, during another break point along the way, I ended up talking to a software engineer who I was surprised to learn worked for Apple! Apparently, he was part of the team that worked on OS X’s Disk Utility, a program that I use just about weekly. Very cool.

In fact, everything went extremely smoothly. (At least, until the end.) And along the way, spontaneous chanting would break out. Usually, one person would yell “BIKE PARTY!” followed by ten people echoing it back to them. There was a real sense of camaraderie. I even came across a large cart, moving with the flow of the group, that was handing out free donuts! And soon it seemed like everyone had a donut amidst the spinning neon lights of the night.

The Tragedy

Perhaps fueled by this extra sugar, I began passing a few people. Actually, a lot of people. After a while, I was certain that I was near the front of the entire party. Yes, I knew it wasn’t a race, but I wanted to reach the endpoint at San Jose City Hall early so I could watch everyone come in and perhaps take a few photos of it, as well.

Then, I ran over a small piece of unidentifiable junk in the road. At first, I thought the bike was alright, and then everything felt wrong. My front tire was totally flat. After a few minutes, a concerned biker stopped and even pumped up my front tire with a small bike pump, but to no avail. There was a definitely a hole, and neither of us had a patching kit. I thanked him profusely, and he offered to lead me down a shortcut to the endpoint so I could wait for my friend. Soon, I was following him down side streets, cringing every time I hit a bump.

The Bigger Triumph

When I arrived at San Jose City Hall, over a hundred people were already there. And as I watched some of the wilder ones jump and balance on the City Hall plaque, I realized that even though the last 10% of my experience had been a bit of a bummer, that didn’t diminish how great the first 90% of Bike Party had been. Despite the setback, it was certainly some of the most fun I had during my entire time in California. So amidst the still-glowing cyclists around me, I decided to focus on that 90%, to focus on gratitude.

I’d already learned that by consistently focusing on what I’m grateful for, it opens the door for more positive experiences, and I wanted to keep that door open.

After all, I hadn’t even known Bike Party existed a mere week before, and what was to come was just as equally unpredictable and amazing.


Hundreds of bikes at Bikeparty

Biker jumping San Jose City Hall sign

Bike Party lights smearing

— Bonus —

Marco the Spacefarer appears in all 5 photos in the accompanying photo gallery. If you’re new to the “Where’s Marco” game, it’s similar to “Where’s Waldo” or “I Spy”, and it’s totally fun!

Learn how to play →
Then find him in the photos! →

Coming up Next:

I finally began heading east again, and I soon found myself back in Las Vegas, the only city that seems to think life itself might just be one vast game. There I saw Venetian Gondolas, breathtaking fountain shows, an ancient Chinese elephant tusk, and so much more:

See what happened next →

All accompanying photos are in the Bike Party photo gallery. With so much free, high-quality content, why not tell a friend and share this article?

11 bits on San Jose Bike Party Review: An Unparalleled Cycling Experience (with donuts!)

  1. Bicycling is fun, but riding all day can wear on your body in ways you didn’t know were possible. Namely, on your seat…

  2. I do love riding on a bicycle too. Perfect for my morning exercise.

  3. Bicycles are definitely one of the great exercises that can be used in order to stay fit. And at the same time we enjoy it.

  4. I love bicycle and even my young kids have their own so at least they can join me whenever I want to go biking.

  5. I do love bicycling. It is a perfect exercise.

  6. This looks like my kind of event! I *love* that it’s not a race and that there is so much camaraderie.

    How cool that they do it every month.

    Great post!


  7. Great topic and great experience. I haven’t heard about bike party. And what I read here, now I know that it is really amazing.

  8. Pingback Carnival of Cities for 3 May 2012 |
  9. This must have been an amazing experience. I need to learn how to ride a bicycle.

  10. Thanks, Tui! I’m glad that you’re enjoying my West Coast trip series. Bike Party was definitely an amazing experience. Truly unforgettable. 🙂