Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Northern Nevada
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I don't live there anymore, but I used to (went to San Jose State), and I go back to see relatives several times a year. It's a pretty good place to ride and drivers seem to be bike-friendly, though the traffic is a big problem.
From your other post on gearing, it's clear you're a real beginner. Nothing to be embarrassed about--we all started there. Before you get out on the busy streets, though, I'd take some test rides around either a big playground or in quiet residential areas, where you can concentrate on what you're doing and not have to dodge cars. Do some figure eights, ride through narrow gates or between posts to improve your bike control, things like that (here's your first cycling tip: When things are narrow and scary, look where you WANT TO GO, not where you're AFRAID you'll go. The bike will follow your gaze).
I don't know Santa Clara very well, but the southern part of San Jose, at least, has some bike paths you might enjoy (though the other post about watching for joggers, walkers and people with headphones is dead on). Work on your shifting, riding in a straight line (you want to be as far to the right of the road as you can get, but not so far you hit the curb, and DON'T wobble into traffic). You can set little goals and trials for yourself--"I'm going to ride from here to the fire hydrant without moving my front wheel off the white line," or "I'll ride straight over that stain on the pavement." You'll improve quickly at first and soon feel up to going somewhere.
Just a couple of tips:
--ABSOLUTELY get a helmet and wear it on every ride. You don't need to spend $150. Performance Bicycle Shop at Hamilton and Bascom (maybe Leigh, but I think Bascom) in San Jose is one place to look, and REI is also good. There are many independent bike shops, too, and you may get better service there. You should be able to get one for less than $50, and in late summer they go on sale for about $29 and up.
--If your bike shop didn't sell you a pump, patch kit and tire levers, you need to get them somewhere and have someone show you how to use them. Carry them with you on every ride. You absolutely positively will have flat tires, and if you can't fix them, you'll be walking home. Don't be intimidated by them--it seems hard at first, but when you've done a few, you'll whip on a patch or swap to your spare tube (which you'll also be carrying, right?) and be on your way in five minutes.
If you don't have a cycling friend to help you out, and you bought your bike at a shop, rather than from a private party, I'd just go back and tell them you're really enjoying it and you want to do some longer rides, so you want to be prepared for a flat tire. Ask them what you need, then tell them you'd like somebody to show you how to use it. Their guy probably fixes a dozen flats a day, and he can show you in a couple of minutes. A Tuesday morning would be better for that than a Saturday, when he's swamped. You'll want a patch kit ($3 to $5, with several patches and a tube of glue), a set of tire levers (about three bucks, though some patch kits come with them), and a pump or CO2 inflator ($15 up), plus a little bag to carry them under your seat (you can spend from a few dollars up to $75 or so for those; the cheap ones are fine for this purpose).
Now go ride.