Black Rock City is a vast open space. You’re really really going to want to have a bike to get around and explore, cuz like we said: vast. Burning Man is a bike-oriented culture — in fact, Black Rock City has more bikes per capita than any city in the world. Cool, huh?
Here are the key things to remember (let’s call ’em the 4 Ls):
- Light your bike. There’s gonna be 80,000 people out there. If you can’t be seen in the dark, people are going to run into you. Or you’re going to run into things. And that’s a great way to ruin your Burn. Plus, creative lighting makes it easier for you to find your bike amongst the hoards of parked bikes.
- Lock your bike. Whether it happens by accident or intention, walking out of a theme camp to find your bike missing sucks, especially when your friends still have theirs, and you’re stuck walking.
- Label your bike. Mark your bike with some identifying information, like your camp name and address, so if it does go missing, a thoughtful participant can reunite you with your beloved wheels.
- Limit your bike’s speed. (No speeding!) The speed limit for vehicles on the playa is 5 mph. That goes for electric bikes, too.
What kind of bike should you bring to Black Rock City?
For the easiest cycling on the playa surface, the ideal bicycle is a mountain bike or single-speed beach cruiser with fat tires. Thin 10-speed or road bike tires can make for some tough travel. They’re just not playa-friendly. Avoid cable brakes and gears; the playa dust will quickly render cables and derailleurs unusable. The simpler the bike, the better!
Ensure you bring a fully functioning bike to the playa! Bike repair camps provide a generous and needed gift to our city, but they do not have the capacity to work on bikes brought into BRC already in despair. Your bike should be in good enough shape to survive and ride smoothly when you arrive.
Remember, the playa turns any bike into a rust bucket in short order, so don’t bring your multi-thousand dollar mountain bike if you don’t want it destroyed, or plan on doing some serious cleaning and restoration work on it post-event. Many participants have a dedicated “playa bike” used exclusively for Black Rock City.
Can I Get a Bike Close to Burning Man?
Probably. Finding your playa bike is a matter of Radical Self-reliance, but here are some local bike shops that are great citizens of the Burning Man ecosystem.
635 E 4th street, Reno NV*
Reno Bike Project (RBP) sells recycled bikes intended for the playa starting at $100. These bikes have at least one gear, one brake, and tight bearing surfaces. RBP also offers a full range of accessories and services, including last minute repairs for people rolling through Reno and bike assembly for people who want to ship their bike to Reno. You can reserve your playa bike online starting in the Spring, and they accept bike donations post-event at their shop. RBP is a 501(c)(3) non-profit community bicycle shop and resource for the Truckee Meadows area committed to creating a nationally recognized, cycling-friendly community through education, cooperation and advocacy. Sales from Burning Man bikes support programs such as the community bike shop, youth riding and programs, and more.
*Reno Bike Project has two locations, but all playa gear sales will be conducted at 635 E. 4th street.
7875 North Virginia Street, Reno NV
Operated by Burners, Black Rock Bicycles has bikes for rent and purchase. They also have accessories, including lighting, el-wire kits, baskets, car racks, bells, locks, baskets, trailers, tubes and decor. Black Rock Bicycles has started a new program that will allow you to store your bike in an enclosed storage area for an entire year. You can buy a new bike from them, art it up, personalize it, ride it during the Burn, return it, have it cleaned and put in their storage.
5305 Mill Street, Reno NV 89502
Our friends at the Kiwanis Bike Program sell affordable used bicycles starting at $80 and accessories, including lights, baskets, car racks, locks, and bells. You can reserve your bike online at www.kiwanisbikes.org. Bikes are available for walk-in purchase at their Reno location. These are first come, first serve, as long as supplies last. You can also donate your bike to them post-event at the same location.
If you return your bike to Kiwanis, they’ll refurbish and reuse it for kids or recycle it for the playa! All funds support bike repair and riding education, and bike donations for schools and youth programs in the Reno area. Purchase and reserve a bike now while supply lasts.
Community Bikes Program
Burning Man’s Community Yellow Bike Program offers bicycles available for anyone who needs a one-way ride. Community Bikes are easy to spot because they are painted bright green, with no visible brand and/or the words “YELLOW BIKE” painted on the frame. The only way this program works is if everybody adheres to the guidelines, which are:
- Community Bikes are for temporary use by anyone without immediate access to their own bike. This is not your loaner bike for the week. Bike rides are only a one-way, temporary guarantee.
- Community Bikes are meant for short trips. Grab a community bike, make your trek, and then leave it in an obvious public place. Do not keep a Community Bike in your camp.
- If a Community Bike breaks while you’re using it, use Radical Self-reliance to get it repaired for the next person. Check with Playa Info at Center Camp for a repair camp if you can’t do it yourself.
- Never lock a community bike. BRC’s bike team will cut any locks from Community Bikes. Don’t bring a Community Bike into your tent or RV, and don’t take it home when you leave the playa.
- Community Bikes should be treated with respect, as if it were your own. Be nice to the bike. Don’t trash it, vandalize it, part it out, or decorate it! It’s a shared community resource, and while your intentions may be good, decorating a Community Bike makes it unrecognizable to the other citizens of Black Rock City. (Plus, the bike crew will resent the time they need to spend stripping away your decorations). Don’t forget personal hygiene… pants are required while riding a Community Bike.
- If you find a Yellow Bike post-event, please return to the Yellow Bike Camp at 5:30/A. Leave No Trace is Real! Please and Thank you!
We heart the Community Bike program. Let’s keep it working. Here’s a blog post about it, if you want to share it with your friends. You can also follow the Community Bike Program on Facebook for updates on bicycling on playa!
Light your bike, or die!
It’s super freakin’ dangerous for you and those around you to ride around on an unlit bike at night. If your bike isn’t lit, no one can see you. Solution: get some lights and put them on your bike. Install a good headlight that brightens your way (but isn’t blinding to others, and isn’t so bright that you can’t see anything outside of the beam) and a nice red tail light too. Without a headlight, you might not see that dude sleeping (read: speed bump) on the open playa. Decorate your bike with unique lighting so others can see you and you can spot your bike in the sea of bikes when you park at that dance party.
If you fail to light your bike, and you hear somebody screaming “DARKWAD!!”, they’re probably talking to you.
Lock and decorate your bike
If you don’t want your bike stolen on the playa, always lock it wherever you leave it. The only bikes that should never be locked are green Community Bikes. Never lock your bike to guy wires or any other structures. This is a safety hazard and may disrupt performances and scheduled burns.
Your bike is much less likely to be “borrowed without asking” if you decorate it. Make sure decorations are securely affixed so they don’t become MOOP.
Was your bike stolen on the playa? Ok, then
No bike is considered lost until the event is over. Starting Monday through Wednesday post-event, lost bikes can possibly be recovered at the Yellow Bike Camp. After Wednesday, unclaimed bikes are donated to various charitable organizations Here’s a handy tip: Sharpie your name and camp address on the frame of your bike, and maybe some kind soul will have the presence of mind to return it to you.
If your bike is lost, you can report it in person at the Yellow Bike Shop (5:30 & A). Post-event Monday–Wednesday, you can be reunited with your bike at the shop if it is recovered.
Burning Man is not responsible if your bike gets stolen. We do not have the capacity or funds to deliver recovered stolen bikes to you off playa, so if your bike is recovered, we’ll work with you to pick it up on site.
Bikes and Mutant Vehicles don’t mix
Mutant vehicles are our public transportation system, and they need your help. One of the top concerns expressed by Mutant Vehicle owners is safety around participants riding bicycles. Here’s what you can do to help:
- Stay at least 15 feet away from a moving mutant vehicle.
- If you can’t see the driver, they probably can’t see you. Same goes for mutant vehicle spotters.
- Don’t race in front of or circle a moving mutant vehicle.
- Don’t buzz a moving mutant vehicle.
- Don’t hitch a tow on a moving mutant vehicle.
Somewhat less dramatic tips for improving your playa bike
Now that you won’t die from lack of illumination, here are a few more suggested bike power-ups:
- A comfy seat is critical. Take care of your tailbone.
- Put a tennis ball or similar on the end of your kickstand. Kickstands that are too pokey will just drill right into the playa in some spots, and your bike will fall over.
- Get a bell or horn. You will enjoy making noises at people as you ride by, and also you might need their attention.
- Only use dry lube for the chain, such as wax-based lubes. This is important. Oil-based lubes will turn into gunk on contact with playa.
- Have working brakes. Or… at least one working brake.
Bike repair on playa
The playa is ideal for bicycle-based transportation, but it’s also rather hard on your bike. Bicycles take a lot of care and feeding to keep working out there.
- You or your camp should bring basic bike repair tools with you. Learn how to fix your own bike!
- There are bike-repair camps throughout BRC you can bring your bike to. They have limited resources — please be patient, and be aware that they may not be able to fix very specialized parts/needs (including the needs of e-bikes). Check the WhatWhereWhen guide or an information board in one of the plazas for locations and hours.
If you want to fix a bike yourself, fortunately, there are experts at this. Wheels writes:
“My name is Wheels, and I am here to help. After 35 years working on bikes in the world and five years running a bike shop at Burning Man, I can help you prepare for Radical Self-reliance and independent reliable bike transportation on the playa.”
Learn more on BurnerBikeSurvival.com
Got a big theme camp? Here’s a few tips
If your theme camp is planning on attracting the masses, do everybody a favor and provide some bike racks! Bike parking should be contained within camp boundaries, and strewn bikes can present a public safety hazard. It is hard for Rangers and emergency service personnel to respond quickly when they have to wend their way through a thicket of tossed bikes.
Here, we’ll help you out. Learn how to build simple and effective bike racks (PDF).
If bikes are abandoned at your camp, here’s what you should do:
- See if bikes are labeled, and if so, try to return them to their owner.
- Remove any abandoned bikes from BRC as part of your camp cleanup effort; abandoned bikes are MOOP
- Post-event, if you are unable to remove an abandoned bike found in your camp from BRC, deliver the bike to the Yellow Bike Shop at 5:15 & A.
What to do with your bike after the Burn (Hint: You don’t leave it in Black Rock City!)
The absolute least cool thing you do with your bike at the end of the event is to leave it on the playa. Abandoned bikes are MOOP. In 2022, over 2,400 bikes were abandoned by participants with no regard for the Principles of being a Black Rock City citizen. It was a bit of a disaster, and you can read more about it here. Abandoned bikes have been a major issue every year since. Abandoned bikes in Reno and at the Reno airport have also become a problem. Help us do it better this year!
Below is a list of organizations that accept donations OFF playa:
- Reno Bike Project — 635 E 4th Street, Reno NV
- Reno Kiwanis Bike Shop — 5305 Mill Street, Reno NV
- Black Rock Bicycles — 7875 North Virginia Street, Reno NV
- They only accept single speed cruisers with NO gears & NO hand brakes.
Bicycle donations on playa: The Yellow Bike Project will accept bicycle donations on site. Please only donate YOUR bike and/or those abandoned in your camp. Note: be prepared to take your bike offsite should this option no longer be available for capacity reasons.
- Yellow Bike Shop (5:30 & A) -— Until their storage is at capacity, the Yellow Bike Program will only accept donations of Huffy Cranbrook bikes of all sizes. They will be added to their fleet the following year. Note: be prepared to take your bike offsite should this option no longer be available for capacity reasons. Please remove as much decoration as possible. Help us cut down MOOP.