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?
- Light your bike. There’s gonna be 70,000+ 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.
- 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?
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!
Your bike should be in good enough shape to survive and ride smoothly, but the playa turns any bike into a rustbucket 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 Burning Man.
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.
Reno Bike Project 635 E 4th street, Reno NV*
Reno Bike Project (RBP) sells recycled bikes intended for the playa starting at $65. 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, 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.
Black Rock Bicycles 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. A portion of the profits is given back to the community (specifically the Reno Sparks Gospel Mission and the Lions Club), and they also donate bicycles to local events.
Kiwanis Bike Program 145 Catron Drive, Reno NV
Our friends at the Kiwanis Bike Program sell affordable used bicycles starting at $60 and accessories, including lights, el-wire kits, baskets, car racks, locks, seat covers, and bells. You can reserve your bike online. 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 four convenient locations:
- The Kiwanis Reno Shop: 145 Catron Drive, Reno NV
- Reno-Tahoe International Airport: 2001 E Plumb Ln, Reno NV
- Reno Whole Foods: 6139 S Virginia St, Reno NV
- Save Mart: 525 Keystone Ave, Reno NV
If you return your bike to Kiwanis, they’ll refurbish and reuse it for kids or recycle it for the playa! You can also store your bike with them until next year’s Burn for $60. All funds support bike repairs, bike donation and bicycling education for kids in the Reno area. Purchase and reserve a bike now while supplies last.
Burner Bikes LLC 400 Main St, Gerlach NV
Just eight miles from the Burning Man site, Ralph and Barrie are renting very affordable ($70.00 including sales tax) used cruisers in good condition again this year. You can reserve a bike and coordinate with them now for a pick-up time in Gerlach on your way to the playa. They also have bike baskets and locks available for sale, and you will be able to return your bike to them in Gerlach after Burning Man. Best to reserve one now while they last! To do so, and for further information, email them at burnerbikesllcicloudcom (burnerbikesllcicloudcom) For even more information, check out the website.
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. Burning Man’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). And don’t forget personal hygiene… pants are required while riding a Community Bike.
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 to ride around on an unlit bike at night. Dangerous for you, and for those around you. There are a lot of people running around on playa at night, and guess what? If your bike isn’t lit, they can’t see you. Riding an unlit bike is just asking to get whacked, and nursing a broken collarbone is a less-than-ideal way to spend your Burn. So come on, 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 on the Café, art pieces, 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 Reno-based nonprofits that fix them up and provide them to underprivileged kids.
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 (“stealing” tends to be of a spontaneous and ultimately temporary nature more often than not).
If your bike is stolen, you can report it in person at the Yellow Bike Shop (5:15 & 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 something like that 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 more or less 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. 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.”
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.
- Post-event, deliver abandoned bikes to the Yellow Bike Shop at 5:15 & A, or leave them where you found them.
- Do not take abandoned bikes with you! It is considered theft and prohibits Bicycle Lost & Found from doing their thing.
What to do With Your Bike After the Burn (Hint: You Don’t Leave it at Burning Man!)
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 2017, 3,754 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. Help us do it better this year!
Below is a list of organizations that accept donations on playa: There are a small number of camps approved to accept bicycle donations on site. The groups listed below have all been approved, and are putting the bikes to great causes. Please only donate YOUR bike that your brought with you, and no one else’s. If you found an abandoned bike during the event, leave it where it is; if it’s post-event, you can bring abandoned bikes to the Community Yellow Bike Shop (5:15 & A) to be processed in Bicycle Lost & Found. Note: Each of the following will likely hit capacity, so be prepared to take your bike offsite should these options no longer be available.
- Reno Bike Project 635 E 4th Street, Reno NV
- Reno Kiwanis Bike Shop 145 Catron Drive, Reno NV — They will have additional bike donation points at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, Reno Wholefoods, and Reno Save Mart. Check here for more info.
- Black Rock Bicycles 7875 North Virginia Street, Reno NV — They only accept single speed cruisers with NO gears & NO hand brakes.
Below is a list of organizations that accept donations on playa. There are a small number of camps approved to accept bicycle donations on site. The groups listed below have all been approved, and are putting the bikes to great causes. Please only donate YOUR bike that your brought with you, and no one else’s. Note: Each of these will likely hit capacity, so be prepared to take your bike offsite should these options no longer be available.
- Yellow Bike Shop (5:15 & A) — Until their storage is at capacity, the Yellow Bike Program will accept donations of Huffy Cranbrook 26” bikes. They will be added to their fleet the following year. They will only accept the bike if it is free of duct tape, stickers, spray paint, and any other decorations time-consuming to remove.
- Stars And Bikes (5:31 & Labyrinth) — Accepts any bike in any condition. Last year Stars And Bikes was able to ship 700 bikes from Black Rock City to Gambia in West Africa. Radical participation equals radical impact.