Getting your bike TO Burning Man … and back
It’s not even a question: you need a bike at Burning Man. Now, if you’ve been to Burning Man in recent years and choose not to have a bike, then you’re making a choice informed by experience and personal preference; but as a virgin, you must have a bike. (Unless, of course, if you’ve never ridden a bike, then that would be too stressful and difficult, I’d think.) The logistics of getting your bike TO Burning Man … and back, however, are not a joke.
Transporting your bike: plan now how you’ll get it both into and off the playa
Before you decide where to get your bike, you must know—exactly and in exquisite detail—how you’re going to get your bike into and off the playa. If you’re flying in, or taking the Burner Express, or carpooling as a passenger in someone else’s car or rental car, you need to think of every single aspect of getting your bike in and out.
This may sound easier than it probably is.
You may think, “Oh, I’ll put my bike on a bike rack.” Are you sure about that? Who has the bike rack you’re planning on using? How many other bikes will be on that rack? If it’s your car, your rules, but most people aren’t driving to the playa in their own cars from their own homes.
You might be thinking, “I’m going to buy a bike at Target or Walmart.” OK. You can do that. Are you going to assemble it on the playa? Really. Do you want to be doing that? And if you bring your bike to the playa in a box, how are you getting it out as a fully assembled bike? (Boxes pack fairly easily; bikes don’t.)
I’m not trying to be a downer here. I’m triggering your thinking so that you understand the logistics of getting your bike into–and out of–the playa require planning and communication with others. Your plans, regardless of what they are, require research.
Taking the Burner Express?
Read the Burner Express FAQs regarding bikes.
Pre-playa bike rentals
This is the solution that works if you can’t figure out how to get your bike both into and out of the playa.
One of the simpler bike options is to use one of the bike rental services that brings bikes directly to the playa. You pick up the bike from their published camp location, and return the bike to the same location. Hammer & Cyclery is a service my campmates used en masse one year. A handful of other options are also available. It can be pricey, but for many, the convenience is worth it.
The trick here is to rent earlier in the process as some of the pricing tiers go up closer to the event. Also, show up at their camp earlier rather than later to get a more preferable selection of the bikes they’ve brought. And, make sure you put a good label on your bike with you name, camp address and camp name in the event that your bike gets lost. These groups do charge a deposit that is forfeited for lost bikes.
By the way, if you’ve heard that it’s okay to leave your bike on the playa, you heard wrong! Read the Burning Man policy about bikes.
Bike repair kits
Bring what you need and feel comfortable packing here. Check in with campmates, too, to see if your camp has bike maintenance supplies (my initial camp was stocked, and that was one of our offerings to the group).
What kind of bike should you get?
Get a bike with a thicker tire. No need for gears. Upright riding (beach cruisers) are often more enjoyable to ride on the playa, both for viewing pleasure and long-term comfort.
Take your bike when you leave
No excuses. Burning Man is a Leave No Trace event. That includes your bike, regardless of what you’ve heard or regardless of what default-world laziness you see people exhibiting by abandoning their bikes.
Over 3,700 bikes were abandoned on the playa in 2017, and this is an outright disgrace to our culture. While some bikes are abandoned every year, 2017’s numbers were an astronomical jump over the prior year (a 100% increase!). My guess is that a portion of these abandoned bikes happened because more people are coming to Burning Man without understanding that we are a principles-based community, first and foremost.
Burning Man is a cool event, like nothing else on this planet. Keep it cool by doing your part to adhere to the 10 Principles, in all your actions. Seriously, what magical force of capacity do you think cleans up the mess you left? Get educated about Burning Man, our culture and, most importantly, the 10 Principles.
Bike photo by Andrew Gook on Unsplash
One person’s perspective riding around Burning Man on their bike