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Check out our How To Burning Man articles...

Bike Rentals for Burning Man
Cleaning Your Bike After Burning Man
Basic Bicycle Maintenance at Burning Man
The Classic Tube Change
Join the Struggle!
Rent a Bicycle Here

Burning Man Bicycle Rental

Survival Guide for Your Playa Bike

A bicycle is an essential part of any Burn. With more than 30 miles of roads and plenty of open desert to criss-cross, it’s just the right size for cycling. And taking in all that Black Rock City has to offer is a daunting task with only your feet and a week to absorb it all. Black Rock City is more than 8,000 feet across and is often one of the ten largest cities in Nevada (50,000+ residents).

Bicycle travel is the most practical way to get around. The Playa isn’t like a soft sandy beach. Black Rock City sits on a fine dusty soil that packs hard and smooth after just a little bit of rain. It is more akin to a well trodden dirt road and it makes for a surprisingly good cycling surface.

Even though Minneapolis and Portland seem to get all of the credit, Black Rock City is the most bike-friendly town in America...nay, the world. More than 90% of Burners “commute” by bicycle. It is certainly the most tolerant of bicycle diversity (as in, the more outrageous your ride, the better). And if you don’t got one, you ain’t got nothin. But unlike the jaded hipster, fixie-riding cycle culture of our major cities, BRC’s bike culture is composed of just plain folks.

This is your chance to join in a movement that don’t take kindly to spectators (more like frowns upon) and literally celebrates every effort to participate.

Playa Bicycle Survival Guide:
Choose you ride
Lock (must!)
Helmet (recommended)
Lights (must)
Basic repair kit (recommended)
More lights
Racks and baskets

Choose Your Ride
Your bike is going to suffer at Burning Man. The playa dust can be unforgiving. Do not bring something that you’ll be afraid to hurt. Better yet, bring something that won’t need to survive the Burn. We rent bikes to Burners and deliver them to Burning Man, but we also sell a true Burner’s bike that can be used and abused however you see fit. Just don’t leave it lying on the Playa when you go home.

The Mountain Bike with wide off-road tire tread and gears for traveling at whatever speed you choose (within reason).

The mountain bike is rugged and durable. It was made to take the kind of abuse that a good Burn can dish out. The wide tires have plenty of tread to keep you on top of the Playa dust and handle the occasional pot hole. Most mountain bikes are equipped with a very low gear for slow cruising as well as relatively high gears for moving quickly when the terrain or scenery permits.

The Beach Cruiser is a simple ride that will make your week of travels on the playa as smooth as Destiny Lounge at sunset.

The Beach Cruiser was made for Burning Man. The Playa is a kind of giant beach (without the gentle slope toward the water). Of course the wide tires keep you on top of the dusty surface where narrower tires would cut into the ground and slow you down. But just as important, the beach cruiser is an uncomplicated machine that puts reliability ahead of aggressive performance. And most important, the beach cruiser was made for cruising. The wide upright handlebars keep you sitting up in a relaxed cruising position. The beach cruiser is as chill as you wanna be.

Road Bikes are more doable than you might expect, but these are not recommended because the narrow tires sink into the Playa surface or worse, cut into the hard crust below the dust. This can slow you down. Road bike tires also tend to be high-pressure and not very forgiving on the pitted parts of the Playa. Go with soft wide tires. Your butt will thank you.

Locking your bike on the Playa
Hint: If you are a thief, the bathrooms are a great place to snatch and grab. Riders think, “I’ll only be in there a minute. Nobody’s going to get my bike in just a minute.”
Pssst, cyclists: Bike filchers know what you’re thinking. Lock up your bike even if you just need to pee.

Locking up your ride at Burning Man is a must. Every year many Burners lose their ability to travel quickly around Black Rock City because someone snatched their bike. Don’t let this happen to you. It is always best to lock your bike to something solid, something that a would-be thief could not easily move. Short of this, lock your bike to a friend’s bike. A “Burner” dragging two bicycles across the desert is going to attract some attention. But please be careful not to lock your bike in such a way that it becomes a hazard to structures, traffic, or people.

Always attach your lock to the frame of your bike and at least one wheel (the back is preferred) if possible. If you lock up your bike by chaining the front wheel to a camp support structure, you might find that a determined thief has taken your bike and left you with only a wheel.

If you are out in the middle of nowhere (which can happen in the desert), lock one of your wheels to your frame. This will force a would-be thief to drag your bike off instead of ride it, a difficult proposition on the Playa.

Bring a spare key (and remember where you put it). Or bring a combination lock and remember the combination. (We sell combo locks HERE!)

Last year three renters lost their deposits because their bikes were stolen.

Basic Bicycle Repair Kit (recommended)
- Spare tubes (Check your tires for tube size. Also check your tubes to see if you have Schrader valves (standard, like on your car) or Presta valves (skinny and complicated).
(We sell tubes HERE!)
- Wrenches that fit your axel nuts (note: front axel nuts may be different size than rear axel nuts or you may have quick release hubs which do not require tools to remove or install). A good 8” adjustable wrench can go a long way, but it’s not going to do squat for you if you need a hex wrench (check your bike).
- Tire levers
- Air pump (or CO2 cartridges). Check to make sure your pump works with the valves on your tubes. Bring the appropriate pump or adaptor.
- Screw driver (flat or Phillips head (check your bike))
- Pliers (recommend 6” needle nose)
- Wire brush
- Zip ties (small and large)

Bicycle specific multi tools can be life savers. For 25 bucks they are compact enough to bring with you wherever you go and they usually pack more tools than just the basics. But don’t rely entirely on a multi tool. Few have a 15mm wrench for removing rear axle nuts (Hint: you can’t change a flat tire without removing the wheel from the bike). Check your bike to see what tools you need.

Also see our Burning Man Bicycle Maintenance Tips article
For on-the-fly repairs, flat tire tube changes, handy tools, clean-up tips, and more.
For anything beyond the basics, trust the experts. Come to our camp for issues that require special tools or a practiced hand. We’ll be at Burning Man all week. Center Camp features a bike “shop” that is always manned during the day.

Having said that, do not count on us to keep you rolling. There are 50,000 people at Burning Man and most of them bring bikes. Come prepared. We will do what we can, but we highly recommend you have the basic necessities. We sell a basic tool kit that can be a life-saver for simple repairs. Order online and you can pick it up at our camp in Black Rock City. Keep it with your Burning Man gear for next year or keep it with your bike all year.

Safety Lights (highly recommended).
Two lights, white for the front and red for the back (just like a car) will keep you visible as you travel across the playa. The front light will provide limited illumination of the path in front of you, but should not be counted on to reveal all of the hazards of riding at night at Burning Man. Safety lights are usually easy to mount and remove. When you are not sharing the scenery with your bike, your lights will fit in your pocket to prevent the jealous from making their bike as safe as your bike. (We sell safety lights HERE!)

Cargo (racks, baskets, and crates)
Baskets rock! Seriously, they are so convenient. Bring a backpack to carry your stuff when you absolutely must walk, but getting ice back to your cooler is way more fun when it’s not on your back. We recommend a front basket so you can see your stuff as it bounces out onto the Playa (and then pick it up) rather than a rear basket that only lets you know what you’ve lost after you arrive at your destination.

Lights, Bells, Horns, and Other Obnoxiousness
Cheap and not easily pilfered. These are cheap glow lights that you can throw on your bike and not worry about losing. The crazier your bike looks, the easier it will be to find in the ever shifting geography of art cars, bodies, and installations (especially after a long night at the Opulent Temple).

If you do plan on using your bike again, clean it ASAP (or have it cleaned). The sooner the better. The Playa dust is alkaline (the opposite of acidic, but just as destructive). Check out our Clean Your Bike With Vinegar article.

Re-Cycle, Inc. is a privately owned company and does not have any official affiliation with Burning Man or Black Rock City, LLC.
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