From John “Halcyon” Styn on the Burning Man Journal “You need a bike. And you need to lock it. Or you need to borrow a Yellow Bike, and follow the rules. You can’t park in the street and (if you borrow a Yellow Bike) you need to wear pants.
Burning Man is not a utopia It is a self-correcting system.”
“Having a bicycle at Burning Man is crucial, if not essential, to your overall enjoyment and experience within Black Rock City. Given the rapid growth and expansion of the city in recent years, a pedal-powered means of navigation is a prudent, high-priority item when you’re packing.” ~ Burningman.org
The optimum playa bike is a single speed beach cruiser. This bicycle is characterized by:
- Fat tires. To easily glide over the sand and soft spots.
- Single speed drive train. No derailleurs to get bent in transport or cables to get gunked up with playa grit.
- Coaster brake. No cable brake maintenance issues.
- Saddle. A wide, cushy, sprung bike seat.
- Kickstand. To park your bike easily.
- Lights. The more lights the better – but at least a headlight and tail light.
- Lock. Every bike needs a lock at the burn.
- Comfortable upright riding position.
- Reliable. Make sure the bicycle is in good workable order.
Keep it simple!
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Black Rock Community Transit (BRCT) is a collectively run organization within DPW that builds hundreds of bicycles every year and deploys them for free use around Black Rock City. Get on our bikes and ride!
Our vision is that each Black Rock City citizen is empowered to rely on bicycling as a reliable, pleasurable and realistic mode of everyday transportation. Furthermore, we want those citizens to:
1. Take this behavior back to their hometown, and
2. Become agents of change within their communities.
You will see lots of tall bikes at Burning Man. Because they are so much fun!
The correct riding position can make all the difference between enjoying your pedaling time at Burning Man or a painful experience.
This short video shows how to adjust a playa bike for the most comfortable and efficient riding position. The example bike is a beach cruiser (probably the most commonly found bike on the playa) but the recommendations are applicable to all bikes.
- The saddle should be level
- Saddle height adjust so that when your downstroke leg is extended all the way down your knee is just slightly bent.
- Handlebars height adjusted to preference and comfort using the stem adjustment.
- Handlebar angle adjusted so that wrists are comfortable and not bent.
A flat tire is the most common bike problem at Burning Man so these tools are the bare minimum.
Here’s a minimal list of tools to perform routine bicycle maintenance in a burning man camp.
- Bicycle tire floor pump
- Spanner wrenches – metric
- Allen wrenches – metric
- Pedal wrench
- Water pump pliers
- Needle nose pliers
- Crescent wrench
- Pedal wrench
- Side cutters
- Tire levers – 3 or more plastic levers
- Tubes: usually 26″ x 1.75-2.5 covers a range of cruiser and mtb tires, schrader valve
- Lube – wax based or dry lube
- Shop rags for chain
- Spare bike locks
- Camp bike rack .. see this article from Burning Man Bike Rack Construction Manual
- Hand cleaner
In bigger camps someone will usually lose their bike. Consider bringing a spare camp bike.
Allen wrenches, side cutter, open end/box end wrench set, pedal wrench
A standard single speed beach cruiser with a rear rack and clip on front basket.
At Burning Man your bike is the main way you’ll get around. A lot of times you need to bring things with you or fetch things (like ice) so here are some common ways to do it using your trusty bicycle.
- front basket
- bicycle racks – rear rack, front rack
- box or milk crate attached to a rack
- panniers and bags attached to a rack
- bike trailer
- cargo bike
How to ride your bike safely through the sand at Burning Man. There are plenty of places on the playa and in Black Rock City that are sandy and riding your bicycle through them can be FUN if you know how! This short tutorial demonstrates riding thru sand on a mountain bike but the techniques are the same for ALL bikes – beach cruisers, fat bikes or whatever you are riding on the playa.
- Step 1: loosen up – relax on the approach
- Step 2: lift – unweight the front wheel
- Step 3: smooth – stay loose on the bike and pedal smoothly
Yes you do need a bike at Burning Man! Black Rock City is about 7 square miles (if you overlaid it BRC would cover most of downtown San Francisco). To get around at Burning Man a good, workable bicycle is vital for your transportation needs.
Below: Black Rock City superimposed on Manhattan.
Q. Is having a kickstand on your playa bike a necessity?
A. While it’s not a necessity – most people at the burn have a kickstand installed on their bike. Center Camp and a lot of theme camps have bike racks but a lot don’t. Most of the art and dance venues don’t have bike parking so a kickstand works well here. Bikes laying around on the ground are a hazard. It is also a lot easier to lock a group of bikes together when they’re standing up rather than laying down.