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Burning Man’s Radical Experiment in Alt Transportation: you gotta have a bike

August 7, 2011

It’s hard to imagine how someone could make attending Burning Man a carbon neutral experience, but I’ll say one thing for sure: people use alternative transportation while there.

Mostly people get around Black Rock City on their own power: by bicycle and by foot. They also get around by hitching rides on motorized sofas and artcars and various other moving objects.

But mostly? People ride bicycles. Some are basic. Some are outlandish. My friend Maxwell’s plastic fern makes his beautiful yet essential playa accessory even more awesome.

Back at my first burn in 1992, bikes weren’t necessary. But by 95 they were convenient and by 97 they were a must have.

Almost all 60,000 attendees at this year’s sold out Burning Man event will traverse the playa at one time or another by bicycle. It’s the only way to fly when your car is permanently parked and blocked in, not to mention a dust creating lethal object! (And yes I do mean lethal–people have been killed by cars at Burning Man.)

All bikes at Burning Man need lights to get around at night–to see and be seen, this year more than ever because the moon is new the night the gates to Burning Man open. That means it’s a little teeny tiny sliver of itself that will be going down later and later each night of the event–but it will always be in bed by midnight which is long before you will be. Glow sticks in your spokes look cool but glow sticks are not cool–they’re unsustainable trash.

So if you have nothing else at Burning Man but your birthday suit, sunscreen and water, you need a bicycle with working head and tail lights. If you have lights that make your bicycle distinct, your friends will thank you for it–and you will be even safer out there on the playa. We love our Monkeylectric lights which are fun for Burning Man or on our monthly ArtRides! (pictured) They’re about $65.

What kind of bike do you want? NOT a fancy one! Pick up something used with FAT tires and a few gears, make sure it runs (take it to a bike shop if you have doubts or questions), then spray paint it, fur it, make it your own! Check this post out for more ideas including how to make your bike into a playafly. If you borrow a bike from someone in the default world, make sure the owner knows that it won’t be in the same condition when you return it…

A flag for your bike, even just a kid’s reflective flag, can help you be seen and found as well.

The recent issue of Jack Rabbit Speaks (Volume 15, Issue #26 BIKES) offers tips on where to acquire your bike and what to do with it when you’re done. Here are some highlights and occasional comments about bikes “the essential playa accessory.”




Black Rock Bicycles
7550 Hillview Drive – 775-972-3336
NOTE: They are out of rentals>

Reno Bike Project
541 East Fourth Street – 775-323-4488
A community bike shop operated by Burners near downtown Reno.

Kiwanis Bike Program
in-person during Burning Man at the Save Mart Supermarket
525 Keystone Avenue, 775-786-2150.

Rat’s all out of rental bikes; reserve yours now for next year!



These are BRIGHT GREEN, with no visible brand and/or the words “YELLOW BIKE” painted on the frame.

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.

– 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 (DIY).

– NEVER LOCK A COMMUNITY BIKE. The bike camp 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 are meant for short trips. Grab a community bike, make your trek, and then drop it off where you found it, or leave it in an obvious public place. Do not keep a community bike in your camp.

– Community Bikes should be treated with respect, as if it was your own. Be nice to the bike. Don’t trash it, vandalize it or part it out! It’s a shared community resource. And don’t forget personal hygiene … pants are required while riding a community bike.



Lock it up. TIP: Sharpie your name and camp address on the frame of your bike. You might get lucky!



Bring everything you need to service your own bike, including basic tools, a bike pump and extra innertubes or a patch kit. If you don’t need them, someone will!



Make Your Own BIke Racks:



If you really don’t want that bike anymore, don’t leave it behind on the playa, recycle it in Reno, Sparks, or Wadsworth.

Whole Foods Market
6139 South Virginia Street, Reno, 775-852-8023

Save Mart Supermarket
525 Keystone Ave, Reno, 775-786-2150
195 West Plumb Ln, Reno (back of store), 775-786-0138
565 East Prater Way, Sparks, 775-359-9450
9750 Pyramid Lake Hwy, Sparks, 775-425-2700

Trash Pros
1299 Washeim Street, State Route 447, Wadsworth, 775-575-0707


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