Tips and Tricks – Bike Edition

So you’re flying into Reno from an exotic land and you can’t put your bike in your carry on luggage. You start to wonder… “How the hell do I bring a bike with me? Do I really have to buy a new bike in Reno for $250? But I am only going to use it for 1 week! I can’t take it back home with me on the plane… What do I do with it afterward? Do I even need to have a bike on the playa??”

According to Matt Roth on The Burning Blog, “Black Rock City, more than any other urban area, has been given over completely to bicycles, making it unquestionably the highest bikes-per-capita metropolis anywhere on the planet.”  So as much as you do not have to bring a bike to the playa, the city is made for bikes. Not having one will impact your experience and your ability to get around the city with ease.

Imagine you are camped at 8:30 and C. You are lounging around camp, regrouping after an amazing day of adventures. Suddenly a friend pops in and tells you your favorite DJ in the entire world is playing (right now!) at the most amazing sound camp on the playa… which happens to be at 2:00 and B. Without a bike it will be extremely difficult to get there in time to catch the last minutes of this potentially mind blowing moment.bliss dance 2010

To get a bike in Reno is an easy task. You can get one at big box stores like Target for $80-$250, or go to one of the many general bike shops in the Reno area listed in the Bikes page in the Preparation – Reno guide. There are bike shops in Reno that specialize in bikes for Burning Man. They offer used bikes, new bikes, rental bikes, accessories, and gadgets…

  • Black Rock Bicycles – Bike sales and rentals for burners by burners. The rentals start at $75 for the week, but are sold out as the event approaches. New bikes (especially created with the playa in mind) start at $230.
  • Reno Bike Project – Selling used bikes to burners for $55. You cannot reserve a bike, they are first come first serve. I highly recommend you call them when you arrive in Reno and ask if they have any available, as they only have 600-800 playa bikes for sale. 775-323-4488
  • Save Mart Supermarket – There are a few Save Marts in Reno. The Keystone location in particular is a one-stop-burner-shop. They have a very limited number of bikes from Kiwanis and Black Rock Bicycles.
  • Kiwanis Bike Program –  They have over 400 recycled bikes to choose from, starting at $40. They accept advance reservations and usually sell out in June.
  • Rats Bikes of Reno – offers rentals exclusively to long-distance Burners. Usually sells out by spring. However, if you are looking for a real good bike rental for Black Rock City in 2013, AND you live outside of the United States or really far away from BRC (like 1000 miles), remember to send Rat an email early in 2013 at nv_desert_rat@nvbell.net.

You can also buy a bike from one of the street vendors between Wadsworth and Gerlach along the 447. Every year as I am driving this route I see a pile of bikes on the side of the road with a hand painted sign that says “BIKES $50”. Dependable? Reliable? Good condition?? Probably not… Last minute cheap bike? Absolutely! And I love the idea of giving money to the people in the local community instead of a big retailer like Target or Save Mart.

Then there is the Yellow Bike program. Such a wonderful, amazing idea. The realization of it, however, is quite dismal. This is a program that was first brought to the playa in 2006 (or was it 2007?). There are apx 700 bikes brought to the playa for community use. Remember: There are 60,000 people and 700 of these bikes. They are not always available. In fact I have gone through the entire week of Burning Man and not seen 1 Yellow Bike until Monday when the city has emptied. Then I saw 2.

Yellow Bikes, ironically painted bright green with the words “Yellow Bike” painted on in red

Now that you know it is a brilliant idea to bring a bike, and you know where to get one, you can pimp it out like a pro. At the minimum you need a light on the front and a light on the back of your bike, it’s a good idea to light it up any other creative way you can as well. I love these Monkey Lights that create beautiful lights when your bike is moving across the playa.

A bike basket is on my list of essential bike accessories. I have 1 in the front of my back and 2 saddle baskets on the back. The back ones are foldable which allows for a streamlined bike when I don’t need them. I also put pegs on my back tires so I can give quick rides to people. And when my back baskets are folded in there is a nice place for my rider to sit while they are taxi’d around! HERE are some fun photos of bicyclists in Amsterdam and all the creative ways they get 2 or more people on their bikes.

In addition to those simple accessories I would also recommend a bell, a super comfy seat, 2 extra bike tubes (make sure you get the size that fits your tires), a bike tool, bike lube/oil, and a combo lock (according to Burningman.com “The number of bikes reported lost were high (400+ reports), and these bikes are rarely recovered. This tells us that bike theft is still very prevalent in Black Rock City. Lock your bikes!”).

Playa Diva biking across the playa

After the burn is over, you are packing up your camp, you wonder “what do I do with this bike now? Maybe I can just leave it here. I’m sure someone will want it…” WRONG!! Abandoned bikes are a huge trash problem at Burning Man. Please take the opportunity to donate your bike to a community program. HERE is a list of all the places in Reno that will let you recycle or donate your bike.

Even during years where it has been extremely dusty and I have not used my bike very much, I am always grateful to have my bike when I need it. Personally, I will do whatever it takes to bring a bike to Burning Man. I don’t care how dusty it’s going to be or how much trouble I have to go to in order to get a bike there. For me, it’s all worth it.

Published by Playa Diva

I am the founder and editor of playadiva.com. I write about festival culture and fashion. I am also the designer and owner of Katsani Designs.

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