Burning Man is huge. No matter how dedicated you are, accept the fact that you won't get to see everything. However, you will be able to see and do a lot more with a bike. And as with anything else, a little bit of planning and preparation can make the difference between a comfortable reliable mode of transportation, and a wasted effort hauling a 40lb piece of junk to the playa.
Here are some suggestions:
- Don't bring a kiddie (BMX) bike - they may pack easily but are horrible to ride on the playa - very tiring...
- Don't bring a bike with skinny tires as they tend to corkscrew when turning in the soft playa buildup.
- Don't bring expensive bikes - leave your "good" bikes at home. Or plan on locking them up well.
- Fat tire (Cruiser, Mountain bikes) bikes do better on the soft playa sand - but cruisers may look cool, but take more effort to pedal. Mountain bikes with working gears do well, if they have a comfortable riding position. Cruisers with gears work really well.
- Consider purchasing a thrift-store/garage sale bike and dress it up. Make it your "playa bike". Optionally, go all out and build a frankensteinesque bike.
- Make sure you have a comfy seat - otherwise your rump will suffer. You can build a comfy seat with padding and duct tape and/or cloth/fur etc. Or buy them, but the comfy gel ones can be expensive
- Get a cheap combination lock because bike theft/borrowing is quite a problem at BM. Write the combo on your wrist in permanent marker and on the inside of your tent (or something you won't easily lose). (I have 4 combo locks and don't know the combination to any of them!)
- Decorate you bike and make it more than just a means of transportation. However, when you are dressing up your bike out please make sure that stuff won't fall off and litter the playa as you ride. Faux fur works really well - just make sure it is well secured to your bike. Decorating also helps because a unique looking bike is easier to find at popular gathering places like Center Camp, Arctica, Temple, Man, etc.
- At least one working brake is essential.
- Oil the chain and make sure it doesn't have any seized up links (one that won't bend). I find the wax based lubes work best as the dust sticks to oil based lubes and tends to gum up the chain. And bring the bottle so that you can re-up as needed, and share with those who forgot to lube up.
- Make sure you have good tubes (consider investing in Slime or Stans tire sealant. This is the goop that self-seals the tubes in case of puncture.
- If you plan on riding at night, you will need lights (front and back). Please point your headlamps downwards so as not to blind other playa citizens. Glow sticks woven through your tubes are pretty cool to watch and make you more visible.
Also consider something like these LED wheel lights. They make you very visible and it is much easier to find your bike at night.
- Make a small slit on an old tennis ball and slip it onto your kickstand to prevent the bottom of the kickstand from digging into the Playa and causing your bike to fall over.
- A basket or a luggage rack to carry stuff (including ice) is most helpful (Suggested by Shady ). The little kid trailers for towing behind the bikes also work well for hauling ice. coolers, etc and usually run around $20-$30 used at garage sales, thrift stores, and Craigslist
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Version 1.1 - updated Aug 8, 2013
Copyright None - But drop me a note if you find this to be helpful or have any suggestions
Email: ruvi (at) burningtribe (dot) com
Member of The Tribe