Burning Man bikes for under $50

Where to get a beater bike for Burning Man

From left, Reno Bike Project volunteer Anthony Arevalo and bike mechanic Casey Clark adjust the shifting during a complete overhaul of a bike.

From left, Reno Bike Project volunteer Anthony Arevalo and bike mechanic Casey Clark adjust the shifting during a complete overhaul of a bike.

Photo By D. Brian Burghart

So you’re all packed up and ready to head out to the playa for a week’s worth of pyrotechnics, free expression and all the wiles of the imagination Burning Man can provide. An important consideration is the size of Black Rock City, which stretches over seven square miles and is expected to hold more than 46,000 people this year. The classic method of transportation on the playa has been a bicycle, but where to procure the best velocipede for the best price?

If you’re looking for a cheap beater bike, something you can use for a week and get rid of after you’ve had as much fun as you can handle in the desert, there are several bike shops in the Reno area. Reno-Sparks Kiwanis Bike Program is a volunteer group located at 2605 Comstock Drive that offers revamped simple bikes for Burners throughout the year. Bikes for Burning Man were available for reservation on April 1 and have since sold out. So this is something to keep in mind for next year. Bikes are sold at their shop or available online, where donated bikes resell for $30-50.

Ellen Jacobson, one of the founders of Kiwanis, says the company’s primary mission is to get bikes to children. “We donate to organizations all over town,” Jacobson says. “Though we do offer our adult bikes to people going to Burning Man.” Kiwanis will accept returned bikes used at the festival as a donation, and they participate at several bike recycle fairs in town.

A second location to pick up a cheap bike is the Reno Bike Project at 250 Bell St. downtown. The RBP recently moved to 541 E. Fourth St., but Burner bike pick-up is still at Bell Street. Accepting donated bikes and checking to make certain the brakes function properly and the rims are straight, RBP offers their bikes for roughly $50. RBP and Kiwanis both help collect abandoned bikes on the playa after the event.

Abandoned bikes are a serious problem at Burning Man, and an estimated 600 bikes were left behind last year alone. This is in conflict with the Burning Man creed of Leave No Trace, and both Jacobson of Kiwanis and Kyle Kozar of RBP agree, “If you pack it in, you should pack it out.” The bikes that have been lost or left behind are collected by the staff and are typically recycled to organizations such as the Black Label Bike Club. The BLBC in Reno or the Rat Patrol out of Chicago use the bikes the following year for the Yellow Bike Project. Yellow Bike is a community project which leaves bikes at specific places at Burning Man for anyone who needs them, just so long as they don’t try to take them home.

Since Black Rock City is so large, and the chances of finding a lost bike are rather small, Mike Corson of the BLBC reminds everyone to lock up their bike when they’re not using it: “So it doesn’t walk off on its own. … It is a city after all.”

“If you see a bike that looks abandoned, don’t take it,” advises Kozar. “Someone will probably come looking for it.”

One of the principles at Burning Man is self-reliance, so know what resources are available to keep your bike working properly once you’re in the extremes of the desert. College Cyclery, at 622 S. Virginia St., offers a basic bike maintenance kit, which includes a spare rubber tube, compressed air and tire removal tools for between $45 and $55. College Cyclery also offers high-end bicycles from $250-10,000, according to owner Randy Collins. A last recommended tool for navigating the wild expanses of the desert is a headlight, or at least glow sticks, for your bike. After all, the Man burns at night.