FAQ on what bike to bring and how to prepare it.
Do I need a bike?
Yes. You do not want to be without a bike.
What kind of bike is best?
Any bike that’s working is better than no bike or a failed bike. Generally speaking:
- Fixed-gear is better than shifting gears. Less to break down, easier to fix if it does.
- Wider tires are better than thinner tires. Don’t bring a road bike, but a classic hybrid or wider is fine. One of those fat-tire beach cruisers would be awesome but don’t go out and buy one.
- Something basic is better than a fancy expensive bike — but really cheap bikes can be failure prone. Remember that with the playa dust, and probably a few accidental drops, the bike is going to take a beating out there.
A popular Burn bike is the Huffy Cranbrook for it’s low price and basic construction. I rode a brand-new one in 2016 and it was just fine. In 2017 we took a pair of these, each on their second burn, and they both required major work by middle of the week due to the rough conditions for bikes that year. In 2018 we took our “real” bikes: a 7-speed and 18-speed, both with cable brakes and 700cc hybrid tires, and fortunately they both fared well. Based on the latter experience we’ll continue to bring our good bikes.
If you bring a geared bike, you’ll want to find the gear that gives you the ratio desired for level ground and keeps the chain in as straight alignment as possible, and don’t shift it after that.
How should I prepare my bike?
- Make sure it’s in good working order before you get to the playa, including properly-inflated tires.
- Add colourful lights that make your bike visible and recognizable. We like Wheelbrightz and/or EL wire. The more bright and unique, the better!
- Add a cable combination lock. This is just to prevent casual “borrowing” or mistaken identity; nobody is out stealing bikes with cutters. Get cable-style so that you can easily pass it through your wheel. Get combination because keys are too easy to lose. Something cheap and lightweight is just fine. Just make sure it’s fast and easy to lock/unlock as you’ll be using it constantly.
- Add a kickstand. There won’t often be places to lean your bike, and laying it down constantly is asking for damage. Get an old tennis ball and skewer it on the end of your kickstand to prevent it from penetrating into the playa.
- Add a headlight and taillight.
- Add a basket. A simple front basket is really handy.
- Add a tag or label with your name and camp name and location.
- Consider a flag pole with lighting to make yourself especially visible and recognizable!
- Consider some more decorations to make your bike unique and recognizable. Neon or reflective tape, a stuffed animal mascot, etc… Just nothing that will detach or disintegrate and become MOOP please.
When should I prepare my bike?
Before you get to the playa. Once you’re there, you don’t want to be messing with getting your bike working with few tools, few parts, and better things to do. This includes everything in the above list, with one exception being that you may need to detach your basket and/or flag for loading onto a car carrier, and re-attach once unloaded at camp.
What happens if my bike breaks down?
Ideally you have the parts, tools, and knowledge to fix your bike yourself — but if you don’t have this, luckily we have the incredible folks at the bike repair camps! They’re all fantastic, but remember that their resources are limited, and if it’s a rough year for bikes (like 2017 was) they’ll be very busy and likely running out of parts. Consider bringing a spare bike tube, spare chain, and hex keys or other tools to tighten or make adjustments yourself.
How is my bike getting there?
We currently have capacity for 5 bikes with a 2-bike and a 3-bike car carrier; talk to Ty.
Note that step-through designs (aka “ladies” bikes) require some kind of crossbar to span the seat and handlebar stem to properly load onto these carriers. If you have a non-standard bike (trike, fat tire, electric, etc.) you’ll need to consider that may not fit on the carriers we have already.
Also note that the lightweight combo lock recommended above will not be sufficient if the bike needs to overnight attached to the car. You still want the simple lock for playa use, but also a heavy-duty lock like you’d use if you parked your bike on a city street.
Do I need a helmet?
I won’t tell you not to, but note that I have never seen a single helmet worn on playa. Bike accidents do happen (I was in one my virgin year!), but usually they are embarrassingly low-speed.