Sixty Thousand Bikes… Burning Man 2012

Not everybody, but almost everybody, brings a bike to Burning Man. This 30 foot tall archway made from used bicycles by Mark Grieve and Ilana Spector for Burning Man in 2007 reflects the importance of bikes in Black Rock City.

There will be close to 60,000 participants at Burning Man this year and close to 60,000 bikes.

You can walk at Burning Man; in fact I enjoy it. Every block of Black Rock City offers new sights and adventures to experience. The City covers some seven square miles, however.  A bike is a necessity of life for getting around.

The primary requirement for a Burning Man bike is that it have big tires and be old and beat up or Wal-Mart cheap. Translation: the black Rock desert is not kind to bikes. Skinny tired expensive bikes, or for that matter, fat tired expensive bikes will not be happy. Bring a clunker. Dust gets into everything. If it rains, mud gets into everything. Actually mud grabs on to tires and feet alike with super-glue tenacity and brings everything including mutant vehicles and bikes to a screeching halt.

In addition to being messy, Playa dirt is corrosive.

Preparation for night is important. You want to be seen. As you might imagine, thousands of bikes wandering around on a dark night is a disaster waiting to happen. Bikes are adorned with headlamps and tail lights or at least glow sticks.

Smart Burners also bring spare tubes, bike oil and basic tools. Remember the motto of radical self-reliance. You will also want a bike lock. In a city of 60,000 there are bound to be a few thieves, or at least people who borrow your bike for a short ride or several days and then abandon it.

The Horse-Bone camp is lucky. Punkin-Beth, owner of B&L Bikeshop in Davis California is a master bike mechanic and member of our tribe. In addition to helping us with bike problems, she gifts our neighbors. There are camps at Burning Man dedicated to helping with bike repair.

Pimp your bike! Decorations can be simple or elaborate. Burning Man is all about art. Your bike is a blank canvass waiting for your creative touch. Burners will appreciate your efforts, your bike will be easier to find in a crowd of several thousand look-alikes, and people are less likely to ‘borrow’ it.

Bikes lined up in front of Center Camp looking a lot like each other.

A bike with a personality… easy to find and unlikely to be stolen.


Tiger Bike.

Wild horses are often spotted in Nevada. These are actually steeds of the Horse-Bone camp.

Luna, AKA Peggy, adds decorations to her horse.

Fender art.

Crash testing a bike?

The biggest bicycling event at Burning Man is the CT Parade where over a thousand women take off their tops, decorate, and go on a joyous bike ride.

Another picture of the bike tower, surrounded by bikes.