Which Bike Is Best?

Which Type Of Bike Is Best?


The Best Bike for Burning Man is one that provides you with reliable transportation, a comfortable fit, and as a bonus…matches your personal style. The bumpy Playa and its blowing alkaline dust are very hard on mechanical equipment so most people wisely leave their quality every day bike safely at home in the garage.   Just like every person and thing that makes the journey to Black Rock City ; after the Playa experience it will never be the same again.  Your ride for Burning Man does not have to be a finely tuned light weight  machine with the worlds best components. Yet before you decorate it and bring it to the Playa at a bare minimum your ride should have: two tires and tubes that hold air, one functioning brake {two is better}, and one gear that pedals efficiently. You don’t want a high-end expensive bike to get beat up at Burning Man yet …you need a reliable ride so how do we strike that balance?   This answer is of course subjective but mechanically speaking there are definitely advantages and disadvantages to the many styles. Lets take a look at them here. After each bike style listed is my personal BMD {Burning Man Desirability} on a scale of 1-10. I base this BMD on comfort, reliability, expense, ease of transport, ability to mount accessories; a kickstand, water cage, a basket, and a rack.

I am a big believer in used bikes obtained from a thrift store, garage sale, Craigs List, Offer Up, or bike shop.  A single speed bike can work well but I prefer a minimum of 5 speeds so you can pedal slowly in street traffic yet you can shift to a high gear when you are out on Open Playa.  Many bikes have a front derailleur as well but all you need functioning is the right shifter for the rear derailleur.  I ride an old school mountain bike with 7 gears on the back and I find it to be the perfect ride for me.


Adult Trike / BMD = 1

This is a three wheeled bike with a big tractor saddle, a huge storage basket behind the rider, big wide bars, and an upright riding position.   Sounds good but due to their size they are extremely difficult to transport, are very heavy, are difficult to size large riders, and are very difficult to maneuver through a crowd.   Good ones are expensive at $500 plus; and the cheap ones from the Internet in the $200 range are absolute crap.   AKA a POS {Piece Of Shit}. Leave it at home.


Tandem Bike / BMD = 1

Ahh a bicycle built for two to cruise the Playa and whisper a sweet I love you to your main squeeze. Don’t do it! These bikes are very hard to transport, steer, maintain, ride alone, and maneuver through a crowd. Another name for this style of bike is a “Divorce Bike”. You don’t want that to happen on the Playa so leave this bike at home.


Unicycle / BMD = 1

A difficult to ride single wheeled cycle that is high on the “Wow Factor” but low on comfort, efficiency, and accessory capability.   You ride this to make a statement not to be practical. Leave it at home unless you are trying to impress the Sparkle Ponies or training for the circus.


Motorized Bike / BMD = 2

Motorized In Style!

With the advent of better batteries and increased motor usage on bicycles these “E-Bikes” are becoming more prevalent. According to BM policies a motorized vehicle with a seat is not allowed unless it is licensed after it passes DMV {Department of Mutant Vehicle} protocol. This is not heavily enforced but since the Playa is flat, batteries need charging, and motors are heavy I would leave the motor at home and stick to simplistic and efficient HP Bikes {Human Powered}.

BMX Bike / BMD = 2

A BMX bike is a 20” wheel single speed that is typically ridden by young kids aged 8-13. It may come with a Coaster Brake that slows the bike by pedaling backwards, with handbrakes that have cables to squeeze the caliper rim brakes, or a combination of the two. This bike has durable small wheels, and is easy to transport but the small saddle and frame means uncomfortable fit. Tires and tubes will be hard to find on the Playa and it is more difficult to mount a basket to carry supplies.   If you are less than 5 feet tall this may work…else leave this one at home.


Road Bike / BMD = 3

Used to be called a “10 speed” because that is how many gears an old Schwinn Varsity used to have.   Typical road bike has the rams horn style handlebar. This bike is designed for long distance riding on pavement.   These bikes have skinny tires which are not recommended for the loose sand and dust on the Playa. They are fast but if you are coming to Burning Man to go fast you may want to reconsider your priorities. Not a good bike for the Playa. Leave it at home.


Cruiser Bike / BMD = 7

Think of the Pee Wee Herman classic bike with wide handle bars, a big seat,  full fenders, a basket on the front, and that really cool look of a 1950’s ride.   This a 26” wheeled bike which typically has a single speed with a coaster brake {pedal backwards to stop}.   These bikes are very popular on the Playa because they look cool, are easily decorated, are easy to mount a basket, have a big cushy seat, always have a kickstand, and are typically not that expensive. The entire 600 bike fleet of Black Rock City Community “Yellow Bikes” {that are actually green} are cruiser style bikes.  With less moving mechanical parts than a typical multi speed bike these are much easier to maintain and sustain the rigors of Playa travel. These bikes only come in two frame styles; men’s and ladies. If you are a tall person you might look good with your Giraffe head mounted on the handlebar but you will not fit on this bike very well.  Yet this is an awesome bike to cover in fur and sparkly bits as you chill-ax on your daily Playa travels.


Hybrid Bike / BMD = 6

A Hybrid is a balance between a Road Bike and a Mountain bike. This is a good choice for urban bike commuters and recreational cyclists that enjoy an upright comfortable position. A reliable Hybrid bike is typically more expensive than a cruiser and I really like to have a bit wider tire.  It is easy to put fenders, racks, lights, and kickstands on these so they are definitely suitable for the Playa.   The 700c wheels are a large diameter like a road bike but the tires are only half as wide as a mountain bike.   This is designed for efficiency and comfort on pavement but light duty dirt and off road is acceptable. A Hybrid is OK for the Playa but make sure you tires are 700 x 35 or wider.



Mountain Bike

26” 27.5″ or 29” wheel.

NOT 24” unless you are sub 5’ tall Or its the last bike left at Wal-Mart in Reno.

     New School Shop Quality / BMD = 8

A mountain bike from a bike shop will cost $375 on up {Trek, Specialized, Giant, Gary Fisher, Norco, etc…}. This will be a nice reliable bike that is easy to carry, has comfortable front suspension, and is easy to mount accessories. Yet…this bike may be too nice to bring to the Playa.   The alkaline dust gets into every single nook and cranny so be ready to do a complete overhaul and servicing to all the bearings when you return home. Bring this bike but be prepared to watch it get used and abused by the rigors of the Playa.

            Old School / BMD = 10

This is a 20+ year old mountain bike that has been sitting around gathering dust in your garage, attic, or favorite thrift store {Old Schwinn, Raleigh, Trek, Specialized, Nishiki, etc…}. It does not have front suspension yet it will be comfortable as long as you get the appropriate size for your body size. These bikes are awesome because the ride quality is good, you can find one cheap, they are easy to maintain, easy to mount accessories, easy to maneuver, durable, and they are not very expensive.  this is the type of bike I bring and ride on the Playa.


Department Store / BMD = 3

This is a bike from Wal Mart, Target, Toys R Us, Fred Meyer, etc…These bikes are cheap but they are not reliable and typically come in only one size for men and one size for women {Roadmaster, Magna, Huffy, Royce Union, Pacific, Next, Schwinn since 2002, etc…}. The modern ones have a front suspension fork and a rear suspension shock under the riders seat. The idea behind suspension is rider comfort on uneven bumpy terrain.   Sounds good, and may look good from a distance, but the low price = low quality. Due to the price and easy availability these are very popular on the Playa. Yet they are difficult to size tall and short people, they weigh 50 lbs, they have a POS kickstand that doesn’t work, they are very difficult to mount accessories; and the plastic knock off components are crap. Better than walking as long as it works but 1,000’s of these get abandoned as MOOP on the Playa every year. You can do better than this.


Comfort Bike / BMD = 10

This is a mountain bike that is designed to ride on pavement.   It has an upright riding position, big cushy saddle, suspension seat post, suspension fork, adjustable handle bar stem, and is easy to mount all art and accessories. These bikes are typically quality bike shop brands and you may have to spend $400 on one but here is a bike you can use, maintain, and re-use at many Burning Man events. I love this one!

Fat Tire Bike / BMD = 10

These bikes have become all the rage in the past 5 years and are very high on the “WOW” factor.  They are mountain bikes with big wide tires that look like they should be on a tractor or motorcycle.  These wide tires were developed for improved traction and comfort while traveling on sand and snow.  You will not see any snow on the Playa but you will definitely encounter loose sections of Playa that feel like sand at the beach.  These areas are relatively few and most people have no  trouble riding a conventional mountain bike through them, but on a Fat Tire bike it is super easy and you are riding in style.  The down side to these is that they are a bit more expensive than conventional bikes and the wide tires and tubes will not be available on the playa.  Remember radical self reliance and bring your own spare tubes.

Custom Art Bike / BMD Off The Charts!

Human Powered & Happy!

Oh my goodness there are as many art bikes as there are art cars on the Playa.  If you are making one of these you are ahead of the curve and do not need any guidance from me.  Build it, test it, stylize it, transport it, maintain it, and you my friend …are the shit!  Good on ya!