How to Decorate a Bike for Burning Man

So you’ve decided to go to Burning Man this year- awesome! (If you haven’t decided, consider reading our post: Should I go to Burning Man?) A bicycle is an essential part of the Burning Man experience, and you will want to personalize it. In fact, your bike will be one of your most essential Burning Man accessories! I had so much fun decorating my burner bike for my virgin burn. Read on for tips on how to decorate a bike for Burning Man! 

Why should I decorate my Burning Man bike?

While most people focus on their Burning Man outfits when preparing, it is actually far more essential to have your bike decorated than it is to show up in fancy costumes (though Burning Man costumes are super fun).

Why, you ask? There are 70,000 people riding around Black Rock City Nevada on bicycles, and there tends to be a huge mass of bikes parked outside every major camp or art structure. If your burner bike doesn’t stand out you will have a very tough time finding it among the sea of bicycles!

What are the best bike accessories for my Burning Man bike?

There are a few things you will want to keep in mind when you decide how to decorate your burner bike:

  • Comfort

  • Resistance to dust

  • Security

  • Lighting

The playa is a dry, dusty lakebed, and can make for a very bumpy ride, so you’ll want to consider some decorations that add comfort. On my burner bike I added a stuffed animal to the seat for extra padding! Some other cool bike accessories that you can add for comfort include: a pillow on your bike seat, a drink holder on your handle bars, or a basket to stow things in while you explore. I’ve even seen bikes out there that have a built in minibar!

As far as resistance to dust, you don’t want to add a lot of metal, rustable parts or decorations to your Burning Man bike. The alkaline dust corrodes metal, and causes rust to develop pretty quickly. Also, don’t add anything that has too many moving parts. For example, your bike lock should be a simple combo lock, NOT a lock with a keyhole. Over the course of the week that keyhole will fill with dust and the lock mechanism will likely stop working before you leave the playa.

Which brings me to locking your bike! Always lock your bicycle at Burning Man, a lock that can easily stay attached to your bike is essential. Unlocked bikes often get “borrowed” on the playa, so put a combination bike lock on your burner bike every time you park it!

Lighting your Burning Man bicycle is absolutely essential if you want to ride it at night, and trust me you DO want to ride it at night! Nighttime at Burning Man is chaotic and very dark. There are thousands of people walking and riding all over the place, not to mention the giant art cars that need to be able to see your bike so they don’t crash into you!

There are tons of great options for lighting your burner bike, but the most tried and true lighting accessory for bicycles on the playa is el wire. This is a long plastic tube of light that runs on batteries, glows very brightly, and can be wrapped around your bike in any configuration.

Other lighting options include solar string lights, battery powered LEDs, or solar lanterns. Just do not bring glow sticks of any kind to Burning Man! They are nowhere near bright enough to provide appropriate lighting, and since they are one time use they just create more trash that you have to pack out.

How do I attach decorations to my Burning Man bike?

I am a huge fan of zip ties and duct tape for attaching accessories to your burner bike. You can get zip ties in all kinds of crazy colors, and once you’ve wrapped them just snip off the tail of the tie so it looks prettier. There are also a variety of duct tape colors you can use, and you can even cut the duct tape into thinner strips to attach items to your burner bike.

A glue gun is also a good option for attaching some accessories to your burner bike, but keep in mind that it gets so hot on the playa that the hot glue may actually melt, causing an accessory to fall off your bicycle and create MOOP (matter out of place) which is a BIG no no. A glue gun is a good option for attaching lightweight fabric to your burner bike, but not for attaching hard or heavy items.

Do I need a basket on my Burning Man bike?

No. You don’t need a basket on your burner bike, but you will probably love having a basket! It’s not uncommon to spend an entire day riding around Black Rock City without returning to camp. That means you need to have all your water and necessities (see our Burning Man preparation guide for more information on necessities) with you when you explore. A basket makes it so much more comfortable to carry everything you need for hours at a time. If at all possible add a basket to your burner bike!

How do I transport my Burning Man bike?

If you are traveling to Burning Man in a small vehicle transporting a bicycle can be a challenge. If you have a roof rack you can use ratchet straps to securely strap your bicycle to the roof, but an easier option may be to add a detachable bike rack to your car’s trunk or bumper. Keep in mind these types of bike racks are notorious for scratching the paint on cars so pay attention to the spots where your rack makes contact with your car.

If you live near a big city you may also want to look into renting a space in a storage container that is going to Black Rock City. Many large theme camps will transport an entire storage container to the playa and rent out the extra space inside of it to local burners.

Need help choosing your Burning Man gear? Check out the festival gear we can’t live without (with special notes on Burning Man!) and our Guide to Burning Man Packing and Prep. Getting excited for the playa? Read about the time I went to Burning Man alone!

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