A Horse with No Name and Burning Man… The Bikes of Black Rock City

This lion was one of the more uniquely decorated bikes I found at Burning Man 2015.

This lion was one of the more uniquely decorated bikes I found at Burning Man 2015. The tires are perfect for the Playa.

Almost everyone has a bike at Burning Man, even the folks with mutant vehicles. How else are you going to make your way down to the neighborhood bar, or the Center Camp Café, or the Man, or the dance venue out on the edge of Black Rock City when you have an itch to travel and your only option is walking— for miles. That means that there are well over 50,000 bikes running around in the desert. I wouldn’t be surprised if the number were closer to 65,000.

There are no skinny tires at Burning Man, or, if there are, the Virgin Burners who brought them won’t make the same mistake twice. Playa dust sucks up skinny tires like quicksand sucks up wayward cows. You and your bike may not disappear, but you are guaranteed to come to a screeching halt in deep dust, and possible even earn a dust bath. Most bikes also share another quality. They are dirt-cheap. Dirt seeps into everything. It is not the place for your $1000 bike, or even your $500 bike. I am talking Wal-Mart cheap.

When I first journeyed out to the Black Rock Desert, my friend Ken Lake brought along hobby horses to fit on our bikes.  (A hobby-horse is a long stick with a horse head on one end; you’ve probably seen them in kids stores like Toys-R-Us.  Maybe you have even jumped on one and yelled Hi-Yo-Silver-Away. I have.) Ours came with sound effects. Pinch their ears and they would make trotting and neighing sounds. The hobby horses were meant as a decoration, but they also served a more practical purpose: to help us find our bikes when hundreds of others looked just the same.  In honor of the horses we decided to call ourselves Horse Camp. Naturally we had to name our horses. I chose Horse with No Name after the lyrics of 70s song released by the band, America.

I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name— It felt good to be out of the rain— In the desert you can remember your name— ‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain.

Burning Man bikes Horse with No Name

Horse with No Name tries on my hat. The yellow circle under the hat was one of the many glow sticks he was wearing the night before to avoid becoming a statistic.

Following along with the horse camp theme, I adopted “Outlaw” as my Playa name. The two names just seemed to fit, plus they both have a rather illusive quality I like.

Not all burners decorate their bikes, but most have at least something on them to aid in identification. Here are some decorated bikes I found  at Burning Man 2015.

This pirate had outfitted his bike with a canon. (Photo by Don Green.)

This pirate had outfitted his bike with a cannon. (Photo by Don Green.)

A family of owls roosted on the handle bars.

A family of owls roosted on the handle bars.

I don't have a clue as to what these white poles represented but they sure made the bikes easy to find.

I don’t have a clue as to what these white poles represented but they sure made the bikes easy to find.

So did the lamp shades.

So did the lamp shades.

And how about these animals? It looks like someone robbed a toy store, or maybe their kid's room.

And how about these animals? It looks like someone robbed a toy store, or maybe their kid’s room. This is a tricycle, BTW.

Now, if I only had someone to pedal me around...

Now, if I only had someone to pedal me around…

I am thinking Pagoda here.

I am thinking Pagoda here.

If you have never biked, or haven't biked for quite awhile, your crotch may be in for a real treat. These folks (and their highly abused rabbit and bear) have done what they can to counter the experience.

If you have never biked, or haven’t biked for quite a while, your crotch may be in for a real treat. Trust me on this one. I’ve been there. These folks (and their highly abused rabbit and dog) have done what they can to counter the pain.

I will conclude with this flower. Join me in my next blog as I go on a Burning Man walk-a-bout.

I will conclude with this gigantic flower. Join me in my next blog as I go on a Burning Man walk-a-bout.

 

24 comments on “A Horse with No Name and Burning Man… The Bikes of Black Rock City

    • Hmmm. I could see a few problems with giving birth on the bike. I don’t think riding to the hospital with labor pains would be much fun either. 🙂 That aside Gerard, my trips through Holland have certainly persuaded me of the country’s love of bicycling. –Curt

    • One way of telling who is going to Burning Man on I-80 in late August is the bikes on their vehicles, GP. (That and many of the vehicles have a well used look and are loaded down with gear.) After the event you can tell who has been there by the Playa dust on their vehicles. Some folks devote a great deal of attention to their bikes. I am afraid most of my effort is last minute… and is usually more concerned with making sure Horse with No Name is ready for another week on the Playa! Curt

  1. I have a friend in Oklahoma whose rusty old pickup is called “The Horse With No Name.” I like your Horse With No Name — especially that little detail about the ears. When I was hobby-horsing around, we had to make our own noises. Ah, technology!

    • Good for your friend. Heck, we had to make our own hobby horses. I remember galloping across the school yard as a first or second grader sans horse in everything except my imagination. But I am sure my steed was a magnificent creature. 🙂 –Curt

  2. “Anyway. I have.” Ha ha!! I would expect nothing else from you, Curt.

    These decorated bikes are really creative. For some reason I love the lampshades. What a simple and clever way to make your bike stand out from the crowd. It must be even harder to find them in the dark. Good thing Horse With No Name had a glow stick or two.

    A cannon on a bike? A CANNON?! That is so friggin funny. And the owls are a work of art.

    • One of those lamps seemed to have a light up in it; I wonder… Horse with No Name has a whole series of lighting strategies. Just think, it is 10 PM and the Playa is filled with bikes going in all directions, with at least a portion of their riders under the influence (of something). It’s good to be seen, Crystal. The cannon was funny. Hopefully it was made out of something very light. Otherwise it would be nosedive city! 🙂 –Curt

  3. Had no idea there are so many bikers at Burning Man. But it makes sense. And I’d have to be one of the bikers with an umbrella attached. Good point, too, about fat tires. Maybe that could be a cottage industry at BM: seller of big tires! Thanks for posting!

    • There is a cottage industry of people selling bikes to Burners. 🙂 It can’t happen at Burning Man because things can’t be sold there… but from Reno all the way in there are places to buy bikes, mainly refurbished from the year before. People drop them off at collection sites when they leave and pick up a used bike on their way in. –Curt

  4. This place is absolutely zany, Curt…down to the bicycle seat cushions! And the one with the cattle skull in front reminded me of the tricycle motorcycles that ran all throughout Leyte except this one is leg-powered.

    • Zany is a great word, Koji. Just watched a number of mean looking Harleys in the Fur Rendezvous parade in Anchorage. I didn’t see any skulls on the bikes, though. They were reserved for the jackets. -Curt

  5. Hi stranger! I just wanted to thank you for posting the pic of my lion bike!! A friend came across your blog (and my bike), and it totally made my day! As I’m sure you understand, it was something special to ride through the desert… on a cat with no name 🙂 Much gratitude, and happy travels.

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