Burn, Don’t Get Burned: Playa Bike Consumer Report

by Whatsblem the Pro



Back in March, we gave you a rundown of options for obtaining a playa-suitable bicycle. Topping that list was Reno’s Kiwanis Bike Program; unfortunately, information has come to light that prompts us to withdraw our recommendation of that organization in favor of the other options listed in our March article.

We’re sorry to report that you should also be warned away from Rat’s Bikes, a service frequently promoted in the Jack Rabbit Speaks newsletter put out by the Burning Man Org.

We don’t have any negative reports from people using Kiwanis’ playa bike program, so you might be safe giving them your money for that (if they even have any left); we have confirmed, however, that they are not trustworthy enough to do business with on a verbal contract basis; instead of fulfilling their end of the bargain, they seem to do nearly as much back-pedaling as pedaling. Caveat emptor!

When Kiwanis recently moved to a new space and needed the old place cleaned up so they could get their deposit back, a three-way deal was struck to get their old space thoroughly cleaned in exchange for a dozen or more bicycles, to be donated to a community center for community use. Volunteers showed up and did the job, and Kiwanis got their deposit back. They made every visible sign of being happy with the work performed, to the point of gushing all over everyone concerned about it. . . but when it came time to collect the bicycles, they suddenly decided to change the deal and act as though nobody should be surprised by that. The community center that was supposed to get a dozen or more bikes got one instead. Stay classy, Kiwanis Bike Program.

Rat’s Bikes, meanwhile, a one-man operation that may be connected with the Kiwanis Bike Program, has simply vanished into thin air after collecting funds from more than a few burners. We don’t know where Rat is or what’s going on, and it’s possible that he’s in some kind of truly dire straits that makes this excusable. . . but in any case, Rat should no longer be considered a reliable resource for burners seeking bikes. We hope Rat’s OK, even though him being OK would mean that he’s some kind of thief, and that some kind of thief has been enjoying free promotion from the Burning Man Org.

As always, do your due diligence before forking over your hard-earned cash, no matter what you’re buying; this is particularly important when you’re buying tickets from someone other than the Org themselves, at any price. You don’t want to end up on the playa with no bicycle after paying for one, and you sure don’t want to show up at Gate with a ticket bearing an invalidated serial number.

Ride tough!

We have just learned that an anonymous donor has stepped forward to fill the gap left by the Kiwanis Bike Program. One dozen bicycles will be delivered to the community center tomorrow, with annual free maintenance included! The donor does not want publicity, but the bicycles themselves will be sourced from Black Rock Bicycles, who will also do the yearly maintenance.


14 comments on “Burn, Don’t Get Burned: Playa Bike Consumer Report

  1. confused about where my rather long comment from yesterday went to….it was on topic – is this list/blog uhhh edited? censored? curious and confused.

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  5. I was saddened to read the original posting above not least as it has the potential to cause considerable doubt and uncertainty in the lead up to Burning Man.
    A basic rule of good journalism is to check the facts from both sides of a dispute but I see little mention of Kiwanis take on what happened over the clean up arrangement. It’s therefore hard to judge the veracity of the story.
    As British burners, my friend and I are reliant on organizing bikes from a distance for Burning Man. We had great bikes off Rat in 2011. Rat is a burner in his 70s who spent most of the year repairing bikes ready for rental at Burning Man. He operated on a first come, first served basis when collecting bikes so maybe there were some less than 100% bikes left towards the end? We failed to get a response from Rat in the early spring of this year. He was a nice, helpful guy and we hope he is well.
    We’ve therefore moved over to Kiwanis for this year. They have been great in communicating with us. Having read the above posting we checked with them that all was well and we got an instant positive response from them. We are also much encouraged by their web site highlighting the great work they do with kids.
    Their Burning Man booking process is via Paypal with the refund protection that brings. We certainly look confidently forward to collecting our bikes from them in a few weeks time.
    The tale of the ‘clean up’ operation sounds like a classic case of there not being a clear understanding of the agreement. It’s very sad that there has been a falling out over the arrangements. If the Burner community ends up like this it’s no wonder the wider world is in a mess 🙁

  6. L-N your story has holes in it. How is it that 12 of your used bikes are valued at $480, and you say they received 3 used bikes from you valued at $300. That doesn’t add up. An honest story is easily told without confusion. And yours has LIE, and BACK PEDDLING all over it. I read it 3 times and it still doesn’t make sense. On the other hand, a contract should have set numbers from cost of cleaning, to the trade value in bicycles. Yet the author of this post vaguely states 12 or more bicycles which leads a reader to believe that they do not have a set number either. This is a lesson for both parties, a verbal contract is a stupid idea because BUSINESS PEOPLE CAN’T BE TRUSTED. People can be trusted. But business people cannot be trust for shit. Because as soon as they see an opportunity to cut a corner or two and save money, they will do it. P.S. This story is stupid because no one has HARD FACTS. This is a here-say argument on both sides that should have been easily settled like adults. Rather than creating stress for Burners traveling having already reserved bikes with Kiwanis Bike Program. Kiwanis Bike Program should also have just given the kids those damn bikes. You are looking to make so much money off of Burning man, you just messed up a perfectly solid business relationship because of greed. KIDS & BIKES MAN . . . . . . . . KIDS & BIKES.

    • The free clean-up job the Kiwanis got out of this was worth over $3000 to them, as that’s the amount of the deposit they got back by virtue of the place being cleaned. They couldn’t do it themselves and were frantic to find someone to do it for them.

      • And yes, the deal was for “12 or more.” Sorry to be ambiguous, but you’re right: the deal was a little ambiguous.

      • In a gifting economy everyone should have helped them clean their space and expected nothing. The day I need a contract at a burn is the day that burn is no longer worth going to. Kind of like BM

  7. I rented from the Rat in 2010 and all went well. But the bikes were crap. I hope he is OK, because he was a nice and well-intentioned guy.
    Frankly, for $85 and an hour of assembly plus borrowing some tools from your playa neighbors, you can get a brand new beach cruiser. It’s worth every penny.
    Order it for in-store pick-up. Make a kid happy and donate it to the community center after the burn,
    Buy a bike lock.

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