Post-Burn: Maintaining your Human Playa Vehicle

By shop manager, Kurstin Graham

What do you do with that playa-caked bicycle after the dust has settled? To stave off a high repair bill, we recommend you don’t wait 11 and a half months to tune it up.

First, pre-wash: Remove decorations and accessories. Re-decorating your bike from year to year is fun! The decorations often are in the way of tuning your bike. Evaluate your lights and remove batteries.


  1. Wash your bike: I start with a bucket of warm water and dish soap. Sometimes I get fancy and use car washing soap. I rinse the bike, top to bottom, then follow with a vigorous scrubbing top to bottom. Focus on brake and shift levers, underside of seat, headset, hubs, bottom bracket, gears, derailleurs, chain, pedals (all lubed parts that have caked playa dust on them). Rinse top to bottom. Repeat. I bounce the bike a couple of times, and then dry it with a rag.

  2. Clean, dry, and lube your chain: a little time here is worth it. Using a brush and a rag there should be no dirt on your chain. WD40 is a good solvent for drying your chain but you will need a lube on top of that dry, clean chain. Tri-Flow is a great all-purpose lube. Finishline 1-Step is also very good. All lubes are better than no lube. If this is too much, a new chain is $7-20, and KMC makes a variety of Rust Buster models.

  3. Replace cables and housing: gummed up cable systems are a common problem. Replacing or reducing the numbers of cables and housing on your bike is the solution. Replacement costs are $4-25 for basic cable kits.

  4. Overhaul bearing surfaces: since most cheap bikes do not have sealed bearings bottom brackets, rear hubs, front hubs, and headsets (listed in order of importance, vulnerability, and most common problem areas), they are vulnerable to dust, moisture, damage and failure. Re-packing these bearings with fresh grease is key. New bearings are $1-2 per race.

  5. Grips, Seats, Pedals, Tires: clean with an “Armour-All” type product. Evaluate for comfort and replace if needed.

  6. Freewheel: blast out with spray-lube, drip in something heavier such as Phil Wood Tenacious Oil, or replace.

Come see us in the Public Work Stations to check off the above list. While these are tips for post-Burning Man, as one who tours in Nevada, this is also my standard post ride tune to ensure my bike is ready for my next adventure.

See you out there!

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