An Eco-Burner Homecoming: AfrikaBurn to Black Rock City by Bike

Which way to Black Rock City? Choices, choices. (Photo courtesy of Kayden Kleinhans)
Which way to Black Rock City? Choices, choices. (Photo courtesy of Kayden Kleinhans)

Next week thousands of people will be boarding planes and squeezing into cars crowded with camping gear bound for one location: Black Rock City. This attraction to one of the most inhospitable, creative and challenging places on earth baffles some and inspires others. Why spend so much time and energy on one week in the desert?

Kayden Kleinhans invested that and more in his preparation for Burning Man. Bicycling for 49 weeks, through 15 countries, Kayden’s journey started last year at AfrikaBurn, where he collected songs, remembrances and dreams from members of that community at their Temple in a leather-bound journal. His mission: deliver this precious cargo from their Temple in Tankwa Karoo, South Africa to our Temple in Black Rock City on a humble bicycle.

Yes, he is on a bicycle (its name is Little Ms. Sunshine).

Yes, there’s an ocean separating both Burns (a plane helped springboard him over the Atlantic Ocean to Buenos Aires, Argentina).

And yes, he is alive to share his story.

Special delivery from the Temple at AfrikaBurns with a stop in Furnace Creek, Death Valley (Photo courtesy of Kayden Kleinhans)
Special delivery for the Temple of Whollyness with a stop in Furnace Creek, Death Valley (Photo courtesy of Kayden Kleinhans)

As he peddled into Death Valley, California three weeks ago, he sent this update, “With less than 1000 km left to go, wild horses couldn’t stop the journal and its magical contents from making it to the playa.”

Given his dedication to cycling up the Americas solo with his gear, fighting heat, cold, injuries and loneliness to complete his mission, it’s difficult to believe that Kayden has never set foot in Black Rock City. 2013 will be Kayden’s first year at Burning Man.

AfrikaBurns 2012 in Tankwa Town, where it all began. (Photo courtesy of Kayden Kleinhans)
AfrikaBurn 2012 in Tankwa Town, where this all began. (Photo courtesy of Kayden Kleinhans)

The call of home, that commitment to principles of radical self-reliance to leaving no trace resonate whether or not he felt chalky playa dust between his fingers. As the Founder of the Global Wheeling Initiative, a South African-registered NGO highlighting climate change, he hopes to draw attention to these concerns through his journey, one of several he’s made bicycling across continents. His onboard computer and carbon calculator calculates the amount of CO2, which would have been emitted, if he was traveling in an average-sized America 2008 model car.

Kayden calls his journey, “a double edged project that was not only carrying the prized cargo but also drawing a comparison between the motor vehicle and the bicycle as a means of transport.”

49 weeks of cycling, 20,000 carbon free kilometers and 3 tons of CO2 saved with Little Ms. Sunshine later, he peddled into Reno a few days ago.

You have the opportunity to join him in this project. He invites Burner bicyclists to participate in the final leg of his journey to Burning Man. His invitation:

Reno to BRC by bicycle, 3 days and 2 nights “SELF SUPPORTED” bike ride covering 125 miles. Guided by Kayden Kleinhans on his final leg of the AfrikaBurns to Burning Man by Bicycle Project.

This will be an exercise in self-reliance and all required food and water for the 3 day expedition will have to be carried by the cyclist. Bring camping/survival equipment, a bike in good working order and a positive “Can Do” attitude.

Your Burn starts when we roll out of Reno on the morning of the 21st! You should have your ticket to Burning Man squared away ahead of time. Due to arrive at BRC on the afternoon of the 23rd. Arrangements for early access will have to be made prior to arrival through the necessary channels. Do not apply if you are not capable of completing the journey on your own accord.

Meeting point is the Anabella’s Zen Art Sanctuary, 12245 Spruce Lane, South Reno.

Contact: Kayden at globalwheeling dot org

Up for the challenge? Write to Kayden and meet him in Reno with your bicycle.

[Editor’s Note: Cycling on Route 447 is very difficult and dangerous, and this undertaking should not be taken lightly. There is a 20 mile stretch of 447 where the shoulders were washed away by flash floods this year, and NDOT is doing work to repair them … in some cases, the shoulders are soft or non-existent, and the road is reduced to a single lane. Please be careful out there!]

Only one week remains until he cycles down Gate Road, finally completes his journey and enters Black Rock City to deliver the journal to the Temple.

Thousands of Burners will follow his bicycle tracks in vehicles of all sizes from all over the world. Where are you traveling from? Tell us how you’re coming home.

Snapshots from the US leg of his journey:

On his way via Cali Route 395 (Photo courtesy of Kayden Kleinhans)
On his way via Cali Route 395 (Photo courtesy of Kayden Kleinhans)


Sedona, Arizona (Photo courtesy of Kayden Kleinhans)
Sedona, Arizona is a gorgeous place to rest (Photo courtesy of Kayden Kleinhans)


Shattered (Photo courtesy of Kayden Kleinhans)
Shattered (Photo courtesy of Kayden Kleinhans)


About the author: Iris Yee

Iris Yee

Iris Yee first set foot in Black Rock City in 2008, fueling her curiosity about innovative and diverse creative communities across the world. Raised in New York, she spent the next four years living in China and exploring much of Asia. Passionate about media and technology's potential to grow a better understanding of the world, she has worked with Media Mecca and the Regional Network. Iris will be highlighting regional Burning Man communities, their art and culture in the Burning Blog.

13 Comments on “An Eco-Burner Homecoming: AfrikaBurn to Black Rock City by Bike

  • lifeisshort says:

    I so admire your courage!!

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  • Ubi says:

    WOW! I hope to see you there and give you a welcome hug.

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  • Elliot Naess says:

    Most admirable. Bicycling is wonderful.
    But I will be driving a giant bus with trailer up 447 on the 21st, so….
    Generally speaking, for that last 125 miles, I suggest that if you hear a sustained horn behind you — as opposed to a courtesy beep, beep — and there is any oncoming traffic, please dive off the road immediately. Don’t take time to look over your shoulder. Having to bandage yourself up a little, and repack your gear, is much preferable to getting killed.
    See you in the Dust!

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  • ohiobluey says:

    GO BABY GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • Straightveg says:

    Kayden, you’re an inspiration. Thank you for the hope.

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  • Rich says:

    Elliot Naess, if you see a cyclist on the road in front of you while you’re driving your giant bus and trailer, and there is oncoming traffic, why don’t you slow the hell down until its safe to overtake, rather than asking a man to risk serious injury by diving off the road? Are you for real?

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  • GerryD says:

    @Elliot Naess – Wow how about if you see the cyclists you slow down offer some water, refreshments from your big bus- and even shield them from other traffic on the dangerous stretch of road- could I suggest you read the core principals of the event you are going to before you get there, and not expect someone who has cycled across half the planet to “dive off the road…preferable to getting killed” !!!

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  • Ava Farouche says:

    Seriously, Elliot Naess????
    Wow. I’m totally appalled.

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  • The Hun says:

    Hey, I could be wrong here, but I think Elliot Naess is actually trying to give good advice. The shoulder is really narrow and the drive can get super hairy. Worse, drivers can’t really swerve or pull over. So if he comes over a rise and sees a cyclist, he may not have lots of options to avoid hitting him, than to lay on the horn and do his best!

    Just my two cents…Elliot, is that what you meant?

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  • Sashifly says:

    Woah now… I agree Kayden is amazing. but you got something wrong.. I met him on the Playa in 2008. He’s definitely been.

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  • Wayne says:

    Amazing. Kayden wins Burning Man. The whole thing.

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  • Remi says:

    Kayden, you are an inspiration!

    Elliott Naess, what is it that you offer to the Playa besides a grumpy attitude?

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  • Andy Daniel says:

    The highlight of my burn happened before I entered the gates. I passed a guy on a bike a few miles outside of Empire. I was just thinking, wow, biking the desert on an unsupported bike, that’s hard core…

    I stopped at the Empire store and a few minutes later we pulled in. We started chatting and he told me his story. I was so impressed I took my Playuzzle Team medallion from around my neck and gifted it to him. Kayden is one cool dude! Welcome home, Kayden!

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