It’s a sweltering mid-August morning in Reno, Nevada, and mechanics at Black Rock Bicycles on the outskirts of town are cranking away. Burning Man, the annual festival in the desert for 68,000 globetrotting free spirits, aging hippies and multimillionaire tech executives, is rapidly approaching. Trucks, buses and trailers will soon start rolling up to the store to pick up bikes that will serve as the primary means for traversing the 5-square-mile temporary city in the Black Rock Desert, 100 miles to the north.
Businesses like this bike shop are booming in Reno (population: 233,000), the closest big city to Burning Man. Whether it’s providing bikes, renting out luxury motorhomes, leasing big trucks for hauling art projects or operating specialized airlines and bus fleets for the week-long event, Burning Man has turned into a major moneymaker for the local transportation industry in an area that’s known for its high concentration of casinos.