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Burro Man Takes On Burning Man

When Marty Kesti decided to bring his RadBurro electric cargo trike to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, he was excited to learn that he didn’t need to take it to the DMV. 


If he had, Kesti’s trip would have been slightly different. In this case, the DMV in question would have been the Department of Mutant Vehicles.


Kesti is a veteran of Burning Man, a gathering of 70,000 artists, celebs, and other seekers from across the world for a 9-day romp in a makeshift desert city -- all without the trappings of money (excepting the $425 ticket price, travel, and living expenses), running water, or day-to-day hangups.  


Imagine a Phish show on Fury Road and you might be close. Ask anybody who has ever gone, however, and you’ll be told that the only way to truly understand the Burn is by becoming a Burner.


“It’s just a blank canvas where you can do anything," Kesti told us. “I love the atmosphere."


The Department of Mutant Vehicles is just one of the event's bizarro-world offerings. In order to keep patrons safe, the Department requires cars and bikes (exceeding 750W) to register with them upon entry. Cars, in order to be permitted at the Burn, must be "sufficiently mutated." 


Since the RadBurro flew under that radar, Kesti didn’t have to wait in line. 


“The DMV, they rock, but they’re overwhelmed,” Kesti explained, with little irony.


Ahead of this year’s gathering, Kesti, who's 48 and lives outside of Santa Rosa, California, with his dog Miina, was approached by cellist John Crowley, a musician with the Black Rock Philharmonic.


The BRP is a full-scale classical orchestra that plays for Burning Man revelers each year. Crowley suggested that his friend build a heavy-duty, reliable support vehicle to help the band haul their instruments from place to place. Like everything at Burning Man, it would have to be pretty freaky.


It was a challenge, but nothing too far out of the ordinary for Kesti. For a previous trip to Burning Man, he was part of a team that crafted a 35-foot tall record player out of steel. In another, he helped create a mobile, 1940s diner to serve late-night grilled cheese sandwiches and coffee.


To complete his latest project, Kesti took a unique approach. He bought a RadBurro in March.


As a master tech who works on bikes for a large outdoor store in the San Francisco Bay Area, Kesti was familiar with Rad Power Bikes from the customers who brought them in.


“I knew about the company and the quality of the bikes, and I did pretty in-depth research on all the cargo ebikes that were out there. I really wanted to find the best one to fit the bill,” Kesti told us. “This was it. When I got it, I was more than pleased with the build and how sturdy it is. It’s awesome.”


Kesti collaborated with the cellist on the details, then spent two weeks constructing the cab at Lost & Foundry, an Oakland-based studio used by sculptors, weld workers, and other technical artists.


He added panels with unique design elements to the RadBurro, including heart-shaped windows and symbols that represented bass clefs. 


Once it made it onto the playa (Burner for event grounds), where metamorphosis was the 2019 theme, it became quite the hit. 


“The overall reaction was everyone either wanted to drive it or wanted to ride in it,” Kesti reported. “Compared to everything else that’s out there, it's a tiny vehicle, but it worked perfectly.”


Kesti added that it also helped him and his tribe with myriad little things, including lugging around propane tanks, giving people lifts across the desert, and the general modus operandi of feeling the Burn -- cruising around and checking out art.


“It’s just an absolute joy to go out there, even as the smallest cog on the wheel, and to be able to give back,” Kesti said.


Rad Power Bikes LLC enjoys seeing the fun and interesting things our customers do with our products, but we cannot approve or endorse any modifications to or use of our products in a way other than as designed, especially modifications or use that may increase the risk of injury or property damage, that may void the warranty, or that may cause the products to become non-compliant with applicable regulations.

Justin Duckham
Justin Duckham