Bike mods, types of bikes, etc for bad playa conditions

Bikes, trikes, personal mobility and getting to/from the event - this is the place to discuss general transportation issues.
Slord
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Bike mods, types of bikes, etc for bad playa conditions

Post by Slord » Mon Jul 19, 2010 7:20 am

The last year I was able to make it out to Burning Man *2008 the playa was seriously lacking in 'hard packed surface' and my cruiser bike (which I LOVE!) was nigh un-ridable. This year I'd rather not be forced to 'hoof it' everywhere and I've heard that the playa conditions are still unfavorable.

And we have come to the question!

What suggestions, idea's, past success have you had in these conditions? I'm open to procuring a new ride if I must (poor cruiser, I still love you), creating something myself, doing bike modification or even getting some kind of mechanized construct. It should be noted that I drive to burning man with my wife monster from Kansas, so something LARGE is not exactly an option.

We were considering those powered scooter things, like the 'goped - http://www.goped.com/Products/' do those work at all in these conditions?

Honestly I know very little in this area, anyone that wants to point me in the right direction gets +5 internets.
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Token
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Post by Token » Mon Jul 19, 2010 8:11 am

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Token
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Post by Token » Mon Jul 19, 2010 8:37 am

Wide tires do help a lot.

Also avoid the knobby off road type. They have more drag.

Correct tire pressure also helps. Lots of under-inflated tires out there.

The unpredictable playa is part if the fun out there. I doubt we will ever have hard pack on this lake so long as the event continues year after year.

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Post by red arrow » Mon Jul 19, 2010 9:07 am

cycled a bike in 2008 for one day and then gave up, deciding to walk for the rest of the week

the sand was too deep and cycling was too much effort for me

is the sand going to be as bad this year or can we even predict that at this early stage?

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Post by Slord » Mon Jul 19, 2010 9:20 am

from what I've read the playa is just as bad this year, which is why I fear dragging my bike all the way out just to have it be unridable. This pro-ped cruiser with the 10" wheel is what I'm currently looking at, but I have no idea if that would be able to get around, but 'gut' feeling is no.

Ohh yea, and token while I agree with you about the 'randomness' of the event being part of the fun. When you have to trek equipment out from eastern Kansas you need to really really really have a use for what you bother to bring. Thus my concern of bringing out a big bike at the expense of other items if it will be unridable; and why I am hoping for a better alternative.

Thanks for the tire suggestion! Any idea of those pro-ped's (propane powered gopeds, supposedly quiet) will run out there?
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Post by mudpuppy000 » Mon Jul 19, 2010 10:04 am

Mountain bike gearing will let you power through patches of soft "dirt" If the whole playa is going to be like that, though, probably going to be hopeless. You can also get mountain bike tires that are made for sandy conditions. They'll help some but not alot.

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Token
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Post by Token » Mon Jul 19, 2010 11:02 am

Slord wrote:When you have to trek equipment out from eastern Kansas you need to really really really have a use for what you bother to bring. Thus my concern of bringing out a big bike at the expense of other items if it will be unridable; and why I am hoping for a better alternative.
Oh, please, cry that river out to all the folks driving out bikes from Florida, Boston or NY, will ya? :)

Decades of empirical data have shown Bicycles to be the preffered choice for locomotion on the Playa.

The little scooters have tiny skinny tires that will wipe out on even the smallest sand bars on the playa.

Do what everyone else does. Get your ass in shape and pedal.

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Post by Slord » Mon Jul 19, 2010 11:06 am

haha, probably right. And I know people come from farther. We had some hilarious Canadian neigbors in 2008 that made a huge sweeping tour of the US on the way to burning man, AAANNND managed to bust a tire on Jungo road on their way there, haha.

Yea, I fear bike is probably the best solution, but damn do I hate biking through quick sand. I'm in shape, but this is a vacation my man, haha.
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Token
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Post by Token » Mon Jul 19, 2010 11:26 am

LOL, I feel and share in your pain.

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theCryptofishist
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Post by theCryptofishist » Mon Jul 19, 2010 11:30 am

Another group who may be less than sympathetic to this particular song are people who cannot walk or ride bikes, and whose wheelchairs are stuck even inside their carports. And those are a cranky, nasty bunch to begin with.
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Post by Kinetik V » Mon Jul 19, 2010 11:50 am

GoPeds are nice. I own 3 of them and have used all of them on the playa. I have an electric, a spindle drive and a chain driven unit and the chain drive works the best when the playa is rough. But that being said even a chain drive unit with offroad Bigfoot type tires still struggles if the playa is rough / broken up.

In short, you can spend a lot of money on a GoPed and there are still no guarantees it's going to get the job done if the surface gets broken up.

If you do go this route do some searching on here for how to muffle your GoPed. The tips on what to use and how to do it have already been posted and there's been some JRS articles on how to do it too.
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Post by Fire_Moose » Mon Jul 19, 2010 11:51 am

Oh, please fishy...

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Post by Slord » Mon Jul 19, 2010 12:00 pm

guess who's not figuring out how to build that thing? It's this guy! heh
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Post by teardropper » Mon Jul 19, 2010 1:48 pm

I don't know that it matters what the general playa conditions are, like hard pack or whatever. I was out there a couple weeks ago and where I was was great, hard pack, easy riding even at night without a headlight. Kind of feels like flying. Anyway, after they scrape 44 miles of streets there is no hard pack left. Only dusty streets with potential dust holes. And the dust blows out into the immediate area to make more dust holes where vehicles leave tire tracks. Beach cruisers or bikes with regular tread and over 2 inch tires are your best choice.
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theCryptofishist
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Post by theCryptofishist » Mon Jul 19, 2010 4:19 pm

Oh please, yourself, Mr. Moose.
At least 3 things wrong with that...
1--hard to impossible to get on and off. It's very low to the ground. I'd have to lift myself 8 inches or more to get back into my chair. To complicate that, I'd have to do it sideways--the wheel in front there puts front to front transfers, which are what I do best. So I'd have to do some sort of torc and lift--sounds like a recipie for disaster to me.
2--Only thing that is good for is touring the open playa. Not going to be able to do much visiting within the city while that big wheel is in the way. Can't enter domes, shade structures, even center camp would be awkward. Essentially, I'd be taking my bike inside no bikes allowed places. My preference, if I were to invest in something like that at all, would be to buy one of the ones that you can link to my push chair, at a cost of >$2000.
3--In my tent. okay, shade structure. Do you ride your bike in your shade struckture or tent? Do you know what it is to be unable to go from one side of your tent/shadestructure to the other in order to fill your water bottle? That's how bad it's been the past two years. OED totally came to my rescue last year *blows OED a kiss* but I really don't want to be that vulnerable again. (Yes, I'm packing for it. Must get nails...)

And for a long-term concern, I don't know what a couple of decades worth of using an arm bike might be. I don't want to injure my shoulders and be unable to use the regular push chair.
The Lady with a Lamprey

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Man, no wonder they always win....." Lonesomebri

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Post by Slord » Tue Jul 20, 2010 3:45 am

Thanks for the all the input. I believe I will once again bring out my cruiser with hope in my heart, haha.
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kingtom
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Wondering

Post by kingtom » Tue Jul 20, 2010 4:50 am

Now I'm wondering if it's worth the effort to even bring my bike?

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Post by Fire_Moose » Tue Jul 20, 2010 6:57 am

I see...well this is better then a bike anyways...


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Post by skinnay » Tue Jul 20, 2010 7:53 am

Gel seat cover is the most important thing to me =]

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Post by CapSmashy » Tue Jul 20, 2010 8:32 am

I picked up an EZip pedal assist electric bike to try out this year.

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Post by FIGJAM » Tue Jul 20, 2010 8:35 am

Heres mine!

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Post by Hoolie » Tue Jul 20, 2010 8:57 am

I am wondering where you heard that the current playa conditions are just as bad as the last couple years. I have no first hand experience to contradict that assertion, but I am under the impression that the condition of the playa is mostly determined by the amount of rain received over the year. Water covering, and then drying, on the surface is what creates the hard pack. The last couple years were dust bowls because they followed extremely dry winters. As we had a heavier than normal rain/snow season in California and the Sierras this year, and the storms generally move west-east, I would expect the playa got a lot of rain too, thus we may be getting a nice hard-packed playa this year. This may be wishful thinking on my part, but the above report by teardropper is very encouraging.

As for a bike that can handle a loose playa, it mainly depends on the width of your tires: the wider, the better. Tire pressure is also important. A lower tire pressure actually works better in loose terrain like sand. High tire pressures will make the tire cut into the terrain too much and spin out. There is a bike called the Surly Pugsley which was designed with this kind of riding in mind. The frame was designed to accomodate 4" wide tires (huge). People ride it through mud, sand, and snow. Here's a video of a guy riding one in a pond. Now the downside. Since the Pugsley is only offered as a frame, you would have to have a bike shop build one up, or do it yourself if you have the skills. This can get expensive, so this is the kind of bike you would really need to guard and lock up well on the playa.

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Post by Slord » Tue Jul 20, 2010 10:40 am

thanks for the info!

I found out the playa was going to have dust serpants and the like via forum trolling. I've recently learned that it "shouldn't" be as bad as 2008. So as long as that is the case I feel pretty confident in my bike being ok.
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Post by Teo del Fuego » Tue Jul 20, 2010 11:41 am

I can only claim expertise in a few things...bicycles are one of them.

What Hoolie said is correct: the wider the tire, the better for sandy conditions. LESS air pressure in the tires than normal will help in sandy conditions as long as the air pressure is NOT absurdly low. (I.e., wouldn't go below 25 psi.) About the widest tire you will likely find that still fits a standard cruiser frame is 26 x 2.25. That is your best bet. If you ride a Schwinn, be forewarned that you may need either an S6 or S7 tire because many Schwinns run on slightly larger rims than the standard 26" rims most cruiser bikes employ.

A flatter, or squarer tread profile, like on a street tire is preferred in sand over the rounder profile of a knobby tire. (Its the size of the contact patch, not the tread, that matters here.)

When confronted with deep, loose sand, keep a steady pedal cadence and get as far back on your saddle as possible to lighten the front end. If you have gears, try to resist the urge to drop into your lowest gear as this may create a bit too much torque and cause your rear wheel to spin out. Don't fight to keep the bike on a straight path, let it wander. your goal is to keep the front wheel from diggin' in. In 2008 I was able to ride my 60 pound cruiser using 2.25" tires and the techniques I described. It wasn't easy, but only rarely did I have to get off and push. Some of those dunes would have given Rommel reason to pause.

AS for playa conditions, the only thing I have heard was a Juneplaya participant posted a photo of his foot crumbling through a soft playa surface. He thought it was going to be crumbly and dusty, but I suspect it will nevertheless be better riding than in 2008.

Hope this helps

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Post by gyre » Tue Jul 20, 2010 5:36 pm

http://eplaya.burningman.org/viewtopic.php?t=26065

Surly rims can be adapted to other bikes.
And Surly forks can be used on other bikes too.

Check out Xtracycle too.
There is a longtail Surly also.

I run high pressure out there.
You're after flotation, not traction for a V8.

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Post by Token » Tue Jul 20, 2010 6:20 pm

Here is a proven design that works regardless of playa conditions.

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Picture stolen from Elliot's KSR 2008 Camp thread.

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Post by Elorrum » Tue Jul 20, 2010 8:06 pm

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Image
I'm thinking of getting these flame tires for my bike... 2.125 with the cruiser type tread. reflective sides. Schwalbe makes some nice fat tires too, but for the serious fat tire, you'll need a wiiiide front fork. Fat Albert 3"... Fat Frank is a 2.35" tire for old style cruisers. you can run these with lower pressure. Still I'm going with the sweetskinz, found them on the web at Meijer for about $15 which is the lowest I've seen, and they are quite reflective, and 15 bucks... that's sort of clinches that deal, no pun intended.

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Post by burner von braun » Wed Jul 21, 2010 4:49 am

New burner here; do the playa conditions differ between the city streets and what you encounter out on the deep playa? I'm guessing the deep playa remains more hard packed, and therefore more bike friendy?

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Post by Slord » Wed Jul 21, 2010 4:52 am

honestly I've seen it go both ways. durring years when the playa is in 'tip top' shape the 'non street' playa is certainly packed hard and offers a fantastic ride. But when the playa is in rough shape (like 2008) the open playa is worse because it doesn't have any water trucks etc beating it into submission.

So basically IMO it depends on overall playa conditions. Great playa = great open expanses, bad playa = superior roads.
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Elliot
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Post by Elliot » Sat Jul 24, 2010 6:10 pm

Token wrote:Here is a proven design that works regardless of playa conditions.

Image

Picture stolen from Elliot's KSR 2008 Camp thread.
Thanks Token! Yes, that's one of my most successful builds ever. It was my primary transportation in BRC for a couple of years, and it was just a little bit slower than a regular bicycle. OK, maybe quite a bit slower, but you want to enjoy the scenery anyway. I just had to stay away from streets that had been recently watered, where the dust would turn to mud which stuck to the tires by the ton.

The point is, those tires floated right over any and all soft spots in the Playa. A booger to steer though. I have since turned it into a trike, so I don't fall off so often.

Miss Gina used it for the Critical Tits Ride in 2007. Photo by Marc Merlin.
:D

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