Bikes on the Playa

Questions, answers, tips & tricks for newbies and veterans alike
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capnjonny
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Camp Name: Nose Fish this year
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Bikes on the Playa

Post by capnjonny » Thu Sep 21, 2017 6:26 pm

Bikes at Burning man 2017 addition

Hello to the Burning Man Class of 2017.

You are hopefully back home after a week or two in the Black Rock Desert and probably looking at that disaster of a bike sitting in the driveway.

Did you make it through the event without a break down? I hope so. Are you going to roll that sucker over to the side of the house and forget it till next year? If you do You will probably not be so lucky in 2018.
Bikes take a real beating out there . Even a simple basic bike like the ubiquitous Huffy Cranbrook can self destruct after a short time on the playa.

One of the most common failures we saw at our playa bike shop was the disintegration of the bottom bracket bearings in the Ashtabula cranks they and countless other bikes out there have.

Last year our shop had one bike that came in with the pedals wobbling and grinding noises coming out of the crank. When we opened it up all the bearings on the non drive side fell out and the bearing cage was nothing more than rust.

This year we had 6 bikes in one day with the same problem. Other shops up and down the street were seeing the same thing and by Thursday everyone we knew who brought spare bearings were out. We fixed one bike by harvesting the bearings that were still round and adding a few more from our bearing jar and then gluing them into the race with grease. It took a few tries before we got them to stay in place (on both sides) and button everything up.

SAGE ADVICE

if you have a bike with a one piece Ashtabula crank, bring an extra set of bearings next year so you don’t spend the week walking.
Bring at least one spare innertube.


EVEN BETTER ADVICE

Do a complete service on your bike NOW before putting it away till next year. That should definitely include the wheel bearings as they get the same corrosive dust bath that the bottom bracket does.

WHAT EVER YOU DO

Don”t buy a bike advertised as a Burner Bike Unless you or someone you trust inspect it carefully and make sure everything works and has been cleaned and lubed since last year.

There is a special place in hell reserved for people who unload a wreck on a first timer that is an accident waiting to happen like so many of bikes we saw.

Even if you buy a brand new Cranbrook at Wall Mart, check it out thoroughly. Chances are that it was assembled hastily by someone with no skills and no conscience. We had one bike come in that had a flat tire before it was ever even taken out of the shipping box. Chances are that the wheels and bottom bracket are adjusted too tight and have too little grease.

If you bring a derailleur bike with twist shifters think about changing them out to thumbies. Half the twist shifters we saw were broken or so gummed up they wouldn’t twist.

It’s safest to bring a bike with 26” wheels and knobby tires. Bring anything else and you better bring spare tubes and tires because it will be shear luck if you find one there. We had one bike with 24” tires that had the tire shred. Luckily we were able to patch the tube and one of the other shops had a tire. Their only one.

Another person brought in a wheel from an old Schwinn that had their special proprietary size 26 x 1 3/8” which is . I think 597mm and is unique. No other 26 inch tire will fit it. We did every thing we could think of to get her back on the bike including sewing the wire tire bead back together with thin stainless steel wire then stitching it to the tire side wall with the same wire .

BRING a SPARE TUBE
We went through 15 tubes, replacing ones that were too badly torn to patch and by the end of the week we ran out.

Being at Burning Man is an awesome experience and as a bike mechanic you get to meet lots of people. We had customers from France, Argentina, Australia, Russia, and Iceland to name a few and got lots and lots of hugs and kisses from thankful people who were able to enjoy the event thanks to our repairs.

I had a great time in spite of breaking my hip falling off my bike 6 weeks before the event and having to rod around on a mobility scooter. If you have seen the movie “Despicable Me” I looked like Dr. Nefario riding it around.

DON’T BRING A FAT TIRE BIKE TO BURNING MAN !

No one will have spare parts or tubes or tires for it. We harvest spares from old bikes at the Bike Exchange. We never see fat tire bikes and if we did we wouldn’t work on them. Those things weigh a ton and most we see are Walmart specials that have all the worst features of cheap bikes .

Death to them

Worst of all are fat tire electric bikes . In addition to all the mechanical woes they have electrics and electronics to fail.

DON’T BRING A FAT TIRE BIKE.

You can bring an adult tricycle, lots of people do . They have many of the same problems as the Huffy’s but have the advantage that when you are out on a pub crawl sampling the various flavors of Jungle Juice available for free at the various bars (remember, Burning Man is based on a gifting economy , all goods and services you will find there are available at no charge and barter is prohibited. When I fix your bike and give you a new tube it is a gift that I give with no expectation of anything from you in return) is that it is harder to fall off when you have just had that 4th Bloody Mary or Whisky and Maple syrup. They can also carry a ton of ice back from the ice house, one of only 2 places you can spend money there.

Vinegar is your friend! It neutralizes the alkali dust and a quick spritz before you wash the bike will insure that the dust washes off.

Hope to see you all on the Playa next year. We are Nose Fish and we sell the best coffee on the Playa every morning (you draw your own money on our monopoly money blanks) and we do bike repair in the afternoon . Come by and say hi and get a free hug.

CapnJonny

maladroit
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Re: Bikes on the Playa

Post by maladroit » Fri Sep 22, 2017 10:31 am

I've brought the same Wal-mart fat tire bike for 5 years. I have my own spare parts, easily found online. It has a three piece crank and I grease it up well...it has never had a problem and it glides like a dream on the playa through the deepest dust and roughest streets.

I guess if you plan to not bring any spare parts or do any maintenance, and want to depend on the bike camps to repair your bike, then DON'T BRING A FAT TIRE BIKE. But if depending on the bike camps really is your plan, please DON'T BRING A BIKE AT ALL.

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Captain Goddammit
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Re: Bikes on the Playa

Post by Captain Goddammit » Fri Sep 22, 2017 12:12 pm

You don't know WTF you're talking about.
You're teaching class???
I would ONLY bring a fat tire bike.
Apparently you weren't there in '07 or was it '08 when the playa was so soft and silty that fat tire bikes were about the only ones riding on a large percentage of the playa.
Even my MV had a hard time, usually it just idles in gear and I have to drag the brakes.
That year I had to gas it to get it to roll.

That's why fat tire bikes became popular in BRC, it wasn't a styling thing.
You never know what kind of surface you're going to get.

ONLY bring fat tire bikes!!
Bring your own spare tubes and tires. All the other parts are no different.

I bring a Mongoose Dolomite. It works great.

I had a bike repair shop on playa for five years. You do what you can, if someone is an idiot and doesn't bring a tube for an odd size tire, that's their problem.
GreyCoyote: "At this rate it wont be long before he is Admiral Fukkit."

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Savannah
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Re: Bikes on the Playa

Post by Savannah » Fri Sep 22, 2017 1:33 pm

I've never ridden a fat tire bike, although I certainly would. Cruiser bikes, well-maintained, do fine most of the time. Fat tires are even better, obviously, but if you can't get hold of 'em, there's no need to despair.

But as mentioned, even new bikes come with popped innertubes sometimes. Always have a spare innertube.
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TORD
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Re: Bikes on the Playa

Post by TORD » Mon Oct 02, 2017 1:46 pm

Always bring a bike you LOVE to ride. And lock that sucker down every time you walk away from it. Min security is enough, BRC is not NYC. I have used handcuffs on the rear wheel, if you lose your key any cop or leather daddy will have one. Last burn I used a 4 position up down left right master combo lock with a short SST chain, it was great in the dark, Had to hit it with WD 40 halfway through the burn because it was getting cranky. This is also a good stratagy for your bike too. About 3 days in your chain is chirping and your bearings creeking. Hose it down with WD 40, or your lube of choice and viola your bike will maybe make it through the rest of the burn. You should service your bike before the burn or at least poof up the tires. And if you bring a x tra spare tube you probbably will not need it. Then you can gift it and save someones burn. I have ridden skinny tires and got around just fine, but I think standard 26 mountain bike tires are best and readily avalable on craigslist. The Playa was hard and fast in 2017 but it can get soft and dusty sucky if it don't flood over the winter. So knobbies are good. I think 4 inch monster tires are a bit much but if you want FAT go fat just dont go with a Walmart POS and dont expect to find a spare tube. I have always ran a good bike at Burningman and never regreted it. Last burn I took my Bianchi SASS with 26 Continental Cross Country road and trail tires and it was a gas gas gas very fast. Pressure washed and lubed it down and its good as new, although the burn will always show. Your bike will live to BURN again.
TODD/TORD/TUNA/TORKA/TORID/THOR ROYALL CASPELL

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motskyroonmatick
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Re: Bikes on the Playa

Post by motskyroonmatick » Tue Oct 03, 2017 10:09 pm

My main bike at the burn is a Fat Tire and it is fucking spectacular!!!! I too operate a repair shop on playa and we did have fat tire tubes. Only one person needed one so we have more for next year. :D

BRC participants! Please bring a tube that is an exact match for your bike and an alpha code bike lock or 2. Grease those Bottom Bracket Bearings. Long term storage bikes and inexpensive bikes have real trouble down below if not maintained/greased.
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Captain Goddammit
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Re: Bikes on the Playa

Post by Captain Goddammit » Wed Oct 04, 2017 10:25 am

Yeah, a little lube down below helps things along.
GreyCoyote: "At this rate it wont be long before he is Admiral Fukkit."

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Canoe
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Re: Bikes on the Playa

Post by Canoe » Thu Oct 05, 2017 8:54 pm

That's what Captain Goddammit said.
Video games are giving kids unrealistic expectations on how many swords they can carry.
.
... but don't harm the red dragon that frequents the area from time to time. He and I have an agreement.

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Canoe
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Re: Bikes on the Playa

Post by Canoe » Thu Oct 05, 2017 8:58 pm

That's what Captain Goddammit said.

(my evil twin made me)
Video games are giving kids unrealistic expectations on how many swords they can carry.
.
... but don't harm the red dragon that frequents the area from time to time. He and I have an agreement.

Elliot
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Re: Bikes on the Playa

Post by Elliot » Fri Oct 06, 2017 8:49 pm

We stock 26 x 4.0 "fat" inner-tubes with both Schrader and Presta valves. And some of the in-between sizes like 26 x 3.0.
Also a couple 32 inch for that special Kent model (if I remember right).
Loooove my 4" wide tires, oh yeah.

Like the good Captain says, grab a Dolomite or similar when it's on sale, or second-hand -- then thoroughly rebuild all the bearings. Even on a brand new one, yes. Rock-n-roll.

Presta valves are becoming more common, even on less costly bikes. My personal recommendation is to avoid them for Playa use. The traditional American Schrader valve is the same as on cars, so much more convenient to get aired up anywhere.

As mentioned above, one-piece cranks often suffer bearing failure on even brand new bikes after only a couple days. There is a reason we call the Huffy Cranbrook the "Scruffy Crankbroke". So I recommend buying a bike with a three-piece crank. I posted photos on a similar thread recently.

The Crankbroke and similar bikes also come with the spokes too loose, sometimes resulting in taco'ed rims. There is just no end to the crappiness of these $69 bikes.

If you are traveling over a high mountain pass like Donner... leave home with slightly low pressure in the tires. Yes, the numbers say the effect of the elevation is trivial. Experience says different. No, I cannot explain it. Your call.

But NEVER ride on a low tire. You might as well stab at it with a steak knife.

I agree on replacing twist shifters with the good old lever / thumb / friction type. I buy them for less than ten bucks online, which includes wires. I unscrew them and remove the little spring and detent pawl. Then adjust the tension with the wing nut like we happily and successfully did for many decades. Sunrace SLM10, Amazon and elsewhere.

How about the front derailleur? I lock it on the middle ring if possible; "delete" it completely if necessary. Try your best to adjust the locking wire just right on the middle ring, because if you remove the derailleur, you will have to put the chain back on the middle ring by hand once in a while.

Maladroit has it right: Bike service camps are for UNEXPECTED PROBLEMS. Show up dragging a pile of junk you bought out of the back of a truck in Wadsworth... and you will be dragging it out of our camp again the same way. Thank you for common sense and decency.
We repaired 677 bikes this year. That's plenty.

Finally... I buy nothing but Thorn Resistant inner-tubes -- extra thick rubber. (Except for the sizes that are simply not made in TR.) Of course, I buy cases and cases of them, so I get a break on the price. But even at full retail they are sooooo worth the money. (And please don't tell me there are no thorns on Playa, because somehow I do know that. ;-) )

In Dust we trust. :-)

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Canoe
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Re: Bikes on the Playa

Post by Canoe » Fri Oct 06, 2017 8:57 pm

Elliot wrote:...Finally... I buy nothing but Thorn Resistant inner-tubes -- extra thick rubber. (Except for the sizes that are simply not made in TR.) Of course, I buy cases and cases of them, so I get a break on the price. But even at full retail they are sooooo worth the money. (And please don't tell me there are no thorns on Playa, because somehow I do know that. ;-) )
Have you seen any results on-playa of going tubeless, with commercial or DIY brews of sealant?
Video games are giving kids unrealistic expectations on how many swords they can carry.
.
... but don't harm the red dragon that frequents the area from time to time. He and I have an agreement.

Elliot
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Re: Bikes on the Playa

Post by Elliot » Fri Oct 06, 2017 9:39 pm

Yes. Works fine. ;-)
(Sorry, no.)
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