Penguin, the fellow would quickly see that there is no chain. The point of this idea is to have him struggle with the shifters for a while, expecting to find a faster gear if he just keeps trying.
True, true, but if we were to do this on the playa, I'd say that you'd probably be able to find a person or two who'd be in a "state" to not notice the missing chain -- heck, you'd probably be able to find a person or two who'd hop onto an exercise bike and try and ride off out there...
But, how about the leave the chain on, but file off all but say 2 or 3 teeth on the front sprocket?
Hmmm, or how about attaching a drogue chute that deploys after 50-100 feet?
I would say something about adding a Burmese tiger trap to the equation, but that'd probably be too dangerous...
You are right though, it is good brain exercise.