I don’t usually remember my dreams, but sometimes when I wake up in the middle of one, it’ll stick in my brain. This happened to me the other night: I woke up to go pee (because apparently I already have an old man bladder and can’t sleep through the night), and I was in the middle of quite an interesting dream.
In my dream, a bunch of my friends and I were shredding the sweetest mountain bike trails I’ve ever ridden… and they were on the moon. However, this rocky lunar landscape happened to have an atmosphere, and a stream with trees along its banks running through the moon rocks. The trails were super flowy with massive swooping berms and gap jumps back-and-forth across the lunar stream of water.
Despite the fact that the moon doesn’t have enough gravity to make the mountain biking earth-like (hence making jumping really dang easy) or atmosphere to breath, this got me thinking at 5 am in the morning: sometime in the future, if the universe doesn’t come to an abrupt end before this, we might start colonizing other earth-like planets in our galaxy. (Yep, I’ll admit it, I’m something of a closet sci-fi geek.)
If and when humans start colonizing other planets, they’ll need lightweight vehicles to carry with them on their spaceships so that when they reach the alien planet, they can do reconnaissance of the planet’s surface and have easy transportation from place to place. Transporting things like trucks or motorcycles on a spaceship seems like it would be a waste of precious space and weight, but mountain bikes? Now we’re talking!
Sci-Fi Mountain Bikes
So at 5 in the morning, I thought to myself, what would be the perfect mountain bike to explore an alien planet on? Obviously, I imagine there will be advancements in mountain bike technology between now and then, but with what we have now… here’s what I think would work best.
To begin, the obvious platform of choice would be the fat bike. With massive lunar rover-style tires, these bikes are well suited for traversing rough terrain that might not yet have a trail on it, not to mention sandy, snowy, or muddy areas. While perhaps not the fastest machines, they would easily be the most versatile.
To keep weight down during blastoff, the bicycle frames would probably be made of space-age carbon fiber. This prototype carbon Salsa Beargrease would be an ideal candidate for the basic platform:
Now, you next need to tackle the issue of parts availability Until the settlement is well-established and has enough infrastructure to mine ore and refine it into metal, getting replacement bike parts may be difficult (although 3D printing could help).
Still, eliminating the number of parts that can wear out is of utmost importance. To start, these carbon fiber wheels might help eliminate the need for new spokes or wheel maintenance, and might, again, help keep weight down:
But the most important things that need to be tackled are the two parts of the mountain bike that wear out the most: tires and tubes, and drivetrain.
To tackle the issue of tires and tubes wearing out, and the possibility of flats, I propose going to an airless tire setup:
While the tech already exists for narrower mountain bike tires, it would need to be modified and enhanced to the size of a fat bike tire. The technology and materials would probably need to advance significantly between now and then in order to keep the weight down and to provide the appropriate perfomance desired. Or perhaps an advancement in tire rubber and flat protection would be sufficient enough to go without an airless setup.
One thing that’s almost guaranteed to wear out is your drivetrain. However, make the bike a singlespeed and throw a carbon belt on there, and it’s good to go for thousands of miles before it requires a belt replacement! This also eliminates much of the need for maintenance. Sure, exploring a planet on a singlespeed could be tiring, but hey, if you’re settling an alien planet anyway, you better have balls (and legs) of steel!
Also note, right now the tech isn’t available to run a belt through a carbon frame… I’ll just leave it up to the engineers of the future to figure that one out!
Alien World Trail Development
Once you’ve got the perfect mountain bike for some otherworldy shredding, just think of the trail possibilities that would abound! Especially if no cars are transported to the planet, while at first there wouldn’t be any trails available, some trails would develop naturally (or would be created) to aid in transportation from the main population center to resources or attractions in the nearby area, or even other population centers once they’re established.
However, in addition to transportation trails, if you had the free time (and the energy after working to build a city all day), this entire world would be a blank canvas for trail development! There would literally be no end to the places you could build trails to and from. And if the main mode of transportation remained mountain bikes, I mean, could you imagine?
While this colonization would undoubtedly take place before rapid trans-galactic flight is invented, once a means of rapidly crossing the galaxy is invented, this growing planet could quickly become a mountain bike destination for the wealthy Earth citizens.
Talk about tourism dollars!