Assuming that Elon Musk's plan to send colonists to Mars is successful and I'm one of the chosen few, and assuming there's the mass budget for it, can I take my bicycle with me?

What difficulties might I have when attempting to ride a standard Earth-format bicycle on Mars? How might we design and engineer a Mars-format bicycle?

Let's, for the moment, assume the following:

  • There exists a spacesuit flexible enough to pedal in.
  • There are no "roads"; this is off-road. We're talking BMX or Mountain Biking.

What effect would the lower gravity and less dense atmosphere have? Is there anything peculiar about the terrain that would require (e.g.) beefed up suspension? Is the soil particularly hard on tyres, etc.?

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    At present you'll need a space suit to venture outside. Good luck operating the pedals in one! – Loren Pechtel Oct 22 '16 at 16:35
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    According to Heinlein's "The Rolling Stones" it's a great idea! – Organic Marble Oct 22 '16 at 16:49
  • Double checking - you mean on previously engineered flat hard surfaces (e.g. roads or bike paths) that have been fabricated on the Martian surface? Are you asking about both the requirements on the bicycle as well as the survival equipment for the rider? Also, see the slightly related unanswered question Can you ride a bicycle on Deimos?. – uhoh Oct 22 '16 at 23:28
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    I asked a similar question here once, which I cannot find now. Bicycling seems to be very inefficient in the context. The space suit couldn't handle the body temperature control of the effort. And space suits don't allow that much agility anyway. – LocalFluff Oct 22 '16 at 23:41
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    I've clarified: no roads; flexible spacesuit; "survival equipment" -- up to you. – Roger Lipscombe Oct 23 '16 at 8:19
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Regarding safety, a bicycle designed for Martian conditions would quite likely use more than two tires for stability.

Why? A regular bicycle with two tires is mostly stable, even in rough terrain, and there are no obvious reasons that is also the case on Mars (I personally use 1 or 2 tires).

However, accidents happen. Most bicycle accidents are minor, and result in a negligible amount of harm. Perhaps you get a bruise, or scratch your clothes a little. No big deal.
But what does a small scratch do to your pressure suit? Potentially a whole lot more damage, with death being a possibility. In essence, small accidents suddenly carry more risk. Some factors also increments the risk as well:

  • The cosmonauts would have no prior experience with how forces balance in the environment. Remember that even though the gravitational acceleration is lower, the inertia stays the same. That takes some time to adjust to.
  • Even the most flexible of pressure suits is not as flexible as no suit at all. Limited movement and slow reactions are bad for balance.
  • Natural terrain. There are no roads or paths to follow. Even if the terrain is carefully inspected before hand, there may still be invisible bumps covered in dust.

Elevated risks are unacceptable so far away from the closest hospital and with an entire mission at stake, so therefore a plausible bicycle design uses a wide, stable base, and multiple tires touching the ground.

  • That sounds... less fun, much much less fun :( but a good idea of course. – uhoh Oct 25 '16 at 23:59

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