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Tarp pitching on cycling trips
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Lawton Grinter

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Tarp pitching on cycling trips on 03/21/2009 15:31:03 MDT Print View

Has anyone successfully done this before? I'm departing on a 1,600 mile bike tour soon, and would love to take a tarp, sans poles with me. My thought is to take one short pole to use on the foot end of an A frame setup, but don't want to carry a second pole (which I don't have) to use on the head end of the ridgeline. Instead I'm thinking about using my bike itself to tie off of. I'll be in the canyon country of UT, so I'm not sure if I can expect to be able to find trees or large branches to girth hitch to. Ideas??

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Tarp pitching on cycling trips on 03/21/2009 16:59:28 MDT Print View

I think it could work, but you have to consider two things:

1) You might find it difficult to keep the bicycle standing. Do you have a sturdy bicycle stand?

2) If you use the bicycle at the head end won't it block your ability to get in and out of the tarp? What if you use the bicycle at the foot end and use a trekking pole at the head end?

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Tarp pitching on cycling trips on 03/21/2009 17:01:51 MDT Print View

This is what I would do with the Contrail. In the first shot I am still using the rear struts, only the mid strut is in place.That still gives enough clearance in the foot area to avoid pressing the sleeping bag against the fly. This set up has pretty much the same foot print as the tent alone, if you use longer guylines at the rear than you can keep the boxed end up without using any struts.
Not exactly what you asked but it takes me too long to set up a tarp like that.

Contrail bike 1

Contrail bike 2

Edited by Franco on 03/21/2009 17:08:20 MDT.

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: Tarp pitching on cycling trips on 03/21/2009 17:28:04 MDT Print View

Lawton, no experience here, but this is what I would do. Keep in mind that I am crazy. ;)

Turn the bike upside down so it is supported by it's handlebars and seat. I would align the tent so that the frame of the bike would be co-linear (parallel and aligned) with your body if you were laying in it. Make sense? (ie. rotate Francos bike 90* clockwise and turn it upside down)
Attach the front door middle guyline (the one that Franco has stretched over his seat) to the rear wheel of the bike. Rotate the wheel clockwise until the guyline is taught. After emptying what you need from your pack, place your pack with some weight (maybe a rock) in it on the peddle to continuously add tension to the guyline. This will take up any slack the tent produces during the night.
Moving the bike further away from the tent, by extending the guyline will give you more room to enter and exit the tent. If the bike seems unstable, guy that out too! One on each side of the crank should be sufficient.

Will it work? I have no idea! But if it does, it would be pretty cool. I also have an idea to turn two trekking poles and your tent into a giant bike sail for when the wind is behind you...but we can talk about that later. :)

Edited by Steve_Evans on 03/21/2009 17:29:30 MDT.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Tarp pitching on cycling trips on 03/21/2009 18:12:25 MDT Print View

yours is the most intuitive and the first set up I tried, particularly because it would seem a lot more stable. That was not high enough for the apex of the Contrail, in fact if I was doing it for myself I would put a much longer guyline, strap a pannier on top of the saddle to give it extra height and that would also allow to put the bike back a little. I put that up in about 5 minutes, so some improvements should not be too hard. BTW to keep the apex up your guyline has to go up (higher) so putting the bike back without increasing the height does not work .
If you have a strong rear guyout point, the way I have set it up is a lot more stable than it appears.
This set up came to mind when a mate mentioned the possibility that the bike could be stolen. So this was the most "minimalistic" safeguard I could think of

Edited by Franco on 03/21/2009 21:04:30 MDT.

Ron Bell
(mountainlaureldesigns) - F - M

Locale: USA
tarp poles for cycle trips on 03/21/2009 18:13:33 MDT Print View


We have Carbon Fiber tarp poles, a 42" @ 1.6oz and a 28" @ 1oz. Both folds to a compact 15" length.

But maybe, the removed front tire itself could be used as the rear pole - maybe even making a nice curve like a hoop rear pole!
The seat w/ post removed and upside down might be long enough for small tight fit solo tarp- depends.

Maybe use the font tire in the back and then flip the bike upside down to use the front fork as the pole and maybe the bike would be heavy enough to hold the front - depends on wind I guess - most likely would need a guyline.


Edited by mountainlaureldesigns on 03/21/2009 19:44:58 MDT.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Juniper/Pinon on 03/21/2009 18:24:21 MDT Print View

There are very few places in SoUt where you'll not be able to find trees that will do quite nicely.

If you don't have enough height, with the bike either upright or upside down, you could strap a short pole to the seat tube or seat post.

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: Tarp pitching on cycling trips on 03/21/2009 20:00:21 MDT Print View

Ahh, I see. I thought I was on to something there. :(


Locale: Greater Gila
re: bike as tarp support on 03/21/2009 23:41:00 MDT Print View

I'm not sure that I would trust having the bike standing upright with just a kickstand or whatever. I'd much rather prefer putting it upside down for stability on the saddle, then working from there. Doing some sort of knot around the fork would probably be the highest, stable, point in this configuration. Ron's idea was great, but not sure about just using the wheel on the footend. Seems that the wheel would roll all around, unless there was some slick way to pitch super super low pulling down on the top of the tire and down on the sides with the guylines. Time to experiment when the snow starts to melt more here...

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Tarp pitching on cycling trips on 03/22/2009 00:05:41 MDT Print View

Uhmmm, OK.
Same explanations
First, not obvious but when you turn a bike upside down , the highest point is the top of the tyre, then the pedal, neither exactly suitable for the job. Even the bottom of the pedal is still 5-7" lower than the top of the saddle, besides you would need to secure the pedal, doable but a bit more complex.
Next, the reason the bike stands very firm (if guyed down correctly) is the same why a single pole pyramid tent stands up, vertical pressure. Again try it...(helps if you secure the brakes)
I came up with something like this last year when a mate that happens to design tents for a living (not HS) wanted to make a cycling friendly tent for himself. (security was important for him)
Brakes on

Rod Lawlor
(Rod_Lawlor) - MLife

Locale: Australia
Just like on Sesame Street, on 03/22/2009 03:06:40 MDT Print View

So if we take Franco's idea, Steve's idea and Ron's idea we get:-

Take the front wheel off.
Leave the bike upright, with the front fork dropouts on the ground.
Stake the forks down with a line from the head set to a single peg in front of them.
Raise the saddle.
Run an adjustable line from it, directly back to the high point of your tarp.
Stake out the front sides of your A-frame.
Take your front wheel and place it under the foot end of your tarp, so the axle, NOT the tyre is in line with the ridgeline.
Stake the foot end ridge guyline out.
Stake the sides of the foot end down, to give you an arched foot end. (The arched window. Franco will know what I mean)
All done.

How does that sound?


Al Vonkeman
(Sparkman) - MLife

Locale: The Great White North, eh!
Additional ideas on 03/22/2009 07:37:39 MDT Print View

Does looking at this: provide additional ideas?


Edited by Sparkman on 03/22/2009 07:38:49 MDT.

Courtney Waal
(d0rqums) - F
RE: "Tarp pitching on cycling trips" on 03/23/2009 17:22:26 MDT Print View

I've struggled with this issue as well. I've used the bike as a support but don't recommend it because 1) it isn't tall enough when flipped over, making the tarp resemble a bivy and 2) when right side up it moves around a lot. The bike is a much bigger 'pole' in the wind and I feel really uncomfortable with it for anything more than a light breeze.

Essentially, I was worried enough when I tried it that I would bump the shelter and have the bike come down, potentially ripping my tarp, or the wind would catch the bike and it would come down on me. I'd much rather re-set a pole than get a faceful of bike.

Inaki Diaz de Etura
(inaki) - MLife

Locale: Iberia highlands
Re: Tarp pitching on cycling trips on 03/23/2009 18:14:55 MDT Print View

I do something very similar to what Franco showed for a Contrail with a beaked rectangular tarp. The bike stays upright due to the tension in the guyline, no need even to use the stand. It's just the same as if you use a hiking pole: it wouldn't stand on its own but the tension keeps it in place. I use a long guyline so I can set the bike far enough from the tarp for easy access. Max height is at the saddle and I wrap the guyline around it, raising the saddle as needed to control tarp height. I can imagine the potential problem Courtney mentions about the bicycle being knocked down in the wind... it hasn't happened to me but I haven't tried it in heavy wind. Just set the bike far enough from the tarp so if it falls it doesn't damage the tarp.

Here, I used the bike for the foot end of the tarp so the saddle bar was high enough and I didn't need to set the bike off the tarp:bike as tarp vertical support 1bike as tarp vertical support 2

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Buy the poles on 03/24/2009 00:59:50 MDT Print View

I would buy the poles from Ron @ MLD. Very light and compact.

To me, on of the best reasons for using a tarp is the utility of setting up a campsite almost anywhere. Using the bike could keep you from camping in that 'perfect' site.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Tarp pitching on cycling trips on 03/24/2009 03:52:51 MDT Print View

"I'm departing on a 1,600 mile bike tour soon"

Yes a bike can be a bit of a burden on a bike trip.
I get the impression some have never heard of bike theft. We don't really have a huge problem here in Australia but I don't know of many people that woud feel confident in leaving a bike more that a a meter or so from where they sleep even with the bike chained up. Not that you want to carry heavy chains on a bike trip...

Devin Montgomery
(dsmontgomery) - MLife

Locale: one snowball away from big trouble
Re: Tarp pitching on cycling trips on 03/24/2009 08:48:25 MDT Print View

>I don't know of many people that woud feel confident in leaving a bike more that a a meter or so from where they sleep

I think you're right on target here. My wife and I are planning to ride the Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal [link] trails this summer and I had been trying to figure out a way to incorporate the bikes into the shelter for both simplicity and security. Both trails get a good amount of traffic and are easily accessible from populated ares. There's no better bicycle theft alarm than your shelter collapsing if someone tries to make off with it!

Edited by dsmontgomery on 03/24/2009 08:49:51 MDT.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Tarp pitching on cycling trips on 03/24/2009 14:00:34 MDT Print View

To be clear I wasn't suggesting to Lawton that he needs a Contrail, I put that up because it takes me longer to do it with a tarp, but as Inaki has shown, works just the same.
If you look carefully at how taut Inaki's tarp is (obviously apart from the rear where that silly tree positioned itself) you may get the idea of why some can keep the bike up and others think that it cannot be done.

Dan Whalley
(thedanwhalley) - F

Locale: peakdistrict natonial park, UK
Re: Tarp pitching on cycling trips on 11/29/2009 09:25:46 MST Print View

sorry for the late reply, i was having a random search for touring, i have used his set up for sometime now an it works a treat! i sometimes use a small pole which i store in the seat tube when riding.

bike tarp setup

Edited by thedanwhalley on 11/29/2009 09:28:02 MST.