Mr. Sharkey’s Fat-Tire Electric Bike in the Oregon Sand Dunes

Particulars on my fat-tire e-bike:

It’s a custom build, consisting of:

  • Soma “Sandworm” chrome-moly steel frame
  • Single-speed chain drive (no derailleur to need adjustment or break on the trail)
  • Bafang BBSHD mid-drive motor
  • Luna Cycle 1,000-watt controller and display, with the controller software reprogrammed to 30 amperes of current at 52 volts (1,500 watts, or 2 horsepower)
  • Luna Cycle 4p14s 52-volt, 12 ampere-hour lithium battery
  • Relatively inexpensive after market hydraulic front forks
  • 26 × 4.40 sand tires, running ~5 PSI (pressure depends on sand conditions)
  • Salsa “Bend” 23-degree swept-back handlebars (for arthritic thumb comfort)
  • More than I can remember at one sitting

Basically, this bike was custom assembled for riding on sand dunes. It’s also comfortable on the beach, and I even use it around the farm to get from place to place instead of walking sometimes.

The Luna controller integrates nicely with the Bafang motor and allows nine levels of pedal assist, which comes in handy for a variety of sand conditions and terrain slopes. The hand throttle is always available for use when desired.

Much of the riding I’ve been doing lately is going out on isolated dunes and seeking out wind-swept contours to surf, climbing to heights and carving the curves and troughs on the downhill run. Sometimes it’s possible to find formations that mimic a road course with banked turns, deep drops into depressions with easy exit slopes, or moguls, small jumps and the sort for some light trick riding. There’s also a fair amount of coastal forest trails connecting various dunes, which provides to opportunity for obstacle course practice and collision avoidance. Crashes are not uncommon, but the sand is pretty forgiving to the falling rider. Bruises are temporary, but good times live forever!

A typical afternoon outing with 4-5 other riders usually encompasses 7+ miles of riding over an hour and a half to two hours (with stops for refreshments and perhaps a picnic meal). Downhill speeds can sometimes approach 24+ MPH, while level ground speeds sometimes hit 15-17 MPH.

The deeper reaches of some of the dunes have a distinct other-worldly countenance, like nothing one might find elsewhere. Wind and rain-sculpted formations take on the appearance of Grand Canyon-esque complexity (usually in greatly-reduced scale). Entire pine forests being swallowed up by drifting sand.

Use of e-bikes varies by jurisdiction, but generally all BLM lands recognize e-bikes as bicycles, and they are allowed on all BLM trails and properties unless specifically prohibited. Here in Oregon, the state rules also recognize them as bicycles, allowing them to be ridden on beaches and other places that mountain bikes are allowed. Some National Forest management areas prohibit them on any but roads open to regular motorized traffic, but allow them on others, depending on the agency overseeing that particular park feature. Always best to brush up on the rules before heading out, if only to know how hard you need to hide from patrolling rangers 😉

Golf is not the only recreational activity that might see you out in the rough. Beware the dry, soft sand traps out on the dunes. Pushing a 50-60 pound bike out of a deep hole is a nice, strenuous workout! Be safe — watch out for hikers and bears, and be sure to have fun!

–Mr. Sharkey

About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

7 Responses to Mr. Sharkey’s Fat-Tire Electric Bike in the Oregon Sand Dunes

  1. Yes, what a throwback and such a thrill to hear that Mr Sharkey is alive & well on the Oregon coast! Sharkey’s Bus Barn was a wonderful site in the “olden days” days and it was a painful loss to me when it disappeared. Sharkey was way ahead of the times – his electrified VW with the “pusher motor,” his marvelous years long, raised-roof Crown project. I would love to read any updates to his story/biography “30 years in a Housetruck”…

  2. Funny you should mention that … I’m already planning some posts regarding the bike, riding, and conveyance to and from the dunes on my resurrected web site Much of it is the same old site, but new blog posts are already seeping out the ends of my fingers and piling up on the desk, so check in from time to time. BTW, you haven’t missed anything yet, the site only went live today at 12PM. I don’t think Lloyd knew about this, unless he has fresh batteries in his crystal ball.

  3. Super! Now we have two housetrucks sites!! .com and .org!! I got Roger’s book many years ago and love looking through it from time to time – it’s getting worn, so may have to get new one. And always enjoyed Mr. Sharkey bus barn! Have missed it greatly! Some small bit of sanity returning to the world!

Leave a Reply