Six Letters Re: Bicycles as Bug-Out and Utility Vehicles
Firstly I wish there were at least as many bicycle articles and questions on
SurvivalBlog as gun posts. As a gun maker, gunsmith, firearm owner, and combat
user I still put a fancy semi-auto combat rifle below a
decent bicycle for most people's survival purchase priorities. Let me offer
a contrarian viewpoint
on the priority of complete firearm battery in your survival shopping list.
Obtain some snares, a quality .22 semi-auto, and a few thousand rounds of
ammo, a few months of food and cooing fuel, basic camping/shelter gear and
then get a decent bicycle. It is quite possible to hunt for meat and drive
off most random bandits with a .22, just remember when money becomes available
that you can do much better once you have other very important categories
squared away. As I usually try to squeeze into all of my posts, survivalism
is not being a Navy SEAL, a SWAT team, or even a gun collector, it is about
surviving. Someone that confuses their gun, ham radio, equestrian, medieval
weapon, or other hobby for survivalism leads to misplaced priorities and
funds that are better spent on important preparations.
When cruising bike shops, thrift stores, and police auctions consider the following:
Don't worry about the state of the tires, since you will probably replace them
even on a new bike. Learn how to recognize a good set of rims and a well built
with good spokes, this is a major failure area, they should be round and when
spun roll freely and not move to the left and right(small deviations can be
fixed by an expert adjusting the spokes). Road rims are often too light for
survival use but are quite nice if you know you will be touring on well paved
road, for our purposes though stick to the more universal 26-inch heavy mountain
rims. Unless you are an expert on servicing shock absorbers go for a hard tail
and solid forks, the majority of discount bikes have junk springs and no oil
dampeners and are a weak point in the design. Good long life shocks for big
guys can be around $300 or more in my experience (I weight over 200 pounds),
anything less has left me with blown seals even in moderate to heavy utility
are more important than most leisure riders would think, long rides will make
you want more hand positions than a straight mountain bike handlebar offers,
rams head bars or at least
wrapped 'horns' give you a place to reposition and rest your hands on long
rides. Good bike gloves really help here too. Some conversations with bike
mechanics, test driving bicycles, and visiting bicycle nut boards (just like
gun nut boards)
will help you know which types of brakes, shifters, cables, dérailleurs,
and other components are good and which are junk. Especially examine the rear
dérailleur and dérailleur hanger on used bikes for breakage and
the front dérailleur for chain wear, replace and stock quality brake
pads and cable. You will be replacing any used chain, keep your chain clean
and oiled with proper oil, carry and learn how to use a chain breaker tool,
stockpile quality chain and bicycle chain oil; these are big barter items.
A worn chain will wear down the sprockets, look for saw tooth shaped sprocket
teeth and if present replace the gear cassette. In flat country a single
speed bicycle with coaster brakes is the best choice since
it is nearly maintenance free, but consider a good gear range set if a bug
out to mountainous territory is a possibility, remembering that once gears
are involved, even the best expensive internal hubs are less reliable than
a simple single speed. There has been a fad of fixed gear, a web search will
tell you more, my opinion is that it just moves the mechanical stress to
your legs an knees, fine if you are 16 years old but not if you are 40. You
be repacking all of the wheel and crank bearings with quality bearing grease
on a used bicycle, I use marine grade grease hoping it will be more waterproof.
Check the frame for stress cracks and dents from accidents, especially aluminum
or exotic frames. Steel frames can be welded or brazed especially in a
low stress area, Aluminum and exotic composition repairs are best left to experts
or thrown out. Buy and have spares for your bicycle saddle, get a performance
seat not a lazy-boy fat seat, test
out several but remember that your butt will get used to a performance
after a while, but a far comfort seat might make it harder to aggressively
pedal. Men be sure to get something that protects your 'family'
anatomy. A seat that is too hard and regular pressure can damage your tissue
leading to dysfunction, especially on bumpy roads. It is possible to rebuild
a saddle with full grain cowhide, especially if you find someone skilled
in shoe making, I don't like rear shocks because of weight and cost but I
a spring saddle to protect my spine from big road shocks. I always stay
away from the cheap toy/department store bicycles and their dismal components,
there is no realist upgrade path for this junk other than replacement so
unless you have no alternative, any bike is better than no bike, if you
are stuck you could always make it into a one speeder coaster brake bike, eliminating
the cheap unreliable
Buy the best tires and tubes you can afford, this is where the rubber literally
meets the road. Since I switched to Schwable Kevlar tires I have not
had a flat in 3 years of hard urban commute, even using other high quality
brands I usually needed to patch a tire at least once every other month
of heavy rural and urban high mileage cycling, Schwables are also very
long wear life tires. Knobby tires might sound good for mud, but they
of much rolling momentum on roads, Specialized brand Cross-Roads tires
are a good
compromise with knobby sides and a center strip for dry dirt, hardpan,
and paved roads.
For a good example of a nearly ideal survival bicycle research the old
Swiss military bicycles. If there is a possibility of hitchhiking there
quality folder bikes available, never discount the utility of grabbing
a free ride over your own muscle power, even in TEOTWAWKI. Try to stick
with quality standard components which can be improvised or scavenged
from junked bicycles if required. After doing some solid research you
need to invest some money to get a good bicycle most of the time, new
expect to spend a minimum of $300 list price, do not waste your money
at toy or
discount stores, either buy quality used and have service done at a competent
bike shop or let them help you pick out something new, just like buying
You will need to carry a repair kit at all times including a good pump,
quality patches (I use Rema Tip-Top), a spare tube in case the valve
stem is damaged
or you cant patch the hole, tire levers, and a folding bike tool I like
the Crank Brothers multi tools which include spoke, chain, hex and screwdrivers
and more. Swap in your good tube and patch the hole when you are in a
comfortable place. If you are really in the rough carrying a folding
tire in your pannier might be worth the weight versus walking, tubes,
patches, and tires are serious
and barter items. Buy a quality helmet, ankle strap, gloves, and lights,
since in most scenarios you will be sharing the road.
There are many more considerations and much research is required to buy,
build, or rebuild a good survival cycle, there is plenty of info on discussion
to help you but start at http://www.sheldonbrown.com/ Sheldon Browns
bicycle mechanic web site, he is no longer with us but his genius will
to help cyclists.
Since this is SurvivalBlog we must discuss firearms carry on a cycle, this
is my personal experience and YMMV.
Handguns should be worn high and tight just
below the kidney
area of the back, I use a belt pancake holster just behind where the
hipbone sticks out, it is most comfortable on long rides and probably
place for a large handgun in a fall. Rifles are best carried in an ATV handlebar
gun rack pointed forward mounted on the handlebars. Any other attachment
or larger rifles that I can think of would just get in the way anywhere
else, although the US military mounts rifles to the top
full-size folding bikes, I have never used
a mount like this. A slung rifle will fall forward and/or rub. For those
to full-auto pistol style SMGs
like the mini or micro-Uzi in some sort of holster
attached to the handlebars might be an option to spray bad guys in a
Many of the readers will consider their bicycle either a vital part of
their bug-out-bag or even a secondary bug-out vehicle so carrying cargo
to discuss. BOB trailers and kid carriers are good for open roads, but
an overly wide trailer can make moving a bicycle onto sidewalks and between
to impossible even in normal times. Cycling with anything past a light
backpack leads to fatigue. Panniers and rack and handlebar mounting is
the best option for gear, let your bicycle shoulder the weight, there
available on discussion boards. It is important to remember that your
loading should not get in the way of quick defensive firearms access.
For those who are considering adding a small motor I suggest buying a
scooter or dirt bike instead. Battery and gas assist motors add to the
the bicycle, get in the way, and are quite expensive, not to mention
the lack of
electricity or fuel in a serious society collapse. one exception would
be that initial bug out would be accomplished by gas motor add on and
for utility uses, this would not cause the long term stress on the bicycle
wheel and might be reasonable. - David in Israel
I've admired your site for a while. It is very informative.
In response to your listed article about bug-out bicycling, It would greatly
benefit anyone following that strategy to investigate GreenTyre.
They sell poly-ply, airless tires that last for years. A little hard for the
novice to install, but very much worth it without sacrificing ride quality.
Just an FYI from a blog reader. - JHF
I saw the article on bikes on the blog. Thought I'd toss the
web site for AirFreeTires into the mix. They make great tires--I have them
on my Specialized mountain bike, a couple of 1960s vintage Schwinn bikes, a
couple of my wheelbarrows, ...you get my drift. If I could, my farm tractor,
garden tractor, etc. would be equipped with these things Take care and God
bless you and your family. You are doing good work. - Tom S.
A reminder to make sure to bring your lock for your "bug out" bike.
Some young guy rode off on my husband's bike a few years ago, and he had to
run after him, and jerk him off the back of the bike to get it back. Then some
other guys hollered at him to ask what was going on, so he yelled back that
the guy was stealing his bike, and the guys then laughed and forgot about it.
At the time, there were no emergencies going on, and it happened a few years
before the "recession". So if there's no gas available, or the limited
gas is really high priced with long lines like it was when we evacuated in
advance of Hurricane Rita, bikes will look pretty good to those without transportation.
(Yes, we both had locks on our bikes for the Hurricane Rita evacuation).
I should mention that our truck had two tire blowouts during the
evacuation, so we now have an extra mounted tire available to throw
in the bed of the truck if we have to evac/bug out. Those inflate-a-tire cans
won't do much for shredded tires. And my husband checks [the two spare] tires
every spring when I do hurricane prep[aration checks and supply refurbishment].-
I just read the article on Bicycles as Bug-Out and Utility Vehicles.
been on vacation by bicycle in Italy several times.
Always keep at least
one spare tire and at least 4 inner tubes with you on multi-day trips. Buy
the tubes on different occasions at different stores. I once had a batch of
four inner tubes that all leaked! Tubes are made in production batches and
sometimes a production run goes terribly bad.
Also remember the experience in the Netherlands in the Second World War. Everybody
was cycling around with wooden wheels [or even on bare rims] since there were
no tires left. They are the hardest part to get in a SHTF scenario. Most other
by breaking apart other bikes but tires completely run out after a year. I
have at least four tires of every type I need at home. I also have a 80 year-old
very strong transportation bike which has tires that are extremely durable.
Some postmen use these tires. (Called "transport, extra heavy")
They cost a bit more (about 30 Euros per tire) but last easily 5+ years
and for some reason they simply cannot get leaks in their inner tubes. I never had
a flat in 15 years, only one tore apart because the inner tube was too old
(!) and the bike was standing parked in full sun (so don't do that ;-))
I use different types of tires for different types of functions. For everyday
Utility I use my extra heavies, for speed racing I use very fast but fragile
tires and on longer trips I use road touring tires. These are thicker and less
fast but a flat tire will bring your daily speed down too. Don't "save money"
and buy bargain-priced tires because the more expensive ones are really worth
For parts: well, just use a bike with less parts for everyday use. After
a long period they all run out, even yours. The best Utility bikes are in
my opinion so called strong old quality "dutch bikes" with no gears,
no handbrakes, no headaches. For inner city everyday use this is just perfect.
On vacation I of course use a different bike. Light, strong and with 21 gears.
I use and maintain it often. Grease is a good friend. If you use the bike often
it pays back to initially spend a bit more on them. On vacation I take with
me extra brake shoes, a gear cable and gear connector. With good gear I never
had real problems. Also a basic multitool and bike gear (Allen keys, wrench
10, 12, 15, practice what you need). Install quicklock systems to have less
nuts & bolts and to work faster and with less tools. I have hydraulic brakes
which are very strong, reliable and never let me down in 10 years.
A mountain bike for bug-out is nice but heavy, not very fast and not very useable
for long distances. You will get tired faster. Typical mountain bike tires
offer more resistance and are far less fast. A mountain bike is of course very
good to stay off road and for special ops. It depends on your situation, but
I have very good roads everywhere, also on places were you will hardly meet
anyone. I prefer asphalt roads along waterways for example. Speed is more important
for me. Stay in front of the hordes and get out fast! I have a very light racing
bike to keep me in shape which is part of my prepping. Maybe getting in shape
is the first and far most important reason for having a bug-out bike at all.
I also keep a little bug-out bag stored with my racing bike with essential
light weight survival gear (knife, Micron stove, Maglite, Katadyn water filter,
etc.) and three days of preps. That should get me out 450 kilometers at least.
Enough cash will buy me a place to stay and eat after that. If you go on vacation
on a bicycle you will find out that there are always helpful people around
when you arrive somewhere with a friendly face when I arrive sweaty and
I have respect for your blog! It has taught me a lot. I hope to do something
in return by writing. Regards, - Jeroen in Holland
Be aware that AirfreeTires.com offers
polyurethane microfoam tires that cannot go flat or blow out. I prefer these
two varieties of tires:
26x1.9 Sierra Unidirectional
26x1.9 Ocelot High Rebound
They have little rolling resistance under my 280 lbs. I have used them since
October, 2001. IMO the ride is comparable to Michelin Wildgripper Sprint 26x1.95.
Regards, - Vlad