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Is A Bug Out Bike Right For You?
Should you employ a tough and rugged bug out bike to make a hasty escape to your hidden bug out location? I think you should seriously consider it. Why? Because a bug out bicycle has distinct advantages over both 1) bug out vehicles and 2) plain old walking.
In a SHTF scenario, you know that fuel shortages and clogged roads will be a vehicle’s biggest challenge. Add to that a lack of spare parts for your fuel powered bug out vehicles and you’re rolling the dice when TSHTF.
But you plan to hike, which avoids the vehicle bug out challenges. But while hiking is more reliable it’s both slow and burdensome. It’s actually the slowest and least efficient way to get from point A to point B (besides maybe crawling). Hiking is the default last resort bug out option. But unless you’re disabled, a bug out bike is often an excellent upgrade.
However, a bug out bike for the wrong person, in the wrong setting, could prove deadly.
So in today’s article, we are going to dive deeper into the advantages and the disadvantages of a bug out bike.
We’ll discuss a few of the best bug out bike components and designs.
I’ll even share with you a few badass upgrades and accessories you need to get. Ones that will turn your boring street cruiser into a terrain slaying bug out bicycle beast.
Then we’ll finish up with your 6 step action plan to turn your abandoned garage bike into a badass, terrain crushing bug out bike.
No Scarcity Problems, Bikes Are Everywhere
You won’t struggle to find a bike if you want one. There are plenty of bikes to go around. You probably already have one and if not, you can easily get one for cheap.
According to Statista, between 41 and 51 million Americans rode a bicycle in the last 12 months. And bikes related sales bring in around 6 billion dollars annually.
I’ll bet you’ve ridden a bike at some point in your life. Almost all of us have.
Millions of Americans regularly ride a bike for exercise, fun, and transportation purposes. Bikes are everywhere, and we’ve ridden them our entire lives!
Many of us had a paper route as a kid with a canvas bag hung on the handlebars of a single speed fat tire cruiser. Likely you have a bike in your garage or shed right now. If you have children, chances are they have bikes.
The bottom line is that bicycles are everywhere, and they are affordable…making it easy to add a bike to your bug out plan.
Bikes Are Stupid Simple Machines
When compared to most of the new technology we operate in our modern lives, bikes are stupid simple.
Sure, some new bikes come equipped with advanced accessories and unique mechanisms. These help create a smoother ride and improve braking. But, the core bike mechanics are easily understood by nearly everyone.
No complicated electrical parts or micro-sized mechanical wizardry.
Bikes are essentially 2 tires bolted to a frame and tied together with gears and a chain. You transfer your energy through 2 pedals, which move the chains and rotate a tire.
Like I said: A very simple concept.
This simple design means that the components parts are readily available and relatively straightforward to repair.
And as far as operating one; if you’ve learned to ride a bike once, you’ve learned for life. The majority of Americans have ridden a bike, and if you haven’t and want to, no one can stop you from learning.
To quote Freddy Mercury, “Get On Your Bikes and Ride.”
Bikes and Traffic Jams Don’t Mix
Ever seen a bike traffic jam? Me neither. When roads get crowded, and cars stop, bicycles can just slip past unperturbed.
When Highway 69 turns into a parking lot, you’ll be pedaling past the helpless masses on your way to bug out safety.
The bottom line is that bikes are 1) reliable, 2) easy to operate, 3) easy to maintain, and 4) get you from point A to point B. In this case, point B is your bug out location.
The Opposite is True For Motorized Vehicles
It’s true that there are millions of bikes owned by Americans. However, almost everyone in America has at least one motorized vehicle.
We are a fossil fuel addicted motorized society.
They only evidence you need of this fact is the advent of drive through fast food and drive up ATM’s. Heck, I even had a drive through liquor store in my town, but it has since gone out of business.
With so many people’s default SHTF bug out being a vehicle, fuel shortages will be likely when things go south. People will hoard what they can get their hands on, and fresh supplies will quickly dwindle.
The point is, you may believe you’ll be able to jump in your car and split when the SHTF. The problem is, so does everyone else.
If you live in or near a densely populated area, the roads will likely be clogged with people trying to leave. Your car or truck may become useless in this scenario.
However, if you have a bug out bike, with some basic gear, you will be able to thread your way out. In fact, there are probably subtle bike paths to sneak your way out of town nearly undetected.
You should find all the bike paths in your area. Bike path maps are usually available at your local bike shop. These paths may go long distances, or may be circular loops; so do your research.
While a moving vehicle is the fastest of options; a parked vehicle is the slowest. A bug out bicycle is faster is walking, and sure beats being stuck in a massive traffic jam.
Speed is essential in a SHTF environment. Depending on where you live, and where you’re headed, a bicycle can give you a speedy means of bugging out. And you can carry a lot more gear than you probably think (more on this later).
Besides the inevitable fuel shortages and clogged roads, there will also be spare parts shortages.
The sheer number of unique cars we drive will make getting parts either difficult or impossible.
So unless you’ve stocked up on essential spare parts for your own vehicle, you may be SOOL when the SHTF!
To make matters worse, most new vehicles have complex, computer controlled onboard systems. Systems that are impossible for regular joes to fix themselves.
Maybe you’ll get lucky; maybe nothing will break on your rig for a long time. But remember everything eventually breaks, everything eventually fails. What’s new today, becomes old tomorrow.
But bike parts are simple and bikes don’t need gas or electricity. They are understandable, simple 2-wheel human power. No finicky computer controlled parts to leave you high and dry.
What about flat tires and broken chains?. Yes, they are common bike problems, but easily fixed. Even if you’re a complete klutz, basic bicycle repair is something you can do when push comes to shove.
Another benefit of a bug out bike is it can carry a ton of gear and supplies. With panniers (saddlebags) and a bike trailer, you can transport more than just a bug out bag alone.
Here Are The 104 Items You Should Put In Your Panniers: Snag My #104 Item Bug Out Checklist. Click Here To Get A FREE Copy Of It.
Okay, so if I’ve sparked your interest in using a bug out bike for your bug out plan, let’s go over a few of the main things you’ll need to consider.
- You need to start thinking about the frame, wheels, components.
- Are you in physical shape for cycling? If you are, great! If not, you’ll need to get there.
- Are you going to modify your own bike, or buy a ready to roll machine?
Not All Bug Out Bikes Are Created Equally
Let’s assume that you’ve decided to get yourself a bug out bike. Where should you start looking? What kinds of things should you think about?
I believe that weight and strength are the 2 most important factors to consider in choosing a good bug out bike. Bicycle frames, wheels, and components are all made of different materials. And all the materials have unique weight and strength properties.
Bug Out Bike Frames
All bikes are built on a frame, and bicycle frames come in a wide variety of styles, materials, and geometry. The frame geometry is what determines what type of bike you have.
From a sleek, quick handling road machine built for speed to a comfortable, relaxed model, designed for cruising along the beach. Or a mountain bike designed to take a beating on even the most rugged terrain.
For our bug out purposes, a mountain frame geometry is the best. In terms of weight, strength, and comfort it’s the frame design you want. Plus you have the ability to add panniers, frame packs, or pull a bike trailer.
You want frame materials that are light. Nothing will get you bogged down faster than a heavy steel frame, with steel rims and components.
The bicycle industry has been trending towards lighter and stronger materials over the past decade. So let’s take a look at the types of frame materials and their characteristics.
1 – Carbon Steel
Steel is the most common material used for bike frames. It is strong, but it is also heavy.
2 – Chromoly (Chrome Molybdenum) Steel
This is a lighter type of steel that is stronger than carbon steel. Today, it is widely used in the industry. It allows the frame tubes to be made thinner, with butted or thickened ends where the tubes are welded. It has the advantage of being relatively flexible and gives a comfortable ride.
3 – Aluminum
Light, strong and stiff, aluminum frames have evolved from oversized tubes to much thinner ones. They provide a good alternative to chromoly or steel.
4 – Titanium
Lighter than steel and equally strong, titanium frames are responsive and absorb vibrations well. Higher in price, titanium frames are found on many high-end bikes.
5 – Carbon Fiber
Made from parallel fibers of carbon and laminated with glue, this material makes strong bike frames. However, it tends to be stiff, and difficult to repair. Still, it’s light and used for building racing and cross-country bikes. It is also expensive.
So as you can see, there are numerous choices in bike frame materials. So you’ll need to decide what your particular needs are. Needs such as:
1) Distance to your bug out location, 2) your regional terrain, and 3) your physical conditioning.
Here’s a solid article about frames, for even more detailed research http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/bike-frame-materials.html
Bug Out Bike Components
You will want your bug out bike to have reliable, high-quality components. This is a critical part of a your bug out bike.
Pedals, brakes, derailleurs, cables, handlebars and wheels all should be top quality. Local bike shops, internet sources, and eBay are all good places to research these components.
Typically the cheaper the components the more likely they are to fail premature or in rugged conditions.
Stripped derailers, broken cables, and plastic pedals can really hinder your bug out. Not being able to shift smoothly or having a jumped chain is not acceptable mid bug out. Upgraded components is a good place to spend your bug out bike dollars.
I won’t be diving into each component today (there are sites dedicated solely to these topics). However, if you aren’t familiar with bicycles, or their various parts, talk to people in your local bike shop, or start looking on the Internet. You’ll be amazed at how much information is out there.
Bike Nashbar is one of my favorite resources and has tons of accessories and information so feel free to check out their website: www.nashbar.com when you ready to upgrade your components.
Bug Out Bike Accessories
Like components, bike accessories come in all styles and materials and range from low to high prices. For your bug out bike, the most important accessories are the ones for carrying your gear.
Panniers, which are essentially saddlebags, have rigid frames that bolt to the bike frame and fork.
Set Of Pannier’s
There are also frame mounted bags with Velcro straps that fit inside the main triangle of the bike.
Frame Mounted Bag
Another useful accessory is a rigid rack that bolts to the seat post of your rig.
Ridgid Seat Post Rack
Besides panniers and gear bags, you may decide you need lights for night riding. Some are battery powered, but my personal favorites are ones powered by generator hubs. These setups produce electrical current by using the rotation of the wheels.
They even make bike trailers with a generator hub that produces electricity to charge your radio, lights or cell phone.
As far as bike trailers go they are great for hauling gear, but can make rugged terrain biking hell. So if you know for a fact you will be sticking to roads then really any trailer will do that can carry 50+ lbs. But if you will be going off-road at all you should check out this solution:
It’s both single tracked and rugged. Which is exactly what you need for a bug out bike trailer.
Here Are The 104 Items That Should Be In Your Panniers: Snag My #104 Item Bug Out Checklist. Click Here To Get A FREE Copy Of It.
Pretty cool, huh? Even if you don’t need this elaborate of a system, it’s nice to be aware of some of the cutting edge bike gear that’s available.
My goal isn’t to list every conceivable gizmo and gadget made for bicycles. It is to acquaint you with the general concept that a two-wheeled, human-powered bicycle is a very viable bug out option.
Are You In Good Enough Shape?
Riding a bike a long distance is NOT a good idea if you’re out of shape. Could you realistically bug out on a bike? Are you in good enough physical shape to possibly get yourself 10, 20, perhaps 40 miles away from your home? Can you do that with the extra weight of panniers and a trailer?
Bug out bikers must be hardier than most. Riding a bicycle to your bug out location may not be an option for everyone. You have to prepare you body for the physical requirements. If you’re not in shape, you simply won’t make it.
Your terrain and local weather will also play a factor. Do you live in the Southwest, in the hot and arid desert? Or do you live in the middle of suburban sprawl? Maybe you live in a densely populated inner city? Do you live in the mountains? Each region has its own set of challenges you need to physically prepare for if you want to bug out via a bicycle.
Modify or Buy Your Way To Bug Out Bike Perfection?
As simple as bikes are out of the box, most are not ready for the intensity and challenge of a full bug out.
The good news is it’s not that hard to transform an old beater bike into a badass bug out bike with a little bit of elbow grease.
Step 1 – The Frame
The frame is the most important part of any bicycle. If it’s heavy and uncomfortable, it’ll be a real drag to ride, especially if you need to put some distance between you and your bug out location.
Bike frames these days are made from the traditional steel to aluminum, titanium, and carbon fiber. Each material has their own benefits and drawbacks.
So make sure you start with a bike with a strong but light frame. No heavy steel frames or you’ll regret it.
Step 2 – High Quality Components
Replace all the old and inferior bike components with high-quality reliable ones. You will have to spend a little bit but if you’re serious about bugging out on a bike then this is critical to your success.
Step 3 – How Much Gear and How To Carry It
Figure out how much gear and supplies you plan to take. Then search for the best bug out bike accessories for successfully hauling this gear.
Here’s a good set of panniers on Amazon that can carry a lot of gear.
There are lightweight trailers for bikes, well-designed racks, and panniers of every size and dimension. There are good light setups for night riding.
Basic Bike Maintenance and Repair Tools
Before we wrap up this article on bug out bikes, it would be a mistake to not mention bike maintenance and repair. You need to learn the basics and be able to fix your bike when parts and components eventually fail. Some repairs you should be able to do is:
- Fix a flat tire by replacing or patching the inner tube
- Replacing worn out brakes
- Replacing a shot chain
- Fixing a broken chain
- Adjusting and fine tuning all the components
You also need the basic tools to perform these maintenance functions. A good set of screw drivers and alan wrenches is a must.
A bug out bike may be the best choice for your specific situation. Or at least it might make for an excellent plan B. Whichever it is, you should start getting your bug out bike prepared, just in case.
The way you do this is by:
- Making sure you have a bike with a sufficiently strong but light frame
- Replacing any weak or cheap components with ones that can handle rugged terrain
- Adding as much gear/supply storage as possible
- Adding bug out bike recommended accessories
- Stashing some repair components and essential repair tools
- Getting in shape, staying in shape, and practicing your bug out!!
If you do these 6 actions, you’ll have a bug out bike and plan that you can rely on when the SHTF.
What did I miss? Which badass bug out bike accessories have you added? Got a picture of your rig? I’d love to see it in the comments below.
– Jonathan Hands
Photo Credits: Seat Rack / Panniers / Bike Example 1 / Bike Components / Bike With Frame Pack
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