The Best Bike for On and Off-Road Transportation (Even if You Know Nothing About Bike Styles)

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This should be obvious but prepping for transportation during a bug out situation is never the same for two people. Most SHTF disaster situations, such as a nuclear detonation, the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano, an EMP attack, or the finale of GoT, mean you might not have access to fuel for that gas-guzzling Bronco or electricity for your shiny Tesla. This means you’d only get a few miles before having to hitch a ride with a total stranger (not the best idea).

However, there’s one vehicle of transportation that seems to have been built for a bug out situation – the bicycle. That’s right, no fuel? No problem. No car Jack? Who needs it. No need to bother about engine failure, transmission problems, oil changes, dead batteries, brake trouble or flat tires. Did we mention no need to constantly stop at the gas station to fill the tank? Since May is National Bike Month, it’s only fitting that we finally recognize the humble bicycle (or bike).

As preppers, we are always looking for better solutions to cope with a bug out situation. If you haven’t already guessed it, this is going to be a guide on using a bug out bike. These are bikes are well-built and equipped with the right gear and supplies to get you to where you need to go in a bug out situation.

Bike vs Car for Bugging Out? (Pro’s/Con’s)

So, the question is, “can a bug out bike be useful in a SHTF situation?” When it comes to prepping for a disaster, it is important to look closely at most disaster situations and consider what impact they are going to have on your mobility. Needless to say, while the bug out vehicle you choose needs to suit your personal worst-case scenario, you have to consider the worst-case scenario that can occur with the bug out vehicle you choose.

A Bug out Car

There are several advantages and disadvantages of choosing a bike or a car as a bug out vehicle of choice, for instance:

Pros:

  • You might already own a car.
  • Cars can double as shelter.
  • Cars can carry a lot of gear and food.

Cons:

  • While you might own a car, it could be easily affected by an EMP.
  • Cars also require fuel to work (duh!)
  • Cars can get easily damaged.
  • Cars can’t be driven on backroads and rough terrain.
  • You need to know how to repair a car.

A Bug Out Bike

If you plan on reaching for your car keys, consider the many things that can break down during your getaway. Once you’ve considered the obvious, going with a bug out bike is a no-brainer. But, not all bikes have been created equal. This is why you need to make the right choice when choosing a bug out bike, but more of that later. To be fair, here are the pros and cons of using a bug out bike:

Pros:

  • Needs no fuel.
  • Not affected by an EMP.
  • Easy to hide.
  • Can be used to pass through rough terrain.
  • Gets you in shape.
  • Burns calories.
  • Can be easily repaired.
  • Efficient on small trails that are inaccessible to large vehicles.
  • Can basically go where cars can’t.
  • It’s quiet which is useful if you’re in a zombie-apocalypse type situation.
  • Can be easily navigated around roadblocks.
  • Affordable.

Cons:

  • Requires manual labor.
  • No protection from rough weather or projectiles.
  • Suitable for a single person.
  • Cannot double as a shelter.

While it’s easy to see that the advantages of having a bug out bike far outweighs bugging out in a car, it is also important to note that disaster situations will vary. This means you should always have a Plan B, and a Plan C, and so on in order to survive a bug out situation. At the end of the day, your own two feet are going to be the ultimate bug out vehicle for you for multiple worst-case scenarios.

Bike vs Rucking for Bugging Out? (Pro’s/Con’s)

For those who have heard the term for the first time, rucking does not mean stomping on people (that’s only in rugby). Rucking is jogging or walking with a backpack (usually stuffed with weights). The military has been practicing rucking for decades as a way to increase their stamina and endurance. Rucking has been proven to have several benefits such as improving cardio and endurance levels.

It is also used by athletes and bug out preppers as a way to toughen up. With the keyword here being “Transportation” rucking certainly does not qualify as an option for a bug out situation. That said, rucking is a great workout for those who want to prepare for an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it type situation.

One of the main reasons for taking up rucking is because it helps build muscles and improves functionality. In short, rucking tests the limits of your physical capabilities while exposing your weaknesses, which can transform you from a fanny-pack wearing simpleton to a heavy cargo carrying beast.

That being said, in a SHTF situation, you’ll be better off with a bug out bike rather than having to carry your load across cities, fields, forests or rough mountainous terrain. This is where the functionality of the trusty bug out bike is going to shine. Long story short, if you do find yourself in a bug out situation, don’t run with a ruck unless you absolutely have to.

Can I Carry All of My Gear with a Bike?

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a land cruiser to haul the stuff you need when disaster strikes. In fact, it is possible for you to haul anything trusted steel-frame steed, from bug out supplies to people, lumber and even grandma’s grand piano (while it might take some muscle and logistics to haul that last one).

Since many bikes do not come with a cargo-carrying basket or rack, it pays to include one in your bug out bike to make carrying easier. The following are some tips that will help you carry your food supplies and other essentials in a bug out situation.

Add a Basket

The first option is putting a basket at the front of your bike. These baskets can cost as low as $15 and can carry a lot of essentials you might need to survive while on the road. Since bikes that have a curly handlebar will make it difficult to include a basket, this is the reason why it’s so important to choose the right type of bike for the job.

When choosing a basket for your bug out bike, make sure it is big enough to carry at least two grocery bags. You can stretch a bungee net on top of the basket to keep the contents from flying off as you ride the bike over potholes and other obstacles.

Add a Rear Rack

Having a rear rack is another important accessory for your bug out bike, and should not be ignored. A rear rack for a bicycle should cost you around $25 and there’s no need to invest in a very expensive one. The beauty of attaching a rear rack on your bicycle is that you can directly strap anything to it, such as folding metal baskets, to carry your backpack or other essentials.

Many preppers prefer to also invest in panniers, as in saddlebags that can be attached to the bike rack and allows you to carry more supplies. The good news is that panniers come in various shapes and sizes so it should be difficult for you to find one that fits your needs perfectly. Just make sure that the panniers you choose are capacious and waterproof.

Don’t Forget Tie-Downs or Bungees

Apart from including a basket and rear rack to the bug out bike, you would also want to add in bungees or a tie-down. This is mainly because you never know when you will need a few bungee cords or tie-downs on hand.

If you do not want to make an investment in bungee cords and tie-downs, then you can easily make tie-downs with your old bike tubes. All you have to do is cut the bike tubes in half and remove the valve. A pro tip is to make sure the bungee cord or tie-downs are as tight as possible when in use, so they don’t dangle too close to the wheels.

Even during a bug out situation, your creativity could end up saving your life, which is why it is always going to be the key ingredient to your survival. In short, you will come across many challenges and difficult situations while surviving the aftermath of a disaster, which means you will need to use that creativity to think out of the box and MacGyver your way out of a sticky situation.

Do I Need a Bike Built for Speed?

When it comes to choosing the speed of a bug out bike, the only thing that you need to be concerned about is whether or not it is fast enough to get you out of a dangerous situation ASAP. While speed matters, what’s even more important is going to be your agility. This is where being in shape pays off, which is why most preppers prefer rucking as a good exercise to prepare their body and mind so that they can take on the challenge.

However, if you didn’t log in the hours at the gym or didn’t bother with ruck marching your way to fitness, there might be another option to get your bike the speed it needs to outrun scavengers, wild animals or zombies in the aftermath of a disaster. It’s called an electric motor conversion kit and can be used to convert your pedal bike into a motorized one.

The electric powered motor kit can be attached to the back of the bug out bike and fits most 26” tire sizes. This will give you a decent speed of 28 mph on your bike. These kits come with a 48v motor, brakes and maneuvering controls and a new back wheel.

Converting your pedal bike into a motorized one is relatively easy and can be undertaken as a DIY project, but again, the electric motor will need recharging some time, which doesn’t make it suitable for survival in an off-grid world. That said, the powerful motor should help you get a good head start, and you can always detach the motor and give those quadriceps a workout.

What’s the Right Bike Fit for Me?

It goes without saying that you need to make sure that the bike you choose fits you. This is crucial since getting the right bike size will not only make sure that you are comfortable, but will keep you from looking ridiculous when the search party finds you. The good news is that there is no dearth of bike sizes, types, and shapes available in the market, which means it should be easy for you to find the perfect one to turn into your personal bug out bike.

You will need to factor in your height and inseam (which is the measurement from your crotch to the floor) to get one that’s the perfect size. You can also find online frame sizing charts and calculators to make sure you get the right size bike.

Measuring Your Height

  • First, remove your shoes and stand straight against a wall.
  • With your feet shoulder width apart, have someone measure from the top of your head to the ground.
  • You can jot down your measurements in inches or centimeters for finding the right size bike.

Measuring Your Inseam

  • First, remove your shoes and stand straight with your back against the wall.
  • Place a large book between your legs, with the spine of the book resting against your crotch.
  • Now, have someone measure the distance between the spine of the book to the floor.
  • That is going to be your inseam which will make it easier to choose the right size bike.

For those who are not sure how to use these measurements, you need to make sure that the size of the bike frame is .65 times your inseam. Most bike stores know the frame size of the bikes they have on sale and can give you that information at the time of purchase. Two other factors to consider when choosing the ideal bike size are:

  • Saddle Height — This is an important measurement to consider when buying a bug out bike. As a rule of thumb, it is important for you to choose a bike that has a seat high enough so that your heels barely reach the pedal at its lowest state.
  • Handlebar Reach – This is the distance you are going to reach out to hold the handlebars and is another important factor that will determine how easy it is for you to maneuver the bike. A bike with a handle reach that’s too long or short will hinder your ability to maneuver the bike and can have a negative impact on the weight distribution between the front and back wheels of the bike. Ideally, always choose a bike with a handle reach that only bends the elbows slightly when you are holding on to the hoods.

Main Components of Your Bug Out Bike:

A bike has many components that are all essential to its function and efficiency. The following are some of the main components that are found in most bikes:

Handlebar Shape

The shape and position of the handlebar mainly depend on the type of bike you choose, but the following are a few handlebar shapes that you should be aware of when choosing a bug out bike.

  • Drop Bar — This handlebar style is found on most road bikes available in the market today. The drop bar is lightweight and features an aerodynamic design, which makes it the ideal choice for fast riding. With the drop bar, the rider is at a lower, hunched over position, which could lead to neck and back discomfort after a while.
  • Flat Bar —This type of handlebar is commonly used on hybrid bikes and are also sometimes found on mountain or road bikes. The flat bar design allows the rider to sit upright while riding which can be more comfortable as compared to the drop bar design. The flat bar handle design reduces discomfort on your wrists and shoulders while riding.
  • Mustache Bar — Used mostly for hybrid and road bikes, the mustache bar gets its name from its shape which is similar to a man’s mustache. The bar is somewhat similar to the drop bars, without the same drop height, and is considered to be more comfortable than the drop bar bikes.
  • Riser Bar – This bar design is mainly used on mountain bikes. The riser handlebar rises upwards and back, allowing the rider to sit farther back while riding the bike.

Frame Size

The good news for those who are looking to buy a bike is that nowadays, bikes are available in different frame sizes. This makes it easier for you to find a bike that suits your needs perfectly. Needless to say, the size of the frame is going to vary depending on the type of bike you choose.

Frame Materials

The most important part of a bike is its frame. It’s going to be a real drag if the frame of the bike you choose is heavy. Bike frames vary according to the type and the manufacturer. While some bike frames are made from traditional heavy steel, there are also lighter bike frames that are made from titanium, carbon fiber and aluminum.

Brake Type

There are quite a few types of brakes that are found on bikes. Each one of them come with their respective pros and cons. The kind of brakes a bike has will mainly depend on the type of bike. The following are some of the most common types of brakes found on bikes:

  • Rim Brakes — These brakes have been traditionally used in bike making and are found in many older bikes. Rim brakes use pads that grip the rims of the wheels to slow the bike down. The rim brakes are simple to use and maintain but are often less effective when using on wet surfaces.
  • Disk Brakes — These brakes are attached to the wheel hub and are found in most modern bikes. They are found in bikes that have multiple speeds and are effective when used in all environments.
  • Drum Brakes –These brakes are integrated into the hub of the bike’s wheel. This makes them more efficient, durable and weather resistant.
  • Coaster Brakes — These brakes engage with the rider starts to pedal backward. They do not require much maintenance and are not the best choice for riding a bike down slopes.

Bike Suspension

The suspension of a bike is important since it is meant to keep you suspended, especially while riding through rough terrain. The following are some of the suspension types that are found in bikes.

  • Full Suspension – Full suspension is mainly found in mountain bikes. This suspension offers better traction and stability while riding on rough terrain.
  • Front Suspension — Front suspension bikes absorb impacts on the front wheel. They are more common in mountain and hybrid bikes.
  • No Suspension — Many road bikes and hybrid bikes do not have any suspension. It is important to note that the suspension fork and rear shocks can increase the weight of the bike, consequently leading to less efficient pedaling.

Gears

Bike gears range from the 10-speed to 27-speed gears. Needless to say, the higher the gears, the more complex it is going to be to ride. That being said, if you are looking for speed then bikes with the most gears are certainly the way to go. Bikes with several gears are only recommended for strong cyclists who have good balance and control while riding.

Tire Size

The size of the tire varies according to the type of bike you choose. The following are some of the tire sizes used in bikes:

  • 650c — This size is only used on some bikes that are designed for those who have a small stature (people who are shorter than 5ft. 4 in.).
  • 700c — This is the standard wheel size for most bikes.
  • 20 in. — This wheel size is mostly found on BMX bikes or folding bikes.
  • 27.5 in. (650b) — This offers a middle ground for those who are looking for tires that provide better maneuverability.
  • 29 in. — These wheels are a bit slower to accelerate with, but once moving allows you to cover more ground as compared to small wheel sizes. The 29ers are more efficient for long rides.

Best Bug Out Bikes

The type of bike you choose is going to mainly depend on the kind of riding you plan to do. Since there are many different types of bikes that are available in the market today, here are a few types that make for great bug out bikes:

  • Adventure Touring Bikes – Touring bikes are a tweaked up version of the traditional road bikes, which means they are sturdier and provide better balance. They also come with racks to carry heavy loads. The stronger wheelbase and lower center of gravity of the adventure touring bikes make them a great option for a bug out bike.
  • Cyclocross Bikes —These bikes are lightweight and tough which makes them another great choice for a bug out bike.
  • Dual Sport Bikes –These bikes have been designed for leisurely rides around the park, but when SHTF you can crank up the speed and do some bike-packing.
  • Hybrid Bikes —These bikes are a mix of road, mountain, and tour bikes, putting together the best parts of each of those bikes to create a speedy, chic alternative that also sounds like it’s good for the environment.
  • Adult Tricycles —Since being prepared for a bug out situation applies to all people regardless of age, an adult tricycle is a great option for those who are looking for a bike with more storage capacity or who were just too lazy to learn how to balance a bike.

Worst Bug Out Bikes

  • Mountain Bike — While these bikes can be outfitted with additional storage capacity with a basket or a rear rack, mountain bikes have been built for extreme terrain which means they are of little use if you’re in the city.
  • BMX Bike —BMX is a cool sounding bike, but that won’t matter when you’re being chased by angry mobs or flesh-eating zombie people. These bikes are prone to skidding and tend to be heavier than most other bikes, two features you do not want your bug out bike to have.
  • Road Bikes —These bikes come with a drop bar that results in the rider having to slouch or ride in a hunched position, which puts a strain on your neck and back, and is not ideal for long rides.
  • Track/Fixed-Gear Bikes —The fixed gear bikes also known as “the fixie” are cheap and simple to ride, but they are an absolute nightmare trying to ride uphill. They are also heavy and typically don’t have brakes. Also, you can’t attach a basket or rear rack on a fixie. But most importantly, the reason why the track/fixed-wheel bike gets a bad rap is that you can’t freewheel and need to pedal constantly (even downhill), what’s that about!

So, there you have it. This was everything you need to know about using a bug out bike for your survival. For all those preppers out there who have ever considered just how useful a bike could be as a mode of transportation when SHTF, then to quote Freddy Mercury, “Just Get on Your Bikes and Ride.”

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