Bug Out Bike: Good Idea or Death Trap?

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As preppers, we are always looking for solutions to problems. The solutions we find can come in many forms; from a different mindset or viewpoint, to skills training and in many cases, simply acquiring gear and supplies needed for survival. In some respects, prepping could be reduced down to the most basic aspect of problem solving to stay alive. One of the main problems preppers seem to be drawn to solve is the very realistic potential of having to drop everything and bug out of your home in a moment’s notice. There is a wide array of considerations on this topic, but today I want to focus on one potential answer to the bugging out problem, the bug out bike.

The bug out bike is not something we have dealt with much on the Prepper Journal before, but I did mention it as a possibility to consider in an older post on the topic of the Ultimate Get Out of Dodge Vehicle. I recently got interested in this subject again when I purchased a mountain bike for myself. I will admit that part of my decision to do so was from the standpoint that this could be a viable method of transportation if cars/fuel were no longer available due to shortage or EMP effects. It also helped that my wife was on-board with this idea too.

In looking further at my mountain bike, I started to consider the potential for using this as a tool to help us bug out. Since my family all had bikes now, could we use these relatively simple machines to our benefit? There are some advantages certainly, but I wanted to explore whether this bike would be a good idea or could end up being a large mistake. As with most things in prepping, there aren’t many absolutes. You take the situation you are given and deal with it, but there is nothing to say that the situation you planned for will work out the exact way you want it to. Prepping is equal measures preparation and creativity. You prepare for one thing to happen, but you need to be flexible if all that goes sideways on you.

What is a bug out bike?

For the purposes of this article, I am not talking about a motorcycle. A bug out bike in this context is similar to what most of us are intimately familiar with already. As a child growing up, owning a bike was pretty much a given. Your bike is what conveyed you all around the neighborhood to see friends and test the bounds of your relatively small borders. All of my friends had bikes and we rode them daily in virtually any weather until we grew old enough to get our drivers license.

The bikes of my youth were great for zipping down the road or jumping homemade ramps out of scrap pieces of wood but a bug out bike is a little more serious in design. A bug out bike is meant to give you a way out of a danger zone when traditional methods of transportation are no longer available. Ideally, a true bug out bike would be designed to carry the additional weight of supplies or your survival gear and be rugged enough to make a journey over less than ideal terrain.

There are two main types of bikes I see repeatedly that are proposed as the best bug out solution. Touring bikes are routinely used by millions each day to get back and forth to work. They can be outfitted with panniers to carry additional supplies like your lunch, laptop and change of clothes. They are geared to help you climb hills more easily and offer plenty of features for the modern commuter who doesn’t or can’t rely on a car or other mass transportation.

Mountain bikes are the other side of the coin and they too can be outfitted with additional storage capacity just like touring bikes, but they are meant to be treated a little more severely and might give up some of the comforts a touring bike could give you.

Either one of these two options could be a great benefit to your personal well-being even if nothing ever happens. Owning a bike is an excellent way to get exercise and interact with your surroundings in a different way. Just like everything else in life, the amount of money you can invest in this potential survival tool can vary greatly what you end up with. You can find used bikes on Craigslist or you can spend well over $5000 on the lightest bikes with the best equipment. Cost aside, I do believe that any bike would be good to have for both the health benefits and potential bug out options. You don’t necessarily have to have anything fancy as long as the wheels roll and you are in the proper shape to use it. But when we are considering solving the problem of bugging out, we need to look more closely and see if that bug out bike is the best option for your situation.

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Does a bug out bike have any uses after SHTF?

When we go back to planning to bug out with the idea that we can ride to safety, let’s look at a few assumptions. First off, bugging out implies that you are leaving home or wherever you are currently located and traveling to someplace else. This could be to a remote bug out retreat, a friend’s house or out of the immediate vicinity of danger. Any bug out situation would ideally see you with the ready capacity to grab your bug out bag and go but travel by bike has just as many risks as bugging out by car of by foot.

Traveling by bike has numerous advantages:

No need to stop at the pump – You don’t require any fuel other than your own pedal power, but knowing this you have to also consider how much more physically intensive your day may be so food is an important factor. If you plan to cover 50 miles a day on a bike, you will burn though calories (unless you are going downhill) like crazy.

Flat tires should be less of a problem – Yes, bikes do carry a risk of flat tires just like cars, but it is far simpler to carry both spare tubes and patch kits for that eventuality. With a hand pump and a spare tube, you can be back on the road in minutes. Cars carry spares of course, but you would be hard pressed to carry multiple spares without losing valuable space. I can fit two spare tubes in a small pack under my seat.

Bikes can go where cars can’t go – Bikes do have a greater ability to squeeze into small spaces making any traffic jam easily navigated. Additionally, you can cut across wilderness using trails if you have that route mapped out.

Bug Out Bikes allow you to carry more gear – Or at least easily distribute the weight off your back. The properly outfitted bike can carry 40 -50 pounds of gear in bags and pouches. This weight isn’t free as you will still need to be responsible for pedaling it uphill but it’s hard to beat. Bug Out Bags themselves can cause injury to joints if you aren’t used to carrying that weight. When all your gear is loaded properly on a bike, even if you are talking about the same weight in gear, it will be easier to manage.

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Bikes are quieter and easier to hide – You can easily sneak through areas in stealth mode on a bike assuming that you need to do that. Even the quietest car is far noisier and if you need to hide your bike, that is far easier done than with a car. You can lay it down in a small depression and cover it with branches or debris gathered from nearby.

But the bug out bike is not without its drawbacks

Some of the same reasons I used above for advantages can also be the bug out bike’s most obvious weaknesses in a bug out scenario.

Your bike offers zero shelter – I don’t mean that you can’t pack a tent on the back but you are essentially exposed to all of the elements on a bike. Weather is one thing, but there is some comfort that the mass of a vehicle can provide. You can be easily knocked off your bike by someone who is panicked and sees your ride with all those supplies as a way out. The traffic jam you are breezing through could easily be the place where someone jumps out from behind a truck and smashes you in the face with a bat. You are out for hours while someone makes off with your way out of dodge.

You can’t outrun everyone – Bikes can go very fast downhill but loaded down with 50 pounds of gear, going uphill is a recipe for again getting trapped by unscrupulous people. You won’t be crashing through any barricades with a bike either.

Two wheels aren’t as stable as 4 – slippery surfaces or the potential of trying to bug out in winter could send you flying into a ditch. Bikes are best in optimal conditions and balance must to taken into consideration.

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Only one person can drive a bike – You are responsible for pedaling yourself and it isn’t like you can get tired and give someone else the wheel while you catch some sleep. I know this is the same problem a lone traveler by car would have but it is a factor. People riding bikes in the worst types of collapse could consider using night vision and only riding at night for somewhat safer travel.

Should you give up on your bug out bike dreams?

I think bikes offer so many possibilities that they should be considered as options. While I don’t necessarily plan to bug out on bikes, they are in my arsenal as a last resort. We can ride them to our hearts content now and get in better physical shape should we need to rely on them later and I am planning for a 21 mile ride myself this afternoon to further that goal.

Bikes don’t necessarily have to only be bug out options. Bikes could have extreme usefulness in a disaster even if you are staying put. Let’s say gas does run out or somehow the electric grid does collapse, you can still use your bike to get around. You could look at those as potential barter items for people who severely need an option to travel. They can make manning guard locations in an all-out collapse easier than walking. They make a lot of sense for many reasons.

Back to prepping as a way of solving problems. I view bikes as another way you can solve a few problems you might be faced with. They aren’t perfect, but I don’t think many other bug out plans are bulletproof. You try something and if that doesn’t work you have a back-up. Maybe your bikes are strapped to your bug out vehicle and you pull them out if you are unable to go any further with that truck. Options.

Are bikes a good survival option for you? They may be, or they could just be a great way to have fun, get outside and get in shape. Either way, it’s a win for preppers.

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29 Comments on "Bug Out Bike: Good Idea or Death Trap?"

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Huples
Guest
Great article Pat. I more see our bikes and transport after the majority have died off. Before then they are a juicy target. I’m walking out off all trails. If anyone is a cycle racer or tourist please do an article on tips long distance cycling. One thing that works well is sharing the heavily loaded bug out bike. One rides and one walks. You swap off frequently. If 50lbs or more of gear this slower method might get you further. It also allows for the walker to have security items ready to go immediately if trouble hits. The cyclist… Read more »
Pat Henry
Guest

Thanks Huples!

I haven’t purchased any cycling shorts yet and really don’t want to consider the skintight versions for mountain/trail biking anyway. I am still using those running shorts you mentioned but I did 22 miles today. No problem with chaffing but I definitely need a better seat. Ouch…

I know we have some long-distance riders who read so maybe they will answer your request with an article.

Pat

Chris
Guest
They do offer mtb cycling shorts which have the padding but the loose fit like running shorts. Several varieties also have pockets. A few even have zip off legs so they can go from pants to shorts. You can also get gel saddle covers to put over the seat which will help a little. Don’t forget a good pair of cycling gloves as your hands will take a beating on a long or several long rides. Another possibility you could look at for your bike and those potential uphill situations is a small motor, they have both gas and electric… Read more »
Pat Henry
Guest

I haven’t seen those yet Chris. My local shop is great at gear, but too small to have a large selection of apparel. I think REI and other places online should have what you are describing though.

BobW
Guest

go to a good bike shop, Pat. I bought the cycling shorts that had the skintights as a ‘liner’ for an almost bermuda style short over them. You get the benefit of cycling shorts without scaring old ladies and small children.

Pat Henry
Guest

Ha Ha! Nice visual Bob.

Bolofia
Guest

“Before then they are a juicy target. I’m walking out off all trails.” I am firmly in your camp on this issue. If my 4WD becomes inoperable, packing it out is my method of choice. After the big die off, there will be a lot of unclaimed bikes.

Zendelle Bouchard
Guest

I have often wondered

Z-Cat
Guest

I have wondered why discussions about getting home in an EMP situation never talk about bikes. Carrying enough gear/food/water for a long hike is smart, but wouldn’t it also make sense to have a bike in the back of the car? I realize it could make you a target, but you’d be home before 99% of the people even knew it was anything more than a run of the mill power outage.

BobW
Guest

Yes, I believe a dirt cicle is a great option. Choose a bike based on sound, not appearances. Honda XR250/400/500/600 or Kawi KLR 250/650 or ‘zuki DR models.

The sexier the bike is, the louder it will be. The best bikes for a disaster should be stealthy. The Honda XRs were used by Army scouts for years to snoop and poop around the battlefield. Solid bike and quiet.

BobW
Guest

Woops. Replied to the wrong post.

Don Lowe
Guest

Now that you mention it, would a small motorcycle survive an EMP, or do even they have too much computer equipment that would be fried? If it could survive, I would consider that a better option for a prolonged power outage than either a car or bicycle.

BobW
Guest

I firmly believe that mountain biking is as important an exercise as prepping skill. The bikes aren’t option 1, but should be securely mounted on option 1 in a bug out. Thule and Yakima make versatile bike mounts for cars, trucks and jeeps.

One must always account for a legitimate option 2. Having the bikes mounted behind the car/truck provides redundancy.

BobW
Guest

Panniers front and back on mountain bikes will allow you to reduce what you haul in the pack on your back. Extra tubes are cheap, have two in reserve at all times for each bike. Have one extra tire for each bike as well. They should be same size and tread pattern.

BobW
Guest

Oh, bikes should be mounted on the back of cars and on tow hitches for trucks/jeeps. This reduces your vehicles profile. It also leaves room for that roof rack to store bags and fuel cans if you need.

R. Ann
Guest
Training on bikes is at the very least a good way to cull what’s needed and not needed in an evac bag, and what type of bag we want – losing it on a bike in a heavy through-pack is bad news, and some types cause serious neck cramping depending on handlebar height. That said, it’s not mountain biking, but anybody who’s been to Mexico City, India, or the Far East can account for just how much stuff can get carried on a bike with a little skill, practice and can-do. Also not for off-roading, really, but there are jogging-style… Read more »
RAIDER
Guest

In the UK with its congestion bug out bikes are popular with both urban and rural preppers, they often overcome the issue of flat tyres by using puncture proof tyres from the Green Tyre Company of Middlesbrough, I’m sure similar products must be available in the US

BobW
Guest
Good, new mountain bikes can be acquired for under $400. Brands like Specialized, and Trek. There are lots of other brands out there, but from what I’ve seen these are the two major brands that run from 24″ mountain bikes for kids down to about 7yo all the way up to super fancy full suspension units with 29″ tires. I would strongly discourage any of the bikes sold at discount stores like Target and Walmart. Just like a bargain basement AR, bargain basement mountain bikes skimp here and there to make a profit selling cheapo bikes. Cheap rims that bend,… Read more »
Pat Henry
Guest

I agree with you on all those points Bob. Additional cost almost always means better quality and lighter materials.

Huples
Guest
Bob the last time I bought a bike new it was snowing and 11am on a Tuesday. Went to a real bike shop, took my time, and got two thirds off. My point is this is Spring, buy now and pay top dollar. Bet you can get more bike for less money in the Winter months. You are exactly correct about discount bikes. In SHTF you don’t wanted rusted spikes Year Two! One thing is Fat Tires are the latest fad in biking. Can use the bike on snow and ice with fair ease. As I said I’m walking out… Read more »
XILA
Guest
Missed cargo bikes and recumbent. A cargo bicycles are utilitarian road or city bikes built for hauling cargo, they are very common in Asia. Generally they have a longer wheel base and a beefier frame, and can carry the rider plus a couple hundred pounds of cargo. The down side is they are slow even for bikes. (And if you think you’ld be a juicey target with 20pounds of supplies straped to road bike…..) My own back up bug out bike is a recumbent, so I’m biased. But, for distance traveling nothing beats a ‘touring ‘bent’ (Longbikes Slipstream, or a… Read more »
Bolofia
Guest
Pat, Good article, as always. Your selection of title (Death Trap?) is interesting, but I think all would agree that the benefits of bugging out on bikes far outweigh the negatives if common sense is applied. The question of whether a bike might be a death trap is really dependent on the circumstance of a chosen route, including timing, distance, proximity to large and potentially dangerous crowds, etc. Bikes are certainly quieter than any motorized vehicle and probably make less noise than an average hiker in off-road locales. The biggest drawback I can think of is the inherent inability to… Read more »
Pat Henry
Guest
Thanks Bolo! Yes, titles are funny things aren’t they? In some cases the are overly sensational but I do get people reading who would have passed it by under a tamer description. You have listed a lot of my thoughts too. I don’t think it is a perfect solution, but given the right parameters as you mention, it could work in a lot of situations. I guess the thought in writing this was from the standpoint of your Plan A. The bike wouldn’t ever be my Plan A for a lot of the reasons you mention. Could it be B… Read more »
Bolofia
Guest

Plan “B” at best, more likely plan “C.” Given my particular locale, the notion of roof mounted bikes just wouldn’t work unless I was willing to stop and remove/remount them every time I encountered a low hanging tree in a wash or primitive trail. Roof mounted radio antennas are a problem as it is…

GhostColts141
Guest

just mount a gun on a fatbike along with a few biking bags and your good to go

Realist
Guest
The bike is a great item to bug out with however this is plan B. I plan on having one in the event I have to go without a vehicle. The thing I like about them it they can carry so much. I am not talking about me but equipment. I can carry a lot in my truck and in the event of breakdown I will not all my things to go to waste. During the Viet Nam war the VC would carry 200 pounds of equipment and push the bikes. This is my plan in the event I have… Read more »
BBumble
Guest
1.) If I have to walk out, I will load specific gear on the bike primarily to push. To avoid it becoming a target, I will likely remove the pedals and pack them for later…not many folks want a bike without pedals. Even if abandoned termporariily, a thief might get on one left aside, then get right off…human nature. Pedals easier to hide than front wheel or handlebars… 2.) I would load packs and water (heavier stuff) on a book rack, off sides and hang off handlebars. I would have a quick release capability (think one pull rope knots) for… Read more »
lumberjake
Guest

I see a bike as being a very good BOV.
In the majority of SHTF situations ,the first images you see on the news is clogged traffic arteries . At least in all major population areas.
The motor vehicle and the infrastructure used is one of the first things used and manipulated in any SHTF scenario and would surely become an immediate target for those either in power or wishing to gain it which is why I see fossil fueled vehicles as being a liability in nearly all but the most rural of situations.

elleryjk
Guest
tl;dr ahead… you been warned. As a seasoned cyclist I can tell you no one is going to be on a bike during SHTF. They will all be jam packed like sardines in their cars, bumper to bumper going nowhere, quickly running out of fuel, right in the path of harms way. To the average adult American, bikes are those things they rode as kids that now hang in their garage – kids’ toys that are collecting dust. Even if they did hop on, a bike wouldn’t get them very far anyway since they are either out of shape or… Read more »
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