Three Letters Re: Motorcycle Vulnerability to EMP?

With regard to motorcycles and EMP, modern Japanese and German bikes (I cannot speak for Harleys) have black boxes that are susceptible to EMP in the same way that car electronics are. Older bikes, of course, used points ignitions and should survive unscathed. A good rule of thumb to use would be that if a car of a particular year would survive, then a motorcycle of that same year probably would too. Might even be able to add a year or two, since bike development was always a little behind cars in the ’70’s. Depending on your primary anticipated needs, I would look for a mid-to-late 1970s Honda twin, like a CB500T. Slow but bulletproof. Lots of them made for many years. Some bikes from that era used 6 volt systems (the CB500T included). I know that the CB500F (four cylinder from that era) used a twelve volt system and is a much better street bike. The twin would be a better off-road bike since it is much lighter. Any off road use should involve different tires. Both Hondas had 19″ rims if I remember correctly. Not sure if modern dirt bike tires would fit. Most Japanese bikes from that era should work in a SHTF scenario, with lots of parts commonality between models of the same brand. The beauty is that you could probably pick up three or four of the same older model right now dirt cheap, and have a couple of entire bikes worth of spares. The Japanese would use the same motor in several different models, (like street bikes and Enduro bikes), and just change the gearing (internal and sprockets) for different uses. If I had to think of the things that seem to wear out on these bikes it is cables and bulbs. A spare rectifier and a couple of sets of points and you should be good to go. Another thing to consider is that while the fast bikes of the time (GS1000, KZ1000, XS1100, et cetera) are still great bikes for highway use, they are all close to 600 pounds, and would be quite a handful if used off-road. Hope this helps. – The Other M.W.

James K is right to assume that a motorcycle can make a good back-up BOV. A dual-sport style motorcycle is fuel efficient, off-road capable and can split lanes in a sudden G.O.O.D. situation (being from CA, I assume that James is in a urban or suburban environment). Fortunately, these are also the simplest of modern road bikes. Although fuel injection is becoming more widespread, all new DP bikes are still carbureted (with fuel being fed by gravity). For simplicity’s sake, air-cooled is the best option here, since it is one less system to fail. Models like the Honda XR650 and Suzuki DR650 would both offer excellent performance and fuel economy. A bike equipped with a kick starter would be great, although I am not sure that a decompression solenoid would be affected by EMP. All modern bikes are vulnerable to EMP since they use digital/transistorized ignition systems. The good news is that these components are small and can be sealed in a homemade Faraday cage.
[JWR adds: Such as a metal can or biscuit tin with a metal lid.] I am currently working on building a battery box that will be large enough to house the ignition circuitry along with the battery. Spare ignition wires, and another ignition module/voltage regulator would be wise precautions. – “Bossaboss”

I see the question of EMP and motorcycles came up. Many of the newer bikes have computerized ignition systems. Some even have similar fuel injection. They are getting so hi-tech that they are in the same boat as the newer cars. The prospective buyer just has to do a bit of homework and find an older machine with [a traditional] points ignition. With most brands, it has been a while since any have used points ignition, but there are many bikes in garages with few miles on them that are hardly ridden. Unfortunately, they almost always need: new tires, new battery, and to have their carburetors cleaned and re-built. Then you are ready for the road. It pays to use gas stabilizer when storing, or shut off the fuel and run the carbs dry, thereby preventing varnish build-up in the carbs. It is also a handy place to keep a little emergency fuel handy for the generator or whatever while in storage for the winter. I always shut off the fuel and run the carbs dry as winter approaches, not knowing when the roads will be salted later in the fall. Now they have. I have had friends tell me I will dry out the seals in my carbs that way, but it has never happened yet, after many years of doing it this way. Thank you for keeping this going. – Sid, Near Niagara Falls

JWR’s Comment:  Once again, the SurvivalBlog readership has responded generously to a casual request for information. I am constantly amazed by the breadth and depth of knowledge that you folks have. Your collective knowledge is one of the most important factors that has led to the phenomenal success of SurvivalBlog. MANY Thanks!