I have been riding bikes since I was old enough to learn some 35 years ago. In my teens I had a paper route with over 100 customers and I used a ladies single speed bike (the lower center bar allowed me to get on and off easier)with wide (balloon) tires and two of the biggest baskets you could find on the rear like saddle bags and one up front so I could grab a paper and throw it up on the porch. The wide tires handled the weight better than the narrow ten speed tires. I could put that bike anywhere I needed it and in all weather conditions including a ice storm I ended up with frost bite from. Later in life I bought a 10 speed touring bike and loaded it up with front and back panniers to go cross country. It had the narrower tires, but held the weight just as good, but I bent the rim when I hit a pot hole–and I mean bent the rim. It folded at a 90 degree angle to the rest of the rim. Needless to say I had to call a taxi to get me to a bike store to repair the bike. A few years later I went on the Great Ohio Biking Adventure where you ride 450+ miles in a one week period covering 50 miles each day. I had my trusty 10 speed loaded to the gills and the folks I hooked up with had the 21+ speed mountain and hybrid bikes. I had to walk up the hills with my 10 speed where the mountain and hybrids down shifted and rode up every hill on the trip.
With my bicycle experience I would recommend a 21+ speed hybrid, mountain bike with road tires. The wider tires will handle the loads and terrain better with less risk of failure. You should Slime the tires as well, to reduce the risk of flats. The solid frame like mentioned is the sturdiest and least likely to fail. You can get gel filled seats and seat posts with shock absorbers in them to help ease the jarring
Get a repair kit with tools and spare tubes and tires to put in it.
I am looking for a hybrid to replace my trusty 10 speed, because of the gearing, I want to climb the hills not walk the bike up them. It will take the weight of the trailer I plan on pulling. I am looking at the local bike shops that have the expensive models up to $1,200 for the basic bike and even the local K-Marts to get a feel for what I want. I am looking at garage sales and on the Internet for the trailer and other accessories. (A friend of mine found a trailer for 25 bucks and it looked like new.)
I will see what I learn and then decide what I can afford to get and outfit, but want the bike to be able to make the run from where I work to where I live some 100 miles if required as “Plan B” if my truck cannot make it. I am also out of shape, having not ridden several years, and need to get myself back in shape…
Bicycle repair and sales/bartering may be a good business to get into in a TEOTWAWKI event. As mentioned before it does not need gas or hay to make it go and it is a reliable form of transportation.
– Ron from Ohio