Letter Re: Bicycles as Bug-Out and Utility Vehicles

I read SurvivalBlog almost every day. I see lots of folks talking about bug out vehicles, going to great lengths to describe storing fuel long term, stripping down vehicles and even planning on parking them out of the way when fuel runs out. But I rarely see much mentioned about one of the best long term, low tech tools out there for transportation: The bicycle, the cargo bike and the
adult tricycle.

Bicycles are inexpensive, ubiquitous and take only a pair of legs and half a brain to use. People in Third World countries haul huge amounts of stuff with them, and even here in the US I know a lot of folks who keep a bike trailer around for short hauling nearly everything. Our local coffee roaster does all of their delivery using cargo bikes. There are few places you can’t go with a good mountain bike.

When you’re planning your bug out vehicle, a bike or two with a small trailer should be considered, as well as a few patch kits for the tires. This will allow you to keep moving and haul more than a backpack if your vehicle dies and there’s no way to get it fixed due to a really serious disaster, or if you’re stuck in a permanent [“linear parking lot”] traffic jam due to a SHTF situation.
Even if you don’t need it when bugging out, you’ll find it incredibly handy once you’ve arrived at your retreat. You could even rig one to run a water pump or a small device battery charger.
They’re not a speedy escape vehicle, or to some they may seem too low tech or “tree hugger” to some folks but bicycle transport make a lot of sense, even more so if fuel supplies become scarce. – Ellie E.

JWR Replies: We’ve had a number of articles and letters about bicycles posted in Survivalblog in the past three years (most notably, this one), but I agree that the topic doesn’t get the emphasis that it deserves. Dollar for dollar, and pound for pound, bikes are the most cost-effective form of mechanical transportation by road, and some varieties re also one of the most versatile vehicles off of paved roads. And, as you noted, they are great at working your way through traffic snarls, at least in anything less than a total panic or lawless situation. (In a true worst case” , no form of transportation is safe, but where motorcyclists and bicyclists would be particularly at risk.)

Watch for used mountain bikes available inexpensively on Craig’s List. For the sake of logistics, try to standardize with one brand, if possible. Buy plenty of spare parts and lubricants. And if you can find them, get a spare set of compatible wheels and mount them with foam-filled tires, for each bike. That way you can have the best of both worlds: standard tires to use on a day-to-day basis, and set of foam-filled ones to use in the event of a long-term collapse where spare tires and inner tubes will be in short supply. The higher rolling resistance of foam-filled tires can be aggravating, but the day might come that they are the only thing that will keep you on the road.