High Mileage Transportation For an Age of Scarcity, by Inyokern

Everything is about sustainability. Housing, heating, food, self defense, water supplies: do it yourself, maintain it. We can’t turn away, completely, from the best parts of our civilization however. That means things like centralized small business. Small scale manufacturing is ongoing in little towns with certain specialties. Getting there from semi-remote or rural self sufficient farms for that extra income or making use of a skill set for a high demand part (gunsmiths, CB radio, water pumps, wood stoves, solar panels, small engines etc) are often best built and sold at a central location. It makes sense, for supply issues and for the customer.

Getting there becomes the trick. You can walk. You can ride a horse, if you have a stable at both ends and someone to tend them there. You can bicycle. You can stay in a row house 4-5 days and go home on the weekends. Or you can use a high fuel efficiency vehicle. This can mean carpooling with other workers on the same schedule. This can mean buying an expensive electric or hybrid car. The Nissan Leaf costs $45,000 to manufacture. The Prius costs nearly as much, but only gets 50 m.p.g. (going downhill, with a tailwind). You can think outside the box with 4 doors and improve your power to weight ratio by removing weight from a car or truck with a small engine and gearing appropriately. This ends up uncomfortable and often less safe in a crash. Life is filled with compromises.

What about a bicycle? If its only a couple miles, bicycling uses no fuel, just muscle power. That’s great. What if you live more than a couple miles away? Pedal further. How far gets to be too far? You can reduce pedaling by converting your mountain bike to a moped using a bolt on 33cc 2-stroke engine kit. Or get a moped or scooter. Or a more efficient bicycle, or move closer to your job, or your job closer to you.

You can ride to work on a farm ATV, provided the local law enforcement allow them on the roads unimpeded. Some regions do, so don’t. It might be worth contacting your state assembly rep to get them legal for future needs. Some just need turn signals, fenders, mirrors, and lights to be legal, depending on the jurisdiction.. Just a matter of registration in some cases.

Three wheeled tricycle motorcycle hacks are pretty common in Southeast Asia and South America. They’re pretty cheap, slow, and carry passengers or gear/cargo. An odd kind of thing, but good for those nervous about riding on two wheels. Same goes for sidecars, which come in leaning and fixed varieties, and often bolt on. Even scooters can have sidecars these days.

And there’s also motorcycles. Two wheels, don’t bother riding in the wet, and requires care on corners with loose gravel. Famously unsafe, but most accidents involve speed, inattention, ego, and/or alcohol. You aren’t prone to any of those things. Preppers are a cautious sort, the best sort of riders, really. Dual Sport bikes will cross all kinds of terrain (single track, rocks, mud bog, unmaintained roads) and can’t get stuck because you can physically lift them out by hand or go around obstacles that would take time and effort to deal with using a 4WD, using half the fuel of a modern commuter car and less than a Prius. Its Green, in both the ironic and non-ironic sense of the word. Fuel economy via better power to weight ratio. It gets you, the passenger, to work, where the income happens.

There are also scooters, though Underbones have better ground clearance and bigger wheels so can deal with the nastier roads since that’s what they’re built for, in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Southeast Asia in general. Scooter motors, using 50-150ccs get around 80 to 100 m.p.g., which means that so long as some fuel is getting delivered to your town, and its not raining or snowing that day, you can get to work, keep your mortgage paid and food on the table while sharing skill sets with other locals similarly inclined. I generally avoid 50cc machines unless you live in flatland because they don’t climb hills for beans. 125cc should be a minimum, and most states require 4-stroke engines these days. Those are common for imports and have decent power and low noise so it works out. Sadly these are not built in America anymore. All are imported and thus expensive. Do not buy a Chinese scooter unless its a re-badged main production from a proper brand name (Vespa, Piaggio, Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha) [and thus will be covered under a decent warranty.] The basic Chinese scooter is garbage and will fail.

Some reliable example machines to consider by type of road surface:

  • Smooth maintained roads: Vespa 50-125cc models, Honda PCX 125, Yamaha Vino 125, any sport motorcycle 250cc. These are what you’ll find in city limits and the suburbs in healthy communities that can afford pavement long term. For now, most places are like this. This will not last.
  • Rougher partially maintained roads: Honda Ruckus 300, Honda SH10X, any Underbone 125cc, any standard or dual sport motorcycle with 5 inches of vertical wheel travel in the suspension. Suburbs are often like this, and most rural and poorer communities are like this now.
  • Rough unmaintained roads: Any dual sport with knobby tires such as KLX-250, Honda CRF-230L, Yamaha 200cc, Yamaha WR250X (nice, light, and fast), Suzuki DRZ400 (reputedly the ultimate serious off road bike). These have 11 inches of vertical wheel travel which means they can go over rock falls and speed bumps and potholes and across ditches and not really suffer. They’re much safer on rough roads. They look funny on the highway but with slick tires they do just fine, known in the sport as “Supermoto“.

For a prepper this is a good idea to track down and learn on, getting wheels with both kinds of tires mounted so you can swap them yourself, should your road maintenance go South for budgetary reasons. An off road capable motorcycle is the equivalent of the .308/7.62 NATO rifle. A good insurance policy. Practice riding monthly, like you would your rifle marksmanship.

The above examples are the smaller-engine machines best for fuel economy. Most are carbureted or have cheaper carbureted versions, thus EMP resistant and adjustable for fuel additives and quality. All are available used, and many are better for it, being broken in. Someday they’ll have engine swaps for biodiesel you can grow yourself or from the local Co-op/feed store, even more sustainable. Most bikes either come with or can be upgraded to progressive shocks which make them much safer handling if you have to make them go fast over rough terrain. Most can be bought used for a reasonable price. Boise, Idaho is famous for these kinds of machines, it being an outdoors powersports paradise without the Californians getting in the way. When the Recovery comes, city people will venture out into your community for vacation, sight seeing, or to buy the specialty goods you’ve been perfecting during this Depression.

At some point in the near (next couple years) future, oil supplies will be greatly constrained in a short period of time, mostly due to the needs for Islamic OPEC nations modernizing following the last year worth of democratic revolutions. I can’t blame them. We’ve done the same thing, only 250 years ago. This supply crunch will likely either bring rationing by fiat or by cost, either way requiring a huge change in how we live. The end of the world as we know it, only without violence necessarily. Just huge adjustment to travel options and thus work. We might end up working the job we don’t want because its the only one we can get to. If the ration is less than will work for your vehicle you get to choose between your family and a motorcycle/bicycle. It is up to you. Safe riding is mostly a matter of lower speed and good judgment. Idiots hurt themselves on bikes. Set aside the fear of parody bikers (mostly stock brokers and other rich people pretending to be pirates just because they saw The Wild One or Mad Max. Those people are playing pretend and will go broke.) and consider the tool for what it is: a way to get to work and home with minimal resources. – InyoKern