Letter Re: Survival Bikes

A few more thoughts on survival bikes, especially two readers’ recommendations to use Presta-valve tubes. Mark L. might be a bit of a bike snob; I understand that, having myself been into high-end
bicycles and raced and toured thousands of miles, but his comments on Presta valves and suspension bikes I think are off the mark in a TEOTWAWKI situation. You cannot buy a Presta valve anywhere except a [high end] bike store or online. In my area, in the winter, there are no bike stores open within 150 miles in the best of times. Of course, if you’re thinking of stocking up on Presta tubes, remember they will
grow brittle with age. Big-box stores, which stand a better chance of staying open in a civil crisis situation, DO NOT CARRY THEM–only Schrader. You cannot fill a Presta tube at a gas station. Schrader
valves have served cars well enough. The late bicycle tourist Ken Kifer, whose web site kenkifer.com is still up through the kindness of a friend, was a pragmatist who lived in a Thoreau-inspired cabin in
the woods and toured many thousands of miles on bicycles–on Schrader tubes. (Detailed diaries of most of his rides are on his site–he powered a laptop with a solar cell on the carrier of his bike.)

And suspension bikes WILL break; without welding tools (and of course the power to run them) you will be out of luck. The only possible realistic reason for any suspension on a bicycle is on a racing trials
bike. Otherwise, all the vehicle’s wheels are on the ground 95% of the time (which is the purpose of suspension on a four-wheeled vehicle). One can always stand on the pedals for rough terrain.

Mark’s right, though, about Kevlar tires when you can, and about “seats.” A small saddle on a bike that’s well-fitted (and fitting and riding technique can be researched on the Internet–it’s quite
important) is much better in every application than any “seat” with too much padding or springs (except the highest-end Brooks and Ideale saddles).

I also agree with all about the superiority of steel lugged frames and avoiding buying bicycles in big-box stores. (Although bicycle manufacturing is so low-tech that a simple bike from Wal-Mart or Kmart
nowadays will probably last a good long time with proper care.) – Peter H.