Get Training for Le Tour de TEOTWAWKI, by M.K.

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The time has come. Everything you have been planning for has happened. The aftermath has befallen all of us. Whether we are talking about a hurricane running through your area, an EMP, or a military takeover, it came quickly and the rest of the country has been left with their jaws hanging open. We have been prepared for this moment for quite some time.

Yet, as we all know, plans do not always work out the way we want them to. Maybe you were supposed to bug out, and you didn’t have the time. Maybe you were supposed to bug in, but damage to your location requires you to go on the move. Most likely you have multiple plans to implement according to different scenarios. Perhaps you do not. Either way, we have to adapt to whatever circumstances come our way. Sometimes these adaptations are small and simple tweaks to our plan. However, they may alternatively be a major overhaul to our perfectly thought-out playbook.

This idea crossed my mind a little while back, as I was thinking about family that lives near me. I have family living exactly eleven miles away from me. My plan is that the three of them will get to our bug in location as quickly as possible and will hunker down with my family. Eleven miles isn’t that far away and should be traversed quickly, even in difficult circumstances. There are multiple routes that could be taken, depending on what the road conditions may be.

Still, what happens if we do not hear from them? What happens if lines of communication are down, and they haven’t shown up? How can I quickly and efficiently traverse the eleven miles to check on them, then get them through the safest route back to our location? The answer was obvious to me because of my background, but may not be for many people– my mountain bike.

In my younger days I was quite the bike rider. I raced mountain bikes semi-professionally for local bike shops around my area. I worked as a bike mechanic and have a great knowledge, not only of work and repair on bikes, but also on how to make a bike get where I need it to go as quickly as possible. I may not be as accomplished on the bike as I once was, but my knowledge of the bike and its uses can help me through the many situations that may arise. It’s not always just about pedaling fast; it’s also about keeping your bike in great working order and knowing how to handle it through a variety of conditions.

We typically have bikes around, and if you do not, it certainly isn’t difficult to get one. There are numerous options on Craigslist or other similar websites. According to the National Bicycle Dealers Association, in 2012 alone, there were roughly 18.7 million new bicycles sold. That means one in every sixteen people in America bought a bike in 2012 alone. How many of those bikes are just sitting around waiting to be sold? Getting your hands on a bike should be a relatively easy, inexpensive endeavor.

Bicycles offer us a quick way to move around, and if you know what you’re doing and where you are going, they can be very stealthy. They give us options for carrying gear on racks and saddle bags, or even in trailers. A good bike will carry you over a variety of terrain, whether paved or not. They are easy to maintain, can be stored in a number of locations, and can be hidden fairly easily, when need be. Most importantly, with a little skill, their maneuverability will help you dodge even the stickiest of situations.

Let’s suppose I have to get to my family, who is eleven miles away. The main roads are shut down to me, and I don’t want to be locked into strictly paved back roads either. With some essential gear on my back or on a seat rack and a sidearm handy, I can easily sneak off under cover of darkness and begin winding my way through the alternate routes to get to their house. I can move quickly and very quietly. If cover is needed, I can move off the road into trees or bushes whenever possible. My background as a mountain biker gives me many off-road options that may not be there for everybody, but anyone can train to meet these needs.

Bikes are a very versatile mode of transportation, but many have overlooked them as a possible solution to a SHTF mobility situation. We dream of armored vehicles we can use to get to a bug out location, or ATV’s that we will ride G.I. Joe-style through the fiercest fighting, but the truth is, you simply need two wheels and some leg power to accomplish what you need to accomplish. Bikes can get you hundreds of miles away in a week and can haul much of your equipment with ease. You just need to prepare for the challenge.

Here are some things you might want to prep for your emergency bicycling:

First, make sure you keep your bike in good working order. Whether this is a multi-thousand dollar bike from your professional days, or a fifteen dollar bike you picked up at a garage sale, they all need occasional maintenance. A typical tune-up at a bike shop can cost you anywhere from $50 to even as much as $100, depending on where you are and what you need to have done. It’s nice to learn some basic skills that can cut down on these costs. Purchase a basic maintenance guide that has pictures to help you. I have always used “Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance”. Also, the Internet is full of wonderful resources on keeping your chain and cables well lubed (please don’t ever use motor oil!), your brakes adjusted, and your wheels properly tuned and inflated.

Learn a few of the more advanced skills, like changing cables and housing, putting on a new chain, removing links from your current chain, changing brake pads, and adjusting your dérailleurs. These are skills that will help you to keep your wheels running smoothly and quietly.

I recommend purchasing a basic bicycle tool kit and learning how to use it. A set of metric Allen wrenches, adjustable wrenches, and cable cutters are a must, but so is a specialty tool like a chain tool. Like so much of our equipment that we prep, if you don’t know how to use them, they are just paper-weights. So, take the time to learn the basics.

Second, stock up on some basic bike consumables, like tubes and tires. (One size of tire doesn’t fit all, so check the numbers on the side of your tires.) Also, keep some extra cables and housing for brakes and dérailleurs, some extra brake pads for each kind of brakes your family bikes have, and don’t forget the chain lube.

Third, consider some extras for your bikes. Put a seat rack on the back, and get some saddle bags to go on it. You may want to get a BOB trailer or even a trailer that you would use to pull kids, so you can load it with gear if you have to travel long distances. Handlebar or helmet-mounted lights would be highly recommended for off-roading at night.

Finally, get out and ride. It is important to get experience riding a variety of terrain. Check out the back roads in your area. Chances are you will find a good route that could be used in time of trouble. Get a map of the local trails. These maps can be used later if you need to find your way from point A to point B when the roads are clogged up. There are “Rails to Trails” routes all over that can give you some good riding and can get you out of Dodge when needed. Learn how to maneuver over logs and rocks without falling. Spend time on the bike. Nothing could be worse than getting out of dodge, only to find that your tailbone feels like it is broken because your backside isn’t used to sitting in the saddle. Make sure you can ride ten miles or so with some weight on your bike, so if you do suddenly have to get out quickly, you aren’t dead tired midway through the first mile.

Bikes aren’t just for kids anymore. Their use as survival gear is evident. They may not be as glamorous as a HumVee, decked out in armor with a .50 caliber machine gun mountain on top, but they may be more useful in the long run. If being a G.I. Joe is your dream, you could always buy some camouflage tape and a shotgun scabbard to make your bike a little more threatening. Think of your bike as the modern day horse for that cowboy inside of you. The best part is that you don’t have to feed them! So, get on your horse and ride. You never know when you might be forced to.

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