My transportation Plan B for when the big one hits is your basic bicycle. Think about it. No fuel costs (you have to fuel yourself in any case), sturdy, dependable, minimal maintenance, lasts a long time, goes anywhere, and its healthy for you. Not only that, but when you get all those maniac drivers off the roads, it can even be a pleasure. Sure, I fantasize about being able to brew my own biofuels, or having enough solar panels to charge a small electric runabout, but the reality is a sturdy two wheeler sitting in my garden shed. If the electrical grid goes down for the long count, and the available fuel supplies are all used or hoarded, you can rely on your own two feet.
“Okay,” you say from your survivalist armchair next to the gun safe, “that’s fine for the young and fit, but what about us older, wiser, and perhaps wider folks? And how do we bug out with grandma too.?”
Let me tell you a secret. I turn 60 next month, I’ve been a grandfather for a number of years now, and I plan to splurge on a hybrid mountain bike for my birthday. Am I a fitness nut? Far from it. I’m packing an extra 30 pounds of meat and only got back on a bike last year after a several year hiatus. But as they say, “it’s just like riding a bicycle.” Sure, my hill climbing is not what it used to be. Thank G-d for the granny gear built into most bikes these days. The object is not speed, but to get there and back. I think my new (or used if I can find a good one) bike is a good investment; in my health in the short run, and in my future transportation needs in case of TEOTWAWKI.
Today’s mountain bikes are all-terrain wonders of person-powered technology. Maybe a little too much on the technology side, I plan to keep an eye out for a cheap, ten-speed beater bike to keep in the back of the shed as a spare. Today’s bike tires are tougher and last through all kinds of abuse; rims and frames too if you don’t go too much on the ultra-light side. You don’t really need a road any more, just a reasonable sort of goat path. With one of these babies a muddy track is a type of fun, not an obstacle.
Chances are that you have a bike or three in your garage already. Americans bought 12 million adult-sized bikes last year. It used to be that every kid had one. It would not take much to get it tuned up – or better yet—fix it up yourself and start learning the necessary survival / maintenance skills. Stash a few spare tires, brake and gear cables, brake pads and nuts and your transportation Plan B is ready.
From where I sit (for the past 10 years that has been in Jerusalem, Israel), the most likely threat to trigger the need for my survival plan is a nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) courtesy of one of our many friendly neighbors. That means that a nuclear warhead is exploded many miles overhead and the burst of electro-magnetic energy disables the electrical power grid and anything that uses a computer chip, transistor, or just about any electrical controls. Most of the radiation blows off into space, the real damage is to the electronic infrastructure, and it would be devastating. As a good prepper, you should have read all about it by now. If not, stop reading about bikes and start reading about the EMP threat right now.
With the toothless agreement signed in Geneva this week that is supposed to curb Iran’s nuclear arms ambitions, that possibility just became even more probable. By easing worldwide sanctions in exchange for empty promises, Iran just bought six more months of development time on their ambitious nuclear program.
Iran and its rogue nuclear ally North Korea have openly discussed the effect on “The Great Satan” (us and you guys) of an EMP strike by even a single warhead. They make no secret of their ambition to overthrow the US and Europe. Israel is first on their target list. They’ve said so countless times. It’s time we started believing at least half of what they say.
I’ve been worried about the EMP threat for a number of years. My assumptions about what happens next differs quite a bit from most American post-EMP fiction like William Forstchen’s “One Second After.” In Israel’s case the shooting war starts almost immediately and there is nowhere to run. However, with most adult Israelis having military training and belonging to a reserve unit up to the age of 50, a citizen army mobilizes within hours. This provides an organizational structure and social cohesiveness undreamed of in the US. Thanks to having to rely on our own resources for so many years, we are net food exporters. Even though collective kibbutzim and semi-cooperative moshavim account for a small percentage of the population, people here are not as far from their rural roots, both literally and historically, as today’s average westerner. Enough about that, let’s get back to our bicycle transportation plan.
Basically, what are your transportation needs once the big one hits? Job one is to get from where you are to where you want to circle the wagons. If your plan is to get from your home to your rural retreat, then the bikes in the garage are there to help you. Your SUV won’t run no matter how much gas you have stored if the big one comes in the form of a [close proximity, high field strength] EMP. That is assuming your 4×4 was built after the mid-1970s and has electronic ignition and computerized fuel injection. If you have taken care of this problem beforehand, pat yourself on the back, but load a few bikes on top anyway. The gas won’t last forever.
Once you are one with your survival stash, does that mean you don’t have to go anywhere again for a long, long time? Maybe. But when you do, the bike is there for you. It works for trips over to the neighbors to visit and trade goodies. I give myself a half-day range of perhaps 20-30 miles, which is an awfully big circle of territory. In fact, with my bike I could get to anywhere in Israel (about the size of New Jersey) in about 3 or 4 days. However, it is not likely I would need to go that far.
Sure, the carrying capacity of a bike is limited. In my younger days I did some bike touring and could carry a self-sufficient camp around in a pair of pannier bags weighing about 25 pounds. Add a couple pounds a day of food for an extended range. Of course, I could do 60 – 120 miles a day back then. People my age still do, but they have to work up to it.
As an all-weather vehicle, the bike has some obvious limitations. I have ridden miles in the rain with little ill effect, but little pleasure. A good rain suit does wonders and should be part of your kit anyway. I have even ridden in snow upon occasion. Some people do that for fun. It takes a lot to stop a determined cyclist. Where I used to work in Denver we had a 50-something guy who biked 10 miles each way, rain, snow or shine with a very few exceptions. I would join him when the weather got better. He always got there.
People often talk about keeping your survival skills in shape. Perhaps you should think about adding a weekly bike ride and consider it part of a health workout as well. The benefits of good health, greater strength and endurance, and cardio-vascular fitness are worth it.
Now, how about bikes for transporting great grandma and the little tykes? There are plenty of kiddy carts and kid seats available. Mom and Dad can usually schlep the infants and toddlers; and older kids from about 6 or 7 up can ride along at the slower pace that dictates. Carrying the elderly and infirm on a bike, now that’s a challenge. But if the family chariot doesn’t work, what else are you going to do? In the worst case scenario a bike or two, or even a tandem bike can tow a small trailer. That is something you would need to test out well before the bug out date.
There are also sturdy utility bikes with reinforced carriers and geared low for hauling kids and groceries. Unfortunately, they are kind of pricey, but urban commuters and eco-freaks swear by them. I am also intrigued by the adult 3-wheelers that have come on the market in recent years. These offer stability, higher load capacities, and all-round utility. I’ve been thinking of one for my wife, who doesn’t feel as secure on a two-wheeler as in our courting days.
I haven’t even touched the possibility of electric bikes. If you had the PV power capacity to charge one, some of the new electric-assisted bikes they are building in the past few years offer an electronic boost. I tried one in a store in Colorado during my last trip to the old country. I felt bionic. It was one of those new-fangled models that supplies the power to the crankshaft. That means that you can use all the normal gearing, and the electric motor can give you an assist from 0% (turned off and pedal power only) to 100% electric power (coast forever, or at least about 20 miles or better) and anything in between. With the assist set at a power-saving 25%, a few turns of the pedals and I flew. I’ll put a two-wheeler one of these on my long-term wish list, say for my 70th birthday, and an electric 3-wheeler for the love of my life.
Speaking of bikes and electricity, your basic bike – set up on a stand so the rear wheel turns freely – is a good way to run a small alternator. You can scavenge a battery, alternator, and lamps out of one of the useless cars sitting about to make a very serviceable auxiliary lighting system that can be topped up every day or two by a session on the bike. These simple components should work even post EMP. The power generated by a cyclist is estimated to be about 1/4th horsepower (in my case, 1/4th of an old tired horse), enough to run a variety of household tasks such as charging batteries, pumping water. grinding grain, chopping silage, even turning a simple lathe.
So, in the world after TEOTWAWKI, if you see me pedaling by, please smile and wave back. Don’t shoot.