Bicycles are an often overlooked bug-out vehicle due to slower speeds, minimal capacity, and their reliance on their rider as their powerplant causing performance to suffer when the rider is fatigued, ill, injured, or otherwise impaired.
Bicycles have changed over the centuries since they were introduced by the addition of lighter alloy frames, aluminum wheels and spokes, puncture resistant offroad, racing or hybrid tires, improved brakes and multiple gears. Bicycles have become the tool of law enforcement, security as well as the military. The latter having adopted bicyles in the 1930's for transporting troops and later some armies (e.g. North Vietnamese Army) using them to transport supplies on narrow jungle trails up through the 1970's. To this day in much of the world heavy duty bikes are used to haul a large variety of cargoes to market.
Bicycles also have many advantages, and should be considered seriously both as bug-out vehicles as well as a viable means of transportation for everyday life. Bicycles consume no fuel other than the rider's own caloric intake, have no overhead costs to operate, require maintenance less frequently and with less cost and difficulty than automobiles. Bicycles can also easily get over, under, or around obstacles that would prevent a car from proceeding, can ride on narrow trails as well as on roads, and can even be carried for short distances if necessary.
- Multi-Speed - Many bikes are available with selectable gear ratios, similar to a Transmission in a car. These allow the operator to increase torque or speed for the same amount of pedalling, making them much more efficient.
Accessories & Modifications
Many different accessories are available for bikes, some of which could be very helpful in a bug-out situation.
- Computers - Bike computers typically provide information on distance and speed, along with health-related information such as calories burned. Having the former information could be extremely useful.
- Lights - Having head and/or tail-lights can be extremely useful while bugging-out in the dark.
- Panniers - Panniers, or saddle bags, are an excellent way to add cargo capacity to a bicycle without sacrificing much maneuvability.
- Trailers - Trailers provide significantly increased capacity to a bike, but do take their toll on the maneuverability of the bike.
Disadvantages and Overcoming Them
Every vehicle has its own unique challenges, whether it lacks certain abilities, is more demanding of its operator, or has limits of capacity, all vehicles are imperfect. The following entries address overcoming these obstacles.
- Speed - Bicycles generally cannot travel at speeds anywhere near motorized vehicles (15 miles per hour with a mountain bike on level ground, and rarely more than 30 mph for a competitive racer on an ultralight street bike). This is not nearly as big of a problem as one might think, however. The biggest controllable limit to speed is your own physical capabilities, by conditioning your body for extending riding and increasing your strength you can greatly increase achievable speeds on a bike. Furthermore, selecting a bike with high gear ratios will also increase your total speed. The easiest way to overcome inferior speed, however, is to play to the bike's strengths by taking a more direct route than larger vehicles can. A bike can trivially cross almost any field that most motorized vehicles could never drive over, likewise many other "obstacles" can simply be ridden across taking the "straight-line" between to points that other vehicles don't have access to.
- Range - Bikes have less range than most motorized vehicles, 100 miles in a day is a challenging, but viable distance.
- Capacity - Bikes are lean machines, a few pieces of steel and some rubber is about all there is. This makes them durable and efficient, but doesn't leave much room for gear. Fortunately there is a large range of accessories available to overcome this problem, namely panniers and trailers. Cargo capacity is also limited, though this can be helped somewhat with a combination of basket, rear rack, front rack, front and rear panniers, and a trailer such as the Yak or Ibex BOB (Beast of Burden) trailers: http://www.bobgear.com/trailers/index.php.
- Power - Bikes lack the power to charge through a barricade, be used for defense, or pull a tree out of the way. This, however, is not the disadvantage it might seem to be at first. Obstacles are simple, go around or over them. If a car comes to a roadway covered in rocks from a recent washout or avalanche, it's time to turn around; a bike on the other hand is narrow enough to ride through most of the time or its rider can simply carry it across on foot. Bikes are nearly silent, allowing you to avoid a confrontation that would have been unavoidable in a car.
- Exposure - One of the biggest problems with bikes is personal exposure to all external threats such as the environment and those that mean you harm. Environmental threats such as weather or perhaps radiation, chemicals, etc... can be mitigated by proper clothing. The simplest, and perhaps best, way to deal with human threats is to simply avoid them. Bikes have excellent off-road capabilities and are small enough to allow you to go almost anywhere, which in turn allows you to ride around potential hostility.