Post Collapse: Bicycles and SHTF

I want to continue where we left off in Saturday’s comments – asking how you plan to get around if/when SHTF.

Honestly, I’m partial to bicycles for a very simple reason:  You can get around with a lot less effort on a bike than you can on foot.

Think of it this way:  When you are walking, a good portion of the time you will be walking up a gentle incline.  And, unless you’re walking up the side of K2, there’s about an equal amount of time spent walking down gentle slopes.

If you have a bike, there’s no work to coming down.  just hop on and coast.

If you happen to live on a glorious hill, like the long Vantage Hill from east of Ellensburg, WA down to the Columbia River Gorge, there will be a mix. See the Elevation Change at MapMyRide. (MMR)

We assume you are smart enough to have already used MMR to figure all your “outs” – right?

For getting out of harms way, there are few things that beat a good old-fashioned bike.

My own bike riding began when I was a kid.  But, by the time I was 11, or so, my life-long buddy and I were taking longer rides.  Like from the north end of Beacon Hill in Seattle, over to the Fauntleroy Ferry dock, then down the length of Vashon Island.  At the end, we’d have a sandwich and turn around and come back.  overall, I figure with the side trips and adventuring along the way it was usually about a 50-mile ride.  I can therefore write with some authority about via bicycle.  I was a member of the old League of American Wheelmen back in the day before the more PC name-change.

Even so,  I asked my son (George II) to write up some bike considerations.  He’s a great source because he’s worked for the legendary Bike Shop Mike who has several Seattle-area shops, but along the Lake Washington to Lake Sammamish trail is a good place to get acquainted with long distance riders.  This is a dandy bike commuter run and Seattle’s damn lucky in many geographical ways..

George II, BTW, is also a several times participant in the STP (Seattle to Portland) Ride held every year.  Put on by the Cascade Bicycle Club (with support from Kaiser Permanente and Alaska Airlines, you need to pencil in the middle of July next year to fly in, buy a “hundred dollar bike” and give it a go.  Details and link to registration are here.  Bring your own wrench and master link.

On to GII’s bike notes…

Bicycles and SHTF.

First: Safety first.

I had a kick ass road bike, clip in pedals, spandex, you get the idea. I was riding and somehow uncliped my right pedal and was pushing down the other side and BAMN!

Just like that the pedal hit my shin and I needed 8 or so stitches.

But really that’s a VERY minor injury compared with how bad you can get hurt riding. I have become more nervous riding a bike these days than jumping out of an airplane.

Bikes CAN be very dangerous. So of course wear a helmet, put your cell phone away, ditch the headphones, and keep your head on a swivel.

If you really want to be a “super safe Stanley”: Wrist guards and other pads. I bring up wrist guards because having a broken wrist just sucks and on bikes they are usually the first thing to get broken. Air splint for bugging out – in case?

And how can I forget: Make sure you can be seen. Lots of bright LED flashing lights, bright colors, the more the better! Only when you start to looking like a electronic music concert lighting show on two wheels are you to the point where you’re almost safe enough.

But also keep in mind you might have to go tactical and want to blend in. Camo in the backpack?

Lastly: Make sure your brakes are in awesome shape.

Second: Keep rolling!

Bicycle tires need air to work (just like us humans). Also just like us humans bikes pretty much stop working without air.

So make sure you have good tires, as tires age the rubber weakens (even if the tread is still good) and that makes them more prone to not just puncture but also weak side walls, and pinch flats.

Carry two extra tubes with you, an air pump (don’t mess with the C02 cartridge inflation methods), tools to take off the tire and replace the tube, and also consider tires or inserts that prevent flats.

Inspect your tires before or after you ride, pull out any little pieces of glass or thorns before they are worked in deeper thus causing a flat (this alone helped me avoid so many flats!).

A winning more like keep rolling combo: Puncture resistant tires (or inserts), new tubes that have had talc powder rubbed all over them prior to install (prevents pinch flats), keeping them inflated (another way to prevent pinch flats, bike tires lose air over time and thus can come unseated thus causing a pinch flat when reinflated then used with the inner tube not seated correctly).

Make sure your chain is in good shape, clean and oiled. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had this a customer come into the shop with a broken chain cutting their ride short.  Chain tool in the backpack?

Third: Learn how to work on your own bike.

This is a skill I am lucky to have been paid to do. This will save you money (lots of money) but will also help keep you safe.

You can take classes at REI in Seattle – check locally.  And if you don’t have money go to your local shop with a six pack and say “I want to learn to do tune-ups, I’ll work for free, all I need from you is instruction and patience.” (Dad’s note:  G2 learned construction this way, too – with the “six pack courses…”  No college loan bets, lol.)

Any shop owner will likely let you do this. Learning how do a full tune-up will cover a sh*t-ton of mechanical tasks:

Truing wheels, tube/tire replacement, chain inspection/replacement, brake inspection/replacement, cleaning sh*t, adjustment of derailleurs (gears & shifters), and if you’re kicking ass you’ii learn even more advanced skills like cable housing and cable replacement.

You need to know this right now though: Working on bicycles is NOT that hard.

A little intimidating sure but keep in mind tools used to work on bikes are VERY specific as are the steps in using them for their purpose. But after you do it a few times it’s easy and you’ll have many of those moments you think to yourself “Wow, that’s really not that f*cking hard!”.

Fourth: Be prepared while out riding.

A good kit will have: -A pump. Don’t mess with the C02 cartridge inflation methods. They suck IMHO. -Tools to change a tire (this is a set of three little plastic things, are small, cost like $5, weigh nothing, and once taught are easy to use). -A bike specific multi tool. -At least one new tube, better two.

Note: The above kit will not take up much room.

Also be ready in case you get hurt. Make sure your cell phone is charged, WEAR YOUR F**CKING HELMET, have an ICE contact on your phone so EMS personal can contact your family in case you can’t.

Stay hydrated, and have the right mindset. Biking can be dangerous, thus stay alert, focus on safety, don’t do dumb sh*t (texting and riding: NO. Don’t do it).

In the twenty or so years I’ve been riding these are some of the things that I feel are most helpful. Biking is a great way to get around and to get exercise. I hope this helps you in your quest.


Added Details from “The Old Man”

All good stuff, but here are more things to think about that I consider important.

1. Get the right tires.  If your bug-out plans include nothing but roadwork, then thin tires are great and you will get a lot less friction and more speed out of them.

On the other hand, if you have plans that include a mix of hard dirt, maybe some off-road in addition to road riding, then tires like these on one of my bikes are about right:  These are about 1.75 inches.  Thin tires for faster pavement riding, treads like this for light off-road and mix.  I run 80 pounds.  It was around 60 when I was younger and lighter, lol.

Riding sand or pea gravel is calf-killer stuff.  hard surfaces ride better and we mean lots less effort and lots faster.

2 Buy a Bike Stand:  It just makes working on the bike so damn much easier.  Not too expensive, either.

I use a Yaheetech Adjustable 52″ to 75″ Pro Bike Repair Stand w/Telescopic Arm & Balancing Pole Cycle Bicycle Rack that cost $52-bucks.  Adjustable every which-way it makes working on bikes a pleasure.

A set of tire paddles, a few wrenches, and a couple of hours of YouTube training and you can do a lot of good things to a bike.

3. Learn to Adjust D-Brakes.

This video will fix yah right up:

Got that?  Tighten the UNMOVING arm, loosen the looser side.  It’s a bit counter-intuitive, buy it works.

Presto…it’s like magic.

4. Is Bugging Out on a Bike Your Best Option?

Consider an old VW Golf Diesel with a 25-gallon tank. These are hard to find, lol.  But with 10-gallons of diesel in jugs and a full tank…range is up in the 2,000 miles area.

With a heat, radio, and wipers, sounds like a better all-disaster vehicle option to us.

OTOH if you are locked into SoCal and want out?  BMX bike will be way better than going through the freeway pinch-downs on the 8/10 and 5… just sayin!

On Wednesday we will unveil the middle ground – a “motorized survival bike.”

Write when you get rich (or free, lol)

25 thoughts on “Post Collapse: Bicycles and SHTF”

    • Perhaps, but you better have really good rearview mirrors! I can imagine those adjustments. Not hard at all. One thing to remember is that currently you run afoul of federal law if on railroad property, and much is patrolled by drones. Cameras today are so cheap that there’s surveillance everywhere. Also, anything metallic that bridges the rails will show up on their monitors. An abandoned RR that still has rails is a possibility, if there’s one going your way.

      The rules may not matter much if all hell’s broken loose, but for now I’d stay off their rails.

  1. You have a smart boy there, George. Very detailed list. I ride myself, and I picked up a few pointers.

    When SHTF, we can still live with electricity via solar and battery storage. Will you talk about that in future posts? I have been looking into them, now that I am on the Tesla emailing list. I have shown a lot of homes to buyers that have the whole “off the grid” package. They are pretty amazing. My point is that with all of the sharing electric bikes and electric scooters out there…and a combo of solar re-charging options with battery storage, we can still get around in electric cars, electric bikes and scooters…in addition to human powered bikes and by foot. We will need the former when there is bad weather and we need to get places a bit quicker.

    • When I was a child.. we would play in the shelter belt of a friends farm.. there was an old tractor there on the front was what looked like an old garbage can..pretty awesome we would envision it to be many day I asked his dad just what was it.. it was a wood gas generator.. they would back in the last depression take old corn cobs and such and burn them the smoke off of the smoldering fire would be filtered and burned as gas.
      then in 76 at the fair mother earth news drove around a pickup with a unit just like it made out of a water heater..
      I built one out of a small oil drum.. worked great the better one is one made out of a semi muffler cut in half smaller more efficient and produces way more gas.
      the magnetic motor..( yup it can be made..) but the magnets have to be set so that they are directional.. by letting the magnet make the complete loop. plenty of people have succeeded.. unfortunately they all wanted to share the information or sell it and that is unacceptable. do it build it for yourself and leave it alone no one will care..Ionized fuel vapors.. simple easy there it is the same thing..
      the simplest.. converting old waste to fuel.. anything carbon is fuel well lets rephrase that everything is energy the conversion of carbon is easiest.
      I think the washington state university is the only one that was allowed to obtain a conversion unit to convert plastics back into oil which can be refined to what ever product you wish. or you can go to a third world country and buy one then try to bring it home LOL.. but making one is just easier.
      batteries.. I wish I had tesla batteries instead the ones I have are way to heavy you are not going to carry them around on a bike or anything else.. LOL ceramatec in utah has the battery I want.. easier to produce and cheaper and more power for less cost..

      but just like the bloom box and the plastics converter etc… consumers are not allowed to purchase them only govt. use. eventually though I still remember when we were not allowed to buy the individual micro inverters that you can now buy on the market. it all depends on who’s controlling congress these days.. you could make them using graphene

      the one I made was bigger than this one.. above..

  2. Bicycle wheels and Leonardo’s invention of the chain (a fact check shows he sketched, but didn’t invent bushing chain, still a good story) can make lives easier.
    IF you are on good roads, you’ll feel the wind in your hair. If not, its time to struggle.
    I think the goat-cart will be our prepper wheels.I just have to get 4 miles over rutted, muddy logging roads to get to market day, where neighbors trade cartridges for taters and batteries.

  3. Vantage, eh?
    Just finished butchering the elk we got near the shores of lake Wanapum, the Columbia upstream of 90. Can’t bike on those roads.
    130 lbs of boneless, beautiful wildness in my freezer. #bragging.

  4. Great article and good information! Thanks to G and G2.

    I’d add something I learned from two Chinese girls who never knew each other. In both cases, they bought bikes – the typical modern street/trail device with normal knobby tires. In China bikes are daily transportation and built to last. The one thing each of them did was to order a WIDE, comfortable sprung seat! One actually imported it from China. The idea is to support yourself on your ass-cheeks, not by your crotch. The latter might work for competitive racing, but not for daily use as transportation. A few extra ounces of weight may help you arrive in a much better condition.

    With the advances in battery tech, an electric assist bike is becoming somewhat practical too. Solar at your home base and regenerative braking can help.

    I’m still casually scanning the market for an older VW or similar lightweight diesel engine, but as mentioned, they’re really hard to find at a decent price point. For now, I’ll just set up an older car that I have that gives 40mpg. I have lots of spares for that one. The real problem is where to go in a bugout scenario. You know the environment where you live, but elsewhere? Don’t go anywhere unless you know where you’re going and why.

  5. Regenerative electric bikes are the answer! Not much work done on those, and a lot pooh-pooh the idea it is not practical. Yes, its not practical when one looks at some of the stupid ideas, mainly regenerative braking. Focusing on that idea, of course there is minimal advantage. However, a clever design where a combination of motor/generator based on a modified WWII design of a dynamotor,

    Electric motor runs the bicycle, generator output to charge battery is apportioned by rider to set level of burden in pedaling. Going downhill, full generator output used for charging battery. Many possible variants where such a bicycle would be extremely useful.

  6. What will people do in NYC (Manhattan) when the SHTF? From my point of view it cannot happen because we have very smart people in our administration who practise “gridlock” every year around x-mas time.

  7. I was telling a friend how terribly expensive chain lubricant and cleaner concoctions were at my favorite bike shop. He suggested the use of kerosene. Some time after, I happened to be reading an 1895 issue of “Scientific American” on the latest cycling topics of the day. Lo and behold, the magazine’s preventative maintenance recommendations included applications of kerosene to bicycle chains.

    • I use kerosene to resuscitate rusted, frozen chains. Soak ’em a few days, work ’em a bit, the rust falls off and the chain becomes supple again. Follow with 3-in-1 oil and wipe down with a rag. After a few hundred miles, repeat.

  8. Bikes are awesome..when I was in the service and in the city it was the fastest mode of transportation..

    Now put a flexible solar panel on it then the electric motor assist.. Or a small gas motor for a bike.. As long as you have a still you can make fuel from just about anything.
    Turn old plastic garbage (any spun and stabilized oil product) back into oil..or wood gas.. And you have a simple vehicle that can be maneuvered by man power or motor power

  9. George, I was remembering how bikes featured in the book “Dies the Fire”; the warlord gangs really got around on them! I quit bicycling when we moved to NC; the major cause of bike death here is “riding on rural roads”. No arguing with monster pickups doing 60 on our narrow roads, at least for now. P.S. no effort going down the hill, but what about going back up?

  10. I go to goodwill outlet “bins” and good bikes are about $25-35 bucks. So if you want to get into it for cheap, and learn how to wrench, this is the best way I’ve seen.

    I keep a working bike for every person in the house. May not be that fancy, but we can all saddle up and ride at any time. Beats walking out of the burning city.

  11. “figure with the side trips and adventuring along the way it was usually about a 50-mile ride. I can therefore write with some authority about via bicycle. ”

    ????…back in the day when I lived in D.C. the bike was the only mode of transportation.
    Took weekend trips to Harper’s ferry..what a nice ride..they are setup for bikers to..
    Then I got back use to riding in a car..then one day about 12 years later I thought hey a good malt would taste good. What a beautiful day for a ride.. Jumped on the kids bike and off I go..easy 4 miles to the restaurant 4 miles back no worries..except…it had been 12 years. The days of riding from Alexandria to the base were long gone. About a mile out a head wind hit me. Maybe a four mile an hour breeze next thing I know I’m wheezing like an old cow.. And I walk back..
    Later that year I decided to start jogging..shortly after a realitive stopped on leave he was in the rangers..and he asked if anyone would run with him..the idiot me said oh I’ve been jogging lets go..I never in a million years thought he was talking about a thirty mile jog..him in and out of ditches over fences while I chugged like an old freight train..the only reason he stopped was he figured I was stubborn enough that he’d have to carry my fat azz back before is quit.
    The point I’m getting to is in the mind we remember what we did..unless you do it regularly you loose that ability you still have the knowledge but the ability. At one point I ran ten miles a day could bench three hundred and did circuit I know I would die from a heart attach if I even attempted anything like that. So if your a mind to bike get on one and start riding daily..if not don’t be surprised if a push cart doesn’t end up to be easier.

    • One of my points, possibly missed: In today’s world the main mode of transportation is cell phone.
      “Hi mommy. I’m at the corner of Thus and Yada and I need you to give me a rider over to….”

  12. George said “SHTF.” I don’t see a depression crash, or even “civil unrest” as being big enough events to cause a NEED for flight. “Flight” is something one does only when the likelihood of death from remaining in their current locale exceeds the likelihood of death during a forced move and resettlement, like fleeing a lava flow or a 500 foot tsunami. In flight, the only rules are: Fast, light, and NOW! A bicycle, powered or otherwise, is an excellent first phase to flight. It is not an end-all, be-all because it’ll likely eventually break, be stolen, or have to be abandoned. Understand, I’m in agreement with Rawls and Skousen, both of whom posit that any place within 50 miles of a city is too dangerous to hunker down for the duration of a real SHTF — YMMV, but guess wrong and it’s MadMaxLand, and if’fn yer not the raggedy man, you’re probably dead. More-importantly, so are any people who’re dependent upon you…

  13. If a person thinks there is a large chance of needing to bug out, maybe its time to move now. Hurricane Katrina and puerto rico showed us that its likely you wont be able to go anywhere. Unless its a stadium turned prison. Best to move now. Somewhere away from terror target zones and near wjere food is grown.

  14. Slightly OT, but a followup to George’s “walking” column:

    Last Tuesday, I was doing miscellaneous winterizing around the place. I was carrying a 16′ CCA40 2×12 (that’s 142 pounds worth of beam, BTW, for you townies) and walking backwards to position it into place when I stepped in a rabbit hole, tripped and fell backwards, with the beam landing on my chest.

    Instant headache. I lay there for a few seconds, did an assessment to determine whether anything major was broken and that I wasn’t likely to have acquired an aneurysm, then came off the ground, angry, slammed that beam into place and put a deck screw at the 7’4″ mark to tack it until I could get a jack under its free side.

    I finished the job — Jacked end 2 into place and bolted it, then got the jack under end 1, unscrewed the deck screw, jacked the beam (and the roof it was to support) and bolted it in place on both ends.

    The reason I finished it was it needed to get done, and I figured once the adrenaline wore off, I’d be hurting so much I’d be not worth very much for a while. I was right — Left shoulder and right hip hurt like a sonofabitch. Slight dislocation and aggravated my arthritis, most likely. All I got done Wednesday was some shopping and a 5 mile walk. ‘Tried putting in a row of chain-link Saturday and couldn’t manage my 50 pound post-hammer with the shoulder, so that one is still pending.

    The point is, in a “flight situ,” if you can’t find the attitude I displayed last week, find a hole and don’t flee, ‘cuz you can’t cut the mustard. One handlebar dump or an inopportune tree branch, you’ve got a broken bone and no bike, and if you’re running for your life, there’s also no one to kiss your boo-boo.

    It’s easy to break a bone. I broke an ankle a dozen (or so) years ago by miscounting steps on a step-ladder. Just that extra 10 inches did me in. I walked/worked on it for two days and finished the roof job I needed to get done, before going to the doctor – got a fancy air cast from him and a stern lecture from my daughter for that one, and six weeks on crutches.

    ANY shoes are better than no shoes. ANY wheels are better than no wheels. However, they just make life easier. If you don’t have the intestinal fortitude to walk, or crawl if need be, every step to wherever it is you need to go, irrespective of pain or injury, you’re not going to make it.

    A prudent person might want to get there before the SHTF — just sayin’…

    • Exactly ray…
      I have a professor friend lives next door to a DUMB..(deep underground military base) the thing is gorgeous..but it is a distance from anywhere…you either have to have a pretty significant notice or your SOOL in getting there..a story my boss told me once..there was an official alert..( yup you won’t be notified panic and chaos ) we all went down..he told where a senator warned his friend in the city he had twenty minutes..the guy didn’t make it to his shelter..if the incident had been real he would have been SOOL. People that are planning on relocating should be there already.
      Just my opinion but hey..we aren’t invited to the govt. Bunkers. Other countries have gone out of the way prepping the population in the U.S. they’ve only prepped for a very few.

      • It has been my theory for a number of years, that there are a bunch of these underground fortresses, and that we’ve been surreptitiously tunneling to interconnect them since the 1970s. I believe the low frequency rumble in Taos, NM, Kokomo, IN, and SeaTac, among many others, are barely-audible artifacts of the tunneling machines as they eat their way from one cavern to the next, but have never been able to find proof. (George: THIS is why I asked you about G-IIs hearing the rumble, years ago…) I did a study and wrote a theory paper back in the early ’70s, on the viability of underground forts, their interconnection, and a practical method of rapid transit betwixt and between, so the idea the gummint would actually execute my little mental exercise seems quite reasonable, and eminently possible to me…

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