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Bug Out Bicycles: How to Survive With a Bike

A mountain bike with the sun shining in the background -- mountain bikes are just one option for a bug out bicycle.
A mountain bike is one option for a bug out bicycle.

Most bug out guides only mention bug-out vehicles because they primarily target preppers with families. A four-wheeled vehicle is a perfect choice when you need to worry about carrying capacity for several people. But what if you’re bugging out solo? Do you require a bug out vehicle? Well, you don’t. If you only have to worry about yourself, consider a bug out bike. While it might not offer a comfortable ride and as much storage capacity as a bug out vehicle, it has its fair share of advantages.

Read on for why a bike ride might be one of the best bug out options.

What Is A Survival Bike/Bug Out Bicycle?

A bug out bike is a normal bike that has been customized for use as an emergency vehicle. According to data from Statista, over 47.5 million Americans own bicycles, and more than 12.4% of the entire population cycles regularly. Therefore, bug out bikes are a readily available evacuation option.

Right off the bat, bug out bicycles allow you to get around faster than if you’re on foot. Even if you’re leisurely pedaling along rugged terrain, a bike ride is three times faster than walking. For less rugged terrain, a reasonably decent rider on a mountain bike can comfortably clock between 10 mph to 14 mph without much of a hassle, even if they’re carrying a considerable amount of survival gear. When walking, you can go for a maximum speed of between 3 mph to 4 mph, which is likely to slow down depending on the size of the bug-out bag you’re carrying. Therefore, compared to walking, using a bug out bicycle is a more viable survival option.

If there’s room to use a four-wheeled vehicle and you can access one, it should be your first option. However, if the roads are impassable by car or public transport is inaccessible, consider using a bug out bicycle.

Why Is A Bug Out Bike Important vs. Other Vehicles

As we’ve highlighted, there comes a time when cars or trucks are not the best bug out options. Here’s why a bike ride may be the best way to evacuate a disaster scenario:

1. Bug Out Bikes Allow Flexible Routing

A woman cyclist standing next to her bike on a nature trail.

One of the most significant deterrents to fast and successful buyouts is obstacles along the way. These range from clogged roads as everybody tries to escape the danger zones to debris, human traffic, and destroyed pathways due to earth movements, and so on.

The challenge with using a bug out vehicle or truck is that you can only follow specific routes. With a car’s extended width and size, you can’t dodge traffic snarl-ups by detouring down sidewalks or maneuvering through tight alleyways. A bug out bike gives you the flexibility to escape these deterrents by going around fallen debris and trailing narrow bike paths. You can even carry the bikes over obstacles and veer off into the woods to find alternative routes.

2. Bug Out Bikes Are Quiet

Depending on the nature of the disaster you’re trying to escape from, you may need to be as unobtrusive and unnoticeable as possible. For instance, if you’re evacuating from a region with civil unrest, the last thing you want is people seeing or hearing you bugging out. They will either attack you or take away your supplies.

Unless you have customized your bug out bicycle with an electric motor, a bike ride will be quieter and less noticeable than other bug out options like trucks and cars. Even bikes fitted with an engine wouldn’t produce as much noise as average recreational vehicles. This enables silent escape without drawing unwanted attention.

3. Bike Rides Are Faster Than Walking

Bugging out by bicycle is three times faster than by walking. This reduces the time it takes you to escape to your destination, reducing the supplies needed throughout the journey. When bugging out on foot, you need to carry essentials for extra days, which weigh you down and derail your bug-out progress due to the additional weight. When using a bug out bike, on the other hand, the weight is spread throughout the bicycle, making the evacuation more convenient.

4. Bug Out Bikes Have More Carrying Capacity

Another reason bike rides are better for bugging out than going on foot is that they guarantee more carrying and storage capacity. If you decide to walk, you have to carry the bug-out supplies on your back and withstand their weight throughout the journey. 

For bike rides, however, you don’t have to break your back carrying everything. You can boost your storage capacity by adding a frame-mounted rack, bicycle trailer, or saddleback to carry the survival items. If you have a family with children, you can add seats or passenger trailers above the rear fenders for additional carrying capacity.

5. It’s Easy To Split Up When Using Bikes For Bugging Out

If you’re bugging out from an area of civil unrest with your family or friends and you notice that you’re being pursued, the thumb rule is that you should split up to make it challenging for the pursuers to follow you. When using a bug-out vehicle, splitting up is impossible. For bug out bikes, however, you can split up into different groups—the ablest team can distract the pursuers away from the most vulnerable members and increase their chances of survival.

6. A Bug Out Bike Needs No Power

Unlike cars and trucks, you don’t need gasoline or fuel to power a bug out bicycle. This can be particularly helpful in scenarios where there’s a fuel shortage, and everybody is crowding at the gas station to get the last drop of what’s available. The trade-off is that preppers must be physically fit to pedal to their bug-out locations. If you aren’t a seasonal cyclist, you can fit the bicycle with an electric motor to make pedaling on hilly bike paths more manageable.

7. Bikes Are EMP-Proof

Vehicles equipped with computerized features are susceptible to having their sensitive circuits blowing up in case of an EMP. This can leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere and force you to walk to the bug-out location. Bug out bikes have no computerized parts; hence an EMP cannot affect them.

8. Bikes Are Easy To Acquire

With over 47.5 million Americans owning bikes, the chances are that you already have one. Even if you don’t own one yet, they’re far less expensive to acquire and customize than bug out vehicles. Besides, spare bike parts are cheaper and easier to come across. So, if you don’t have much on your bug out budget, a bike would be the perfect option.

What To Look For In A Bug Out Bicycle

A bike with some gear packed on it next to a primitive wooden structure.  Bug out bicycles need to carry survival supplies as well as people.

Here are a few things to consider when scouting for the best bugout bike:

  • Storage Capacity: Of course, bicycles do not offer the same carrying and storage space as bug out vehicles, but you’d want to look for one that can carry at least all your essentials and a few basic tools. You might consider adding a frame-mounted rack, side bag, or basket for additional space.
  • Terrain capabilities: A normal bike can maneuver through most terrains safely. However, if your locality has difficult bike paths, consider getting terrain-specific bikes—a mountain bike for hilly areas or a dirt bike for muddy places. If you can’t get a dirt bike, you can personalize your normal bike by using fat tires that do not slide easily.
  • Weight: As much as you’re looking for stability, you don’t want a bike that would weigh you down. Find a bicycle that’s light enough for effortless pedaling. The most significant determinant of the weight is the bike frame; find a bike whose frame is a lightweight material.
  • Ease of repair: Complex bikes are good as recreational vehicles but not for emergency evacuations. The perfect bug out bicycle should be simple and easy to repair—there’s no client support or technician in the wilderness.
  • Availability of spare parts: Buy a bike whose spare parts you can find in any regular bike shop. When an emergency strikes, there’s no time to pedal to your specific dealer miles away.

Best Bug Out Bicycles

Now that you know what to look for in a bug out bicycle, here are our top picks for different categories:

1. Best Electric Bug Out Bicycle

Turbo Vado SL

Most preppers who opt for survival bikes anticipate covering short to medium distances to their bug-out locations. But, what if you have to travel longer journeys? In that case, pedaling all the way may not be the best option; that’s where e-bikes come in.

The Turbo Vado SL has a simplistic aluminum frame, below which lies excellent technologies. It has an electric motor powered by a 320 kWh battery that provides superb pedal assistance. The engine can run for up to 80 miles (standard) or 120 miles (optional) non-stop.

2. Best Survival Mini Bike

Coleman Powersports CT200U-B Mini Trail Bike

Although commonly used by kids as recreational vehicles, these bikes also double up as perfect getaway vehicles. They come with a 6.5 horsepower 4-stroke engine that is great for both tarmac and off-road trails. Its low-pressure fat tires will provide a comfortable ride even in the most rugged terrain. On flat roads, it can clock up to 20 mph, which is way better than any average bike.

You should note, however, that some states like California have illegalized mini bikes on tarmac roads. That’s because they lack safety signals, are too small, and do not have insurance. That said, when there’s a crisis like an earthquake, there’s no harm in bending the law a little to save lives.

3. Best Motorized Bug Out Bicycle

Phatmoto All Terrain 2021

If you are not a regular cyclist, you may find full-time pedaling challenging. This can derail your bug out. Luckily, companies like Phatmoto have created “super-bicycles” with propulsion aids. The Phatmoto All Terrain 2021 is powered by a three-horsepower 79cc Lifan engine that can help propel your bike at 25 mph for 100 miles non-stop. This bike, which is EPA-approved, also allows you to pedal if you run out of gas.

4. Best Overall Survival Dirt Bike

Diamondback Release 29 2

If you’re thinking of a bug out bike, you’re probably looking for something that will guarantee a comfortable ride across all terrains. For off-road trails, you might need a mountain bike. And there’s no better dirt bike contender than Diamondback Release 2. This mountain bike is a perfect balance of modern cycling engineering, ultimate comfort, and stylish design.

Carrying Passengers/Kids

A typical bugout bike has a carrying capacity for just the cyclist, with the carrier above the rear wheel used to hold the bug-out bag. However, if you’re two or you have a kid with you, you will require space for one more person.

In such circumstances, you should transfer the rear sack to the front or side to create extra space. You might also want to add some padding on the rear seat for comfort. For kids, fit the rear rack with a shelf, bench, kid carrier, or burley.

Adding A Trailer To Your Bug Out Bike

A bike with a trailer attached to it next to a water setting.  Adding a trailer to a bug out bicycle can greatly increase the amount of supplies you can bring with you in an emergecy.
Adding a trailer to a bug out bicycle allows you to carry more survival supplies.

If you need to carry several items, the best option is to use a bug out vehicle. Vehicles offer more storage capacity. However, if that’s not viable and the only alternative is a bike, you can create more space by attaching a trailer to the bike.

Ensure that the trailer is made of light materials that will not make pedaling challenging. 

Bikes Offer Multiple Uses — Not Just Bug Out Option

The good thing about bikes is that once you’ve bought them, they don’t have to lie idle as you wait for an emergency to strike. You can use them for everyday errands such as running to the shop or short trips down the next street. You can also use bug out bikes to go for weekend rides to keep you fit. The best is that you don’t have to dislodge your bug-out bags or bike trailers to use the bicycles for everyday errands.

Cons Of A Bug Out Bike

Here are some potential limitations of bug-out bikes that you should be on the lookout for:

  • Mechanical Failures: These can be anything from flat tires to breaking frames. Ensure that you have a tool kit and essentials like duct tape and spare tubes in case of such failures.
  • Injuries: When escaping disasters, you’re likely to incur damages due to slips or falls. In extreme cases, these injuries may reduce your cycling speed or prevent you from continuing cycling.
  • Bikes require physical fitness: Unlike vehicles that have automated accelerations, you have to pedal bikes for them to move. If you aren’t a seasoned cyclist, you may find this challenging. Fortunately, there’s the option of buying motorized bug out bikes.

Should I Consider An E-Bike?

A black E-bike against a white background.  An E-bike is a practical bug out bicycle option for people who aren't regular cyclists.
An E-bike is a practical bug out bicycle option for those who aren’t regular cyclists.

If you don’t cycle as often, an e-bike is the best option. Their assisted acceleration feature makes pedaling way easier. Other scenarios where you might consider getting an electric bike are when the bike path is too hilly or if disasters often strike without notice and room for pedaling away.

Have you found this guide helpful? Let us know in the comment box below.