Friday, March 15, 2013

Bug Out Bikes

I did an interview over the phone today about the many considerations of using a bicycle as a primary or  back-up bug-out vehicle and the discussion ranged from the whys and whens of using a bike vs. various motor vehicles to the specifics of how to choose the right bike for the job and how to equip it.  This interview will be available as a series of articles soon and I'll post links to them when they are up.

Those of you who have read my Bug Out Vehicles and Shelters know that I have a chapter devoted to bicycles in the book.  As a long-time cyclist who enjoys riding for fitness and exploring backroads and trails by bike, I am interested in many different types of bicycles, but if I could have only one, it would invariably be a touring-specific bike.  When asked in the interview today why I would choose such a bike when mountain bikes are usually the first kind that come to mind as bug out bikes, I explained that it is because bike touring has been constantly evolving and developing as adventurous riders take these machines literally to the ends of the earth.  Such bikes are designed to withstand abuse, carry heavy loads, negotiate rough roads and even some off road conditions and perhaps most importantly, be comfortable so that you can cover serious miles day after day.

The difference in these touring-specific bikes begins with the frame, usually built of rugged and forgiving Chrome-moly steel rather than aluminum or carbon used on more performance-oriented bikes.  The wheels are also stronger, built to carry heavy loads and to fit wider tires when conditions require them.  Touring bikes have a wide range of gears to handle long climbs while carrying heavy loads, and the frames are fitted with brazed-on eyelets for mounting sturdy racks to carry panniers and additional gear lashed on top.

While some touring bikes look much like road racing machines to the casual observer, these differences are apparent upon closer inspection.  Because of the popularity of long off-road trips, such as the Adventure Cycling Association's Great Divide Route, many bicycle manufacturers are building truly capable touring machines that have most of the desirable attributes of mountain bikes combined with the long-distance capability of road bikes.  It has been interesting to see what they have come up with.  For example, the Surly Long Haul Trucker is a proven road touring bike I mentioned in the book, but the newer Surly Troll has a lot to offer as a bug-out machine to those inclined towards mountain bikes but needing real traveling ability:

The orange paint job might not be the best choice for this service, but you can see that this is a bike that could do the job.  To give you an idea of it's potential, check out this site: While Out Riding.


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