Bug Out Bike – Building a Bug Out Bicycle
by Barry B
Bikes in a TEOTWAWKI situation may be the standard form of transportation and highly valued. I’m speaking more about mountain bikes (MB) than the traditional multi-speed road bike. Mountain bikes are a great utility vehicle. They can traverse rough terrain, are rugged, and geared to make pulling a small trailer much easier.
This article is more about other things that you might need to support your bike, but first a few things about mountain bikes. Buy your mountain bikes ahead of a world-changing event – now. Not all MBs are created equal.
Mass produced bikes that are sold by WalMart, Target, etc. are cheaply made and designed for riding on hard surfaces. They are not designed for off-road riding. Brands such as Giant, Specialized, Fisher or Cannon are designed for the rigors of off-road riding.
They are double or triple butted at the frame joints for better strength. They also use double-walled rims that will endure hitting rocks and roots without folding like a taco. BTW, the term “tacoing” is used to describe a wheel that basically folded in half on a rough trail.
They use quick release wheels for easier repair. But the greatest difference is in the quality of the drive-train. The shifters, sprockets, derailleurs, and chain are the heart and soul of your bike. The bike brands mentioned above will use higher quality components in the drive train, that will withstand off-road conditions without breaking. Not only are the materials more durable, but they are machined so as to shift gears more smoothly, even when under torque during climbing.
In a situation where a trip to the bike shop isn’t possible, you need to have high-quality bikes, to begin with. And because bike shops might not be available, you will need essential tools and spare parts to be able to make repairs yourself. A great reference for your survival bookshelf is, Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance, by Leonard Zinn. This book describes, with good illustrations, how to adjust or repair anything on your MB.
The minimum tools and equipment you should have include spare tubes in your bike’s size, tire levers, AND several tube repair kits. Replacing a damaged tube with a new one is faster and gets you back on the road faster. Tire levers assist in breaking the bead between the tire and rim so that the tube can be removed.
Save the damaged tube to be patched later and reused. Tube repair kits contain sandpaper for roughing the area to be patched, several sized patches, and glue. Patching a tube requires a bit of practice and should be learned before the skill is needed. To re-inflate the tire, you will need a hand-pump.
Many riders carry CO2 dispensers to inflate tires, but you will quickly run out of CO2 canisters. Hand pumps are more work, but you never run out. Spare tubes filled with Slime (a name brand sealing compound) will also self-seal small punctures and keep you moving until you can get to a safe location and in my opinion are worth the extra expense.
You should also have spare tires stored at your location. Tires eventually wear out but also may be punctured to the point they cannot be repaired. Plain rubber tires are the least expensive, but tires impregnated with Kevlar are more puncture resistant and will last longer (and a bit pricier).
A broken chain can be fixed in a matter of minutes if you have a chain tool. A chain tool runs $10-15 and the price beats walking home if your chain breaks. Chain tools simply hold a link in place while the pin is pushed out or pushed back in. It keeps the pin aligned with the link.
The broken link can be removed and two links rejoined with this tool. Again, fixing a chain requires some practice that should be done ahead of time. You don’t want to be learning these skills on the side of the road, especially in a WROL world. Spare chains should also be kept on hand.
Many parts of a MB use hex screws. There are three common sizes. While you can carry three hex wrenches, bike shops sell a three-in-one tool with a handle that is very convenient and not as easy to misplace.
A key to keeping your drive train in good shape is to regularly clean the system and lube it. Depending on where you ride, the chain lube will attract and hold sand and dirt. Sand and dirt are the enemies to closely machined moving parts.
There are many compounds that will clean dirty chains and sprockets, but a 10% mixture of Simple Green and an old toothbrush is economical and effective. Scrub the sand and dirt out of each link with the toothbrush and clean in between each gear sprocket. Use the toothbrush to also clean each roller and tensioner.
Once clean, re-lube using chain lube. DO NOT lube with WD 40. WD 40 works to unfreeze a rusted chain, but the lubricant does not stay where it is needed. Even 30 weight motor oil is better than WD 40 for your drive train.
In summary, if you plan on depending on a bike during TEOTWAWKI, purchase a quality machine first. Be prepared to pay at minimum $500 for a new bike. Be sure to stock up on spare tubes (store in a cool, dry place), spare tires, tire repair tools, a chain tool (and spare chains), along with hex wrenches and a good multi-tool.
And finally, get in shape by riding your MB regularly and gaining the off-road riding skills you will need.