Bug-out vehicles come in all shapes and sizes. While some opt for massive recreational vehicles, others convert their daily driven cars or pickup trucks into survival mobiles. Even motorcycles, ATVs, and side-by-sides can serve as effective bug-out rides. Today though, we focus on an often-overlooked option…the bicycle.
Join in as we assess the viability of bug-out bicycles. We will touch on various bike categories, and identify the best in each. It is also important to understand how bikes measure up to other bug-out vehicle classes so preppers can make informed decisions.
The best survival bike is the Diamondback Release 2, an uphill trail mountain bike. It is made from lightweight aluminum and features the Shimano SLX gear configuration with a 12-speed rear derailleur. The best motorized survival bike is the Phatmoto All-Terrain 2021, while the best mini bike is Coleman Powersports' CT200-B. The best e-bike is Specialized's Vado SL.
What is a survival bike?
A bug-out bike is a bicycle that is used as an emergency vehicle. Various types of crises may require you to evacuate your hometown or city. Floods, earthquakes, or even zombie outbreaks are just some of the catastrophes that can force you to leave your home. As such, mobility is key. Depending on your location, walking may not be the best option. This is where you have a big decision to make.
Choosing a bug-out ride is a decision that requires careful consideration. Among other things, you will have to factor in your budget, your local climate/environment, as well as the number of people you will be bugging out with. Choosing the wrong modum onerariis could prove to be just as problematic as failing to choose a vehicle in the first place.
Now, with regards to the type of bug-out vehicle, it's different strokes for different folks. Cars, SUVs, motorcycles, ATVs, or even boats are some of the popular choices that preppers make. RVs are another increasingly popular choice for preppers who do not want to abandon every home comfort.
What about bicycles though? Bicycles are a quick and easy mode of transport, provided you know how to ride one of course. While some are wildly expensive, most are fairly affordable. Even when bought used, bicycles are less likely to have any hidden problems that a second-hand car might have.
A bug-out bike is also much easier to repair than a car, which often requires a whole garage, electric tools, or even vehicle inspection pits and lifting gear. Not to mention a mechanic. DIY repairs on a bicycle, in contrast, are much easier.
Bicycles may not be the fastest, but they are certainly nimbler than most other vehicles. This is useful for evading apocalyptic traffic jams and other road blockades. It is easier to go on or off-road with a bike too.
It seems that bicycles are somewhat under-discussed when bug-out vehicle options are being presented.
Perhaps the main reason why bikes are overlooked is because of the level of exertion required. Most other vehicle classes are powered by engines. The prospect of cycling HUNDREDS of miles through forests, highways, deserts, and who-knows-what-else is certainly daunting. With obesity and general sedentary lifestyles on the rise, many Americans simply do not have the fitness base for this.
Another big issue with bicycles is storage. While a bug-out bag is an absolute must for every prepper, it can only hold a few basic essentials. Bicycles can be equipped with additional storage features like baskets and carriers, which could help…but not as much as trunks and storage compartments found in cars, for example.
Bicycles are also not the greatest passenger vehicles. If you have a family, companions, or pets, bicycles may not be the best choice. In such situations, bikes should be a secondary vehicle option that you carry around in/on your main bug-out vehicle. However, if you and your traveling companions are fit enough, or riding the same kind of bike, you can go ahead and use them as primary bug-out rides.
Bicycles come in different configurations and designs. You have mountain bikes, road bikes, BMXs, and so much more. For those anticipating long journeys when SHTF, there are bicycles fitted with combustion engines. Electric bikes are also the new wave. E-bikes can amplify the power of your pedaling to help you go faster!
Best bug out bike (by type)
Now that we have looked at how a bicycle fits into the bug-out lifestyle, we must identify a few mini-categories that are relevant to preppers. We have identified the best bikes in each of these categories, in addition to some brief information about them.
Now, before we begin, you should know that these bikes are just our picks for the "best" bug-out bicycles. It is still up to you to find the best bike for you and what you need.
Best overall bug out dirt bike: Diamondback Release 2
Chances are, if you are considering a bug-out bike, you are looking for something that is comfortable off-road as well. For this, you will need a mountain bike. Mountain bikes, or MTBs, are uniquely adept at tackling rugged and untamed terrain. With dedicated suspensions, tires, and gear configurations, you will fly through the backwoods as you escape for your life.
Despite all the worthy contenders, we decided to award the “best dirt bike” crown to the Diamondback Release 2. Diamondback is world-renowned for its excellent range of mountain bikes, but there is just something about the Release 2. A combination of comfort, stylish design, and peak cycling engineering have made the Release 2 an elite-level bike that you should consider for your survival mission.
The Release is technically classified as an uphill trail bike. Think motocross for mountain bikes. It is a great ride on the tarmac as well. A great option if you are bugging out in hilly or mountainous environments.
The Fox Rhythm suspension allows you to catch some serious air with total peace of mind. The ride feels taut when it needs to, and loose when it needs to. Perfect.
However, the star of the show is definitely the bicycle’s gears. The Shimano SLX 12-Speed is arguably the best gear setup ever installed on a mountain bike. Ease through the gears with minimal jitter, as the transmission combines with the Release’s Level Link pedaling suspension. Chain jitter could give your position away when attempting stealthy escapes.
Diamondback is also famous for its futuristic frame designs, and the Release does not fall short. The aluminum body feels lightweight and agile as you weave through dense forest or inch up a rain-slicked mountain pass.
The Maxxis Minion DF tires absorb as much punishment as you can dish out, day in day out. They are wrapped around a pair of Diamondback Blanchard rims.
The handling provided by the frame, suspension, and wheels is tied together by the handlebars, which can only be described as sublime. There is a real feel of the ground surface, although this hardly gets uncomfortable thanks to the well-designed Ergon Evo Lock-On grips.
Storage is virtually non-existent on this bike but you can still hook up a handlebar bag or basket, as well as phone holders, and bike frame bags.
Best bug out motorized bike: Phatmoto All Terrain 2021
As we have already discussed, full-time pedaling may prove difficult for some people. Therefore, a few innovative companies have taken on the challenge of implementing propulsion aids. Combustion engines are one such aid, and their implementation has brought forth a new generation of motorized bicycles that could be ideal for survivalists.
Motorized bikes are certainly exciting. Inventions like the Motorped have sent prepper tongues wagging in recent times thanks to their customizability and repairability. However, for our best motorized bug-out bike, we have opted for the Phatmoto All Terrain 2021 by Gasbikes.
The Phatmoto is powered by a 79cc Lifan engine, that churns out 3 horsepower. The engine, which sports a centrifugal clutch, propels the bicycle to speeds of 25 mph and it has a range of about 100 miles…on less than a gallon of gas!
You can also pedal the bike if you so wish (or if you run out of gas). Even though the bike has been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), pedaling could be a clever way of circumventing any pesky environmental laws in certain jurisdictions.
As a dual-purpose gas-hybrid, the Phatmoto never lets one propulsion system impede the other. This means that it pedals like a regular bike, and does not restrict its engine when running on gas.
The bike’s frame is uniquely shaped, thanks largely to the integrated gas tank. The frame also holds the engine securely in place and shields the drivetrain from the elements as well as bruises and scrapes.
The Phatmoto sits on 26-inch wheels that, as the bike’s name suggests, allow it to conquer all terrains. The fat Mountain tires are grippy, tough, and suited to various weather conditions on tarmac or dirt.
Front and rear storage racks come as standard on the Phatmoto, which is always nice. Personally, I believe racks should be a free optional extra on all bicycles. The bike is also available in two cool colors: matte army green and matte graphite.
Best bug out mini bike: Coleman Powersports CT200U-B Mini Trail Bike
While mostly used as recreational vehicles by kids (and kids-at-heart), mini bikes can be used for bug-out purposes. However, the law is quite stern where they are concerned. In many states, such as California, mini bikes are not considered street legal on public roads for a variety of reasons. This is because of various safety reasons, which include:
- A small size (they are difficult to see)
- Lack of safety signals such as turn signals and brake lights.
- Lack of insurance
- Potentially high speeds
Mini bike legalese is certainly a jurisdiction issue. In some states, you are allowed to install upgrades like safety signals and get insurance in order for you to register with the DMV. The use of mini bikes on public roads may be restricted to people of certain ages. Other states, like California and Texas, will NOT register mini bikes for public road use under any circumstances.
That said, when SHTF, the law might not be as relevant as it is today. If an apocalyptic disaster, or widespread anarchy, were to be unleashed on society, law enforcement would have bigger problems than zippy survivalists. As such, you should not be discouraged from exploring one of the best ones around today…the Coleman Powersports CT200U-B Mini Trail Bike.
Rocking a 4-stroke engine with 196 ccs, the CT100-U produces 6.5 horsepower for superb off-road performance. It is no slouch on the tarmac either (allegedly), with a maximum speed of 20mph. The 5.5-inch ground clearance is adequate, if not spectacular.
The CT200-U features an easy-to-use pull start system, as well as a comfy ride thanks to its low-pressure tires. The bike can support loads of up to 200lbs, without compromising performance. This is because of the bike’s solid metal frame, which also holds the motor and drivetrain securely in place.
There's not much storage to write home about, which means this mini bike (like all mini bikes really) is best used as a secondary bug-out vehicle.
Best electric survival bike: Turbo Vado SL
A survival e-bike is a noteworthy choice for preppers who anticipate medium to long journeys. This burgeoning market has brought forth many interesting candidates, which makes choosing one outright winner especially difficult.
Brands like Specialized, which have mastered traditional mountain and road biking, have also veered into the e-bike space with spectacular results. Out of their stable e-bikes comes the impressive Turbo Vado SL.
At first glance, there is nothing particularly eye-catching about this bike. However, its simplistic aluminum frame hides a true technological marvel. The SL offers varying degrees of pedal assistance as you rip through the woods or paved roads. Behind this wonderful feature is an electric motor that is powered by a 320 kWh battery with a minimum range of 80 miles (120 miles if you get the optional range extender package).
The motor has three modes when it is on: Eco, Sport, and Boost. Riders can toggle through the modes using controls on the handlebars or the top tube. Eco mode emphasizes battery range (+/- 20% pedal assistance) while Sport gives the best of both worlds.
Boost emphasizes maximum pedaling assistance. In fact, you can double your pedaling power using this last mode. The SL can also be ridden like a normal bike when the power is off. The motor is programmed to cut off when the bike reaches 28mph, although you can keep pedaling to go even faster.
Weighing in at 34lbs, the bike feels like a regular bicycle. The high-grade aluminum frame is key to this, as is its hollowed-out cable routing. By using the empty spaces in the frame tubes, Specialized eliminated unsightly cabling while ensuring the bike stays as slender as it possibly can.
The bike also has very good handling and stopping power. Its Pathfinder Sport tires are very durable and wide enough to offer excellent grip, despite the surface. The Shimano Deore gears allow for effortless and jitter-free shifts on the fly.
The bike is also equipped with built-in lights in the front and rear, which is always welcome. The bike can also be fitted with a rear rack for storage, as well as a rear mudguard for long off-road stretches. The handy Mission Control smartphone app allows you to monitor the bike, in addition to adjusting power outputs for the various riding modes.
Stay Prepared For Any Emergency!
If you like this article, consider subscribing to our free newsletter.
We only send a few emails each month, with quality content related to Prepping and Survival, and absolutely no spam.
You have successfully joined our subscriber list.
What to look for when buying a survival bicycle
There a few key things you should keep an eye out for when choosing a bug-out bike. Your chances of survival can be seriously affected by the littlest thing, so take heed.
If you are going to be using a bike as your primary means of transport, you might want to look for something that has a propulsion aid like a motor. Gas-powered bikes and e-bikes will save you a LOT of pedaling.
Storage racks and baskets are also great features. Bicycles are inherently lacking on the storage front, so any additional capacity is welcome. Of course, this is not a major concern as various storage equipment can be sourced from third-party manufacturers.
You should also look for a bike with all-terrain capabilities. While road bikes are great, they are too specialized for paved surfaces. Your survival quest may take you off-road for several reasons, so you should get a bike that can handle different scenarios. The bicycle's tires, suspension, etc. must cater to this.
Preppers should also look for bikes that are as light as possible. Not only could you encounter steep climbs, but you are also likely to spend a lot of time pushing and carrying your bike. Getting something you can manage in this regard is imperative.
Lighting is an important consideration too. Night riding is a possibility, so you should be prepared. You must also be visible to other motorists to avoid accidents. Again, the aftermarket could prove helpful with this.
You also want a bike that will be easy to repair. Customer support is virtually non-existent in the wilderness, so the usability of your bike could hinge on your DIY skills. Also look for bikes with common parts (derailleurs, saddles, chains, wheels). If you go for a propulsion-aided bike, make sure to get one that can be pedaled like a normal bike.
Survival bikes: benefits & drawbacks
Choosing a bicycle is a decision that has an upside and a downside.
The benefits of a bug out bicycle include:
- Agility and nimbleness
- Quick entry and exit to/from main roads
- Improved rider fitness
- DIY repairability and availability of parts
- Bikes are not (usually) noisy
- Bikes can go almost anywhere a person can
- Bikes can be used as auxiliary bug-out vehicles
- Easy modification
- Faster than walking and more sustainable than jogging
- Quick storage accessories
Now, for the downsides of prepper bikes:
- Not as fast as cars and other vehicle classes
- No shelter from the elements, animals, and criminals.
- Easy to steal
- Risk of falling
- Poor storage
- Cannot carry passengers
Bug out bicycles vs. other types of bug out vehicles
Choosing a bike is certainly a brave decision, especially when you consider the other vehicle options you can choose from.
Cars offer way more storage capacity than bicycles, in addition to being able to carry passengers and go faster. SUVs and pickup trucks fare even better in these departments on top of being adept off-roaders. However, bikes are much more maneuverable than cars and trucks.
RVs and vans are the grand-daddies of vehicular passenger and storage capacity, almost the polar opposite of what a bicycle offers. That said, bikes are infinitely nimbler than the often-clumsy RV. It is safe to say bikes can fit into much tighter spaces than anything on four wheels.
Bug out motorcycles are much faster than bicycles while being similarly maneuverable and graceful. DIY repair on a motorcycle is also much easier than on cars. Of course, repairs on a bicycle are even easier still. Bicycles are also way less noisy than motorcycles. While both are fairly portable, a bicycle is much easier to lift and push than a motorcycle.
Essential gear for a survival bike
Of course, for you and your bike to make it through post-Apocalyptic mayhem, you will need a few key items. The following is a list of things that will assist bikes and riders when SHTF.
If you opt for a bug out bike, you should look for:
For even more comprehensive survival gear options for bug out vehicles, check out our essential 5 lists for bug out vehicles.
Survival Bikes Conclusions
A bug-out bicycle is definitely a good choice, in the right circumstances. Bicycles can serve as primary or secondary survival rides, which is a fairly unique quality.
With many superb manufacturers and products, there is a bike for every prepper and environment.