When survival is on the line, your ability to move quickly and efficiently from point A to point B could make all the difference. Few land vehicles can hold a candle to motorcycles in this regard, and today we're looking for the best bug-out bike for you.
Join us on a crash course on bug-out motorcycles as we detail some of their key characteristics and features. We examine their merits and shortcomings, as well as some key gear and accessories! Let’s roll.
What is the best Bug Out Motorcycle?
The best bug-out motorcycle is the Kawasaki KLR650 Adventure, a dual-sport machine that has an engine capacity of 652 cc and a fuel range of over 350 miles. The bike is quick, versatile, and fairly low maintenance. Other notable bug-out motorcycles are the Ural Sportsman, the BMW R1250 GSA, the KTM 690 Enduro R, Suzuki DR-400s, and the Suzuki DR 250.
Here is the full list of the best bug out motorcycles we'll be covering in this article:
What is a bug-out motorcycle?
The answer to this is actually quite simple. A bug-out motorcycle is your two-wheeled vehicle of choice for bugging out, particularly in an SHTF-esque turn of events.
We all understand the importance of mobility in a disaster. However, your modum onerariis could prove to be more important. You need to move quickly, and with some agility, all the while having enough storage for key survival essentials.
Simple…a car! Well… a car might not be that simple. Cars, especially modern ones, require expert maintenance, and, nowadays, you often rely on manufacturer-sanctioned mechanics and service centers. A wrench and some screwdrivers won’t help you with a broken-down Tesla. Even modern RVs are like Autobots.
I suppose this is one of those “if you know, you know” things, but, interestingly enough, a wrench and some screwdrivers can go a LONG way on motorcycles. Maintenance is a key consideration when pondering over a set of doomsday wheels, because service centers, or entire manufacturers, could be shut down if worst came to worst.
Choosing a bug-out motorcycle will require careful assessment of what you'll need out there in the wilderness. How will the bike be used? As the main bug out vehicle? In tandem with something with a little more storage space? Will you be riding with a passenger?
The best bug out bike has to be a tailored-fit to your requirements, whether its comfort, fuel-economy, off-road capabilities, etc., otherwise you’ll have an even worse time when SHTF. If you live in a big city, or county, riddled with heavy traffic, using a car might put you at a disadvantage, mobility-wise. Motorcycles, on the other hand, can easily weave through traffic. However, rain would be a problem.
As you can see, it’s all about give-and-take, and what’s good for some people or areas might not suit others. That said, motorcycles are worthy of consideration for most people, and I would advise non-riders to go out and learn this skill in order to have the option of choosing one.
Best bug out motorcycles
Motorcycles are wonderful, and surprisingly diverse machines that get the heart racing to its fullest. Not only are they exceptionally maneuverable and zippy, but they are incredibly cool. Arrive (or ride away from an explosion) in style, and in one piece, on your choice of bike.
And, my goodness, is there a choice. So much that we had to come up with sub-categories because the top contenders are all worthy of a mention. If you are going to be spending a lot of time far from tarmac roads, a dirt bike might be the best. On the other hand, if you are going to be traversing over tarmac roads mixed with a little off-roading, then a dual-sport motorcycle might be a better fit.
Best all-around bug out motorcycle: Kawasaki KLR 650
This was the most difficult category to award as many excellent machines would be perfectly suited to bugging out. However, you can only have one winner, and ours is the awesome KLR 650 from Kawasaki.
This 652-cc dual-sport motorcycle is versatile, easy on fuel, reliable, and not bad in the looks department. The slightly pricier Adventure model features two handy side cases and a 9.1-gallon tank. This, combined with an approximate efficiency of 40 mpg, means the KLR 650 Adventure is capable of more than 350 miles on one full tank. Not bad.
The Kawasaki is also at home on or off-road, which is a massive advantage for survivalists. You can easily navigate back roads, or even steep trails, as you get out of dodge. Ride quality is excellent, and the rubber-mounted footpegs and handlebars are a nice comfy touch. As is the seat, which is placed on top of rubber dampers. Kawasaki sure went above and beyond to ensure maximum comfort for all riders.
Other features include auxiliary LED lights (Adventure only), digital instrument panel featuring a backlit LCD. The KLR650 features a 21-inch front wheel and a 17-inch rear wheel, both with tubed tires. The motorcycle also features an anti-lock braking system (ABS). If you go for the Adventure model, you can also opt for an 11-gallon top case for additional storage.
All of these features make the Kawasaki KLR 650 a worthy contender for the best bug-out vehicle. In addition, it's a fairly popular bike, even in the U.S. Finding parts is a relatively easy chore, and you can easily carry out maintenance with a few simple tools. The bike is also relatively quiet, which could be a lifesaver when SHTF.
Best dual-sport bug out motorcycle: KTM 690 Enduro R
Well, the answer here would have to be the Kawasaki KLR650 as well. After all, it is the best bug-out motorcycle overall. However, since we've already spoken about that bike, let's award another dual-sport star.
The 2021 KTM 690 Enduro R proves that it is nobody’s second princess, as the innovators at the Austrian manufacturer continue their relentless pursuit of motorsport excellence. With a level of versatility that is almost unmatched, the 690 is a prepper’s delight.
One of the 690 cc motorcycle's standout features is the incredible transmission, which feels super-smooth right through its six gears. The APTC hydraulically actuated slipper clutch allows you to fluidly change gears without removing your hands from the handlebars.
The motorcycle boasts a single-cylinder four-stroke engine that churns out 74 horses. The chassis is a chrome-moly tubular space frame that will absorb anything you throw at the bike. KTM’s penchant for fine handling is alive and well in the 690, with a steering head angle of 62 degrees and WP XPLOR suspension.
Comfort is a side-effect of all this engineering, and you can expect to still feel fresh after a long day’s ride. Other features include a cool LCD, two ride modes (street mode and off-road mode), a lean-angle sensor that assists the on-board computers with adjusting the ABS and traction control.
No storage to speak of, though, so you might want to stick to the KLR650.
Best off-road bug out motorcycle: BMW R1250GSA
Depending on where you are, going off-road may be a necessity for a quick escape. Luckily, there is a great number of dirt-ready motorcycles for you to consider.
Fresh out of BMW Motorrad, and endowed with classic engineering and menacing “Beemer” looks, is the BMW R1250GSA “Adventure”, an incredible all-terrain motorcycle.
BMW themselves hail the Adventure as “the queen of the touring enduro”. High praise. However, witnessing and experiencing this machine feels like being in the presence of an empress. Turning on the electric ignition sparks a glorious 1,254 cc Boxer VVT symphony from the bulbous exhaust.
The bike has bite too, with the four-stroke engine’s 134 horsepower propelling it to speeds of 125+ mph. German efficiency ensures total refinement, with high levels of torque, and a perfect power-to-weight ratio. However, the high-performance stats belie a rather economic motorcycle. The Adventure is capable of nearly 400 miles on a full 7.9-gallon tank and an efficiency of 50 mpg.
The Adventure is highly customizable, with three riding modes (Rain, Road, and ECO). Hill Start Control (HSC) also comes standard. Dynamic Traction Control communicates with the bike's computers to anticipate bumps, curves, and shifts in gradient.
The chassis is made from a two-section frame, and the use of Motorrad's in-house Telelever (front) and Paralever (rear) suspension setup allows the bike to survive the harshest terrain.
The Adventure also features a full-color information display that shows speed, mileage, your maps, and much more. The full LED headlight beams brilliantly and can be turned on with the ignition off, which is particularly useful. There’s also a USB charging socket for your devices. Side cases can be equipped for additional storage.
Most reliable bug out motorcycle: Suzuki DR-400S
Surveys done by Consumer Reports have indicated that the big four Japanese brands (Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha) make the most reliable motorcycles. While personal tastes and preferences may have influenced that survey, our choice won’t deviate from the numbers.
The Suzuki DR-400S is another dual sports gem, although it is a bit more retro than the others we’ve mentioned here. This bike has been around for the better part of two decades, and time is the true test of quality.
Packing a 398 cc DOHC engine, the DR-400s is well adjusted on the street or off-road. The lack of overly complicated technologies allows owners to do engine maintenance with a few basic tools.
The transmission is a no-nonsense five-speed system and the clutch is shielded by a magnesium outer cover that makes maintenance easier. The narrow frame and long-travel suspension offer excellent ride quality, while the Dunlop D208 dual-purpose tires hold on for dear life to any surface they encounter.
The major compromise with this motorcycle is fuel economy. An mpg of 44 and a 2.6-gallon tank works out to about 115 miles of range. Unless you plan on using this bike in short bursts, you will have to carry canisters.
The DR-400S has been proving its versatility and reliability since the turn of the millennium but it (still) shows no signs of slowing down. It’s also very easy on the wallet, and you won’t find many better motorcycles of this class in this price range. Definitely worth considering for any prepper.
Best bug out motorcycle with a sidecar: Ural Sportsman
We all know that motorcycles are not the most passenger or cargo-friendly vehicles out there. If you have a buddy, partner, child, or even a pet you have to bug out with, then a sidecar or a motorcycle that comes with one is a possible solution.
The Ural Sportsman is a great contender in the latter camp. With its signature sidecar, this motorcycle offers additional space for a passenger or gear without compromising on mobility across different surfaces. The 750 cc four-stroke engine purrs along with minimal fuss as you take on post-apocalyptic mayhem.
The Sportsman features a four-speed transmission with a double-disc dry clutch. There is an additional reverse gear, as well as an engageable sidecar wheel drive. The bike can also be started electronically or via kickstart.
With regards to economy, the Sportsman’s mpg is in the 31-40 range. This allows the bike to go 150-185 miles on a full 5-gallon tank. The additional storage space can be used for additional fuel canisters to increase range. You can also get a jerry can as an optional extra from the Ural.
Both the motorcycle and sidecar have decent ground clearance, which is a huge plus when going off-road. However, zipping through traffic like most other bikes could prove to be a challenge given the Sportsman’s hatchback-like width.
Best budget bug out motorcycle: Suzuki DR250
While the machines we have discussed so far are undoubtedly excellent motorcycles, most of them are not cheap, and you can expect to pay at least $10,000 for machines like the KLR650 or the BMW R1250 GSA. Not everyone can afford to pay that much for a motorcycle so some low-budget options have to be explored.
The Suzuki DR250 is one such option and a noteworthy one at that. This affordable motorcycle is also a dual-sport, further underlining this motorcycle category's suitability to bugging out. The DR250 is also a fantastic beginner bike for new riders as it has a very forgiving suspension and a high tolerance for punishment.
DIY service, maintenance, and modification can be done with basic tools and a few YouTube videos. An air-cooled four-stroke engine provides the heartbeat, with performance and handling that are unreal for its -+$2,000 price range (approx.).
The DR250’s suspension is not much to write home about, but it does the job out on the trails. Comfort-wise this bike is not the best for long-distance riding, but the low seat really helps. The classic 5-speed transmission is a little dated, especially when compared to machines like the Beemer.
The DR has amazing fuel economy too. Fill up its 2.5-gallon tank and you can expect well over 150 miles of range, and you can easily hook up some more fuel canisters.
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What to look for when buying a survival motorcycle
Picking out a bug-out motorbike is, as you can see, a question of personal preferences and circumstances. If you can afford it, you should feel free to go for maxed-out KLRs or R1250GSAs. The Ural Sportsman is one of the better sidecar setups if you are bugging out with a bit of gear or a companion.
Of course, you could easily isolate a few universal categories too. The first of these has to be fuel economy. In a crisis, you can expect businesses in all sectors to experience supply chain disruptions. This includes gas stations or even oil refineries. A bike with a fat tank and enough storage capacity for more fuel cans could help you go that extra mile…in every sense.
Storage capacity is an inherent problem for motorcycles, so bikes with additional storage cases or compartments have a distinct edge. You could always do some DIY on your motorcycle with storage modifications.
Off-road capability is another thing to keep an eye out for. In some circumstances, you may find it safer, or less time-consuming to go off main roads. Make sure whatever bike you choose is versatile enough for the environments you will put it through. Depending on your location, you might even need winter tires and handlebar warmers.
We've already spoken about why low-maintenance motorcycles would be ideal for bugging out. Without manufacturer or service center support, some of the more sophisticated bikes could end up being humongous pieces of dead weight. Bikes that are too reliant on electronics are perfect if you have alternative transport in case something goes wrong. Otherwise, you might want to get something you can repair with a wrench.
You should also factor in protective measures and accessories. Protective plating, handguards, and flat-proof tires are just a few examples of this.
Prepper motorcycles: benefits & drawbacks
Bugging out is all about cost-benefit analysis, and so is choosing a bug-out ride. Does the good outweigh the bad? Are the negatives a deal breaker?
Let’s start with the benefits of a motorcycle:
- They are versatile and can (usually) navigate through traffic.
- They have good fuel economy.
- They can be transported by larger vehicles.
- They are much easier to self-maintain and service than modern cars.
- They are easier to hide than most other vehicle classes.
- They can be carried by a few people if they get stuck.
Now for the downside:
- They are noisy.
- They do not offer shelter from elements and animals.
- They have very little storage space compared to other vehicle classes.
- They are easy to steal.
- Motorcycle accidents are much more dangerous than car crashes.
- Very little room for passengers (2-3 maximum).
Survival motorcycles vs other types of bug out vehicles
Motorcycles are fine vehicles in their own right and they can be the perfect bug-out vehicle in the right context. However, how do they stack up against other types of the bug-out vehicles?
ATVs and side-by-sides (UTVs) are awesome machines that are somewhat stereotypically linked with bugging out. These vehicles, like motorcycles, are more versatile than the average sedan, and can easily handle life on or off-road. ATVs and UTVs have better stability than motorcycles by virtue of having two more wheels. However, they are also wider than motorcycles, which makes them slightly less nimble.
Side-by-sides have even more storage space than ATVs and motorcycles, and a good number of them can transport more than two people. ATVs and UTVs are also better for towing trailers or other vehicles.
Cars are great because they can carry more passengers and gear than motorcycles. They can also provide shelter from various dangers and threats. However, cars can be locked in traffic jams for hours with minimal movement. Cars can also be much more high-maintenance than motorcycles.
SUVs and pickup trucks offer all of the benefits of cars, with even more storage space, towing capacity, and off-road capabilities. However, these vehicles are big and hulking, which makes navigating traffic jams a nightmare. Even off-road, a motorcycle is more agile and focused than an SUV, except when it comes to crossing deep pools or streams.
Recreational vehicles dwarf motorcycles in size and storage space. With even more room than an SUV, you could even get an RV with several beds in it. While these are great vehicles, servicing them yourself will either be a challenge or simply impossible. They are also not great on fuel economy and they can be rather clumsy off-road.
Essential gear for a bug out motorcycle
While storage is an issue, there are a few items that you should seriously consider taking with you when SHTF. Below are a few ideas for what you might need to successfully bug out on a motorcycle.
For a more in depth look at bug out vehicle items you should take into account, check out our comprehensive lists for bug out vehicle gear.
Bug Out Motorcycle Conclusions
A motorcycle has all the benefits and drawbacks required to make you think long and hard about choosing one. Ultimately, practicality and preference should be the determining factors behind your decision.
If you do decide that a bike is your best bet, take the time to analyze your environment, budget, and potential worst-case scenarios to find the best bug-out motorcycle for yourself.