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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Motorcycles and bugging out

A motorcycle feels like it should be a great bug out vehicle. They are fast, maneuverable, and fuel efficient. Put on leathers and a helmet, and the rider feels armored -bad ass even.

Those of us who ride really want motorcycles to be great bug out vehicles. We want to justify having one. They are so cool and fun, we want them to be practical too.

Sadly, motorcycles have some serious drawbacks. Take my personal experience. My bike got better gas mileage than most cars, about 40mpg. There are bikes that get better mileage and bikes that get worse. Mine was an older 900 cc bike, big by 1977 standards, but not so big today.

Most bikes have smallish gas tanks. My bike held about 3.5gallons. After a 150 miles, I was looking for a gas station. Often I’d roll to the pumps running on the reserve portion of the tank. After a couple close calls, I started carrying an extra quart of gas in a metal container. A few times it came in handy. Most cars and trucks can go at least 300 - 400 miles on a full tank.

Cargo capacity is limited. One other person, a couple bags of groceries, and you are maxed out. We are basically talking backpacking loads here. Sure, there are trailers and side cars that expand capacity, but at the cost of maneuverability and economy. Again, might as well drive a car.

There are a host of other problems. Snow, ice, rain, sand or mud can make travel dangerous or impossible. A bike rider is a more vulnerable target that a driver in a car. The bike rider is right out there in the open. A car driver can be hard to see properly, and gets some protection from being inside a car. Sure, I wouldn’t want a 308 round to come through the driver’s door, but the engine block could stop it. Sheet metal does provide some protection. It’ll stop birdshot, and some shrapnel. Better than nothing. Bikes are often loud. People hear a bike along ways off.

Of course, I’m generalizing here. There are some bikes that are better than others. Enduro styles with off and on road capability, expanded fuel capacity and strong suspensions have merit. Especially if your bug out plan is a trail, train tracks, pipeline or powerline corridor.

Keep it mind that a motorcycle is a specialized vehicle for special conditions and you’ll be Okay. Don’t think of it as the first line of retreat. Maybe having one in the back of your truck or on a trailer is the thing to do. If your main vehicle breaks down or caught in traffic, the bike could keep you moving.

Being able to ride a bike, especially off-road, is a skill. It takes training and practice to do it right. You also have to be in good health. It’s uncomfortable to drive a car with a broken arm. It’s almost impossible to do the same on a bike.

Now if you want to get a small high mileage bike to cut down on transportation costs, that’s a fine idea. Just don’t justify it on the grounds that it’s the perfect all around bug out vehicle; it isn’t.

Really wish it was. I look pretty darn Mad Max in leathers.



  1. I've been studying the economics of a little 250 to ride to work and back. I could damn near buy a new one for what I've spent on gas this year...

  2. Makes sense for that, especially where you are in TX. 12 months riding, instead of 6 here.

  3. As a matter of fact, A 225 yamaha enduro is what I've used for the past 5 yrs.
    It gets 60 mpg and now has 15,000 miles on it !
    Besides paying for itself in gas savings it is saving me about a hundred bucks a month over what I used to spend on gas. Don't even want to think about what it would cost at todays gas prices.
    No leather for me though, it's ventilated Kevlar, much cooler and tougher than the old leather that I used to wear. I do indeed ride it year round here in Floriduh.

  4. Six, you have accurate points about scooters. For bugging out, in my opinion, they would only be good providing you have a fully stocked retreat to go to. If it’s a last minute bug out one would have to assume the roads may be clogged with stalled cars or gang member roadblocks steeling what they can. The scooter will allow you to ride the grassy shoulders or take evasive moves through fields etc.

    Craig, a guy at work rides a 250 to and from work everyday. His only complaint is the 65mph speed limit on the road he takes is about the max for the bike and sometimes gets dicey when traffic wants you out of their way. I would recommend a 450. I used to one and the power is far more adequate.

  5. Yukon,
    Dunno what kind of 250 your friend is riding but my 225 max's out at about 80. I agree tho, if ya wanna go on the freeway get at least a 450, cuz the cars all do 80 in the 65 zone lol
    Rule of thumb , go a little faster than traffic

  6. Max speed limit between home and work is 45, so a 250 would work just fine.

  7. For that speed (45mph), a 250 should do fine. My wife has a 250 Yamaha Virago that she learned to ride bikes for years ago. Now rides a Harley 883 for the power, but does admit for in city driving, that little 250 does just fine (yep, she kept it) and it sips gas to tune of 60 - 65 mpg. If you do carry passengers, might be found a little wanting in power though, my 150 pound son demonstrates this.

    Fellow blogger Scott Williams (BUG OUT SURVIVAL) did a pretty interesting post on bugging out on a motorcycle. Has a link to converting a Harley to more of a crosscountry vehicle - check it out for good pictures and ideas!

    Personally, if my route was entirely offroad and I won the lottery, a Rokon looks awfully good to me.

  8. Okay, Rokons are cool. Like you said, under the right conditions.