So I owe this article to Will Williams, it was a suggestion in jest on Facebook that got my gears turning. I know a few people who plan to Bug-Out on a Bicycle, a BMX style mountain bike and so William's suggestion sparked some ideas on SHTF bicycle safety. Now riding a bicycle when cars, trucks and semi-trailers are sharing the road and can hazardous in itself. But what about when civil order breaks down to the infrastructure that keeps people sane and safe disappears?
So I thought about it but not much, I scribbled down some talking points and went to bed. This is a result of those talking points, so lets start with some basic information;
Basic Bicycle Road Safety Procedures...
More of the Basics...
How Not to Get Hit By Cars...
and now that the basic safety is covered, the Bicycle as a SHTF fan vehicle...
Survival Bicycling... Part 1 (Not Part 2 at this time keep checking the source link)
Best Survival Bicycle...
Value of Bicycle after SHTF...
So in that little bundle of links, I don't think there is much I can cover they can't... However, I'm gonna try damn it.
Thought # 1: Bike Storage:
Ok I had a few minutes of online research to come up with the facts... For Storage on your bike, you have some options and it would stupid not to consider your bike as a carrier for your gear. I won't tell what to pack but I will make a few suggestions. A front rack can support two kinds of loads a standard load held in the backet area & a low rider load that hangs beside the front wheels. Rear racks can support packs of this type as well and allow for great carrying capacity behind the rider. Also the rider should have their Bug-Out Bag, literally on them at all time while riding the bike incase of some emergency where they need to abandon the bike.
Suggest Gear to Carry:
1. Sweat Towel: If you are riding a bike chances are you will get sweaty. sweat is your bodies natural means of cooling itself of. So if you are sweaty and going to make camp for the night, dry yourself off. Do not use the same towel for drying yourself of sweat that you use for drying yourself after bathing. Staph bacteria lives in your sweat glands and using a sweat towel could lead to a staph infection. Likewise, you need to "wash" yourself before making a camp even if only using cold water from a canteen or baby wipes (personal favorite).
2. Layers of Clothing: Depending on temperatures you can dress down by wearing a set of loose clothing over a T-shirt and Bike Shorts, as the temperature increases you can dress down. WARNING: Excess exercise and labor in extreme heat conditions can be deadly if you aren't hydrated and/or lead to sun stroke. In many cases it may be more practical to camp/rest of day and travel by night. This raises another issue with the use of lights on the bike and whether one is willing to trade safety for visibility.
3. Load Bearing Gear: Any gear like a LBE or LBV or tactical vest, fishing vest etc, that can support readily handy items and provide easy access to essentials should worn, even if dressed down.
4. Tarp Camo or environment appropriate color: Your Bike needs protection from the elements as well but you want to camouflage it as best you can and lay the bike down. Lay the bike down in the direction you want to travel, cover it with a tarp and camouflage it with debris from the area.
Thought #2: Open or Concealed Carry:
I know someone is going to disagree with this but, if you are the guy not caught in bumper to bumper traffic, with a bunch of gear someone is going to try to steal your ride. You have panicked drivers, road rage and just plain human self-interest to contend with. So my suggesting is openly carry a weapon, a big knife and/or a handgun, hell if you can mount a rifle on that bike do it (thinking of the old western rifle cases on saddles but hey).
Open Carry Deters Crime... <---- Proven Fact
Thought #3: Crossing Water:
Now this is a fun thought, how will you get your bike across creak or stream. You can water proof and even make your BOB a flotation device by putting everything in a plastic trash bag, no holes BTW, with all the cloth items rolled into balls. This traps air in the cloth, trapped by the plastic bags and can help you to float, you can do the same with gear in your bike, assuming its mostly cloth. Or by contrast you can carry a few large inflatable inter tubes for the river, 2 to 3. You simple secure the bike to 1 or 2 of the tubes and yourself rides on one and float across. The hardest part will be inflating and deflating the inner tubes.
Thought #4: Camping Wilderness & Urban:
So here are my tips and suggestions for camping in the Wilderness with a Bike...
1. Camouflage: You want to camouflage your area as best you can and lay the bike down. Lay the bike down in the direction you want to travel, cover it with a tarp and camouflage it with debris from the area. You can sleep under the tarp with your bike if you like.
2. Use Noise & Light Discipline: This is simple, don't use light you don't have to... If you cook boil your food to keep down smell, don't burn pine or any similar wood they smoke a lot, use a Dakota fire hole, if you use a flash light use one with a red lens and do so under a poncho or coat. Don't talk if you don't have to, whisper if you have to talk and do not smoke anything... cigarettes, marijuana or anything else. The smell of tobacco can be detected by a non-smoker for over a mile away and the cherry can be seen from the same distance. Marijuana is worse of the smell.
3. Use Basic Tactics: If you are going to camp, make a "J Hook" by doubling back on your trail so that you can observe if anyone is following your trail. Keep watch on your trail. In the Army I go used to sleeping prone so that I was ready to return fire if attacked, I still sleep on my stomach with pillows under my chest.
4. If in a Group Post a Watch: If you are in a group, always post a watch, and change the watch every hour. 3 to 7 person (not counting young children) 1 person a on watch for 1 hour. 8 or more 2 people on watch for 1 hour.
5. If Alone Set an Alarm: If alone set an alarm along the trail where you can maintain security, a double or triple bind is a must but you want alarms to your flank and rear as well. Fishing line and bells or flares should work fine. WARNING: Alarms does not mean Booby traps you could face a series of issues for using such, least among them is legal consequences and worst is making an enemy who might want to return the favor.
And my suggestions for camping in an Urban Environment with a Bike...
1. Camouflage & Hiding: As with the Wilderness Terrain you want to conceal your bike when you camp, this can be done by hiding behind dumpsters, entering abandoned buildings and carrying rope to hoist the Bike onto and down from roof tops. Looking like a bum with a shopping cart full of stuff to conceal the bike on the opposite side might also be a good form of camouflage. In urban environments, what most think of as disguise is merely urban camouflage. In an area of grown up wood, such as parks or forested areas between buildings the same rules for the Wilderness apply.
2. Use Noise & Light Discipline: As always the basic concepts remain the same...
3. Use Basic Tactics: Same as a wilderness environment but remember to apply certain basic urban warfare concepts like the Slicing the Pie and the difference in material which means the difference between a wall being cover or concealment.
Slicing the Pie:
Once the entry is secure bring in one's bike, set an alarm at the entry, again fishing line and bells, and secure the rest of the area. Note: You do not need to search and secure a whole building securing a path to one room and securing it is enough. The difference in Cover & Concealment can be summed up as this; Cover prevents contact with the threat or danger and concealment only prevents site from the threat or danger. A sheet rock wall will not stop bullets and is concealment but a concrete barrier is cover if it stops bullets.
4. Stay off Road as Best You Can: If the social order has broken down then stay off road as much as possible sticking to back alleys. Prior to whatever event will prompt a social breakdown pay attention to laws and rules of road. Always stay to the side of road and keep a look out for possible threats. Roads are going to be full of threats and that will be addressed later.
5. In a Group: Its important to have basic communication available, CB or Handheld radios between the groups members, use of military patrol formations and staying off the main routes of travel are all highly suggested. However, be very cautious in back alleys as well, you don't know who claimed it as their "turf" or how they will react.
6. If Alone: Same basic concept but here more then anything speed is your ally, when you travel you have no form of shelter from possible violence so travel on an obscure pattern, not a straight line, make circles back on your route to see if you are being followed and always move fast.
Thought #5: Shelter From Elements:
Ok, Bikes offer no shelter from the elements, wind, rain, heat and cold... This means you need to stop in a secure or secure a location and rest periodically. Exposure is potentially deadly if untreated and this is an important element to consider for travel on a bicycle during a SHTF bug-out event. So the same basic principles of exposure apply as if on feet except, one important factor. This important factor is wind chill, wind chill will increase with one's speed of travel.
Thought #6: Moving as a Group:
Now when moving as a group on a bike as with on foot you need to make use of patrol formation to maximize travel time and cover.
1. Travel in a straight line to conceal the number of people on bikes, trying to ride in the path of the person in front of you. In this way a group can use the "J-Hook" as well as an individual.
2. When travelling in a line have a "point man" approximately 30 to 50 yards ahead of the group, if the point man stops everyone else stops as well. If their is a threat ahead of you, they only see the point man and not the whole group.
3. On wide roads travel in a staggered line on the sides of the road about 20 yards from the person in front of you on the opposite side of the road. This allows the group following the "point man" to get off the road to cover or concealment on the side of the road or react to a threat from either side of the road.
4. In open areas position "security elements" to the sides, rear and front of the main group (useful to groups larger then 10 adults or groups with children).
For more information on Small Teams & Group Tactics Read Army of Shadows or TM 725-15 The American Homeguard Anti-Terrorist Handbook
Thought #7: Security:
Security measures should be taken to help anyone trying to evacuate a danger zone by bicycle, these should include using the following items (which implies having them).
1. Caltrops: An easily made device for disabling wheeled vehicles. Even if you are running from a bunch of gun happy inbred mutant red necks on a bicycle while they have a 4x4 death machine. Caltrops can pop tires and leave them stuck in the road riding on rims.
2. Smoke Devices: Smoke grenades can be purchased for about $15 to $25 dollars a piece or you can read Black Dragon Ninjitsu for the various formula and means of construction.
3. Flares & Flare Gun: Meant for Plane Crashes and Ship Wrecks, the flare gun has a great use as an emergency signal for a point man or lighting up an area were a potential threat is located.
So now that we have basic tactics and such discussed lets examine the threats. Understanding your threats is vital for preparing your defense and ensuring your security.
Panic Drivers: This list isn't listed in any order except what came to mind first... Panicked drivers, people trying to flee a hurricane, a flood or a forest fire are going to be highly emotional and hyper sensitive. They are going to try to force their way into traffic and not worry about getting hit or hitting others. These are a threat to people walking on the sidewalk and won't share the road with a bicyclist on normal days. So add SHTF and watch out.
Road Ragers: These are the people who snap in traffic on a normal day and they will be 100 times worse when you add a life threatening danger to the mix. They are likely to intentionally run you over, force you off the road orget out their cares and assault you with a weapon.
Dogs & Wildlife: Dogs chase cars, they also chase people and if you are on a bike you don't have metal between you and dog. So a can of mace or pepper spray can also keep the puppies off your back tire. Not only is this an issue with dogs but other animals and wild life as well could be a threat to you based on environment.
Pedestrians: These aren't people trying to knock you off your bike these are just slow moving walkers (No Walking Dead reference intended) who might get in your way.
Criminals: Criminals are people who going to try to take your stuff and they may or may not be armed. As I stated above openly carrying a weapon is deterrent for criminals.
Gun Men: These are would be snipers and people shooting at you, bikes don't offer protection from bullets.
Cliffs, Falling Rocks, Forest Fires & Flood Waters: Natural disasters, threats and obstacles be as deadly as they can be obstructive and you cross raging rapids on an inner tube. People and animals aren't your only threats, "Mother Nature" is a Bitch sometimes too...
Note: Hitchhiking with your Bike: In some cases as with a mass exodus from danger zone, a bug-out scenario you may have the opportunity to catch a ride. This is dangerous under normal circumstances. However, your choices are your own and this could a valuable advantage to Bugging out with a bike. If you have a bike rack mounted on your car, you could have an "escape pod" for your car if it breaks down.