Bug Out Bikes: The Most Reliable Way To Escape Chaos

By Jonathan Hands | Updated: 05/29/2024

Bug Out BikeToday, I’ve got something extremely important to share…

A Complete Guide To Buying, Setting Up & Using A Bug Out Bike

Should you employ a bug out bike to make a hasty escape?

Yes, you should!

Because a bug-out bicycle has distinct advantages over:

  1. Bug out vehicles
  2. Walking…

In SHTF, fuel shortages and clogged roads will be a vehicle’s biggest challenge.

And while walking is a good last resort, it’s too slow…

TOPICS IN THIS GUIDE…    ↓(click to jump)
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Hiking Vs. Biking

But you plan to hike, which avoids the vehicle bug-out challenges.

But while hiking is more reliable, it’s both slow and burdensome.

It’s actually the slowest and least efficient way to get from point A to point B (besides maybe crawling).

Hiking is the default last resort bug-out option.

But unless you’re disabled, a bug-out bike is an excellent upgrade.

However, a bug-out bike for the wrong person, in the wrong setting, could prove deadly.

So, in today’s article, we will explore the advantages and disadvantages of a bug-out bike in more detail.

We’ll discuss a few of the best bug-out bike components and designs.

I’ll even share a few badass upgrades and accessories you need.

Ones that will turn your boring street cruiser into a terrain-slaying bug-out bicycle beast.

Traffic Jams

Bikes Vs. Traffic Jams

Ever seen a bike traffic jam? Me neither.

When roads get crowded, and cars stop, bicycles can slip past unperturbed.

When Highway 69 turns into a parking lot, you’ll be pedaling past the helpless masses to bug out safety.

The bottom line is that bikes are 1) reliable, 2) easy to operate, 3) easy to maintain, and 4) get you from point A to point B.

In this case, point B is your bug-out location.

The Opposite is True For Motorized Vehicles

Americans own millions of bikes.

However, almost everyone in America has at least one motorized vehicle.

We are a fossil fuel-addicted society.

The only evidence you need of this fact is the advent of drive-through fast food and drive-up ATMs.

I even had a drive-through liquor store in my town, but it has since gone out of business.

With so many people’s default SHTF bugout being a vehicle, fuel shortages will likely occur when things go wrong.

People will hoard what they can get their hands on, and fresh supplies will quickly dwindle.

You may believe you’ll be able to jump in your car and split when the SHTF.

The problem is, so does everyone else.

If you live in or near a densely populated area, the roads will likely be clogged with people trying to leave.

Your car or truck may become useless in this scenario.

However, you can thread your way out if you have a bug-out bike with some basic gear.

In fact, there are probably subtle, narrow paths to sneak your way out of town nearly undetected.

You should find all the bike paths in your area.

Bike path maps are usually available at your local bike shop.

While a moving vehicle is the fastest of options, a parked vehicle is the slowest.

A bug-out bicycle is faster than walking, and it sure beats being stuck in a massive traffic jam.


Speed is essential in an SHTF environment.

Depending on where you live and where you’re headed, a bicycle can give you a speedy means of bugging out.

And you can carry more gear than you probably think (more on this later).

Besides the inevitable fuel shortages and clogged roads, there will also be spare parts shortages.

The number of unique cars we drive will make getting parts difficult or impossible.

So unless you’ve stocked up on essential spare parts for your vehicle, you may be SOL when the SHTF!

To make matters worse, most new vehicles have complex, computer-controlled onboard systems.

Systems that are impossible for regular joes to fix themselves.

Maybe you’ll get lucky; maybe nothing will break on your rig for a long time.

But remember, everything eventually breaks, and everything eventually fails.

What’s new today becomes old tomorrow.

But bike parts are simple, and bikes don’t need gas.

They are understandable, simple 2-wheel human power.

No finicky computer-controlled parts to leave you high and dry.

What about flat tires and broken chains?

Yes, they are common bike problems, but they are easily fixed.

Even if you’re a complete klutz, basic bicycle repair can be done when push comes to shove.

Another benefit of a bug-out bike is it can carry a ton of gear and supplies.

With panniers (saddlebags) and a bike trailer, you can transport more than just a bug out bag alone.

Okay, so if I’ve sparked your interest in using a bug-out bike for your bug-out plan.

Let’s review a few of the main things you’ll need to consider.

  1. You need to start thinking about the frame, wheels, and components.
  2. Are you in physical shape for cycling? If you are, great! If not, you’ll need to get there.
  3. Are you going to modify your bike or buy a ready-to-roll machine?

No Scarcity Problems, Bikes Are Everywherebug out bike 2

You won’t struggle to find a bike if you want one.

There are plenty of bikes to go around.

You probably already have one; if not, you can easily get one cheaply.

According to Statista,51.4 million Americans have ridden a bicycle in the last 12 months.

And bikes related sales bring in around 6.2 billion dollars annually.

I’ll bet you’ve ridden a bike at some point.

Almost all of us have.

Millions of Americans regularly ride a bike for exercise, fun, and transportation.

Bikes are everywhere, and we’ve ridden them our entire lives!

Many of us had a paper route as a kid with a canvas bag hung on the handlebars of a single-speed fat tire cruiser.

Likely, you have a bike in your garage or shed right now.

If you have children, chances are they have bikes.

The bottom line is that bicycles are everywhere and affordable, making it easy to add a bike to your bug-out plan.

Bikes Are Stupid Simple Machines

Bikes are stupid-simple compared to most of the new technology we operate in our modern lives.

Sure, some new bikes come equipped with advanced accessories and unique mechanisms.

This helps create a smoother ride and improves braking.

But, the core bike mechanics are easily understood by nearly everyone.

No complicated electrical parts or micro-sized mechanical wizardry.

Bikes are essentially 2 tires bolted to a frame and tied together with gears and a chain.

You transfer your energy through 2 pedals, which move the chains and rotate a tire.

As I said, It is a very simple concept.

This simple design means the parts are readily available and relatively straightforward to repair.

And as far as operating one, if you’ve learned to ride a bike once, you’ve learned for life.

Most Americans have ridden a bike, and no one can stop you from learning if you want to.

To quote Freddy Mercury,

“Get On Your Bikes and Ride.”

Bug Out Bag Checklist eBook Cover - a man walking away wearing a military style backpack

Want a free 104 item bug out bag checklist?

Click here to instantly download this Complete Checklist PDF. No purchase necessary.

Bug Out Bike Materials, Components & Accessories

Frame Material Choices

Let’s assume you’ve decided to get a bug-out bike.

  • Where should you start looking?
  • What kinds of things should you think about?

Weight and strength are the two most important factors to consider when choosing a good bug-out bike.

Bicycle frames, wheels, and components are all made of different materials.

All the materials have unique weight and strength properties.

Bug Out Bike Frames

All bikes are built on a frame, which can be of various styles, materials, and geometry.

The frame geometry is what determines what type of bike you have.

From a sleek, quick-handling road machine built for speed to a comfortable, relaxed model designed for cruising along the beach.

Or a mountain bike designed to take a beating on even the most rugged terrain.

For our bug-out purposes, a mountain frame geometry is the best.  

In terms of weight, strength, and comfort, it’s the frame design you want.

Plus, you can add panniers, frame packs, or pull a bike trailer.

You want bike frame materials that are light.

Nothing will get you bogged down faster than a heavy steel frame with steel rims and components.

The bicycle industry has been trending towards lighter and stronger materials over the past decade.

So, let’s look at the types of frame materials and their characteristics.

1. Carbon Steel

Steel is the most common material used for bike frames.

It is strong, but it is also heavy.

2. Chromoly (Chrome Molybdenum) Steel

This is a lighter type of steel that is stronger than carbon steel.

Today, it is widely used in the industry.

It makes the frame tubes thinner, with butted or thickened ends where the tubes are welded.

It has the advantage of being relatively flexible and gives a comfortable ride.

3. Aluminum

Light, strong, stiff aluminum frames have evolved from oversized tubes to thinner ones.

They provide a good alternative to Chromoly or steel.

4. Titanium

Lighter than steel and equally strong, titanium frames are responsive and absorb vibrations well.

Higher in price, titanium frames are found on many high-end bikes.

5. Carbon Fiber

Made from parallel fibers of carbon and laminated with glue, this material makes strong bike frames.

However, it tends to be stiff and difficult to repair.

Still, it’s light and used for building racing and cross-country bikes.

It is also expensive.

So, as you can see, there are numerous choices in bike frame materials.

So you’ll need to decide what your particular needs are.

Needs such as:

  1. Distance to your bug-out location
  2. Your regional terrain
  3. Your physical conditioning.

Here’s a solid article about frames for even more detailed research.

bug out bike components

Bug Out Bike Components

You will want your bug-out bike to have reliable, high-quality components.

This is a critical part of your bug-out bike.

Pedals, brakes, derailleurs, cables, handlebars, and wheels all should be top quality.

Local bike shops, internet sources, and eBay are good places to research these components.

Typically, the cheaper the components, the more likely they will fail prematurely or in rugged conditions.

Stripped derailleurs, broken cables, and plastic pedals can really hinder your bug out.

Being unable to shift smoothly or having a jumped chain is not acceptable mid-bug out.

Upgraded components are a good place to spend your bug-out bike dollars.

I won’t dive into each component today (sites are dedicated solely to these topics).

However, if you aren’t familiar with bicycles or their various parts, talk to people in your local bike shop or start looking on the Internet.

You’ll be amazed at how much information is out there.

Bike Nashbar is one of my favorite resources. It has tons of accessories and information, so feel free to check out its website, www.nashbar.com, when you’re ready to upgrade your components.

Bug Out Bag Checklist eBook Cover - a man walking away wearing a military style backpack

Want a free 104 item bug out bag checklist?

Click here to instantly download this Complete Checklist PDF. No purchase necessary.

Bug out Bicycle Example

Bug Out Bike Accessories

Like components, bike accessories come in all styles and materials, ranging from low to high prices.

The most important accessories for your bug-out bike are those for carrying your gear.


Panniers, essentially saddlebags, have rigid frames that bolt to the bike frame and fork.

Bug Out Bike Accessories

There are also frame-mounted bags with Velcro straps that fit inside the bike’s main triangle.

bug out bike 2

Strong Rack

Another useful accessory is a rigid rack that bolts to the seat post of your rig.

seat post rack

Besides panniers and gear bags, you may need lights for night riding.

Some are battery-powered, but generator hubs power my favorites.

These setups produce electrical current by using the rotation of the wheels.

Update: E Bug Out Bikes

This post was originally written in 2015, and while MOST of the information is still 100% relevant, one major bike revolution is underway: E-Bikes!

E-bikes are all the rage nowadays and are perfectly matched for bugging out.

They will:

  1. Extend your effective range
  2. Allow you to pack more weight
  3. Increase your average escape speed!

All positives, with very few downsides here. I mean, you could argue, “If the E-bike runs out of juice, you’re screwed,” but that’s not true.

You can still pedal like a traditional bike when the electronic components are nonfunctional.

So you gain a very effective tool, but it doesn’t add any downsides.

It’s a win-win.

↓ BIG CITY BUG OUT! [70+ Miles – 112 Kilometers!]

And here’s an example of a Bug Out E-Bike build:

↓ Bug Out EBike – Rad Runner

Bug Out Bike Trailers

They even make bike trailers with a generator hub that produces electricity to charge your radio, lights, or cell phone.

Regarding bike trailers, they are great for hauling gear but can make rugged terrain biking hell.

So, if you know for a fact you will be sticking to roads, then really any small survival trailer that can carry 50+ lbs will do.

But if you are going off-road at all, you should check out this solution:

↓ DOM T2 Trailer MV

It’s both single-tracked and rugged.

This is exactly what you need for a bug-out bike trailer.

Pretty cool, huh?

Even if you don’t need this elaborate system, it’s nice to be aware of some of the available cutting-edge bike gear.

My goal isn’t to list every conceivable gizmo and gadget made for bicycles.

This is to acquaint you with the general concept that a two-wheeled, human-powered bicycle is a very viable bug-out option.

Are You In Good Enough Shape?

If you’re out of shape, riding a bike a long distance is NOT a good idea.

Could you realistically bug out on a bike?

Are you in good enough physical shape to get yourself 10, 20, or 40 miles away from home?

Can you do that with the extra weight of panniers and a trailer?

Bug-out bikers must be hardier than most.

Riding a bicycle to your bug-out location may not be an option for everyone.

You have to prepare your body for the physical requirements.

If you’re not in shape, you won’t make it.

Your terrain and local weather will also play a factor.

  • Do you live in the Southwest, in the hot and arid desert?
  • Or do you live in the middle of suburban sprawl?
  • Maybe you live in a densely populated inner city.
  • Do you live in the mountains?

Each region has its own set of challenges you need to physically prepare for if you want to bug out via a bicycle.

Modify Your Way To Perfection

As simple as bikes are out of the box, most are not ready for the intensity and challenge of a full bug-out.

The good news is:

It’s not hard to transform an old beater bike into a badass bug-out bike with some elbow grease.

Step 1. The Frame

The frame is the most important part of any bicycle.

If it’s heavy and uncomfortable, it’ll be a real drag to ride, especially if you need to distance yourself from your bug-out location.

Bike frames these days are made from traditional steel to aluminum, titanium, and carbon fiber.

Each material has its benefits and drawbacks.

So make sure you get a bike with a strong but light frame.

No heavy steel frames, or you’ll regret it.

Step 2. High-Quality Components

Replace all the old and inferior bike components with high-quality, reliable ones.

You will have to spend a bit, but if you’re serious about bugging out on a bike, this is critical to your success.

Step 3. How Much Gear and How To Carry It

Figure out how much gear and supplies you plan to take on your bug out.

Here’s a good set of panniers on Amazon that can carry a lot of gear.


There are lightweight trailers for bikes, well-designed racks, and panniers of every size and dimension.

There are good light setups for night riding.

Bug Out Bag Checklist eBook Cover - a man walking away wearing a military style backpack

Want a free 104 item bug out bag checklist?

Click here to instantly download this Complete Checklist PDF. No purchase necessary.

Basic Bike Maintenance and Repair Tools

Before we wrap up this article on bug-out bikes, it would be a mistake not to mention bike maintenance and repair.

You need to learn the basics and be able to fix your bike when parts and components eventually fail.

Some repairs you should be able to do is:

  • Fix a flat tire by replacing or patching the inner tube
  • Replacing worn-out brakes
  • Replacing a shot chain
  • Fixing a broken chain
  • Adjusting and fine-tuning all the components

You also need the basic tools to perform these maintenance functions.

A good set of screwdrivers and Alan wrenches is a must.
Action Plan

Bug Out Bike Action Plan

A bug-out bike may be the best choice for your specific situation.

Or at least it might make for an excellent plan B.

Whichever it is, you should start getting your bug-out bike prepared, just in case.

The way you do this is by:

  1. Make sure you have a bike with a sufficiently strong but light frame
  2. Replacing any weak or cheap components with ones that can handle rugged terrain
  3. Adding as much gear/supply storage as possible
  4. Adding bug-out bike-recommended accessories
  5. Stashing some repair components and essential repair tools
  6. Getting in shape, staying in shape, and practicing your bug out!!

If you do these 6 actions, you’ll have a bug-out bike and plan you can rely on when the SHTF.

Jonathan Hands

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Photo Credits: Seat Rack / Panniers / Bike Example 1 / Bike Components / Bike With Frame Pack
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