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July 28, 2017

Freehold Friday: Practical Prepping: Bug-out-bike #1

Howdy Freeholders!

I had a lot of fun tinkering with my bug out bike project this week and I’ll give you all the deets in a minute. But first, let’s jump right into the other good stuff.

WRITING UPDATE

I’m happy to report that Solar Storm Season 2, Episode 1: CONTACT is now live on Amazon!

In case you missed it, you can click the cover to head over and grab your copy. Episode 2 is up for preorder (it won’t be live until August 11th) and the other episodes will be every two weeks after that.

 

 

In other Solar Storm news, my fantastic narrator, James Romick, is in the early stages of putting together the Solar Storm audiobooks! How cool is that? I’ll give y’all more updates as we go.

What else? As far as Oathbreaker is concerned, I’m still plugging along with the revision notes from my awesome editor—trust me, that’s a good thing, because he’s caught every mistake I think I could ever make! It’s a lot slower to go through someone else’s notes (while trying to crank out a different series at the same time) but in the end the book is going to be a lot more polished than any other book I’ve put out before! I’m really excited!

Ah, we’re past the midway point in Summer. I can almost taste the beginning of school…one month to go, people! ONE MONTH. Then it’s back to high-productivity days…my stories are backing up like planes at O’Hare and my head is threatening to explode (good thing I’ve got all this duct tape).

I had planned to release Solar Storm Season 1 and had prepared myself for it to be a tremendous flop, so I’d gone ahead and booked my summer full of Wildfire adventures and a paranormal thriller serial I’d started (and dropped) about two years ago that just won’t leave me alone. Low and behold, the kids took up WAAAAAY more time than I’d expected (even with camps and visits from grandparents) and—andSolar Storm took off and I needed to strike while the iron was hot, so to speak. So, the paranormal seems to have been bumped aside (again) and Solar Storm Season 2 took over.

But I’m going to give it my all and go balls to the wall to close out the summer, because I’d like to release the paranormal one in October, before Halloween—and it just so happens that October 13th is a Friday…see? 13…my new favorite character…a Friday (the day I usually release my books)…October…it’s all coming together to tell me that Fate has decreed that this year is the year my paranormal thriller is going to be released.

Pic of surprised kid with book

Aaaaaaanyway…let’s get to the meat of the post, shall we?

PRACTICAL PREPPING

So last week I left you with the idea of using a bike as a bug out vehicle. Obviously, it’s not the idea choice (that would be an armored truck with all-wheel drive, armored tires, flamethrowers, you know, the usual stuff), but in many situations, the humble bicycle could be a force multiplier that might just get your ass to home/safety/reinforcements/family, etc.

We went over a couple scenarios and discussed the pros of using a bike in a SHTF situation. But what about the disadvantages?

Well, for starters, a bike is a bike—it’s not a car, so (1) it’s powered by you, meaning that if you’re not in shape (more on this in a minute) you’re going to get tired or injured and (2) you are completely exposed to everything around you. At least in a car, if the fuel runs out you can shelter in place (think trapped in a snowstorm, rainstorm, etc.). Both a bike and a care can (and will in a SHTF scenario, just count on it) have flat tires and be rendered useless. The difference (okay, I know we’re talking negatives here, but this actually a positive for the bike as well) is with a bike you can carry lots of spare inner tubes and a patch kit and fix your ride multiple times, where with a car, you’re pretty much limited to only a couple (at the expense of valuable storage space for food, gear, weapons, etc.).

What else? Well, that being exposed thing counts for a lot more than just the weather. If you’re in a crowded environment, think NYC during a power outage, sure a bike can weave in and around parked/stranded/stalled/blocked cars, but think of the people. All it takes is one good punch, a close-line, or someone tackling you and you are now off your bike (maybe injured) and on the ground. If you’re paying real close attention (there’s that situational awareness thing again!) you can probably avoid a lot of attacks, but where people are all around you trying to escape something, being on a bike can be like having a flashing beacon on your head saying rob me.

While we’re on the “compared to a car” kick, a bike can allow you to carry far more than you could on your back if you were walking, but it’s not a zero sum tradeoff. The more weight you carry on your bike (or behind it with a trailer) the harder you’re going to have to work to pedal said bike. Granted, it’s not like trying to carry a huge backpack or drag a travois behind you—a bike does have wheels—but you’re going to notice the difference and need to work harder to keep moving. Not to mention all that gear is going to throw off your balance a bit.

If you’re on a bike, you won’t be able to just cut and run down a path or disappear into the woods—crashing through underbrush on a mountain bike will make quite a bit of noise, just in case you were wondering.

Don’t ask.

 

If you’re on foot and people are following you, yeah, you can just juke and weave and hide a lot faster than on a bike. Okay, so if you’re on a bike you can go a lot faster than people on foot so I guess that’s a wash.

If you think about it, there’s quite a few disadvantages to using a bike in a SHTF scenario, but upon further reflection, I think you’ll also realize that those negatives are only so when you compare a bike against another form of transportation, like a car.

If, in the event of a nuclear EMP attack, our worst fears are realized and most cars are rendered useless, a bike would then be compared to what…walking or riding a horse? In that case the negatives associated with a bike (except for the totally exposed thing) pretty much vanish. In a world where everyone is walking, those with bikes will have a tremendous advantage.

In a world where cars remain useful, those with bikes will have a tremendous advantage only over those who walk. But…those with bikes will have another valuable tool in their survival arsenal that might just save their ass.

 

I mean, come on. You can pack a lot of shit on a bike.

Imagine if all those plants and things were food packs, first aid kits, and tents…

 

 

Anyway, I guess my point in this rambling dialog is that everything has pros and cons when it comes to survival and preparedness. Except two things (that I can think of): fitness and practice.

What is the negative of fitness? Nothing—you’ll be stronger, have more endurance, be healthier and likely live longer, the fitter you are. What’s the downside to practicing your bug out/SHTF/preparedness skills? Nothing! You’ll have a deeper understanding of what to expect when the excrement flies, and you’ll be better prepared to handle said excrement and help yourself and those you love. And those around you. If you want.

Well, that was an awesome segue.

Ahem.

So…in the spirit of practicing and fitness, here’s the second part of my bug-out-bike series. Last week, I introduced the idea of rehabbing a 18-year old bike and using it for training and fitness, and as a SHTF experiment, all to be shared with my followers.

Well, I’ve finished the rehab and taking my first tentative steps into the fitness segment, so here’s what happened this week:

Here’s what I did. Upon looking over the sad state of my beloved bike, I wiped off most of the dust and flipped her over, exposing the drivetrain. It was filthy. I mean fugly. Almost 20 years of caked on grease, dirt, grime, and dust, really clogged the chain, cassette, and chainrings (for you non-biking types, the cassette is the group of little cogs attached to the rear wheel and the chainrings are the big cogs attached to the crank arms—which are attached to the pedals).

First order of business was to get that shit off my chain. So I pulled out a can of aerosol WD–40 (which is great for

cleaning and degreasing stuff) and sprayed the hell out of the chain. Using a tip I picked up from a biking forum, I used rubber bands to connect to toothbrushes (these were donated from the pile of kids’ toothbrushes we have collected from the dentist) and run the chain through this modified brush. In seconds, it had scraped the chain clean and white bristles became black as coal.

Ew.

Next, I detached the rear wheel (unhook the quick-release bolt, gently extend the rear derailleur down so the chain pulls away from the cassette and the wheel can slide right out).

Tip: if you go slow and take a look at what you’re doing, you can (1) avoid getting your finger pinched—that hurt like hell—and (2) keep the chain from going crazy, so when you’re done, reinstalling the wheel is a breeze.

With the wheel off, I sprayed even more WD–40 all over the cassette and let it soak for a minute while I moved back to the bike and sprayed the chainrings. These were just as filthy as chain itself and took some more scrubbing to clean. While I was removing the decades of grime, I noticed the middle chain ring (the most used on my bike) looked jagged, like it had been damaged.

I thought, holy shit, that can’t be right, the teeth on this thing look like they’re ready to come off! If I try and ride it, I’m going to break it and possibly myself.

Well, fear not…I plowed ahead with my cleaning and when I was done, spent about an hour in research mode…I found out that Shimano (the maker of my drivetrain) made chainrings like that on purpose back in the day (1999), which supposedly made it easier to shift gears or something…basically, bike mechanics in the 1990s laughed a lot when customers brought their new bikes in complaining of defects. My bike is normal.

Whew.

On with the cleaning! In no time flat, I had the chainrings looking great. I sprayed a little WD–40 in an old rag and wiped down everything by hand, then used a dry part of the rag to…well, dry it all off. That drivetrain hasn’t looked this good since 1999…

Okay, so back to the cleaning…once I got the chainrings all spiffy, I moved back to the cassette. Here it is before I started. It’s kind of hard to see, but that thing is filthy. So I scrubbed it as best I could with the tooth brushes. I don’t have the tool (some special wrench, I guess) to remove the cassette cogs and really clean them, so I just did my best and called it a day when it looked about 70% better than before.

With the drivetrain now as clean as I could get it, I moved on to the wheels. The mountain bike tires I was driving on this thing were original, ca. 1999. I’d never had a flat (miracle of miracles!) so I wanted to keep the tires, but I needed to change them out. I wanted a smoother ride and more of a hybrid/street tire looked nice. I bought a pair of kevlar lined tires from Amazon for $16 each.

Here’s the difference. That’s the old mountain bike tire on left in the picture.

Taking the tire off the wheel (something I’d never done before) couldn’t have been easier. I watched several Youtube videos and then had a go and it worked! First, I made sure the tire to be replaced was at least partially deflated. That was easy, since the inner tubes were so leaky (and I can’t blame them, they are 18 years old), they were practically flat. Anyway, you use these nifty little tire tools…and wedge the flat, scalloped part under the rim of the wheel, then bend it down and use the hook on the other end to secure it to a spoke. With a gap now held in place, you use the second one (again the flat, scalloped part) to wedge under the tire next to the first and pushed along the rim, following the contour of the wheel. It takes surprisingly little effort, in within about 30 seconds, the tire came off, exposing the deflated inner tube. I just pulled the inner tube out and and that was it! Seriously, if you want to know how, look it up on Youtube.

Next, I unpacked the two new inner tubes I bought (they have that anti-puncture, self-healing, green slime shit inside) and inflated it a little, just enough to give it shape and help in the installation process. I popped the valve through the hole in the aluminum wheel, then started to attach the new tire. First things first, you get one sidewall of the new tire complete seated under the rim of the wheel first. Once one whole side is in place, carefully turn the wheel over, making sure the inner tube stays put. Without much air, the damn thing likes to move around a lot—next time, I’m going to inflate it more.

After you’ve got the tube in place and one side seated, you can use those tire tools again to press the other side in place, working around the wheel. I found the tools to be a big pain in the ass, really, and I spent more time keeping them in line than actually using them, so I tossed them aside and used my fingers. It took about two or three minutes as I fumbled along, forcing the recalcitrant tire into place, but I finally got it all set. Satisfied it was good to go, I inflated it to max pressure (that my little air compressor could handle) and capped it.

I repeated the process—albeit it slower, because for some reason the second tire was just being a stubborn bastard about going out he wheel, but I eventually prevailed.

I took the opportunity with the wheels off to give the frame a good dusting and polishing, then checked all the cables to make sure everything was still in good condition. It was, so I put the tires back on, reconnected the brakes and flipped her over.

Back out not he driveway, my bike never looked so good since the day I got her.

And that, my friends, is how I brought a, 18-year old bike from the edge of the junkyard back to life. After a few test runs to get the saddle adjusted and tweak the handlebars for comfort, I pronounced the bike ready to ride.

And ride I did. The next day, Mrs. Richardson and I went on a little 4 mile ride on the local bike path and I’m happy to say the old Trek handled itself really well. Just yesterday morning, after a three day break for rain, I hauled myself out of bed at 6am and did about 6 miles through the neighborhood (we’ve got nice wide paved streets and the whole loop around the neighborhood is about a mile and a half). Despite the fact that I wanted to throw up and I was literally dripping sweat (note to self: get biking gloves…my hands were so slick I had a hard time holding on for the last lap), I had a blast, got some great exercise and enjoyed the quiet morning before my house woke up(and seemingly the neighborhood, as I only saw two cars).

So not only will I keep track of the mods I do to this bike (which right now include the addition of a bottle holder on the frame and a little tool/cell phone pouch on behind the handlebars) but I’ll keep track of my fitness goals and mileage, to prove this is a worthy cause for anyone who’s preparing. After all, I’m 6’2″ and 247 lbs, but if the SHTF tomorrow, I’d be woefully unprepared as far as my physical fitness is concerned. I aim to change that right now. I keep hearing how much weight people lose biking (ever seen a fat pro cyclist?) and thought this would be a nice, low-impact way to put up or shut up.

So hang on and keep your heads down, because this Freeholder is rollin’.