I’ve been doing some research towards possibly motorizing the bicycle I intend to use as backup transportation should the doo-doo hit the fan while I am still able to get around. There’s some interesting things going on in the marketplace along those lines, and I do believe there may be more reason to motorize a bicycle than you think. The big problem, long term at least, is the issue of fueling the motor. But before you run out and spend some bucks on it, make sure that you are going to take serious care of your two wheel ride. We here in the US think of bicycles as sporting toys or exercise equipment, but in most parts of the world, a bike can be a family’s sole means of transportation. Here in the US we ride them, wear them out, and then forget them, or they get stolen and wind up looking like this little beauty to the right here.
I think it’s important that we give the lowly bicycle a tremendous amount of consideration before rejecting it as a potential alternative means of transportation. For one thing, it doesn’t take gas or electricity. It’s also a quiet mode of travel, and can take you as far as you want it to take you. Provided, of course, that you keep it, and yourself in good repair.
So how did I wind up looking at the possibility of putting a motor on my bike? Good question. The answer is relatively simple. A couple of years ago I took a ride down to a major metropolitan mall area about 40 miles from where I live. That made it an 80 mile round trip, and I only had one day available to make the trip. And no, I am not going to willingly make such a trip again. I don’t recall how many hours the entire ordeal lasted, but I left at around seven AM and got back to my place in the very late evening sometime. It was quite dark as I recall. I believe it took about 16 hours all told, but I spent some time shopping, which ate up a little time.
So it occurs to me that if we are going to use a bicycle as an alternative means of transportation, how limited are we when we reach that point where the trusty 2 wheeler becomes the main transportation? People all over the world use a bicycle as a main vehicle, and we see pictures of heavily leaden bikes in third world countries loaded down with goods being taken to market. Europeans use the bike as a means of everyday transport and not only ride them to work, but go shopping as a normal routine as well.
Using a bicycle as a work vehicle requires a different sort of set up than does one for exercise or play. It takes a stronger frame, better tires and chains, as well as good quality gears, bearings, cables and everything else. But you don’t need a high priced la-di-da bike to get that level of quality. Even in the foreign countries a serviceable bike is reasonable. When I was doing research on this subject, there were several places in South Africa selling a decent bike for about 2,000 ZAR, or Rand, which was the equivalent of about $270.00 here in the USA.
Unfortunately, the work you can get out of a bicycle is limited to the work you can get out of your legs. When you peter out and can’t pedal anymore, the bike stays where you stopped. But a motor can assist you in your work and allow you to travel much further, and carry a greater load than if you had to go on just people power alone. Let’s say you set yourself up on a plot of land and developed a business of selling fresh veggies or other product. If you had no working vehicle, such as a car or truck, your business would have to depend upon people getting to your little farm to buy veggies, right? Well, how are they going to do that if no one has a working motorized vehicle? No gas, no go, for most people, remember?
With the addition of a little trailer to your two wheeled workhorse you could load up and carry quite a load to market in town, and thus make more money from your survival homestead. And adding a motor of some sort allows you to carry even more of a load, because the motor takes some of the workload from you. That’s what motors are supposed to do, you know. Make things easier so you can produce more, and get more out of life. However, we have a bit of a quandary when it comes to motorizing a motor in the post melt down world. The first question is exactly how did the world melt down for us? If an EMP attack left us helpless, then it is likely that bicycle motors were also disabled, due to the presence of solid state equipment, such as a charge controller, speed limiter, etc. At some point in time, we would in fact be able to recover, but it could take ten or more years according to some, and by then the USA would truly be a third world nation ourselves.
But it may not happen like that at all! Perhaps hyperinflation will set in, followed by worldwide depression, and an economy that requires rationing of resources, such as gas and oil. In that case, a motor on your bike makes perfect sense as the fuel consumption is quite low for the gas powered versions, and the electric models use no gas at all. Given a choice, I would almost choose an electric version over gas for a couple of reasons. For one thing, electric motors run very quietly. For tooling around town it doesn’t bring attention like the mosquito like whine of the small cc gas motors. You need not worry about running out of gas with an electric motor, but the batteries do need recharging.
However, if the grid goes down, you can always rig up a solar cell charger for the batteries. Also, there isn’t the risk of burn like you have with a tank of gas between your legs with an electric bike.
At this point, I haven’t really decided one way or the other, but I am leaning towards electrification over gasification of my survival bicycle. The problem as I see it today is that electric motors and batteries for bicycle retrofit can be quite expensive, running into a couple of thousand dollars for some models. That’s quite a bit for a bike I only paid $175.00 for in the first place. But we’ll see what happens over the summer with it. Keep checking back here and I’ll post on the progress of the project.