The Emergency Bike

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I’ve written before about the soundness of owning – of getting if you don’t already own – a motorcycle in order to remain mobile in the months and possibly years ahead. Which could be years of rebuilding after an economic collapse preceded by months of upward-percolating fuel prices that could make driving a car a much more expensive proposition than now.

Possibly, an impossibly expensive one.

Gas is already more than $1 more expensive than it was just ten months ago – thanks to the executive-ordering of the Biden Thing that shuffles around various cheesy TV sets designed to make it appear he is in the White House. (Why this is being done when the Biden Thing  could – presumably – broadcast from the actual White House is another question for another time.)

If the Biden Thing’s “infrastructure” caboodle becomes law, it is certain – not likely, but certain – that the cost of fuel is going to go up a lot more and possibly, unimaginably more. Try to imagine what it will be like in six months’ time – or perhaps three – when a gallon of gas costs $4 or $5.

Maybe ten.

Will you be able to afford to drive, as to work? If you cannot afford to drive to work, you may be faced with having to move closer to work – closer to a bus or train stop – all part of the evil agenda afoot, by the way. What they want is for most people to be unable to work in the city and live in the country, or even the suburbs. This is not conjecture. It is openly – brazenly – discussed fact.

How to achieve that?

By making it economically impossible for most people to get to work from home in the country, or the ‘burbs. Thereby applying applying pressure on them to sell their home in the country or the ‘burbs, at fire-sale prices, probably – since few prospective buyers will be able to afford to drive to work from there, either, when gas costs $5 or $10 per gallon.

This is the “deal” that will cost you “green” being urged by the Biden Thing and its minions.

Being able to ride is a way to thwart their intentions – and it may prove to be one of the ways to ride out this storm.

Consider how far you can ride – vs. how far you can drive.

Almost any motorcycle averages better gas mileage than any car that isn’t a hybrid car manages on the highway – and many motorcycles average 10-20 MPG better than a hybrid car. For example, one of my bikes – an ’83 Honda GL650 Interstate – averages close to 60. This is a fully-faired touring bike, which means it has more cargo capacity than some cars. It can certainly carry a load of groceries/supplies, plus a passenger and – because of its fairing – it has wind/rain protection, which makes it viable to ride in poor weather, an important consideration for a practical Emergency Bike.

If I keep say five 5 gallon jugs of gas on hand – 25 gallons – that is enough to fill the Honda’s roughly four gallon tank about six times. Enough fuel for a month, at least, of regular riding.

On the other hand, 25 gallons will fill the typical car’s 15 gallon tank once-and-half-times. A full tank of gas in most cars is enough gas for a week.

I used to own a 250 cc dual sport motorcycle which I now wish I still owned. This bike averaged 90-100 MPG. It had a 2.5 gallon tank. Twenty-five gallons of gas would keep this bike running for six months, maybe even a year.

Such bikes have other advantages, too.

They can go where cars can’t. This may come in very handy when – if – one needs to get away from a police car. Or a police SUV/truck, chasing down the “hesitant” for a Needling.  Even the grippiest 4×4 is limited by its width – or rather the width of the trail. Dual-sport and off-road bikes can go practically anywhere a horse can go – and faster and longer, too.

But there are some important things to consider before you start shopping- as regards the kinds of bikes you should not get, because of the limitations they impose.

Avoid newer bikes (generally, those made after the early 2000s) with computer-controlled electronic fuel injection.

These bikes need less in the way of regular tuning/adjustment, but when they do need it, you may not be able to do it. Or find a critical electronic part, that cannot be fabricated, or made to work. It is also much harder to get an EFI’d bike to burn alcohol – which you can make – rather than gasoline, which you can’t make – because of the need to electronically alter the air-fuel ratio and other parameters to adjust for lower energy content of alcohol.

With older bikes that have carburetors you can easily rebuild the fuel system – for all practical purposes, forever – assuming you have a couple of spare-part rebuild kits (usually less than $25 for a bike) on hand. And you can easily get a carb’d bike to run on alcohol by re-jetting and richening up the air-fuel mixture, a simple mechanical adjustment. That plus some alcohol-friendly fuel lines (and a gas tank coated to prevent rust) and you’re good to go.

Speaking of which . . .

Another criteria that’s important to consider is a kick-starter.

It may become as hard to get batteries as it is likely to get expensive to get gas. A bike with a kick-starter can be started even if it has a dead battery, which could be very handy if you can’t replace (or charge) batteries. On the other hand, even if the bike you get hasn’t got a kick starter, it can be roll-started because – unlike most cars – it’s doable to push a bike to a hill.

You may also want to narrow your search to air-cooled bikes as these haven’t got radiators, hoses, thermostats or water pumps – fewer parts that might cause problems and fewer things to maintain, over time.

As long as you keep fresh oil in the air-cooled engine (buy extra now, so have it when) and keep the fins clean, it is unlikely to overheat – and it will always be easier to work on than a bike with a radiator/hoses and such to get your hands around, to get at what you need to get at.

The last thing to weigh-in on is that getting an Emergency Bike isn’t expensive. Used bikes are still very affordable, especially the older and more cosmetically challenged ones. A mechanically sound beater bike that would make a great Emergency Bike should not cost you more than $2,500 and if you buy before others start buying, you will probably be able to find one for a lot less than that. I stupidly sold my low-miles, 100 percent sound early 2000s dual-sport for $1,500 a couple of years ago.

I wish I had it back.

. . .

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29 COMMENTS

  1. An off road truck or bike would be great to escape into the wilderness as the government stops all movement and you are trapped in a box in a city, totally controlled. Something even better might be a 35 foot or larger sailboat to escape in,

  2. Hard to beat a DR650 Suzuki for a all around two wheeled mule. Carb, air cooled, 50-60 mpg, can run on a single track dirt trail, although it is not a KTM dirtbike, and has enough snuff to run on a freeway at 75- something the 250 class have a very hard time with. Can be factory lowered to a reasonable seat height, and accessories are virtually unlimited. They have been making the same model for 22 years, they just change paint color- probably why a new one can still be had with a carb.
    Perfect compliment to a ZRX1200……….

  3. I’d love to ride, but my families got no luck on 2 wheels, save my one cousin, while my other has been paralyzed since ’99 (33 first cousins)

    Should I risk it and get something like this anyway? I live in the safer part of Dirty Jerzy, no Blue Hairs who can barely see past the wheel of their lesabre’s (That’s toms river)

    • Hi Zane,

      I recommend you do – ideally, a dual sport or adventure touring bike as these are the most versatile and rugged and generally get great gas mileage, too. A buddy of mine has a Kaw Versys which I have ridden a few times; it’s a fantastic bike!

      • Remember you recommending it.

        I’d love a Vrod like bike one day for fun, but for now, I’ll start with the adventure touring.

        Just gotta avoid riding like an idiot, remembering I’m not invincible and remembering that I’m essentially invisible to the dazed and jabbed clover who thinks speed limits are to be obeyed and then some.

        Next year, signing up for courses

    • If its an emergency bike, you dont have to ride it a whole lot right now. You presumably would wait till gas gets prohibitively expensive, at which point most cars will be off the road. In the event of high inflation, those SS checks arent going to cover aimless traveling, and some say covid19 is killing geezers at an alarming rate.

  4. Geebus Herr Peters
    I’m glad Dominicans don’t get English!
    All my Caracas squeeze does is bitch about Motoconchos down here. I get the point about fast ,maneuverable and independent…but the aholes down here need to learn basic road rules….And they are a tad too Libertarian driving wise.
    Would love to contribute to a dying breed but the..No Clovers sticker is useless.

    Reformat to life down here and your “in like Flint “!
    Suggested bumper stickers…….

    Hey Asshole this is a two lane road NOT A FIVE LANE ROAD SHITSTICK … or perhaps keep em guessing with a BEWARE SOUTH AFRICAN EQUIPPED FLAME THROWER ON BOARD!
    I’m into the Gray Man thing and a Dihatsu Hijet 4 wheel drive with 23 inch tyres is my choice……..But the driver wants a “Deuce and a half to “Clear the way to market day”..So to Speak .

    Any suggestions as to a compromise?

    Just asking

    • BTW
      Blowing off to Town called Gaspar Hernandez on the morrow. The route travels east from Santiago then turns north to reach the coastal township.
      The route skirts the edge of a break in the mountains and is “Mega Ag”….i.e grow enough stuff for export and then some. The place is still undeveloped ( how the F do you know ?)

      Simple ……..the roads are sub-par thus fertile hunting grounds.
      We are trolling for dudes that wear thatched white “Cowboyesque” hats clad in near knee high rubber boots and carry a “6 ft long cattle switch “
      Primo hunting ground…will sitrep after exposure 👌

  5. ‘So things are bad? Well then, let them get even worse!’ — Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes From Underground

    Case in point:

    ‘Europe’s power crunch is roiling energy markets Wednesday as Dutch and U.K. natural gas futures jumped 60% in just two days, hitting record highs along with soaring power prices.

    ‘Front-month Dutch natgas futures rose an astonishing 40% today to a record 162.125 euros per megawatt-hour after a 20% move higher on Tuesday. U.K. natgas futures surged 39% today, hitting 40 dollars.

    ‘For context, the EU NatGas prices are equivalent to $250/barrel oil’ — ZH

    Economies are resilient. But shocks this sharp will break things … big things.

    Who knew keystroke kurrency ‘free money’ would be this damned expensive?

  6. Former Ford dealer Wolf Richter writes:

    ‘The industry-standard Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR) of vehicle sales plunged for the fifth month in a row, by 29% year-over-year, to 12.2 million units SAAR, the lowest (outside of the two lockdown months) since June 2011, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

    ‘GM’s average transaction price (ATP) was $47,467 during the third quarter, up by 20% from $39,389 in Q3 last year – a sign that there is significant demand at those ridiculous price levels, given the inventory shortage.’ — wolfstreet.com. Shocking chart:

    https://tinyurl.com/4uwacfkn

    If the chip shortage is succeeded by a fuel shortage, then by an artificially-induced IC engine shortage, the 18 million SAAR record in March 2021 will never return.

  7. For me, it’s more than just commuting from out in the country to go to work. Since I shop and deliver groceries for a living, driving *is* my work. If gas gets as high as it potentially could, then I’d either have to quit doing that, or take only the larger orders with less driving involved.

    Hmmm… Time for me to consider that motorcycle license. You know, with a trailer and some saddle bags, it would even be do-able to still shop for people as long as I took smaller orders. Something to think about.

  8. Eric- if you are in the rural woods, look up “Snowdog.” It is a single cylinder air cooled tracked mule that pulls over 1000 lbs on a trailer/sled you sit or stand on, and it fits in the back of your pickup. These machines are popular in super remote Siberia now sold in canada and can be used summer or winter in all terrain including deep bogs. The russians have many brands, but if I was in the woods, I would totally get one since they are fairly cheap as well.

    On bikes, Magnetos are a good but expensive option to ditch the battery as well. A (last gen) harley sportster can be converted to dual sport use, and i know they have kit magnetos you can mount as well as kick starters, and then you can nix the battery as well. It is more expensive, but the advantage is in parts availability nation wide which is not the case with a lot of other bikes. On the other hand, hondas tend to not break down and the KLR and DR are both great bikes as well. I would say go with a 4 stroke though….just so you don’t need to mix fuel oil and quietness can be an advantage.
    To go classic, a honda trail 90, or any of the old 90cc honda singles should be able to hit over 100mpg with careful riding.

  9. Eric, while I agree with you in principle that carb and air cooled bikes are the most repairable, I just had to add my experiences with injected bikes over around 15+ years.
    Assuming a name brand, I have owned many from dirt to street, countless thousands of miles from easy street to dirt pounding, mud covering everything. Have never had a failure, and I’ve expected some.
    Check that, one failure, but it wasn’t the fault of the injected system, just a hose split from the pump to the injector, which left me because the hose was in the tank. But once I found the culprit, easy fix. I am very surprised I have not had a fuel pump failure yet. I guess I will now that I’ve said it, haha..
    I also have never had a computer (ECU?) failure on any name brand motorcycles, and I think they’ve been on most bikes for over 30 years?
    I agree on the air vs radiator bikes though for overall reliability. They can suffer crash damage and it is almost never repairable in the field. These failures have left me on occasion, but that is also abusing said machines racing in the woods.

  10. Eric,

    For batteries, I’d recommend an AGM type battery. It works like a lead-acid battery, but instead of using water, it uses a gel. They hold their charge really well; you can let your bike sit for months, yet the AGM battery still hold a charge. I know, because I let my scooters sit for MONTHS, yet they still cranked over. AGM batteries are great! You can get a drop-in replacement for the OEM battery and be all set. I got mine from a local Batteries +. Hope this helps…

    • AGM type battery = have to get a new charger/starter/trickle.

      I haven’t read enough about it tho.

      I’m going to have to get some batteries for my sump pump in the bsmt., fumes in the house are a consideration I have yet to resolve.

      • An AGM battery is the same as your lead-acid battery; the only difference is that it uses a chemical gel, not water. It can use the same charger; it’ll work on your bike just fine. Unlike your regular lead-acid battery, the AGM will hold a charge for MONTHS! I know, because mine did. I let both of my scooters sit for months, and I never needed to charge them. AGM batteries, while more expensive than a OEM battery, is a lot less than a Li-Ion unit.

        • RE: AGM – “It can use the same charger”

          Then why do some starter/chargers have switches labeled for AGM vs. lead acid sealed?

          Is it just a gimmick on the part of the starter/charger companies?

          From mkbattery:
          “it’s important not to use an old charger specially formulated only to suit the needs of wet cell batteries if you have a VRLA battery.”

          This was interesting: “Our MK Battery products have some of the lowest resting discharge rates in the industry, making trickle chargers obsolete.”

          I don’t know what this means, from expertpickhub:

          “the most dangerous property of AGM batteries – the tendency to get into thermal dispersion mode.”

          Then there’s this from the same source:

          “Batteries with an absorbent glass mat should be charged in special conditions and with suitable chargers. Under no circumstances, shall your vehicle be started from another car.”

          And, this:

          “In addition to conventional charge control methods:

          do not allow the voltage to exceed 14.4 Volts
          do not allow the charge currents to rise above 1/10 of the nominal battery capacity
          closely monitor the temperature”

          That’s just the first few in a search … I need to spend some more time reading about batteries!

          • All I know is that AGM batteries held their charge, and that they worked fine with my scooters’ charging systems. One of my scooters was a 2004 Honda Helix, which was before AGM batteries were available for bikes and scooters. I never HAD to put a Battery Tender or charger on them; they held their charge that long and that well! I could let ’em sit for weeks or months downstairs, yet they’d still start when there was a warm enough day for a ride.

            As for charging them initially, I don’t know about that. The local Batteries Plus took care of that, so it was ready to go when I picked it up. As I said above, an occasional ride every month or so was more than enough to keep ’em topped off… 🙂

            • I didn’t mean the charging system in the bike. I meant devices such as trickle chargers used to keep them charged in the off-season when not being used. Here, that’s often from Oct. or Nov. through to April or May.
              Or, for jump starting.
              If an AGM can go six months without being maintained by a trickle charger, I would be impressed.

              I’m also wondering how – & if – I can use an AGM battery with a backup sump pump connected to a trickle charger and/or solar charger. It’s on my list of things to learn.

              • I never went 6 months without starting my scooters, but I routinely let ’em sit 2-3 months. Even without being on a trickle charger or Battery Tender, they’d fire right up. All I know is that AGM batteries are far better than those that require water.

  11. ‘years of rebuilding after an economic collapse preceded by months of upward-percolating fuel prices’ — eric

    Starting last year, mass distributions of free ‘keystroke kurrency’ created trillions of thin-air purchasing power, with no corresponding increase in production.

    Now the chickens have come home to roost: a global economy plagued by shortages — container ships; port capacity; truck drivers; food production and delivery.

    But the Big Kahuna is energy. Climate-change saboteurs actively attacking oil & gas production, and shutting down fossil-fuel power plants, could be as deadly to millions as Stalin’s collective farms. Kill production; people die.

    ‘European natural gas contracts soared on Tuesday to an unprecedented 111.70 euros per megawatt-hour, compared with 15.49 euros in February. The continent is bracing for a winter crunch in energy supply, with German front-month power contracts also jumping to record levels.’ — ZH Chart — this is gonna leave a mark:

    https://tinyurl.com/3rrp9496

    Every sufficiently severe energy shock FRIES the global economy. Purblind charlatans like FJB and his free-money lieutenants, Powell and Yellen, shit the bed, big-time. So did the madmen across the water.

    A specter is haunting Europe.

    • West Texas Intermediate crude oil busted out past $79 a barrel at mid-morning.

      Its record high in July 2008 was $147 a barrel — easily doable this winter.

      But with tens of trillions of keystroke kurrency issued in the past 13 years sloshing around, oil could double its old high and lunge for $300 a barrel, in the worst case.

      FJB had better check his White House closet to see whether Jimmy Carter’s old cardigan sweater is still in there.

  12. Good point about making alcohol. There are lots of brewpubs around, and quite a number of distilleries too. If worst comes to worst it might be worth it to get to know some of these local entrepreneurs. Laws covering home distillation seem pretty strict, so probably don’t want to use wood fires for boiling up the mash so you don’t draw attention. Since you’re not too particular about flavor you might want to use something a little more industrial anyway.

    https://boozemakers.com/home-distilling-laws-by-state/

    • A diesel is more flexible, it will run on cooking oil, some people were mixing 50% used engine oil (filtered first), on the older mechanical injector engines there is no computer at all, will run with a dead battery. There was several diesel motorcycles.

  13. A dirt bike is now a survival tool, whoddathunkit?

    Survival can be fun, not a burden. Voluntary adversity has its benefits. You can still jump in the river and get clean one way or another.

    It is not the end of America, that can’t happen anywhere at anytime in anyway. However, it is definitely the end of the Democrats and their unruly rule.

    Stick a fork in them, they’re done. They cannot survive, it is the end for the ignorant swines that they are.

    Just who in the hell do they think they are?

    Spartacus Letter

  14. When I was about 10 yrs. old, just for fun, I spent some parts of Winters driving an enduro through the snow. No heated grips & no heated helmets like the snowmobile guys have these days.

    I’ve seen guys put spikes on their tires & race in circles on the frozen backwaters of the Mississippi.

    I still remember being 20 yrs. old, totally underdressed, & freezing my shivering butt off while riding on a hyway in Winter to get to work when my car wouldn’t start.
    I would not Like riding to work in the Wintertime, nowadays. Yet, it’s probably better than what some alternatives you mentioned in the article. I may have to compromise & get a donkey? Or, find a deal for both?

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