How to Choose the Best Bug-Out Motorcycle

If you’ve been prepping for any amount of time at all you’ve probably already done some thinking about your choice of bug out vehicle. There are a wide variety of choices and when it comes down to it, the bug out vehicle you choose is a matter of personal preference. You know your situation, your skill level, and your needs better than anyone else.

If you haven’t yet considered a motorcycle as your main bug out vehicle or at least as back-up transportation in a SHTF scenario, you may want to give them a chance. This is especially true if you’re already an experienced rider. First, let’s lay out several reasons why a motorcycle might be the best bug out vehicle for you and in what ways you can modify it to keep things rolling during a bug out trip. Then we’ll give our top recommendations for your consideration.

Gas Mileage

Although the gas tank on the average motorcycle is smaller than that of a car, SUV, or truck, a motorcycle gets gas mileage of between 50-75 mpg, almost double that of any other vehicle on the market. With a full tank and up to four 1-gallon tanks of properly stored gas as part of your bug out gear, you now have the ability to travel over 400 miles without needing a gas station. In a post-SHTF situation gas station lines will be hours long and stopping at a gas station could even mean risking your life. The ability to store and carry enough gas to get you from home to your BOL is a huge benefit.

Storage

If you need to carry a ton of gear and food on your bug out trip, the limited storage of a motorcycle is a disadvantage. But believe it or not, most motorcycles can be modified to include additional storage capacity with limited impact on handling and maneuverability. Simply adding a set of Cordura saddlebags or some panniers to a bike can significantly increase storage capacity. And most in most cases you can find room to strap at least two 1-gallon fuel tanks and sometimes even four. For more information on all of these accessories and more visit BikeBandit.com.

Easier to Repair

In the grand scheme of vehicles, with some advanced know-how and some basic tools, motorcycles are easier to repair than other vehicles. Any bug out vehicle could break down on the road, leaving you stranded in the open and vulnerable to whoever happens to come along. When your motorcycle breaks down, though, you can also push it off the road to a more secluded spot to do repairs or even camouflage it while you head out on foot to scavenge parts.

In addition, breakdowns will be less likely and will be easier and faster to repair than a car or truck in most cases. Even the engine and transmission are lightweight and don’t require lifting equipment if a replacement is needed like a car or truck.

Versatility

Even if you don’t decide to use a motorcycle as your main bug out vehicle, it can be a great option to use to scout ahead of the family BOV for any obstructions or marauders waiting in ambush.

A motorcycle is easier to navigate through jammed highways and roadways than a car. Imagine the benefits of being able to buzz past all that stopped traffic using the road shoulder. And with a motorcycle, you’ll find it much easier to weave in and out of piles of debris following a natural disaster. Even if others spot you, they won’t be able to follow in their car or catch you on foot.

When outfitted with proper tires, a motorcycle can have significantly more off-road capability than a car or even a truck. In fact, many of the dual sport motorcycles we recommend below are designed to be street legal but with some off-road capabilities. If you know your bug out route or your alternate route could mean riding over some rough terrain, you’ll definitely want to consider a motorcycle.

Protection Modifications

The standard motorcycle wasn’t exactly made to serve as your bug out vehicle so there are some motorcycle upgrades that you may want to make right off the bat that will customize your motorcycle to your needs and the environment. From a prepper perspective, to use a motorcycle as a bug out vehicle, also consider:

  • Flat-proofing your tires to make them more puncture resistant when riding over debris and other sharp objects.
  • Getting a professional suspension set up to correctly balance the ration of the bike to rider weight to improving handling and safety.
  • Adding case guards to protect brake and shift levers from getting jammed with sticks or other debris you may need to drive over or through.
  • Wearing waterproof (not water resistant) rider protection including armor plates for shins and knees, guards for arms and elbows as well as chest protectors, a good quality helmet, sturdy gloves, and a good pair of steel-toed
  • Installing a higher quality windshield that provides more protection from flying or falling debris.

So now that you’re more familiar with the modifications that can be made, the obvious category of motorcycle to consider is the Dual Sport Motorcycle. It’s designed to function for street legal and off road riding. Capable of taking you just about anywhere regardless of road conditions and although the gas tank is smaller than a car, most dual sport bikes boast gas mileage of between 50-75 mpg, better than any car!

Prepper-approved Motorcycles to Consider as Your Bug-Out Vehicle

Suzuki DR200SE

Weighing in at just 278 pounds, with a 199cc, four-stroke engine and fuel tank capacity of 3.4 gallons, this bike boasts 68 mpg on a good ride, that’s just over 200 miles on one tank and farther if you strap on a few extra fuel cans. Typically priced at just over $4,000 new, it’s a good value for the money.

BMW F800 GS Adventure

The new generation of Enduro bikes, German manufactured complete with four-stroke parallel twin engine by MBW Motorrad. It’s a heavier bike weighing in at nearly 470 pounds which means slightly lower gas mileage of about 48.1 mpg. The onboard fuel tank has a 4.2-gallon capacity or the Adventure model comes with a larger 6.3-gallon tank.

Yamaha TW-200

Another 278-pound bike, with a four-stroke 196cc engine. Priced at just over $4,500, the gas tank capacity on this bike is only 1.8 gallons but it claims amazing gas mileage of nearly 80 mpg which means with an extra four 1-gallon cans strapped to the bike you can get just over 450 miles without the need to stop at a gas station. With the addition of aftermarket panniers for storage, the Yamaha makes a decent BOV for one person.

Kawasaki KLR 650

Although taller and heavier than some other bikes, the Kawasaki KLR 650 can carry up 500 pounds and still do 70 mph. It has an air compressor on board and comes with tire repair kits and tools. Parts are easily accessible and repairs are relatively simple. The KLR 650 has decent ground clearance, requires minimal maintenance, and has been known to traverse a stream in water that nearly reached the seat.

Gas mileage is on the low side but still a respectable 40 mpg giving you a range of nearly 300 miles from just the built-in tank. If you get the USMC diesel powered version, gas mileage increases to 96 mpg and will take you over 650 miles on just the fuel in the tank! It’s also fairly quiet with just the stock muffler, something that is quite the advantage post-SHTF.

Honda CRF250L

For those more experienced riders or those looking for more power, the Honda CRF250L has a 249cc four-stroke engine and weighs in at a heavier 320 pounds. It’s priced at just under $5,000 with a 2- gallon capacity tank. The gas mileage of the Honda CRF250L is 73 mpg which means with the addition of four 1-gallon gas packs, it will eat up just over 400 miles, no gas station needed.

BMW R 1200 GS

Comes standard with a 110 hp engine and nearly 9-gallon gas tank. A respectable 51 mpg means a range of over 400 miles on just one tank of gas. Extremely capable in off-road terrain due to the suspension system. Can carry up to 480 pounds which means plenty of capacity for gear and extra fuel.

Honda XL125 Varadero

Weighing in at just over 300 pounds, this four-stroke 125 has plenty of big bike feel. The standard tank will take you just under 300 miles without needing to refuel. The suspension system makes it a great option for heavier riders. Riders rave about its build quality and comfortable ride which makes it a great option if you know your bug out trip will be on the longer side. The Varadero is priced higher than others in its class but it’s a great option for new riders if your budget allows.

Kawasaki KLX-250s

Priced just over $5,000, this Kawasaki model comes with a 249cc four-stroke engine and gas tank capacity of 2-gallons. The standard bike weighs in just shy of 300 pounds and boasts a far from shameful 70 mpg which means if you carry enough fuel in reserve, you can ride more than 400 miles without risking a gas station fill-up.

Ural Sportsman

For those who need a little more storage capacity or room for an extra passenger, and have the budget available, consider the Ural Sportsman with sidecar. It means giving up a little of the versatility of other bikes as the Ural needs a wider berth to accommodate the sidecar but the 2-wheel drive and third wheel allow the Ural to hold its own on rough terrain.

Gas mileage is 31-37 mpg, about the same as a newer car, but with 5-gallon tank capacity, you’ll have a range of 150-185 miles without refueling, more if you carry reserve fuel. It pushes through mud, deep sand, and up steep rock-covered hills that can slow other bikes down. It moves quickly over rutted, forest service roads.

Suzuki DR650

A classic bike comparable to the Kawasaki KLR650, the Suzuki DR650 can be modified to work well as a bug out motorcycle. It has a narrower frame and is almost 50 pounds lighter than the KLR which means it handles rough trails better and can go places the KLR can’t go. It’s also easier to maintain than the KLR650, valve adjustments can be made with basic hand tools. Standard tank capacity is 3.4 gallons and gas mileage is a respectable 51 mpg.

The motorcycle you choose as the best bug out vehicle will greatly depend on what type of transportation you need. Those looking for primary transportation in a bug out situation may choose a different bike than someone who only needs a bike for scouting or supply run transportation. No matter which motorcycle you select, make sure you research the options for modifying the motorcycle to make safer and the most reliable so you can count on it when you need it most.

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About Megan Stewart

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Born and raised in NE Ohio, with early memories that include grandpa teaching her to bait a hook and watching her mom, aunts, and grandmothers garden, sew, and can food, Megan is a true farm girl at heart. For Megan, the 2003 blackout, the events of 911, and the increasing frequency of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, spurred a desire to be more prepared for whatever may come along. Soon to be living off-grid, this mother of four and grandmother of six grandsons, is learning everything she can about preparedness, basic survival, and self-sufficient homesteading. She is passionate about sharing that knowledge so that others can be increasingly prepared to protect their families.

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