Tuesday, October 4, 2011

human powered vehicle redux # 1 - reposting and mixing up...

i originally wrote the following post for the Nova Scotia Preppers Network. times and location have changed, but my heart will always live there... i am putting the post in italics, verbatim as i wrote it in the spring of 2009 - i was walking to work then, but had comuuted 10-13 km (6-8 miles) everyday for 10 years prior. my contract changed soon after this was posted and i was eventually biking 24 km (14 miles) each way until we left ( i did cheat from time to time and use my 49 cc scooter, @ 45 years old you sometimes have to cut corners ;-) here goes..

"We live in the city. We have made a conscious decision NOT to own a car. This poses some challenges in terms of getting supplies and transportation. I am lucky in that I work 2 miles from where I live. I walk to and from work every day, no matter what the weather (and we get some harsh weather here in Ottawa!). When I worked 8 miles from home, I used a bicycle, the ultimate human-powered vehicle, to travel to and from work. I bike in all weather including rain, sleet, slush and snow and temperatures as low as -35C!

I also use my bicycle to get all of our groceries, supplies, preps, etc. I can carry a lot of weight on my bicycle – up to 100lbs. And if there is ever a long-lasting natural disaster, crisis, emergency or SHTF – let me warn you now, you can only stockpile so much gasoline. In the event of serious SHTF – the gasoline will at some point run out. Horses or any other pack animal might come in handy at that point, but you still have to be able to feed those animals and you must keep them healthy. In short, whether your vehicle is gas-powered or oat-powered, you are still going to have the additional worry of feeding your vehicle.

So here are some of the major advantages to using a bicycle that you probably already know:

1. No need for gasoline as you are the engine. This eliminates a major worry. For fuel all you need is: 1 potatoe, 1 carrot, a few bites of jerky and a cup of water = 1 hour of operation. You “grow your own” gasoline so to speak!

2. Minimal physical impact on the body – a bicycle is easy on your joints, limbs, tendons etc. You can ride a bicycle into and throughout old age - this is important for sustainability of operation.

3. Great low-level exercise for your heart – cycling keeps you healthy whether you are reaching a destination or gathering supplies. This gives you a “2 in one”. I am a 43-year old man, in great shape and I don’t go to a gym. I will be useful to my family for many years to come.

4. No electronics are required. Like gasoline, a major worry eliminated. You DO need batteries for lights during night-riding which I urge anyone to have who rides a bicycle at night, BUT, lights are not required for operation. No matter how old your gasoline-powered vehicle is, you will still need to replace a spark plug at some point.

5. Easy DIY mechanics; fixing and maintaining a bicycle is relatively easy, and a complete toolkit is minimal in size and weight. No power tools necessary.

Now, here is what you might not know about Human-powered Vehicles – the stuff you can really sink your teeth into:

1. Properly outfitted, it is easy to carry 100 lbs on a bicycle. I mean easy. So long as you have the same amount of weight on each side, you can load it up and once you are moving forward, you are good to go. Unlike back-packing where you are providing the motor AND holding the weight of your load off the ground, when you are cycling, the bicycle is holding the weight; you are only required to keep it moving. And trust me; there is no more efficient method of transportation for an individual human being than a bicycle. There just isn’t.

2. With good knobby tires, cross country travel on dirt, gravel, mud, slush, even on packed snow and ice - it is surprisingly easy to ride a bicycle. On flat pavement with slick tires, 15-20 miles an hour is not hard to maintain EVEN WITH 100lbs strapped to the bicycle. I have hauled lumber, fencing, insulation, garbage cans filled with soil, large rocks (for a rock wall in the garden) and firewood… everything short of major appliances!!

. With a little practice, you can pace yourself to travel 6-8 hours in a day without ever coming close to exhaustion. If you have a 20 mile round trip, you can do it in a morning. If you need to flee, you can be 200 miles away in two days, 1 day if you really push it…pull over into the bushes and you have disappeared. It’s much easier to camouflage a bicycle than it is to camouflage a car or horse!

4. You can build and attach all kinds of racks, saddle bags, carts, trailers, etc. that will accommodate camping gear, hunting and fishing supplies, water jugs, hand tools, survival gear, etc.

If you learn to rely on a bicycle, you will get a fantastic return on investment. A great all-purpose brand new bicycle (that isn’t a vanity purchase for an idiot with too much money) costs the equivalent of 1 to 3 months car INSURANCE ALONE, about $350.00US. Under HEAVY, DAILY use, a proper utility bike will last no less then 15 years. Parts will wear out to be sure, but not that many and they don’t cost a lot to replace.

I hope that this post is useful to both city and country preppers and I hope that this post makes people think differently about the usefulness of bicycles."

you may be skeptical, but i have pushed the limits of what a bicycle can do and no vehicle is as versatile. i have a big f150 4x4 now which is vital to us... BUT... if there is no more gasoline, i will be one of the few who has an alternative. here is proof: 10 k (6 mile) winter commute each way - january 2010, -20 c (-2 f)...

2009 christmas dinner fixin's arrive @ 804 wakley road...

for a while i worked at a facility and it was 13 km (8 miles) from home, i rode this setup to and from work, 25 mins each way:

oh.... i forgot... i made a trailer, another old 2009 spring post from the Nova Scotia Preppers Network ...here is another long verbatum post - with pics!!! ;-)

"This is going to be a long post, mostly because of the pictures, but a picture is worth a 1000 words, so if I wrote it out, it could be even longer ;-) So before anything else, here is a BIG shout-out to my wife, Kymber, for taking all the pics – I love you babe! If you missed my earlier posts on Human Powered Vehicles, they might provide some background and btw - I am a bike nut: I bike everywhere and I can carry a TON of stuff in my saddle bags. The other day I came home with: 28 kgs (61 lbs) of rice 18 kgs (39 lbs) of beans 6 kgs (13 lbs) of sugar 3 kgs (7 lbs) of chicken I hauled 120 lbs of food, plus myself on this - I call it "the monster":

However, there are certain items that don’t fit so easily on a rack or in saddle bags. I had read about DIY bike trailers so this spring I decided to build one out of scrap. The first thing I did was decide what to make it out of and how. I spent a lot of time on the internet and pulled ideas from a dozen different sites and put together a plan of my own. Here are pictures of the materials i planned on using:

The red bike that you see there is my winter bike that has tiny spikes on the tires which I use in the ice snow and bitter cold…I needed to “borrow” the front wheel and put a summer tire on it and add it to another front wheel from another old bike. The rest is scrap wood and metal I’ve had lying around in the garage and basement, a good deal of it came from garbage picking. I wanted to have a bullet proof frame, so I used 2x4s for the base. I used 2 old pressboard shelves for the wheel well covers and an old table top I got in the garbage for the platform. From all that crap, I built this tank of a cart!

The integral part was the wheels. I chose mountain bike wheels because there is a lot more “roll-over” capability with lager diameter than there is with casters or smaller trolley wheels. Additionally, mountain bike wheels are incredibly strong. A lot of plans I ran across suggested welding wheels to an axle, but I decided against this for a few reasons. First off, it would ruin the wheel. Secondly, it would be much more difficult to change the tube if there was a flat and, third, I don’t wave a welder.

This decision led to the only failure in my cart building, the brackets to hold the wheels. I tried sawing electrical outlet receptacles in half, getting my inspiration from one of the plans I found. These halves were punched out and screwed to the bottom of the frame. As it turned out, it was hard to seat the wheels AND they would slip out of anchor under load and wobble.

About a week after I realized (read..Kymber noticed ;-) the crappy anchors; I found an old metal bed frame in the garbage on the way home from the store. With a jigsaw and angle grinder, I made these new brackets – absolutely bullet proof!

I attached a U-bolt to the drop out on the rear wheel of the bike. For the trailer hitch I salvaged a fantastic steel bar from a restaurant's dumpster that I bent on the vise of my work bench, nearly destroying the bench in the process. I drilled holes in the bar, attached it to one side of the cart's frame and finally…HOOKED IT UP TO THE BIKE!

I needed a test - a true proof of concept. Kymber is a tire gardening fanatic and last year we had to hire a local with a truck to help us get free tires from a garage down the street. We need more tires this year…so, off I go:

And here is the successful result!!!

The next load was 5 tires. I am pretty pleased! I’ve since had a couple of garbage-day runs that netted a bunch of free flower pots, more wood, free soil and some food-grade buckets. And just this weekend I hauled eight 20lb bags of soil home - twice! I WOULD suggest that if you want to start hauling heavy stuff home on your bike (groceries, preps, lumber, garbage, wood, soil, etc.), start with 2 saddle bags first, then 4, then a cart. The big challenge is counter balancing your goods on the sides and fore/aft on the trailer – it’s all about balance and I have lots of practice. With some practice any of you can do this too…in a bug out scenario, I could load the bags with supplies and put Kymber on the cart with the cats and yes, I could get us out of harm’s way under my own steam (although admittedly, very slowly ;-) So, if you have any questions about biking or saddle bags or building a bike trailer - leave a comment!

The bike trailer I built is fantastic!!! I can load it up with 150 lbs, no problem - it has been to Home Depot, Canadian Tire, the grocery store etc.

As I am a scavenger at heart I decided to try using the cart for garbage picking; the low speed, agility and ease of "loading 'er up" make a bike with a trailer the perfect garbage picking vehicle!

For the most part I look for stuff like wood, plastic, metal etc. Using second-hand materials is a great was to save money because used materials can be as good as new materials. This frees up money for things like screws, nails, bolts, tape, etc. which, in my experience, work best when new.

Plus, I really believe that, as a society, we are conditioned to be too picky and as a result we waste too much. Every board that I re-purpose could be seen as a tree that doesn't get cut down.

Good for your health!

Good for the environment!

Good for your bank account!

Good luck!


Here are pics of some of the stuff i hauled - i used all of it, i built shelves, raised beds, storage canisters, trellises - etc. - notice all the plant pots - there is a way to save money.... seriously, i am now doing it here in framboise, we have 30 windows i got in people's garbage that we will cold-frame with.. NEVER overlook garbage day treasures - reduce, reuse, recycle = $$$$ for other things, plus it is great practice for the brain!!

anyway - the junk i got on the bike cart, enjoy!!

btw - i am serious, i could go back to the bike if i had too, if SHTF, i would be the most sought-after delivery service money, er bullets and coffee, could buy - cheers!!!


  1. kymber here to say that - you wouldn't believe the piles of crap that he brought home on that bike cart! piles and piles of stuff that we used and loved! and a lot of crap!

    he also brought home all of our supplies, groceries, wood, food stores - you name it - he brought it home for several years! on his bike!

    now we have a truck - we need it living out in the bahoonies where our major road is a pot-holed, crappy dirt road - but i sleep safely every night knowing that in the event of gasoline running out - my man will make it on his mountain bike into town for us and for our community!

    jambaloney is strong and works like a horse - but the idea that he can keep us and our community safe by being able to ride the distance to town - OR THE MAINLAND - on his mountain bike - makes me as proud as any proud woman ever lived.

    he is my rock. and i am his helpmate.

  2. Great post, Jamie!!! Kymber, you really lucked out...lol...he's a keeper!!

    I had trouble getting two men to attach a fire/smoke detector to the ceiling last week. LOL...It involved two screws, a ladder, and a drill. I ended up doing it myself after getting off from work.

    You are a very lucky woman to have a man that you do not always and forever have to be the strong one for. Many hugs to you both!

  3. Oh...I almost forgot. I wish I lived in an area that was safe for bike riding. Here you have to strap the bike to your car and drive somewhere where it is safe to drive it.

  4. Kymber and Jamb,

    As you (heaven forbid) get older and your strength diminishes you will find there are other alternatives.

    My own solution to the short hauls and running around the property when I had to have a bunch of tools or to haul something was to seek out a golf cart. Install solar panels on the roof, install an inverter so you can run small power tools, and you can do many chores.

    Got to run down to the post office (6 miles); go in the cart. Park in the sun and go about your business.

    Got chores around the homestead? Take the tools and the cart. Run a skilsaw, or any of the hand portable tools. I used the cart for power to build a bridge for people and animals over the creek.

    Time to cut firewood? Take an electric chainsaw and the cart. Nobody will even know how you cut up that cord of wood outside the neighbors house.

    Got rough ground? Install a lift kit for super ground clearance.

    Homesteading in my mind is blending old and new to live comfortably, not do everything the hard way. I think that is counter productive because the chore list never seems to grow smaller.


  5. That is truly impressive cargo to haul with a bike! It makes me want to get mine out and dust it off.

    I always like knowing I have backup options, even if I don't choose to use them everyday.

  6. Great articles, and great hauls! Any advice on where/what type of bike to buy for a 6' 14 yo boy? My son had just started riding his bike to town this summer, when he started telling me this is broke, that's not working, it won't switch gears... Up til now they've been yard sale bikes and walmart specials. I think he's ready for some quality. Me, I'm keeping my horse, lol.

  7. My parents are big bicyclists having ridden across the country five times already and I was once too before I was sidelined with a knee injury. Their trailer of choice these days is a B.O.B. which while much lighter, doesn't carry near the amount of gear by volume as yours does.

  8. I have thought about a trailer for my motorcycle, maybe I will build one for my bike. Good post.

  9. Lord, you must be in good shape. Good for you. I, ahem, ride my truck.

  10. I like that bike and trailer rig. Maybe a mountain bike would be a good investment. I had horses up here once but they were way too expensive to take care of, way too much trouble too they were always breaking out and heading off down the mountain. I have two 500 gallon above ground tanks for diesel, and a diesel truck but as you say in your post, fuel will run out at some point no matter how much you store.

  11. Thanks Tango!

    ottawa is one of the highest per-capita biking cities in canada. there are bike paths everywhere and a lot of the larger roads have bike lanes. i am sorry you don’t have good biking areas there.

    thanks for the kudos!


    i am a bit of a cave man. i do as much as i reasonably can with manpower. i haul dirt by wheelbarrow, logs on my shoulder and am wicked with a shovel. in the city i also walked long distances all the time. i love my canoe, i can paddle for hours. i am already feeling that 45 isn’t 25, but i am in great shape and plan to keep that way by making a conscious decision to do some things the “hard way”. i do have a chainsaw, an atv and a vast array of power tools. lots of jobs require machines, i didn’t build our deck with handsaws and hammers ;-)

    i left the cart in ottawa, i have all the raw materials here to build a stronger, larger capacity version which i will post - i’ll rig it so the atv can tow it too - i do see what you are saying, but i love hard work as well!

    thanks for coming by!


    thanks - i pushed that cart to the edge ;-) practice makes perfect , if you bike a couple of times a week, you will be ready if the need arises


    thanks! i would be happy to make a recommendation, i have a few questions, e-mail me: jambaloney@gmail.com



    Sorry about your knee, i have never done the long hauls like your parents - THAT is impressive! the BOB is well suited for long rides, great lightweight trailer! mine would be hell after 10k (6 miles) - more or a freight cart ;-)


    you could use the basic principal for a motorcycle, but i would suggest an all-steel welded frame and some sort of shock absorption for the wheels, this thing bounced like mad and i was never going more than 10-15 mph… you could probably also hitch such a trailer to your bike too. thanks for dropping in!!


    i am in pretty good shape. i’ll be honest.. all 4 bikes i brought with me have yet to be ridden here, been a zoo since we left the city…. cardio is a little off. however the manual labour that i’ve been doing since we got here is adequate compensation, muscles are toned ( and sore ;-) bikes will be are ready this spring, knobby tires for all (and the new trailer) !


    i have seen where you live - get a mountain bike. you don’t need a trailer, a rack andsaddlebags (or panniers) will do wonders. at a steady pace you can cover a lot of ground in a short period of time. it would be nothing to make a home made weapon holder that attached to the rack. i have put over 80 lbs in the back bags and on the back rack alone.

    i raced mountain bikes for a few years in my early 20s. the racecourses had single-track paths on them that no horse could travel.

    to anyone really thinking about it, i promise you there is no better bug-out vehicle if the only power at your disposal is your own.

  12. I loved riding my bike, even when pregnant, much to the consternation of my neighbors who called my doctor to tattle. He told me to keep riding. Unfortunately, my back needs surgery and so does one knee (torn meniscus), so I am wanting at 65 to take up riding again. I also want to be able to carry stuff on my bike. Really, I want a bike like I saw on a Honduran video--two bikes together with a seat between and a fringed, surrey top. No balancing required. I know that I can be strong again.

  13. Ha ha, I'm impressed with the bike and all the crap you managed to bring back for Kymber to enjoy! :D

  14. Inspiring!

    I keep hoping to find one of those tag-a-long kid haulers and convert it into a cargo trailer. You are so right on the money about a bicycle's value and capabilities.

    I finally hauled a bike up to the Yonderosa and it has really broadened my horizons. Very easy to cover a lot of ground and access areas that are closed to motor vehicles (gated logging roads). It also makes it easier to get to the lake. Rather than a few mile hike it's about 30 minutes up (over 1,000 feet of Elevation gain) and 10 minutes down.

  15. PP - i am glad that you enjoyed riding your bike - even while pregnant! i am sure that jambaloney will have some suggestions for you - bike riding is a really healthy way to exercise, enjoy the view and even pick up a few groceries and thereby saving on gas money. i'll have jambaloney leave some ideas here.

    Joey - ya he hauled alot of stuff home on that bike for years! and lots of it was for me - bahahahah!

    Mo - so nice to see you here - i have both of your blogs in the blogroll as we love the Yonderosa! and glad to hear that you are enjoying your biking at the Yonderosa. we need some new posts from you!

    thanks for stopping by everyone!

  16. Linda:

    a bike is excellent rehabilitation for your knee. the key is to ride in a low gear and spin rather than a high gear and push too hard with each pedal stroke. it will keep movement on the knee and prevent stiffening without and "load" on the joint, ligament etc. and you will get good, low impact exercise - do it! you can get a really good tricycle if you are worried about balance, e.g.:



    thanks! i wouldn’t say she enjoyed it all ;-))


    i would avoid the kid haulers for cargo – they are built pretty much for a child’s weight and that’s it – especially the wheels, which are typically have 4 plastic spokes on an axle. my design allows for the full weight to be supported on 2 hard-steel mountain bike axles. best bet - find a couple of junk mountain bikes in someone’s garbage and build your own. glad you are taking advantage of a bike @ Yonderosa!

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