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What’s Your End of the World Bike?

By Kevin Novello
I met an interesting fellow while on a stay in Maryland a few weeks back. He was a site supervisor that I got know fairly well one afternoon while waiting for equipment to be delivered. It turns out that he is part of a “preparedness movement”, which means he is preparing to deal with various world ending scenarios. In his back seat was something called “get home bag” that was filled with various survival supplies intended to help get him home in case a world ending event should occur while he was traveling.
One of his main concerns is an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) caused by a nuclear weapon detonated high in the atmosphere. The energy from the blast will apparently overload electrical circuitry over a wide area, up to and including the circuitry in his computerized vehicle. His plan for when (not if!) this happens is to walk 350 miles home, through the woods whenever possible, using the survival equipment in his back pack. He will eat berries and trap game. He then pulled out a map with a highlighted route, most of which was off-road and included some trails. I always enjoy a trip to bizzaro-land but this was rapidly encroaching on the lunatic fringe, which is generally my cut-off point for conversations with strangers.
He then asked me what my plan was for getting home. “Well,” I said, “right now it’s to shoot you, take your backpack and steal a motorcycle.” Mentioning a motorcycle piqued his interest: he had been thinking about buying one and keeping the electrical equipment in an EMP-proof box (seriously). He then asked what I would recommend he get for a bike. And that’s what kept me from spending the rest of the afternoon hiding in the woods.
First, a little about our paranoid subject: a young 30-something, 5’6″, 120-pound weakling, virgin (educated guess), online gamer for sure, probable internet stalker, bright (or just an over-educated egghead), no previous motorcycle experience, negligible mechanical skills. His requirement was that the electrical components needed to be simple to remove and re-install. He needs a “ninja-quiet bike,” no pre-mix, and it’s got to be reliable and easy to ride. Oh, and he’s got a budget of 3k and not afraid to use a portion to fix something up.
We spent the next hour distilling what the best bike would be for his cross-country trek home. So what did we arrive at? A mid-80’s Honda XR 200. Why a mid-80’s XR? In part because I am sentimental about this line, but mostly because I am playing his life, not mine. The mid 80’s XR line were fine machines; whisper quiet, torquey, plush suspension, easy to ride, less complex than a modern-day four-stroke, big fuel tanks with a reliable motor and super-comfortable seat. The lower displacement XR models from the 1990s and 2000’s devolved into foo-foo machines worthy of having pink tassels dangling from the end of each handlebar, the sort of bike that would only encourage an attack in his fantastical, lawless society. A refurbished 80’s Honda XR, however, has a cool factor that says, “I’ve got skills, I know what I’m doing – now piss off before you become a causality of my awesomeness.” Even a twerp like our paranoid subject could handle one, with a little practice.
Delighted with this discovery, his new mission was to buy one, fix it, spray paint it black, and add detachable pistol mounts to the handlebars. “Wait, did you say spray paint it black?” I asked, incredulously. “Yes, it’s got to be camouflaged.” I spent the rest of our time together trying to convince him that a 1980’s Maico 500 was a far better bike for him and that an XR didn’t have the steering stability to handle pistol fire like that. It’s just wrong to defile an 80’s Honda XR like that, end of the world or not. And anyone that would, deserves a Maico 500 as their end of the world bike.