The Best Motorcycle For Survival

I’ve ridden just about every type of motorcycle out there. Racing bikes, cruisers, sport bikes, dirt bikes; though they’re all motorcycles, they all have widely different uses and features. Some are fast, some are comfortable and some can get you through the woods.

But which is the best motorcycle for survival? For that matter, why would you WANT a motorcycle for survival?

This is a pretty subjective question because what type of bike you need to get you out of a SHTF situation depends on how you’re going to be using it. Though they all come on two wheels, all motorcycles are definitely not created equal. They do have several things in common, though.

Motorcycles are better on gas than most any car. The typical motorcycle will average about 40 miles to the gallon, with some reaching over 60. You have to consider, though, that most bikes only hold 2.5-3.5 gallons of fuel. That means that you can only go 120- 150 miles or so on a single tank.

Bikes also fit into spaces that you’d never get a car through.

If you’re sitting in grid-locked traffic trying to get out of Dodge, you’re pretty much stuck if you’re in a car.

On a motorcycle, however, you can cut straight up the middle or even use the sidewalks to get through the mess. Though I’d never recommend doing that on an average day, you can bet I’d do it in an emergency!

Finally, motorcycles are relatively easy to work on, especially if you have an older model. The motors are simple and as long as you keep them in good repair and don’t beat on them, they’ll run for practically forever. Now, which motorcycle is best for survival?

Like I said, it depends on your needs.

Escaping Through Traffic on Major Roadways

If your goal is to evacuate using major roads and you want to take a passenger and some luggage, I’d have to suggest a cruiser or a touring bike. They’re built for travelling and are typically a comfortable ride for both driver and passenger.

You can attach bags and a trunk to haul your essentials and can even use a small pull-behind trailer on many models that will still fit if you’re cutting through traffic, though that could be tricky. These bikes also typically have larger gas tanks so you can get a bit further away from ground zero.

HD road king

Touring bikes include such bikes as the Harley Davidson Road King, Heritage and Softail. Honda has the Gold Wing, the ST1300 and the Interstate. Suzuki has the Boulevard and Star (an offshoot of Yamaha) offers the Venture and the Stratoliner.

Used bikes are the way to go unless you want to spend around $20,000 or even more. Some of the higher-end touring bikes cost upwards of $40K. However, you can pick up a good used touring bike for around $7,000.

If you’re traveling light and want comfort AND a bit of speed, cruisers such as Sportsters, V-Stars or Vulcans are good bikes, too. Which one you choose depends upon your personal preference. This isn’t an inclusive list, either; there are a ton of really great cruisers out there. Check out dealer websites for more information. You can pick a really good used cruiser for around $4K.

If you want a fast, agile bike and comfort and cargo space aren’t important, consider a sport bike or a sport touring bike. Often referred to as crotch rockets, these bikes weigh very little and can get you wherever you want to go in a hurry as long as you’re on asphalt. They’re really not a great ride for a passenger, though.

These include the Suzuki GSXR, the Honda CBR and the Yamaha R-series and FZ-series bikes. They’re a blast to ride, too!

A good used sport bike can be had for around $2500 and even new you can get one for less than $10k

Escaping Through the Woods

If you’re escape plans involve traveling over the country side, the bikes that we’ve already discussed aren’t going to do you any good. They don’t have the suspension or the tires to cut it off-road. Rest easy, though. There are several good dirt bikes out there.

You may hear them referred to as motocross bikes as well, though the two aren’t exactly the same. There are some differences in suspension and weight in order to get the performance required of a motocross bike. Besides that, they serve the same function when it comes to your needs in a survival bike.

There’s also the enduro, which is a bike that goes between the street and the dirt. Some of them come with racks and saddle bags. Basically, they’re meant to be a combo bike that can be used for both street travel and off-roading. Personally, I prefer one or the other but there is a huge enduro following.

These bikes are meant to go off-road – thus the nickname “dirt bikes”! These really aren’t good for passengers and though you can trick them out with some bags, you’re not going to be able to carry much. Backpacks are your better bet for off-road motorcycles. They’re fast, agile and can hold their own across rough terrain.

Examples of good dirt bikes include the Honda CR and CRF, the Baja, the Yamaha YZ and the Kawasaki KX. You can pick one up used for around $3K.

honda crf

Motor sizes are going to differ widely across the different types of motorcycles. Cruisers and touring bikes range from around 883 cubic centimeters (cc’s) to as high as 2000 cc’s. These bikes are also much heavier, weighing in at between 800 and 1000 pounds.

Mainstream sport bikes come with motors as small as 250 cc’s (which we don’t recommend unless you’re extremely light) to as high as 1400 cc’s in the Kawasaki ZZR1400. Remember that these bikes typically don’t exceed 500 pounds so that’s a lot of power. Anywhere between 500 and 650 cc’s is more than enough power for the average person looking for a good motorcycle to use in a survival situation.

Dirt bikes have a much smaller engine but still have plenty of power because of the way that they’re built and the fact that the bikes weigh next to nothing. Anywhere from 250 cc’s to 400 cc’s provides plenty of power for the average adult.

Regardless of what type of motorcycle you decide to go with, remember that they are lethal machines if you don’t know what you’re doing. You should most certainly take a training course and always wear safety gear that includes a minimum of a helmet, long sleeves, long pants and boots. Most states require a motorcycle certification on your driver license if you’re going to ride it on the streets.

There are also age limitation laws in some areas so make sure that you know what those are. For a motorcycle license, the age is usually the same as it is for driver licensing in that state. For off-road vehicles, laws differ.

Regardless, teach your kids to use the bike responsibly. Though they are a ton of fun, they aren’t toys!

Motorcycles can be a great tool to include in your SHTF plans and we hope that the information we’ve provided here will help you choose the best motorcycle for your survival needs.

Written by

Theresa Crouse is a full-time writer currently living in central Florida. She was born and raised in the hills of West Virginia, where she learned to farm, hunt, fish, and live off the land from an early age. She prefers to live off the grid as much as possible and does her best to follow the “leave nothing behind but footprints” philosophy. For fun, she enjoys shooting, kayaking, tinkering on her car and motorcycle, and just about anything else that involves water, going fast, or the outdoors.

Latest comments
  • There has been a trend in the motorcycling world lately towards survival motorcycles actually.
    They are not called survival bikes, but adventure bikes. They are very capable machines that can go almost anywhere a dirt bike can.
    The adventure bikes also have the ability to carry lots of cargo. There are a few people out there who live off the back of their bike, camping anywhere they can and working odd jobs to pay for fuel.
    I know about these bikes because I have one. I bought a new BMW F650GS and I go everywhere with it.

    Great article by the way, keep up the good work.

  • Have to agree, adventure bikes are the way to go for SHTF. BMW’s 800GS gets good MPG and can pack a house on it, then take all the abuse along the way. I believe it has been replaced with a large displacement engine, though. 1200 or something of the same name.

  • One correction to what the article says. A street legal dirt bike is not called an enduro, it’s called a dual sport or dual purpose.

    There is an enduro class that falls between motorcross bikes and dual sport/dual purpose bikes, that IS called an enduro. Yes, an enduro has a headlight and usually has a tail/brake light. It might have a speedometer and odometer too. But a true enduro is NOT street legal from the factory.

    However, a dual sport/dual purpose IS street legal from the factory.

    The reason dual sport/dual purpose bikes are often called enduros comes from what they were typically called decades ago. But although the wrong usage for the name enduro lingers, that doesn’t mean that it’s the correct name now.