The wind in your hair and the ruins of a fallen society over your shoulder as you escape are great feelings. Plus the ability to navigate around traffic jams and obstacles in a way no powered vehicle can manage is a fantastic reason to have a bike. When you’re learning to prep, getting your body ready for emergencies is a huge part of it. Riding a bicycle is an all-inclusive way to help stay active.
If you live somewhere with hills or plan to travel at all, then having the right bike to tackle those obstacles is critical. So what kind of bike do you need for hills? It’s a tough question, but I’ve been riding for years, and I’m happy to share my expertise.
What Not to Do
When you first get the prepping bug, it’s easy to make rookie mistakes like running out and buying the first bicycle you like. More than just shopping for a reasonable price, you need to be savvy about the details. Learn the language as it were. Since I started prepping years ago, I’ve learned to read labels. Bikes don’t come with the same kind of labels as food. How do you know what’s right for your situation?
Don’t Grab a Cruiser
A comfy cruiser with a full seat and good storage space might seem like a solid choice. It can be, just not for hills. Despite the wide tires and pleasant ride these outstanding bikes can offer, they aren’t made for speed or hills.
People who ride cruisers generally tackle relatively flat terrain. Sitting upright with a wide arm position is more comfortable and natural. However, cruisers are meant for leisure, or in city cruising, hence the name.
Hybrids Are Okay
Picking up a hybrid, especially a lightweight foldable bike is not a terrible solution. The portability is second to none. Compromising a few details to get the best of two worlds can be a viable option. Just be careful if you’re going to go with this style.
Unless you’re a professional cyclist, a touring bike is probably the wrong choice. Sure they’re ultra-light, but they’re built to race, not climb hills. They’re geared differently and set up to give you the greatest speed with the least effort possible.
The name “Touring,” might make you think these are the right bike for going anywhere. You’d be right in a lot of ways. Touring bikes are meant for long journeys, and they can be ideal for prepping. Unfortunately, the question here is not about the overall choice of bikes for prepping; it’s about hills. Turing bikes handle hills well, but they aren’t the best there is.
Anyone who spends a lot of time on bikes can tell you. They often have a half dozen or more bikes in their garage. Bicycles are specialized for different uses. What a touring bike or cruiser handles easily, a bike built for mountains might have a tougher time taking on. The reverse is also true.
The way your gears are set up makes a huge difference. Though they’re less obvious than the tire thickness or the seat to handlebars ratio, gears are vital — more gears in general means a better ability to tackle changes in the incline wherever you ride.
No One To Blame
When it comes to tackling hills, a bike will only get you so far. The truth is that it’s all about body-training. If you aren’t in shape and ready for those hills, no bike, however useful it is, will get you to the top.
Build up your strength and stamina over time. You can do this with simple practice. Don’t be afraid to get off the bike and walk it up a hill if the incline is too steep the first few times. It’s far more essential to keep at it to build the muscles you need than it is to get things right on the first try.
Bike Training Schedule
First, get a helmet. I cannot possibly stress enough how vital this one piece of equipment is to your health, safety, and continued brain function. You don’t need to train like an Olympic athlete to get good at riding hills. However, you do need to practice regularly.
- Set a schedule, you can live with for riding. If you’re very out of shape, then start small, twice a week for half an hour while you build muscle is fine. Less than twice a week means you risk losing the progress you made while your muscles were sedentary.
- Build up your skill by increments. Don’t just try and tackle the infamously hilly San Francisco on your first day out. Find a place with some low hills and do your best. The muscle will come if you keep it up.
- As you get more confident and powerful take on some larger hills.
- Add a few minutes every week, or a more significant hill, but not both. Make sure you can handle the current level before you move up to the next part of your training.
Road Bike Vs. Mountain Bike & More
It may seem like the answer is obvious here, but you need a road bike or mountain bike for climbing. A mountain bike is indeed designed for tackling those hills. However, a road bike with it’s wider arm spread and is made for pavement. It all depends on what sort of hills you plan to cycle on.
Simply put, some people aren’t comfortable with the proportions of a mountain bike. In general, either type can be the right choice. Finding your comfort level is what you need to ascend to the next level.
When in Doubt
While you could use mountain bikes and road bikes for long term hill cycling plans, I’m going to suggest road bikes in general for most people. Because most people ride on paved areas, the advantages of a mountain bike are wasted tackling those smooth hills. A commuter bike, which is very similar to a road bike, can be substituted for better traction. However, you always have to make your own choices.
You may even decide to go with a hybrid bike. It’s okay to deviate from the norm. Just make sure you’re doing so for the right reasons. Don’t make lazy choices — plan to pick up more than one bike for your long term prepping needs. You’ll thank yourself for it later.
What works for most people doesn’t necessarily work best for everyone. If you have trouble handling the way a road bike rides, test out a mountain bike. Even if you only consider one style, try out different models. There’s more to a bike than color choice. Different companies and designs work better for different people.
Top Five Best Bikes For Climbing Hills
There are a million bikes out there to choose from. Narrowing it down is a hard decision when you’re just getting started. I’ve curated a list of the top five best bikes for handling those hills. It won’t be easy at first, but as you build up the skill and strength, you may find you enjoy cycling as much as I do.
1. Vilano R2 Commuter Aluminum Road Bike
Vilano made the top of this list because they produce outstanding bikes. When you want the total package, good value, a great product, and a fantastic reputation, Vilano is the way to go. The R2 Commuter will get you up hills and back home again with ease. This Florida based company creates some amazing bicycles, from commuters like this one to folding electric bikes.
As a bonus, the R2 happens to have an impressive paint scheme. Looking great at the end of the world isn’t a necessity, but it won’t hurt. The green and black makes this bike as fun to look at as it is to ride.
- A050 Thumb Shifters- Easy shifting with minimal hand movement helps you keep your bike on the road as you shift up and down hills.
- 21 Speed- “Speed,” on a bike isn’t the distance it travels in a given time. That part is up to you. The speed indicates how many gears you have to shift through to get the best performance out of your ride going up or downhill.
- Stability to Spare- As a commuter bike, the Vilano has a solid wheel and excellent stability to help you handle whatever the road, or life, might throw at you.
- Not a Road Bike- Commuter bikes are similar to road bikes, but with wider tires. This isn’t a downside, but it’s worth mentioning that because commuters have more stable tires, you get great traction uphills, but also add weight that you have to take with you.
- Factory Direct- Your brand new Villano will require assembly and tuning.
Learn more about Vilano here.
2. Schwinn Phocus 1400 and 1600 Drop Bar Road Bicycle
If you haven’t already owned a Schwinn, you probably know someone who has. With features like the Shimano Claris 16 speed derailleur that has a micro shift integrated shift and brake lever combo, Schwinn doesn’t skimp on parts quality. It’s no surprise since they’ve been around since 1895.
Evolving with the times is just part of what this company does to stay on top. A big part of that is anticipating rider needs, and they do it well. Plus, Schwinn gives back to the community in several ways. They work with People For Bikes, the American Heart Association, and others. Keeping its customers safe and healthy is why Schwinn is always on our list.
- Schwinn is a Trusted Name- Sometimes it pays to go with what you know. Schwinn has been around forever, making great bikes.
- Well Packaged- Some sellers just put the parts in a box and send it. Schwinn takes the extra time to zip tie parts together to help minimize problems with shipping.
- Bang for Your Buck- This bicycle is outstanding for the price. You’ll be pleased with your purchase.
- Shipping for Repairs- If you don’t happen to live in Illinois you’ll have to ship this bike long distance if you want the company to make repairs.
- Might Need Adjustments- Bikes often need some professional adjustments. Shipping can cause parts to shift. It’s always a good idea to take a new bike into a shop before you ride.
Scope out your Schwinn here.
3. Tommaso Avventura Shimano Sora Road Or Dirt Trail Bike
This hybrid may be classed as a road bike and have tires like a commuter, but it can also handle a dirt trail like a champ. The Shimano Sora made the list because it can do more than one job, which is part of what we look for in proper emergency preparedness gear. Though the company classes it as a road bike that seems a little limited.
- Extra Wide Tires- WIth the larger tires on this road bike it might be considered a commuter. Either way, a wider wheel means you have more surface contact with the road. That makes it easier to push up those hills.
- Carbon Fork- Steel and aluminum forks are fine, but carbon is stronger. If you ride hard and want to take this bike from streets to dirt and back again, you can. Never underestimate a solid carbon fork.
- Matte Black- Color isn’t always a big deal, but having choices is great. Choose the white option if you want easy visibility, so you never have to search for your bike. Alternately, the matte black option lets you more easily camouflage your ride if you’re going to avoid theft issues.
- Professional Assembly Required- Tomasso doesn’t just suggest professional assembly; they require it if you want your warranty. Assuring that you don’t have a piece of equipment fail due to user error is a good thing, but it means you have to find and pay a pro to put it together.
- Wide Tires Are Heavy Tires- If you want the lightest and most weightless ride possible, then these wide tires may not be your best choice. It’s worth the traction, but you’ll feel the difference.
Try a Tommaso here.
4. Eurobike Aluminium Road Bike
Eurobike isn’t just a brand. They hold a trade fair every year in Germany. This company has been around making great bikes and cycling gear since 1991. With almost thirty years in the business and a convention of their own, Eurobike knows the business of making bicycles. They’re great at what they do, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the quality.
- Cost to Performance Ratio- Eurobike is taking on all comers with their claims of the high cost to performance ratio. It certainly seems like their boasting isn’t just for show. You’ll get your money’s worth out of this sturdy aluminum bicycle.
- Easy Assembly- Sure, you have to put a few parts on when they ship this bike to you, but Eurobike doesn’t mess around. Everything you need to put it together so you can get going is included in the package. The pedals are even threaded differently so you can’t put them on backward. All you have to do is spend a few minutes putting parts together and air up the tires.
- Well Tested- While some companies put a bicycle through a couple of tests and approve it for sale, Eurobike goes above and beyond in the testing department. The pros on their design team put this bike through the paces. Any company that takes so much pride in their work is worth putting on the top of your list.
- European Brakes- If you’re used to the US breaks, you may find your controls are backward. The front brake is on the right while the rear is on the left. Make sure you pay attention to this your first few times out, so you don’t have a user error based injury.
- Not Exactly Light- While this bicycle isn’t what you’d call heavy at 38 lbs, it’s not a light bike either.
Find your Eurobike here.
5. Cyrusher XC760 Races Road Bike
The Cyrusher XC760 is a great all-around road bike. The aluminum frame and lightweight geometry mean you can go further with less effort. When time is of the essence, this is one bicycle that ‘races’ to get you where you need to be.
The attractive red, white and black paint means you won’t be stuck searching for your ride in a crowded lot. Red is the first color the human eye develops the ability to see, and we can pick it out quickly. In a bad situation, you don’t ever want to be stuck hunting around before you can move out. Choosing this highly visible bike will help avoid that problem with ease.
Though this particular model is pedal-powered, it’s noteworthy that Cyrusher also makes electric bikes. Once you’ve used this daily-rider for a while, you can take a look at some of their other offerings. Adding an electric bike to your lineup too isn’t a bad idea as long as you have some fuel put away for a rainy, or apocalyptic, day.
You have to love a company with a service center in the US to fix any problems that might arise. Cyrusher also makes a line of electric skateboards that are incredibly fast and powerful. You can pick up accessories that you know will fit your ride because they’re designed for it. Overall, Cyrusher is an outstanding company, and you’ll be pleased with this bike and all its products.
- Compact Design- Good things come in small packages. A compact frame design means you haul less weight around when you’re pedaling. The advantage is obvious. Carry more gear or just have a smoother ride with a lightweight bicycle.
- Lifetime Frame and Fork Warranty- As long as you own this bike, the frame and steel fork are insured. Hopefully, you’ll never need it. However, the ability to replace parts easily with the manufacturer means less worry.
- Good Breaks- The disc breaks on this bicycle are surprisingly powerful. When you need to stop, it’s never a good idea to rely on mediocre braking systems. After all, it can mean the difference between a smooth halt and a bad crash.
- Quick Release- Having a quick release can actually be a boon. However, you also have to remember to run your lock through your tires and frame to secure it or risk losing at least part of your bike. If you think someone would never steal ‘just the tire,’ you’d be very wrong. Moreover, if society collapses, a thief might care more about slowing you down than taking your ride.
- Commuters Weigh More- A small amount of added weight won’t slow most people down on an average day. When the SHTF, pulling more over long distances may cut your speed down a bit or fatigue you sooner.
- Some Assembly- Though this bike comes 90% assembled, you do have to put a couple of parts on yourself if you’re not sure how, even with instructions, you can generally find videos online to help.
Check out a Cyrusher here.
Physical fitness is a significant part of prepping. If you can’t move and carry what you need, then there’s no escaping a bad situation. Whatever you plan to do, you need to have the muscle memory to go with it. In a tight corner, the ability to rely on your own body can save your life. Practice those skills. Use your gear all the time, so you know it’s working and how best to use it without thinking.
Think of every piece of equipment like a gun. If you don’t know how to break it down, clean it, oil the parts and load it the equipment doesn’t work. Worse, it might fail and hurt you. Moreover, when you don’t store it safely, then someone may take it, and all you’ve done is pay for their survival chances. Likewise, if you don’t take it out, learn to stand right, aim, and fire, the target doesn’t matter because you won’t hit it. Basically, when you don’t practice, you don’t get better, and you may lose the skill.
You can spend a million dollars on the best gear. Then you can spend ten million on the perfect bug out location and vehicles, and still fail to survive if you skip the basics.