You probably recognize Cody Lundin from Discovery’s Dual Survival, but in addition to playing the Al Gore to Dave Canterbury’s Dick Cheney, Cody’s the author of two best-selling no-nonsense survival books, operates a wilderness survival school in Arizona and rides motorcycles. We’re fans of Cody’s common sense, practical approach to survival, so figured we’d talk to him about combining our two hobbies. Here’s Cody Lundin’s advice for surviving by bike.
Photo: Grant Ray
We came up with the idea for this interview after reading the chapter on transportation in Cody’s disaster preparedness manual, “When All Hell Breaks Loose.” In it, he recommends motorcycles as the ultimate means for escaping disaster areas or moving around in a world in which fossil fuels are suddenly scarce. Why? According to him it’s not just about frugality, unlike most four-wheeled vehicles, bikes can travel virtually anywhere, over any terrain and aren’t subject to traffic or clogged roadways. Think of the huge traffic jams you saw on the news as people fled New Orleans pre-Katrina or the damaged infrastructure in San Francisco after the earthquake there in 1989 and you can see why traveling by bike would offer such a huge advantage.
Cody also authored “98.6 Degrees: The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive” a survival manual that focusses on the physical needs of the human body over ammunition stockpiles. Both books are filled with the kind of practical, common-sense advice that’s rooted in science, not paranoia.
Why motorcycles will be the ultimate survival vehicle when the shit hits the fan.
“I love apocalyptic movies as much as I hate what they focus America’s attention on. You’re on the highway, all the cars are broken down and you’re not squeezing your Hummer through there at all. That motorcycle can zip right through. You have much less surface area to contend with to get in and around compromising places.”
“As far as energy conservation, you can go like a bat out of hell on a lot less gas on a dirt bike or even some of these scooters that are getting over 100mpg. Energy would be a limited resource in any sort of survival scenario, whether it’s metabolic calories that the body’s trying to burn or, ‘Wow, we’re out of gas at the gas station.’ They do similar things that cars do, but they do them on the cheap.”
“I don’t care much for ATVs. I’m impressed with the loads they can pull and carry and haul, but Im just kind of old school with motorcycles.”
“Because of their energy efficiency, because of their maneuverability, because of their simplicity, because of their cost. They do require a bigger skill set. Anyone can ride a quad, but to ride a bike requires a bigger skill set. And that’s kind of an understatement. And yet, I think whether it’s a bicycle or a motorcycle or a moped, that there’s a huge advantage to having one of those vehicles if transportation is an issue or hauling stuff is an issue.”
The benefits of electric motorcycles.
“I live off-grid with solar and it’s all AC because of my inverters, so I could totally plug that sucker in and just do it. I’m interested in using one for a hunting tool or a recon tool, there might be times when you need to travel silently.”
His own two-wheeled survival kit.
“Here’s what I have on the back of my little dirt bikes: I have a little military bag that I got at a thrift store. Both of my XRs [a 250 and 400] have a little rack over the rear fender. I have one quart of water, full, in a quality camping bottle. I have that wrapped with duct tape and a loop of parachute cord. I have some protein bars, just a couple. I have tincture of iodine 2% to be able to disinfect water. I’m in the high desert, but there’s lots of cattle tanks around. I have a bandana, that can be used over the head or across the face or around the neck for protection. I have ways to make fire. I have a magnesium block with a striking insert. People may be better versed with a lighter, but they don’t work when they’re cold. Or it could be strike anywhere matches in a match safe.”
“This is for me. Is this applicable to someone in Manhattan? That’s where this one-size-fits-all bullshit and Tommy Two-Tone, who just started survival skills three years ago, get it wrong. They don’t understand the complexity and the variation of what’s really happening in North america, let alone the jungles of Saigon. What’s non-negotiable is clothing. You have to regulate that core body temperature. What’s non-negotiable is water, again for regulation of the core body temperature.”
What people need to survive.
“The difference between what people need and what they think they need is vast. Some people think they need two Hummers and they fall apart psychologically if they don’t have that.”
“My motto is. “The more you know, the less you need.’”
“What I rely on is physiology. What kills the human body first? The first, biggest killer out there is hypo or hyperthermia. But that’s very hard on a motorcycle or a bicycle when the body’s exposed to the elements, unlike in a car. So you get into clothing.”
“I wish we had a Fremen Stillsuit from Frank Herbert’s Dune, that we could just piss and shit in, then drink water from. That would be the ultimate survival suit.”
“It shouldn’t go unnoticed that anyone on a motorcycle is going to be subject to whatever the outdoor ambient temperatures are. That’s scary, because right now there’s 14 inches of snow outside and our town is shut down. What are you going to do if you’re stuck bugging out on a motorcycle when there’s 14 inches of snow? I don’t give a shit how much ammunition you have, if you don’t have a coat, you’re dead.”
“Another non-negotiable is water. The easiest way to maintain that core temperature aside from clothing is water. Your circulatory system is responsible for heating and cooling the body and to do that your body must stay hydrated. That’s the real bitch because you’re dealing with something that’s non compressible.”
Carrying what you need on a bike.
“How do you deal with a non-compressible, 8.3lbs-per-gallon substance? Water is a necessity, you just can’t carry as much on a bike. If I have a one quart water bottle, but I have a one ounce thing of iodine, then as long as I find other water sources that may not be safe to drink, I can make more.”
“The thing about iodine — with the contraindications: no pregnancy, no allergy, no thyroid condition — it’s fucking cheap, it’s fucking multi-use, it doesn’t weigh much, it packs light, it’s not like a Katadyn filter that does one thing and, ‘Oh shit, my pack is taken up!’ It’s a small bottle that also deals with wounds.”
“I would want some sort of wind, water resistant membrane that was heavily packable. So, even if I was in my business suit and wingtips, I could put on a torso area or full body suit and, even if I was freezing my ass off, I wouldn’t die on the way home because of wind chill. Thats the biggest cause of death, exposure. And the motorcycle rider is so fucking exposed to the elements. That’s key. You might not even make it home if you don’t have that.”
“You’re dealing with convection — wind — and there’s lots of wind barriers that are out there. It better not be a garbage bag and no ponchos — you can imagine a poncho on a motorcycle — it should be a more form-fitting, the torso is primo. If I had a money issue and I was looking at rain pants or a rain jacket, go for the jacket first. That’s where the cookies are, that’s where you can’t fiddle around because you have certain organs that demand a certain temperature.”
“A pair of gloves or glove liners. If you can’t hold on to the handlebars because you have frost bite on your fingers, you’re fucking DOA. You might as well just walk.”
“By putting on a hat and some sort of neck covering, it’s minimally equivalent to putting on a light sweater. The good thing about that is the head and the neck are easy places to cover for limited space. A balaclava will be worth its weight in gold for a motorcycle survival kit.”
“It’s not just what is worn, it’s what it’s made of, how it’s worn and where it’s worn. So we’re not talking cotton clothing here, we’re talking wool or polypropylene or some sort of synthetic and we’re talking looser and in layers, we’re talking torso, head and neck principally and, in this case, hands. Just because of pure dexterity, you need to be able to operate the bike.”
The importance of being prepared.
“Look at what’s happening with La Nina right now, we have extreme weather. You were fucking stuck in France for god’s sake, we have the East Coast socked in now.”
“People don’t want to hear about clothing. They’ll have a backpack full of gizmos and forget about the clothing just like they’ll forget about their shit. Lack of sanitation is the biggest killer on the planet, so they’ll forget about their shit and they will die despite all their fancy survival gear. I’m not going to promote bells and whistles. Clothing is what separates the men from the boys on the back of your motorcycle. Even in the summertime, at night, on your bike, it’s can get down to the 40s with windchill.”
On going barefoot.
“I rode barefoot a few times before realizing it’s a dumbass thing to do. So I put on sandals or boots. Even just the shifter, it’s hard on the top of the foot to shift barefooted.”
Dealing with injuries.
“Anyone that’s riding a motorcycle should have a first aid kit on board.”
“There was a guy on a dirt bike out here a couple of years ago that wiped out and broke something. He managed to crawl around and get a little fire lit, but the thing about an injury is that it will impair your ability. Imagine having a piece of gear that’s as wonderful and versatile as a highly compressible sleeping bag that you can crawl into. The thing that’s cool about that sleeping bag is it’s a way to stay warm without doing anything. You don’t need to gather wood with a broken ankle.”
“Someone could easily die. They’re in Colorado in the mountains, they break something in a crash, the bike might be trashed, they’re not going anywhere and if they’re not properly dressed and if they don’t have that emergency sleeping bag and they can’t get a fire, then they will die.”
“Everything that I would carry on a motorcycle should be thought about in the context of ‘Can I get this thing to work if I’m hurt?’ Everything. Which negates a lot of bells-and-whistles shit that takes fine and complex motor skills to work. What should be thought about by the rider is that a lot of this stuff should be gross motor skill to get into.”
“What if your hand is shredded? Can you use your gear? That should be constantly thought about. If that lighter works, you click the button and there’s flame.”
“You’re going to have a mechanical injury on a bike. It’s going to be heavy lacerations, it going to be road rash, it’s going to be a dislocated joint or a broken extremity. And those are very, very hard to deal with even from the scope of an EMT. An EMT simply stabilizes the injury and loads and goes to the hospital. That might not be an option. I don’t really know what to tell you other than that I would have some Ace bandages, maybe a SAM splint. I just know from being hurt real bad myself that I can’t even picture myself riding a motorcycle with broken ribs.”
“It all hinges on, ‘What is the rescue?’ Is it a self rescue situation or does someone know I’m hurt or stranded on my bike?”
Scavenging bike components.
“I love the MacGyver stuff, but if I think about my XR, other than maybe making a fire at the risk of blowing myself up, I’m not sure what I can reuse off that bike.”
“Maybe you could make a fire with the tire for some black smoke, but how do you get it off? Because of the sheer weight, how do you carry it with you? I can’t use the tires, I can’t use the frame, I can’t use the rims. I could use the insulation from the seat, I could rip open that seat and stuff my shirt or my jacket with it, that I would do, but there’s not a hell of a lot of foam in that motorcycle seat. Could you make traps or snares with the clutch cable? Not really, it’s hard to get at and it’s the wrong sort of wire.”
“This is not a television show. If it happens for real then someone’s probably scared, they’re anxious, they’re not thinking clearly. That makes all this really cool TV stuff really hard to perform. Really hard. From the philosophy behind your survival plan to the gear you carry on your bike, make it as simple as possible.”
“People are going to be in for a rude awakening when the shit hits the fan because they haven’t thought about how psychology affects the physiology of the body. They haven’t understood how the fear process works or how it debilitates any sort of fine or complex motor skills or even the ability to adapt. Even if it was a reality, would you rather be messing around with a spark plug and a tank of gas or just break out that sleeping bag and just be safe? Carry a fucking lighter.”
Adapting to your specific needs.
“So when I say, ‘Have water disinfection,’ I think that’s wise, but is it really necessary? How far are you going on your bike? For me, it is necessary because I ride bikes in a very remote location. I could be in a wilderness survival situation easily on my bikes. I have appropriate clothing, a water container filled, the means of disinfection to make more water safe to drink, a few snacks that don’t need to be rotated, energy bars or whatever, I’d have some light sticks, a headlamp or some sort of lighting mechanism.”
“But, I don’t have a lot of space on my bike. If this were a real survival bike they would have side panniers, they’d have a day pack on, they’d have a rack over the rear fender and I’ve even seen storage pouches for the headlight. The quantity is based heavily on the situation.”
“‘How much shit should I have Cody?’ Well hell, I don’t know. the reader needs to figure out what they want. I’m telling them what they should pack first or they’ll die. Anything else is up to the rider and the location and the nature of the emergency and what the weather’s like. How many dead people on the road? There’s too many variables, there’s no one answer.”
“Is the world ending and is everyone eating each other? Have you left a game plan with search and rescue? There’s too many variables and that’s why I keep going back to what matters to the welfare of the human body without the ego involved. It’s clothing, protection, water, maybe a little bit of food, light never hurts anyone.”
“The thing that should be stressed is the common sense value of core body temp, what people need from this kit, that they should never deviate from gross motor skills and what bioregion they live in. If they live in Maine or if they live in Phoenix, Arizona, they’re going to have some different things. We don’t want to die of hyperthermia in the desert and we don’t want to die of hypothermia in the woods. I can’t give you the one size fits all bullet list.”
“It’s a matter of figuring out what the rider needs the most, what is going to kill them the most in whatever season they might have to be riding in and you don’t want to skimp on that.”
What about guns and ammo?
“Knife and fire, those two things are in every survival kit on the planet, yet they require a skill set that is escaping our generation. If I were to tell you, ‘All you need is just a way to make fire and a 10-inch Bowie knife and you’re good to go’ then I’d be a jackass because most people don’t know how to deal with that. That’s why I’m telling you the easy stuff like a sleeping bag because I care about people living. Most people are not highly skilled.”
“The way out of this is to stick to the intentions of what keeps the human body alive and start throwing up there the variables about how much stuff based on geography, weather and stuff like, ‘Is someone in your party sick?’ There’s all these variables that the typical testosterone-driven, cocky, wannabe, overweight male sitting doing survival blogs doesn’t understand because they’ve never been shit on.”
What to do when the shit hits the fan.
“If there’s a survival cabin that’s half a day’s ride away, then have proper clothing, water and some remedial gear to get there. And get there. You’re not living off the land.”
“People confuse modern survival that involves a third party rescue with living off the land all the time. If the time comes, that’s going to kill a lot of people. Those are two separate scenarios.”
“Living off the land we don’t even want to talk about on a motorcycle because essentially what that would be would involve automatic weapons and a 12-gauge and you’d have to go around raiding people to get by. That’s what probably would happen. It would be Mad Max, you would have to raid. You physically can’t carry what you need unless you settle.”