In Issue #112 of Singletrack Magazine, we tested three mountain bikes to find out what we’d choose to survive the Zombie Apocalypse
It’s the year of our Lord, somewhere not too far in the future. The geopolitical map has been redrawn. The rise of nationalism and isolationist policies which emerged in the decade after the financial crash of 2008 resulted in insufficient cooperation on global environmental issues, as well as a number of crippling wars which used up significant quantities of the planet’s remaining oil reserves. The old superpowers are shadows of their former selves, fragmented and struggling to survive as national and international infrastructure networks decay while politicians struggle to negotiate treaties to secure the futures of these new nations.
Among the political collapse and environmental disaster, new diseases have emerged and previously low-risk illnesses have mutated and spread. Mass migration, unsanitary conditions in failed nation states, and possible germ warfare are all blamed. With means to research cures limited, containment and prevention are key to survival.
Britain finds itself surprisingly well placed to survive this new state of affairs, with Brexit having already forced it to rely on internal sources of investment and resources. Its island status has restricted the progress of many of the diseases, but the Sick still threaten the unwary and unprepared.
London’s lack of natural resources has rendered it almost unlivable, with the residents who remain trading scavenged materials for water with those further north. Burnley is now the seat of the nation’s power, acting as the gateway between the diseased lands of the south and the relatively plentiful and healthy north. The planned ‘Northern Powerhouse’ has become a staging post for those hoping to make the crossing to the north. Here, the homeless and displaced struggle to survive, to keep what few possessions they have with them, and to stay clear of the Sick – those who have been denied passage to the north.
In order to preserve the valuable remaining oil reserves, mass transit vehicles are the only permitted fuelled transport. Bikes have become the main form of transport, and, with roads no longer being maintained, mountain bikes are an essential tool for survival. Trade in used parts is brisk, with even the most generic of formerly cheap imports now commanding significant value.
Most sought after, however, is the reliable machine. The bike that can be subjected to hundreds of miles of travel across this broken land. The bike that aids survival, allowing a rider to escape the Sick across barren moorlands and urban wastelands.
But survival is not enough. In these dark days of struggle, happiness is hard to find and a bike that delivers reliability while bringing a smile to the face of the rider is the holy grail. From heavily fortified workshops, three British brands possess the skills and materials needed to produce bikes which can stand the rigours and neglect of this harsh new world… so are any of them good enough to make this future life worth living?
BTR Fabrications Ranger
- From: BTR Fabrications, www.btr-fabrications.com
- Price: £1000 (frame only), £2800 as tested
“Headed up by two guys called Burf and Tam, BTR (Burf & Tam Racing) Fabrications welded its first frame back in 2011, and officially launched four months later in January 2012. Since then, BTR has expanded its range of no-nonsense hardtails to include models for dirt jumping, DH, trail riding and cross-country. All of the frames are constructed from chunky steel tubes, which are fabricated and welded together in the BTR factory in Frome, Somerset. The Ranger is BTR’s trail hardtail. It sits between the Chaser cross-country frame, and the Belter DH frame. The Ranger is designed for...” Read the full review here.
Olsen Ram 27.5+
- From: Olsen Bicycles, www.olsenbicycles.com
- Price: £2700 (frame with Pinion C1.12 gearbox and Gates drivetrain)
“Olsen Bicycles is a brand new name on the mountain biking scene. Named after its Kiwi founder, Steve Olsen, the brand was formed on the idea of producing the ultimate weatherproof mountain bike for British riding conditions. Very early on, Olsen recognised that a belt drive setup coupled to a sealed internal gearbox would be the ideal maintenance-free system for such an all-weather machine. More importantly, without a flimsy derailleur hanging off the back, there’d be zero chance of getting a zombie finger jammed in the drivetrain during a hasty getaway.Olsen’s original design utilised a…” Read the full review here.
Shand Drove (Bahookie Dropbar)
- From: Shand Cycles, www.shandcycles.com
- Price: £1295 (frame only)
“Located in the industrial belt of Livingston in Scotland, Shand Cycles has been crafting beautiful handmade steel bicycles since 2003. Steven Shand first launched the brand by building custom one-off mountain bike frames, etching himself a reputation for his early adoption of 29in wheels. While Shand has its roots in mountain biking, the company offers a range of drop-bar bikes too, including the Stooshie all-road bike, Stoater adventure bike, and the Drove off-road 29er. The Drove the drop bar version of the Bahookie 29er. Apparently that’s been confusing for some customers though. And so, during the test period, Shand announced…” Read the full review here.
Never before has selecting a bike test winner been a truly life or death choice. But such is the gravity of assessing a vehicle for survival in the zombie apocalypse. All three of these test bikes possess their own unique attributes that make them suitable in different ways, so think carefully about what your requirements might entail.
In a world where resources are scant and conditions can deteriorate rapidly without warning, it must be said that adaptability and versatility are key. A bike that is capable of multiple configurations – gears or singlespeed, rigid or suspended, 27.5+ or 29in wheels – offers a huge advantage in being able to adapt to the surrounding environment, depending on what can be scavenged at the time. Throw in an internal gearbox and a quiet-running belt drive, and the Olsen Ram is a cross-country chameleon with long-lasting legs. It’s the reconnaissance vehicle of the bunch, ready to seek out a safe path for others to follow.
Meanwhile, the Shand Drove is the perfect all-terrain hauler for solo operators making the perilous journey to the Safe Zone. An off-road bikepacking rig like the tough Shand will give the pilgrim their pick of routes through troubled lands. Able to carry what they need to survive, the lone traveller will be able to traverse the safest course through whatever terrain they encounter. The addition of features such as a 14-speed Rohloff hub and belt drive means in-field maintenance is kept to a minimum, allowing riders to focus on avoiding the sick, dispossessed, and desperate and, therefore, remaining alive for another day.
For negotiating uncharted terrain in urban wastelands, a hardcore hardtail could well be the ideal survival weapon. Designed to be tough, hard-wearing, and sufficiently fast for outrunning the infected (think 28 Days Later), the Ranger from BTR Fabrications is targeted at those who ride with more gusto and at a greater tempo – if your weapon of choice is a chainsaw or you’re an hour-of-power type rider that wants to engage with the trail, then the Ranger will be right up your alley. It may be the least practical of the three bikes here if you’re aiming to make it to the next civilisation, but, if you’ve decided that survival is not enough, the Ranger is the one for those who want to die laughing.