Matt Bracken On The Patrol Bike

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 2 months ago

Via Kenny, Matt Bracken weighs in on the use of bicycles.

I used to jog a few times a week for cardio until I passed age sixty and my knees said no más. Since then I’ve switched to cycling instead, which doesn’t bother my knees in the least. Obviously there are cardio benefits to riding a bike, but less appreciated is how much riding does for your sense balance, coordination and agility, especially as we grow older.

I’ve owned the big steel-frame Schwinn bike in the photo since the 1980s and it’s still going strong. I use it to run errands within 3 or 4 miles of home base, which allows me to recon all of the back streets and trails inside that radius in a way that cannot be replicated in a car or on foot. I made the big rack so I can carry 30 pounds or so of cargo with no problem. In the front pouch I carry a cable lock, a basic tire repair kit, shock cords and so on. A pistol or other weapon can also be carried there.

[ … ]

By day or night, I also routinely pass within yards of people who have their backs turned to me who are totally unaware that a person is rolling right past them nearly in touching distance, such as when they are checking their mail box. As long as the pedal crank is kept moving, there isn’t even the quiet sound of clicking gear ratchets. The only sound is that of the tires rolling on pavement, and that’s not much.

For patrolling your neighborhood a bike fits an ideal mid-point niche between foot and automobile patrol. Here are the numbers: a brisk walking pace is 4 mph. The posted speed limit for cars in my neighborhood is 25 mph, but they often go faster. An easy cycling speed is about 12 mph. A car or truck obviously has the biggest visual signature, and its fast arrival speed once it’s spotted is expected. However, a person on a bike only has about the same visual signature as a pedestrian, yet he’s moving three times as fast. The relatively fast speed while retaining a small visual signature probably explains the remarkable stealth properties of the patrol bike.

As readers know, I bike single track, but I’ll bike literally anywhere.

I ride a Norco, and while you must get what you can afford, I recommend that you spend what you need to get a good ride.  I still ride a “hard tail.”  The dual suspension bikes are very expensive, and if they’re name brand carbon frames, they are prohibitively expensive for me (they can run $6000+).

Matt goes on to recommend tools, all of which I have.  They tear up, especially if you abuse them on single track like I do.  I dry-lube my chain before every ride.  Because I beat mine up so badly on mountains, I’ve learned to carry zip ties with me.  I’m always knocking cables loose.  I also carry a bike hex-wrench set, a mini-pump, spare tube, water, gun, energy bars, 550 cordage, rain gear, gloves, tactical knife and sun glasses.

My knees don’t bother me as much as some folks, probably because I never got into running.  The impact force on knees from running is a good reason not to do it, and a good reason to ride a bike instead.  My rides are usually at least 8-10 miles (single track), sometimes 20-22 miles, but rarely over 30.

I confess I had never thought of the virtues of the neighborhood patrol using bikes.


  1. On May 19, 2019 at 11:50 pm, Dan said:

    Be careful of the style of bike seat you use…..some bike seats put to much pressure on the perineum…..where the arterial blood supply to the genitals comes from. This pressure over time can lead to problems such
    as impotence.

  2. On May 20, 2019 at 8:31 am, Bram said:

    I would think every hard core prepper would have a couple of bikes. Worth more than a car if there is no gas and a lot easier to maintain (and less likely to get eaten) than a horse.

  3. On May 20, 2019 at 9:06 am, Fred said:

    I see people “running” on pavement all the time around here and many are 20 to 40 pounds overweight. Don’t do this!!! It destroys your knees which affects your lower back and feet. Jogging is an extraordinarily efficient means to move on foot for a human and because of this it’s probably the least effective cardio exercise of all. It’s less effective than simply a brisk walk. Don’t jog, the health cost benefit is lousy.

    It’s very hard work to ride a bike around here. People come from all over the world to ride here in road races because of the hills. That terrain in the pic looks rather leisurely. I say that as a bit of a chiding joke because I don’t ride, I was not built for lower body strength and around here, it’s about lower body power to weight ratios.

    As to detailed mapping of territory by bike; yes. It’s always surprising how close together the backsides of neighborhoods really are to each other when not traveling by road. Hills add to deception by making it hard to get a good mental picture of the actual distances, layout, and relative compass points.

  4. On May 20, 2019 at 9:27 am, Herschel Smith said:


    Yea. Looks leisurely. I picked that one because it shows the bike fairly well. Ride Jim Branch trail with me at Dupont and it won’t be leisurely.

  5. On May 20, 2019 at 9:40 am, VoorTrekker USA said:

    I once had a Hummer folding bike, 18 or 21 speed, mountain bike tires, black.

    People have joint problems from running because they stamp their feet when running. Place them more gently, like a dancer and those problems should not occur. YMMV.

  6. On May 20, 2019 at 9:42 am, Herschel Smith said:

    Jim Branch.

    Getting up is the hard part. The downhill makes it worth it.

  7. On May 20, 2019 at 10:59 am, Paul said:

    You can find some great deals on older rigid frame mountain bikes. Shocks really aren’t needed for roads and bike trails. Trek 900 series/Specialized Rock Hoppers/Stumpjumpers, Older Diamondbacks et al…..

  8. On May 20, 2019 at 11:49 am, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ VoorTrekkerUSA

    You are entirely correct; many runner’s injuries come from a too-long stride and high-impact heel strike. Jogging or running as a sprinter would do. Instead, jog as you would if you were bare-foot; lean forward slightly and let gravity impel you forward. Keep your feet under you – resist the urge to lengthen your stride – and have a cadence which is rapid-enough to propel you at the desired pace.

    Primordial humans ran/jogged bare-foot, which is how our bodies were designed to run. Many of the best distance runners in the world, the East Africans – Kenyans et al. – still train in this manner. Especially the ones too poor to afford modern running shoes. If you have not run in this manner in a long time, try it on a football or soccer field or something like that. You’ll be amazed at how natural it feels, just like running felt when you were a kid.

  9. On May 20, 2019 at 12:08 pm, Fred said:

    Can I get a helo insertion to the top starting point?

  10. On May 20, 2019 at 2:21 pm, WiscoDave said:


  11. On May 20, 2019 at 2:39 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Ridgeline, Dupont.

    One of my favorite.

  12. On May 20, 2019 at 2:55 pm, Fred said:

    @WiscoDave and all, hmm, this now has me wondering how much training the bike po po do. I used to think it was a stupid idea but I’m seeing some advantages to it in certain terrains and environments. I might start making fun of them less. Well, nah. Knowing an area is important especially for egress but cops on bikes present a whole new problem, assuming that you are a criminal, and they do.

  13. On May 20, 2019 at 6:28 pm, Matt Bracken said:

    Dupont’s Ridgeline looks like a blast, and I always say a good ride is worth driving to (the start of the ride. I used to say a good run is worth driving to.) My local bike patrolling (and chore running) is a lot more tame, and 95% on pavement. My best camouflage is “gray-haired boomer-biker who probably lives in a tent in the woods behind Walmart.” It’s great camo: nobody looks at you directly, not even once. You are invisible. Even the local PoPo roll by without eye contact. “You don’t make a problem for me, & I won’t make a problem for you,” I think we are both thinking. Even when I have my M-4gery wrapped and slung under the top bar for the paved 3 mile trip to the range. (Carbines travel one side of the front fork, other side of the seat post, for no knee bumps.)

  14. On May 20, 2019 at 8:16 pm, Donk said:

    @Captain and @MattBracken +++++1 on Ridgeline. Much suffering uphill – pure joy down the hill. Quality full suspension bikes on EFlea, <$1.5K all day long – just got to look and be patient. Full suspension peddle suck (sucks) on pavement unless you can lock out the rear suspension on longer rides.

    Mine is Giant Trance 3 setup with triple tree and 7 inch Marzocchi Bomber front fork for my Clydesdale a** (275 lbs), single chain ring. It's setup for flying downhill, the only reason I ride. If you are not bleeding on the trail you are not going fast enough.

    Softball bag is the grey man rifle carrier. You do have to break the rifle apart to stow – maybe a AR pistol is the way to go.

    A beach cruiser is another option. Heavy duty bike with mucho load carrying capacity. Panniers with racks or bags helps. Mine has tall ape hanger bars. Exactly opposite for grey man. But as intended, conversation starter and gets the local wildlife to engage in convo – the cool factor melts their natural paranoia.

    @Matt Bracken I used to ride this bike up and down the strip in VA Beach when I lived there daytime and more importantly at night. Fisherman and surfers at Rudee inlet would talk, the winos on the boardwalk would talk, the tweekers on Norfolk Ave would talk, shoot even the cops would talk. It was (is) a blast to ride and the intel I got off it was priceless.

  15. On May 20, 2019 at 8:25 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Matt, you’re welcome to ride Ridgeline with me any time you’re in this neck of the woods. Give me a call.

    Donk, we’ll have to get together and ride it some day.

  16. On May 20, 2019 at 8:42 pm, Donk said:

    @Captain Matt is living the high life in FL. He doesn’t know a hill higher than an interstate overpass :)

    Would love to ride with you sometime. Fearless old guys bombing down the singletrack makes the youngins nervous. Gravity going downhill is the Clydesdales joy/advantage. Just gotta have quality hydraulics brakes and big rotors.

    I ride at Anne Springs Close in Fort Mill all the time. Come on over and we will muddle through. No Ridgeline quality DH but 2300 acres of biking and hiking trails – my personal playground – best $100 annual fee you can spend. Maybe Sherman Branch or Lake Norman State Park or FATS in Aiken, SC.

    BTW, how is the job search goin?

  17. On May 21, 2019 at 8:59 pm, Ned said:

    We used to hunt in vehicle closed areas on our mountain bikes. Have packed a number of deer and elk out on mountain bikes.

  18. On May 22, 2019 at 3:10 pm, Sanders said:

    I recently spent quite a bit of money to have a bicycle shop refurbish my old Schwinn mountain bike. I used to ride the heck out of it. I could have bought a new bicycle for what I paid those guys, but they also pretty much gave me a new bicycle back when I picked it up.

  19. On May 23, 2019 at 6:12 pm, NOG said:

    Just one thing. If SHTF, have a plan on ditching the bike. If it keeps you on roads or bigger trails, it is a bad option. Ditch it if things go south and stay off roads/trails. You can always hide it for later, but if you are picked up/dead……. Cross country travel makes planning a ambush very difficult. Road/trail not so much.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Tactical Gear and was published May 19th, 2019 by Herschel Smith.

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