I remember Earth Day in 1970 - I was in high school then. My best friend in 8th grade had really nice bike with Campagnolo Record gears etc. I managed to save up and buy myself a Raleigh Super Course in 9th grade. My first real job - apart from mowing neighbors' lawns - was in the local bike shop. Unfortunately we moved away after I'd only worked there a few months. The owner had proposed sending me the the Schwinn repair school. I still dream about how my life would have evolved had we not moved away then.
I lived near Portland, Oregon from 1996 to 2007. For the first six years I didn't have a car. I could walk to the grocery store and use the bus to get into the city. I got myself a Trek 520 as another means of transportation. Nice bike and nice biking around there!
Eventually I also got a Brompton folding bike to be able to get on the light rail system even at rush hour. And I got an Azor / Workcycles Super-Transport. That's a big black bike. I guess part of my thinking is about how resources are liable to be a lot more constrained in the future - less petroleum for more people, along with political and financial instability. I think biking is going to become more like a necessity than a privilege. Somehow the sturdiness of the Super-Transport seem to fit the requirements for post-apocalyptic wheels.
Three years ago I moved from the Willamette Valley to the Catskills Mountains. If I want to go somewhere, it might be a short walk if it's in our little village, or it is going to be a much more significant ride - especially measurement by cumulative elevation gain. My 520 is from 1996 & has road gears - I haven't counted all the teeth but my lowest gear is probably around 35 inches. No doubt somebody with monster legs could climb the local hills with it, but for me it would be a bit help to have lower gears. On top of that, this spring my STI shifters gave out. Our LBS put on down-tube shifters which was a practical solution. I continue to explore the local roads to find ways to get around on the 520. But I sure would like lower gears. Maybe I should just replace the drive train? Or...
I worked this past Spring for the Census Bureau. I used a bike to deliver census forms on part of my route. I borrowed a mountain bike from our house teenager. Those low gears and fat tires are what I really needed to get back up those long gravel private roads.
Really what I need is some kind of cross between a mountain bike and the 520..
I keep looking at the brochure for the Thorn Nomad. Dare I spend that kind of money on a bike? Would it really work for me? It really might work as true post-apocalyptic wheels!
Thanks for all the useful info here - it's helping me understand the various possibilities!