The Truth About Bicycle Carry

In the gun world, different types of shooters favor particular types of firearms. The same general principle applies to cyclists. Given the wide variety of riders and bicycles, there’s no simple solution for bicycle carry. A pistol-packing cyclist must balance ease of access against retention, consider concealment vs. caliber, and calculate gun size in relation to weight. In some states, open carry makes bicycle carry a relatively easy proposition. Until it doesn’t. So I’ve been investigating concealed bicycle carry. Here are the four basic types of cycling and my recommendations for each . . .

1.  Casual/recreational riders

Casual/recreational cyclists ride slowly on paved pathways for short times and distances. They wear pretty much the same clothes they’d wear while walking. They’re the cycling equivalent of people who go to the range once in a blue moon.

The simple advice for these cyclists: carry on as per normal. If a CCW system works when you stroll it’ll work when you bike.

Saying that, “naked” pocket carry can be problematic; a small gun can work its way up your pocket while riding, fall and then skitter on the pavement. Also, it’s damn near impossible to pull a gun from your pocket while riding. Yes, while riding. Think escape and evade.

While an inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster is a lot more useful and discreet, many CCW licensees (especially OFWGs) have trouble sitting comfortably wearing an IWB holster. That may be doubly true when bicycling. Obviously, the further around your body you position your IWB holster the more comfortable it’s likely to be on a bike.

An outside-the-waistband (OWB) holster with a baggy shirt can be an ideal bicycle carry set-up: comfortable, accessible and discreet. If you go for OWB, make sure the gun is completely secure in the holster. There’s no jolt quite like hitting a pothole at speed. Also, bicycles crash, sometime spectacularly. Best to “wake up” with your gun on your person.

At the same time, the gun shouldn’t be too tight in the holster, lest you struggle to remove it when you needed. Retention systems can be particularly tricky to operate on the move.

Practice (a.k.a. “situational familiarity) is the key. Unload and safety check your weapon in a discreet location. Then draw and shoot on the move. You’ll soon see that one-handed shooting practice a priority for anyone who chooses bicycle carry.

2.  Commuter/transportation riders

These riders are experienced and fit. They wear anything from work clothes (including suits) to lycra. They’re like the shooters who go to the range on a regular basis with high-end, well-maintained firepower.

If you bicycle in your normal clothes, carry on as above. If you wear lycra/jersey, you’re best off carrying in a pack. There are a number of excellent solutions, like the Drop Leg Motorcycle Scooter ATV Enduro Dirt Pit Bike Cycling Fanny Pack Waist Belt Bag above.

Road racers/road race wannabes

Think Tour de France and Lance Armstrong: riders wearing brightly colored, tight-fitting garments atop bikes that weigh as much a toothpick. Road racers are like shooters who compete on a regular basis with hugely expensive, extensively modified “race guns.”

Hard-core cyclists typically pay $1 per gram of weight lost on a bike. A “real” roadie would no more add 1000 grams of gun/holster than jump on a Schwinn Hollywood. If road racers are about security, they usually count on their mount’s speed and stealth to avoid or escape a lethal threat. After that, it’s pepper spray, useful for both dogs and two-legged predators.

If road racers carry, they pack the smallest, lightest and let’s face it sexiest gun available. The biggest issue they fail to consider: sweat. Depending on a rider’s chemistry, sweat can be almost as corrosive as battery acid. Polymer guns are a godsend, but they must be maintained and tested religiously.

For OWB, a road racer’s well advised to use a nylon belt (e.g. the Wilderness Frequent Flyer), a Kydex holster and, again, a plastic corrosion resistant gun. Fanny pack? You’re kidding, right?

Mountain bikers

Given the forces involved, a fanny pack is the ideal solution for mountain bike carry. It offers easy access to hydration and armed self-defense. There are a lot of choices, including packs made for the job. But it really is a case of try before you buy.

Your gun should fit the pack perfectly: tight but not too tight. Ideally, it should be a pack you can open with one hand while riding (see: fumbling above) and have a separate compartment so that you don’t struggle to draw when push comes to shove.

While a fanny pack enables a larger gun, remember that the more weight you carry in the pack, the more likely it is that the pack will bounce around. Strapping it down might solve one problem while creating another.

If you don’t carry a fanny pack, a gun belt under a jersey with an OWB holster will git ‘er done. I carry a Glock 17 in this manner with no difficulty at all, and it’s pretty comfortable. Bike cops carry on a belt all day long. Although they can do so without getting pulled over . . .

Bicycling is a terrific way to stay in shape. Staying in shape is a terrific way to stay alive, both in terms of staving-off obesity-related conditions and having the strength and endurance to survive a gunfight. Both on and off your bike.

25 Responses to The Truth About Bicycle Carry

  1. avatarVan says:

    Just a word of advice for mountain bikers who ride on land that is owned by the Army Corps of Engineers, which is common here in GA. No weapons are allowed on COE property.

  2. avatarLazy Bike Commuter says:

    Bike shorts, even the baggy ones that most non-racers wear, lack belt loops. But they are useful for preventing chafing, so many of us prefer to wear them. I have had the best luck with either a fanny pack or a belly band worn under the shoulder–access is pretty easy since most bike jerseys unzip at least 3/4 of the way down.

    Sadly guns aren’t allowed at work, so when I commute I end up not carrying.

  3. avatarRalph says:

    Nice article, Eric. I ride my bicycle every day (hurricane days excepted) and carry all the time. Wearing street clothes, I can easily carry a compact .40 in a Remora IWB holster at the 4:00 position. Pocket carry and draw works fine with cargo shorts and a subcompact pistol or Airweight in the thigh pocket, with the trigger suitably covered by an Uncle Mike’s pocket holster. Offroad riding with a pistol is more difficult because of the constant pounding. Frankly, I don’t trust any holster to retain the gun when I’m bouncing over boulders and babyheads. A fanny pack works and doesn’t look as stupid in the woods as it does on the street.

  4. avatarNew2This says:

    For roadies, a Remora holster with a mini 9 or pocket 380 works great. Lycra shorts or tights put tension over the entire surface area of the holster which keeps it still even when soaked with sweat. I am OCD about cleaning so I do not worry about sweat, but Remora makes them with an upgrade called a “sweat shield”. I use the non-sweat shield Remora with an LC9 at around four o’clock. It is completely invisible due to other stuff I keep in my back jersey pockets and I barely feel it there, even on longer rides.

  5. avatarScott says:

    I mountain bike often. I don’t often carry when I do (ya I know- all the time). The only thing that has worked for mountain bike carry for me has been a Camelback M.U.L.E.. Which is worth every penny anyway if you go offroad in the desert.

  6. avatarAbunai says:

    I’m a serious cyclist and average about 150 miles per week in season, maybe 60 miles in Winter. I guess on the scale above I’m a road racer.

    As a cyclist, I can tell you that we’re exposed to a remarkable degree. No cage, no windows, but a lot of high tech spandex. Turns out, spandex isn’t all that protective. . .

    Where I live, we’ve had several incidents in the past year or two of gangs of yutes targeting cyclists, knocking them down, beating them up, and robbing them of bikes and whatever they’re carrying. One victim was in the hospital for ages with head trauma, etc. We also have the occasional bear sighting, and cougars (the four legged kind!) live in the area.

    So unless I’m in an organized race, I carry every time I ride. Keep in mind, I’m riding a state of the art bike – replacement cost is over $5k. I’ve paid a lot to have a lightweight (but strong) bike. But I’m willing to accept a little weight for the ability to defend myself if necessary.

    I carry a mini-Glock in a fanny pack with built-in holster. The fanny pack doesn’t look ridiculously out of place, it sits well when I ride, and it also handles things like wallet, ipod, and energy bars. The Glock itself is lightweight, reliable, shoots well and is quick to draw.

    I may be funny looking, and don’t ride as fast as I used to, but at least I’m well armed and in great shape.

    • avatarJoe Grine says:

      Makes me glad I live in Oregon. Our “yutes” are too lazy to rob people. They just smoke a lot of pot and play X-box.

      • avatarOnawa says:

        I don’t know what part of Oregon you’re in sir, but here in the Portland metro area, I have had two well-locked bikes stolen– those hipsters are ruthless! I take my bike in with me everywhere now, no matter how obnoxious it is to me and shop-owners– they’ve actually always been very cool with it. My husband and I are moving to Bend soon, and we asked multiple bike shops there about thievery, and the word was that Portlanders will sweep through periodically and take bikes back to sell in Portland. Needless to say, I have a giant lock. As for carrying, my husband and I don’t leave home without packin’ heat. Thus far, I have been mountain biking and riding for practical reasons whilst carrying my full auto in my camelbak– impossible to get in less than 5 seconds or so. I am purchasing one of these babies today, though, and I think things will become far more cohesive– http://www.falcoholsters.com/eshop/concealment-bags/fanny-packs/38-fanny-pack-with-concealed-gun-holster-it-523.html — BTW, the hip belt suggested in the article above (the article being very helpful, thanks!) got some pretty terrible reviews on Amazon, saying the thing broke within a few weeks. I’m going for more expensive with certain quality to save myself the time of returns.

    • avatarJason says:

      Do you know what type of environment those attacks took place? When I ride, I try to
      get away and ride on quiet roads away from town. Just wondering if these were urban
      cyclists riding through bad parts of town or if thugs intercepted them out in rural settings?
      Do you mind sharing what city it was near?

      • avatarAbunai says:

        I know of 2 assaults on urban bike trails, near protected/obscured features (tunnels, narrow corridors between freeway walls, etc.). It’s road bike territory.

        I like to ride in urban areas, but it has its problems if you don’t know the neighborhoods where you intend to ride. I’ve been in some pretty bad places, which helps keep the average speed up. One ride in Oakland was pretty hairy, and one in Las Vegas was downright frightening. No legal carry in Oakland of course, but Las Vegas is OK.

        The bear and cougar warnings are posted on some ex-urban trails and a fairly rare, but real, occurrence on mountain bike trails.

        Regardless, I don’t think I’m ever as exposed as I am when cycling – and no lycra jokes please! On a bike, you’re in the environment, working hard, and very vulnerable to predators. Need to be alert and able to respond to situations as appropriate.

  7. avatarTodd S says:

    I love the pic of the officer on the pink bike. That man has a sense of humor.

  8. avatarWoodChuck says:

    So let me get this straight. The cop acknowledges that the rider is not braking any laws but stops him anyway just to break his balls over exercising his constitutional rights. WTF? I don’t run around thumping my chest and screaming about my rights, because I try to limit my interaction with big daddy lawman. But the fact that the guy thinks it’s his place to instruct a citizen on his place in the food chain pisses me off beyond sanity. Fuck him. If the guy is within the law and the cop knows it…as he acknowledges..then why the hell is he mesing with the guy?
    BTW…for 7 years of my life, I paid the bills by standing behind a cheap polyester uniform with a big shite metal badge on it. That cop was a bag-o-ass.

  9. avatarPatrick from Texas says:

    This is a good article, addressing a subject a lot of people don’t think about. I mountain bike some fairly rough trails, so one of my biggest concerns is what the gun is going to do if/when I crash. This is why I usually carry in an exterior pocket of my Camelbak. Yes, it is slower to get to but is very secure and not going to cause me extra injury if I land on it. Like the article says, escape and evade first!

  10. avatarEric says:

    Patrick: Stay tuned for the story of how I solved the MTB carry problem.

  11. avatarPaul says:

    Thank you for the great article. Carrying self defense items while riding is something that major bicycling groups don’t address (due to their left leaning politics I suspect). I live in the PNW where serious roadies and commuters are seen everyday, so we don’t have a huge problem with harrassment, but it still happens. I have never had a problem but sometimes I’m looking over my shoulder.

  12. avatarGeistryder says:

    To keep it simple and light, how about just putting it in a bike jersey pocket? The strong side pocket is probaby as accessible as most other methods for folks not having any range of motion or shoulder issues. Has anyone (licensed) tried this method out?

  13. avatarguns-n-bikes says:

    The fanny pack would not make sense in addition to the Cambelbak, at least if worn in the rear. Has anyone looked into a chest carry holster that could attach to a Camelbak? If it were made square and had a flap that concealed the gun and its shape, seems like it would be a legal CCW carry. Like one of the above posters, I would be afraid of crashing and landing on the pistol, it would either break me, or I would break it, maybe. Maybe a secret pocket in the Cambelbak where you could reach back with your hand and get to the gun. I have been looking at getting a Glock 20 for mountainbiking and bear defense, not the ideal round I know, but there is little chance of me strapping on my S&W .44 Mag revolver on a bike ride.

  14. avatarMark says:

    Great article. I just wrote about dealing with Road Ragers and you hit the nail on the head from a firearm perspective. Cyclists have many options available.

    http://www.spokezilla.com/cycling-and-road-rage/

  15. avatarLucky13 says:

    I’m a wannabe road racer, I do race mountain bikes, and road bike for enjoyment and exercise, and I like to ride pretty hard. On the roadbike, roadbiking jerseys that have three pockets in the rear of the shirt, are ideal to stick my S&W bodyguard into. When I mountain bike, if I pack, I put the bodyguard into my camelback, not as accessible though.

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