They provide a tool in many ways better than an armored troop carrier, at a fraction the cost

Friday, June 2nd, 2023

Cheap drone-based bombs have taken their toll on armored vehicles in recent wars, which might pave the way for motorcycles, of all things:

Motorcycle are fast, nimble, and outstrip even tracked vehicles in off road capability. In the woods a bike can get between the trees right under the densest canopy and travel along single track trails no wider than what a person or deer might walk, and wind between and, for the skilled enduro rider, Over! massive rocks and terrain that would rip a tank apart.


100lbs of kit (Equivalent to a heavy fighting load for a long patrol) is fairly easily and regularly carried by amateur adventurers on their bikes as they head out to the woods, or go on a cross-country tour. Allowing many to go hundreds of miles off-road at paces averaging well above walking or even running, and then instantly get back up to highway speeds as soon as they find one.


The off-road capability means obvious or watched routes are easily avoided, concrete barriers are easy to skirt around or between (or in the case of enduro riders: hopped), and checkpoints set up to control car traffic easily circumnavigated. similarly most dual-sport bikes can ford up to waste deep (or even chest deep with a homemade snorkel) water and at 300-700lbs total weight, depending on bike and equipment, most bikes can be transported in civilian small boats (this is how many adventurers surmount the Darien gap on trips to South America), allowing waterborne insertion without specialized landing craft, and the evasion of bridges that act as chokepoints.

Then once the bike is stopped it disappears completely.

Armoured vehicles are large, made of steel, and have large, HOT, engines which drive Wheels or tracks, which in turn generates a great deal of friction, heating those elements massively. Thus Satellites, radar, And infrared imagining have a relatively easy time of finding them.

Just on the face of it, with no concealment, bikes are difficult to detect via satellite, the width and length of a bike viewed directly above resembles the profile of a log or trash bins or small pile of rubbish more than any other vehicle an analyst might be looking for. And that’s if the satellite has the resolution to see the bike at all. Satellites also have the weakness that they only get individual snapshots of an area, meaning any indirect movements (not in a straight line) don’t betray their destination if seen and, until machine learning improves, are highly dependent on analysts actually looking at images and drawing conclusions, thus inherently limiting how realtime the information they can (a troop movement might take an hour to be identified once the satellite passes at which point a vehicle can be hundreds of kilometers way).

Similarly the radar cross section of a bike is shockingly small. Now a radar cross section is the size of a shape estimable from radar detection. Stealth Fighters might have a radar cross section as small as 1cm², so ably have the designers limited radar bouncing back, but then they need to since there is no clutter or concealment around a jet flying through empty air over enemy territory, and very little naturally travels faster than sound. However For most objects their radar cross-section is largely proportional to their size: a human for example is about 1m², a non-stealth light aircraft 3-5m², etc.

Whereas the radar cross section of a light vehicle can be 10-50m² (~+10 to +20dbm), and tanks closer to the 40-100m² (~+15 to +20) end of that spectrum, well above their actual size due to their metal composition and shape creating natural corner reflectors, motorcycles have a max radar cross-section just under 10m²(10dbm), which only occurs in spikes 90 degrees to the side as well as smaller ones to the immediate front and rear, For about 280 degrees of the spectrum the radar cross-section of a Motorcycle is smaller than that of it’s rider (average of about 1m², or 0dbm), rendering it pretty much indistinguishable from clutter, unless it starts flying through the air or sailing a calm sea ( or I suppose travelling a perfectly flat desert). On an open highway At highway speeds a motorcycle would be detectable by aircraft radar, since in nature only Cheetahs and falcons move that fast, a computer could reliably distinguish that from background noise, if it had a good angle… but at an off-road pace of 15-30km/h? Fat birds and dear travel that fast, hell the tips of tree branches probably reach that speed shaking in the wind. And geese, with a ~30cm² (-5dbm) radar cross section, comparable to the bike’s low end cross section, Regularly fly at 50-70mph (80-110kph), so even on open roads at legal rural “highway” speeds, there’d either be a large number of false positives or good chance the bikes go ignored by the radar software/operator, or undetected.


So summing up: bikes are incredible.

They provide a tool in many ways better than an armoured troop carrier, at a fraction the cost, have the best stealth of any vehicle under a 100 million dollars per unit, and given the easier time radar has at detecting supersonic airborne units… perhaps the best stealth period. They perfectly combines the versatility of foot travel, with the ability to get up to highway speed in under 10 seconds, and give fighters the ability to carry a full 100lb fighting load without significant physical exertion.

No wonder they are currently being used by Insurgents and militias across the middle-east and Africa, and no wonder many of the armies fighting said militias have started to replicate their tactics.


  1. McChuck says:

    One motorcycle is stealthy. A line of 10 of them (the capacity of an average APC) is not. And on how many occasions is a single squad (10 men) sent somewhere on its own?

  2. Pseudo-CHrysostom says:

    The most obvious factor in a motorcycle’s danger is the fact that it has dynamic stability, but no inherent stability. Which raises the equally obvious solution in the form of trike or ATV configurations.

    The second most obvious factor is speed. Motorcycles can often be dangerous in a way bicycles are often not dangerous, because the former can go a lot faster than the later. More speed, more force, more chance for injury and death if you take a spill.

    A traveler can move himself around on a bicycle far more efficiently than if he marched the same distance with the same weight on foot. Going up and down elevated terrain is still a pain though. Therefore, the obvious solution is motor-assisted bikes, where pedal and gas power can be combined. Even smaller and cheaper to operate than a motorcycle, with the same overland mobility. You lose out in top speed on straightaways – but then again, that was the whole point.

    A third, perhaps rather unobvious solution to the dangers of bike dragoons, is reintroducing suits of plate as standard battledress, to provide full body protection in the event of spills. Neo-hussars are a go.

  3. Jim says:

    There’s nothing inherently dangerous about a dirt bike of any size. Anyone who says otherwise is a huge pussy.

    “Stealth” in the sense of radar or satellite-image cross-section or the like doesn’t matter. I don’t know why the U.S. military communitariat so obsess about something that matters so little. The first thing that’s discarded when fighting gets hot is the pretense that your opponent doesn’t know where you are. Your opponent not knowing your position because you move more quickly or complexly then they can update their knowledge of your position is something else.

    Ten dirt bikes on the move aren’t subtle, but what’s suitably less subtle than ten dirt bikes is ten thousand dirt bikes.

  4. Pseudo-Chrysostom says:

    “There’s nothing inherently dangerous about a dirt bike of any size. Anyone who says otherwise is a huge pussy.”

    I am sympathetic to this point of view. Then again, the facts of the matter don’t support it. More people get more injuries more frequently using motorcycles than any other ‘peaceful’ activity there is beyond extremely niche edgecases and it’s not even close. It is what it is.

  5. Pseudo-Chrysostom says:

    The omnipresence of gayto’s legacy ISR overwatch systems providing detailed information on all but all Russian force movements and asset locations was a major factor behind the Kievian colonial administration’s ability to stay in the war during the early months.

    Radar returns are relevant since it relates to the ability of orbiting synthetic aperture radar satellites to distinguish objects of interest from uninteresting background clutter, which provides instantaneous detection of force movements in a way that can be more difficult via passive opto-electronic sensors, especially with regards to night time and overcast conditions.

  6. VXXC says:


    What does it do when it comes to a tank? In fact what does 500 of these Bike Infantry or Bike Cav do when they come to a tank? Even one tank? The insurgents if they could get tanks would be in tanks.

    That’s tactics.

    Now please explain the logistics? You know, petrol?

    As others pointed out, the noise. Loud.

    About that medevac…you lined that up, right?

  7. Pseudo-Chrysostom says:

    The biggest and baddest Leopard 2′s didn’t help the turks much when they got btfoed by a bunch of isis with toyotas and recoiless rifles.

  8. Ullan says:

    I picture light jeeps, with kevlar armour able to stop bullets and fragments, with a 4-5 man crew. More cost effective than 4-5 motorbikes, keeps a fire team together and can carry more gear. High tech technicals seems the way to go.

  9. TRX says:

    Tuchman commented on the effectiveness of motorcycle patrols in “The Guns of August.” Others have mentioned how effective bicycles were as well, for both the French and Germans. And German soldiers made effective use of bicycles in WWII as well. A bicycle is nearly silent, will carry as much as a motorcycle, needs no fuel, and it’s so cheap it’s basically disposable, compared to the cost of equipping a soldier and getting him into position.

    Also, the US Army has been using (mostly Kawasaki) motorcycles in some special ops units since the 1990s. Newer ones come already set up to take the same Diesel fuel other military vehicles use. Standard training involves dropping the bike and its rider by parachute into the woods at night, and having them orienteer their way out in the dark, using night vision equipment. At least, that’s how they were doing it 20-odd years ago; they’d probably have fancy GPS equipment and much better NV now. The old stuff had considerable display lag; okay for a soldier on foot, a serious problem on a motorcycle.

  10. vxxc says:

    Niche market in war, won’t deny.
    Replacement for tanks lol lmao.
    Once you see some Turks got unlucky and..some ISIS guys took them out with antitank weapons.
    That’s not tactics, it’s an anecdote.
    The bike had nothing to do with it except transport and the antitank weapons aren’t fired from the bike, are they?
    Transport isn’t irrelevant but it’s not fighting.

    It could, could have a niche as mounted infantry – travel fast on bikes, fight dismounted. This I can see.

    Waiting to hear the logistics.

  11. Pseudo-Chrysostom says:

    It’s an anecdote that keeps getting repeated.

    The late Colonel Gaddafi (pbuh) found the same thing out in the Chaddian misadventure, too.

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