Parts By Moped

Parts By Category

Moped Manuals

Home > The Effortless Bike

It looks like an overbuilt bicycle, sounds like an impatient teakettle and, in fact, combines pedal power with petroleum push. Called a moped (from motor-plus-pedals), the motorized bike is catching on rapidly in the U.S. as a practical, inexpensive form of short-haul transportation for commuters, students, the elderly and fresh-air lovers out for a spin—not to mention the suburban housewife who is reluctant to drive a gas-guzzling, nine-passenger station wagon two miles for a can of tuna. Since it whirs along on a two-stroke mini-motor with less horsepower than a power mower, goes no faster than 30 m.p.h. and can be propelled by the pedals alone, the moped is clearly no motorcycle. It might best be called the effortless bike.

The proudest boast of the mopedocracy is that the machines average some 150 miles a gallon (more if you pedal, less if you’re heavy in the saddle). They are easy to maintain and emit almost no noxious fumes. Since they have automatic transmission, it should take only ten minutes’ instruction to learn to operate them. They give a much smoother ride than a bike. Moreover, they are within almost anyone’s budget, ranging from around $300 for the simplest model to more than $500 for one with all the trimmings, including telescopic front suspension, independent rear shock absorbers and speedometer.

Mopeds have long been a way to go in Europe and Southeast Asia. They arrived late on the U.S. scene because of a tangle of state and federal laws under which they were classified as motorcycles and thus had to be fitted with heavy, expensive safety equipment that made them impractical. The moped breakthrough came on the heels of the energy crunch, when the Department of Transportation ruled that they were indeed different from motorcycles and lowered equipment standards for the machines. Since then, 23 states have adopted similar laws and low registration fees (14 states do not even require registration); another half a dozen states are expected to follow suit by year’s end. During more than three decades of use in Europe, mopeds have proved safer than either cars or motorcycles.

In Southern California, where sales have taken off like a supersonic skateboard since restrictive laws were eased last January, Vespa of America expects to sell 10,000 of its Italian-made Ciao two-wheelers in 1976. The oldest and cheapest moped is the Velosolex ($300), made by Motobecane of France, which has 500 U.S. dealers. More than 17,000 of the peppy, eye-catching Austrian-made Puch models have been sold since February (v. 170 in all 1975).

Dual Drive. The two-wheel buzzers have their disadvantages. On very steep hills, the small motor may need help from foot power (two separate drive chains allow both forms of propulsion to work simultaneously). So as not to obstruct traffic, all states that permit mopeds ban the slow vehicles from freeways and major highways.

For most owners, nonetheless, mopeds are as satisfying to operate as they are attractive to look at. In Manhattan, where mopeds will not be legal on the streets until December, a Columbia University senior blithely pilots his brightly colored Velosolex all around the town. Though he has been stopped twice by New York City cops, he has yet to get so much as a reprimand for operating an illegal vehicle. One cop wanted to look the moped over. The other wanted to know where he could buy one.


Time Magazine

Monday, Oct. 04, 1976