Friday, August 30, 2013

MotoPed: A New Kind of Hybrid Powered Bicycle

MotoPed: A New Kind of Hybrid motorized bicycle
I haven’t really given it that much thought, but apparently there’s a gap between the moped and the small motorcycle, and it’s kind of hard to find a new moped anyway. Santa Cruz inventor Cam Woods felt that way, anyway, so in 2008 he designed his own moped kit, using sturdy downhill mountain bike components and a clean-running, reliable Honda XR50 motor. It’s pretty trick—it uses a lot of off-the-shelf bicycle parts, and can use any motor in the Z50 pantheon, which includes inexpensive Chinese-built knockoffs and trick 190cc racing mills and all kinds of stuff in between—a gearhead’s dream.
The chassis is all designed and made here, and Cam’s already been making these kits for two years. The $1800 kit includes a tube-steel backbone frame, aluminum subframe and swingarm, jackshaft assembly, sprockets, bottom bracket, rear hub and exhaust system including a muffler.
It’s nice-looking stuff, judging from the pictures—high quality and nicely finished, with some pretty interesting design solutions. The pedal-drive, for instance, is a patented system that keeps constant tension on the final drive chain (a standard 420 chain with a selection of aluminum sprockets available) regardless of suspension movement. There’s also a special rear hub with sealed bearings that combines the motorcycle sprocket with mountain-bike brakes.
The remaining bicycle and motorcycle parts (if you don’t already have a lot of this stuff lying around) will run you another $2000 or so. However, MotoPed is running a Kickstarter campaign with the goal of pre-selling enough kits at $970 to make mass-production possible.
Imagine riding down your favorite mountain-bike trail, then riding back up the hill with a clean-burning, quiet, fuel-efficient motor. Or bombing down to the beach on a 110-pound moped that can go 50-plus mph.  The video below will give you some idea of the capabilities of this machine.
And then you get a ticket! Yes, a “motorized bicycle” in California can be two different things, as far as I could tell after a 20-minute conversation with a DMV Public Information Officer. If it can be powered by pedals alone and goes over 20 mph, it’s a Moped and needs to be registered and insured. If it won’t exceed 20, you don’t need any kind of license—you only have to be 16 or older and follow all other provisions of the vehicle code. This is a head-scratcher, as most unpowered bicyclists can go over 20 on flat ground, but who am I to second-guess the intent of the person(s) who wrote the California Vehicle Code? Your state may have very different (and probably much less restrictive) rules and regulations: for instance, many states have an “anything goes” attitude towards anything under 50cc, regardless of pedals or horsepower or transmission, with no requirement for license, insurance or registration.
Suddenly, I’m looking forward to riding a bicycle again. Stay tuned!