Hooniverse Asks – What the Hell Happened to all the Mopeds?

Moped racer! Moped racer! Moped Racer, Mo!

When I was a kid, back when dinosaurs ruled the earth and the McRib® was yet to delight a nation of eager gastronauts, America became awash in mopeds. Half motorbike, half pedal bike, and all fun, these 50-cc two-stroke conveyances littered my high school bike racks like so many wheezy mosquitos. Peugeot, Puch, Minarelli and Motobecane all jockeyed for space, and after school the air was filled with a sound akin to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir – farting in unison.
The attraction of the moped back then was the lack of need for a motorcycle license to operate one. I didn’t sink that low, choosing to go the license route and riding an almost as small, but pedal-less Honda. I put a ton of miles on that little honda, and as I recall, I never saw that many mopeds while I was out collecting bugs with my face.
Not only were they seemingly only being used between high school and some unknown alternate location, but after only a few years, they seemed to disappear almost entirely. There were so many, back in the day, that it seems impossible that they’ve all gone to the big junkyard in the sky, but that appears to be the case. Today, mopeds seem as rare on the roads, and high school bike racks as g-string wearing monkeys, and with oil companies acting like Charlie Sheen in defending their price gouging, that seems a shame.
So why do you think the moped has gone the way of Elvis? Is it because of licensing changes, or maybe pollution standards? Is it because there is no way to look cool while riding one? Or, is it an insidious plot by the oil companies and the ShamWow guy that we all drive cars so we can wash them and then dry them using the. . . ShamWow? I’m scared, are you?
Image source: [1977moped.com]

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  1. Cretony38 Avatar

    I sold my '77 Garelli SS black tank over with oil injection. Now its out on the road somewhere with a hipster kid who just stepped off his fixie bike.

  2. engineerd Avatar

    Because you can't do this on a moped:
    <img width=500 src="http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/dailyweekly/vespa.jpg"&gt;

    1. mr. mzs zsm msz esq Avatar
      mr. mzs zsm msz esq

      Rather you resort to this, fun in it's own way too!
      <img src="http://www.corbisimages.com/images/67/102ABE11-E20B-40D7-9655-F24ED841EEBE/42-19322430.jpg&quot; width="500">

  3. ChuckyShamrok Avatar

    In my area, the moped is piloted by the guy who has so many DUI's he has lost his license. I believe this past Saturday night I saw three buzz down the street in Boston as I was trying to get my Shamrock Shake fix

  4. muthalovin Avatar

    A: They all came to Austin. Seriously, hipsters have the market on Mopeds. I just followed one last night for about a mile. Delightful 2-stroke fumes and no plates. I was kinda jealous. Until I got home and saw my Duc.

    1. texan_idiot25 Avatar

      As a fellow Austinite, I can relate. They come out in full force during SXSW.

  5. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

    The Peugeot Speedfight 50 happened. At a stroke, unless you had a race-rep 50cc scoot to ride home from school on, you were nobody.
    When we were 16, rocking up on a Tomos or a Puch Maxi was a declaration of lame-itude on a biblical scale.

  6. Alff Avatar

    What do you call a fat girl on a moped?

  7. zach Avatar

    They're out there. The old ones. Hipsters ride them. Pretty cool, I think.

  8. beamish Avatar

    all the poor people – mexicans and hipsters – own them now.

  9. willyb Avatar

    also, people who dont know the difference between a scooter and a moped are beyond retarded.

    1. ptschett Avatar

      Under the law they're the same, at least in my state where both are a "motorized bicycle" and the definition allows for pedals (moped) or a platform (scooter).

  10. tonyola Avatar

    They didn't have the power to keep up with traffic in all but urban crawls. You couldn't legally escape to the sidewalks or bike paths. They weren't as maneuverable as a bicycle but they also lacked the go of a motorcycle. Maybe mopeds are wonderful in Mumbai or Beijing, but in the US they're just not seen as sufficient. Florida requires that any moped driver on public roads have a drivers license (no motorcycle endorsement if under 50cc).

    1. Smells_Homeless Avatar

      They do indeed have all of that going against them. However, when that Tomos shifts to second gear and you get the handlebar-yank timed just right, the resulting wheelie was the best thing ever. Until we got real motorcycles, of course.

  11. ZomBee Racer Avatar

    Soccer moms in SUVs, internets and play-stations. Outside is to be feared.

  12. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
    Peter Tanshanomi

    Mopeds/Nopeds never really got too popular around Kansas City. It may have something to do with the fact that there are so few places you can take them; the KC metro area has more miles of limited-access freeway per capita and per square mile than any other American city.

  13. Jim-Bob Avatar

    I like them but the thought of having something incapable of exceeding 30MPH scares me to death. If gas goes to $5 a gallon though I may just get one to do my around town driving to save on gas. I occasionally hunt for one on Craigslist to see if I can find one for around $100 that I can play with.
    My neighbor has a 1977 Garelli Eureka Flex that he got for free from a junkyard owner he knows. I am a bit jealous, but at least I got to get it running and find parts for it.

  14. CJinSD Avatar

    Kids were an important market in my neighborhood, where most of us had mopeds when we were 12 or 13 years old. It was illegal, and occasionally our parents received phone calls from law enforcement, but it was nothing like the police state that is suburban living in Virginia today. The middle school demographic today is still riding in child seats in the backs of their moms' SUVs on the way to and from after-school activities instead of hopping on mopeds to ride a mixture of roads, trails, and police car stopping pinch points to fields to meet their friends for 3 on 3 football games and BB gun fights. College kids have scarcely more independence. Mopeds took mechanical inclination to keep running for more than a week. They were basically European, and as such garbage. Even my Honda PA50 was actually Belgian, and everyone in the business knew the carburetors went bad in 2,000 miles. The replacements listed for more than the sale price of the mopeds themselves.

    1. CJinSD Avatar

      The Eurotrash was replaced by much more dependable Japanese scooters. Starting with 'nopeds' like the Honda Urban Express and Yamahopper, then going full force with 4-stroke Honda Elite scooters and their competitors. You didn't need to be a mechanic. You didn't even have to see any dirty mechanical components once they became scooters. The only controls that mattered were the starter button, the throttle and the brakes. No more decompression levers, pedaling, kicking, fuel mixing, maintenance, chokes, chain lubing, the belt driven scooters were a perfect progression away from people that neede d competence to be free. The next step was people who didn't have motorized 2 wheelers at all.

  15. west_coaster Avatar

    When I was 15, I convinced my parents to let me buy a Honda Express, which had a 50cc engine but was considered a motorcycle by the DMV.
    I could ride it on my learner's permit (with a Class 4 endorsement), and although its top speed was somewhere between 25 and 30 mph, it was a heck of a lot better than pedaling my Schwinn. It really was a model of efficiency and thoughtful design, as well pretty much all Honda products of the era. I seem to remember the gas tank holding about a half a gallon of gas, and that would last me all week.

  16. BGW Avatar

    They never went away around here. In fact, this time of year, when spring breaks out, you can usually find the Hell's Satans out clogging traffic and choking pedestrians with 2-strokes that seem to be having strokes. Some of them have become quite the magicians when it comes to keeping 35yr old+ crapheaps running. Too bad about the skinny jeans, though.

  17. P161911 Avatar

    They got replaced with $499 Chinese made scooters. While they have never been really popular in my area, you do see a bunch of places selling the Chinese scooters now. I remember seeing a moped in the bike department of K-Mart in the 1970s. As Jim-Bob mentioned above, if gas gets to and stays above $5/gal I might consider one. It wouldn't take long to make up the investment of a $500 moped or scooter. In Georgia under 50cc and under 30-45mph(?) doesn't require a tag or insurance. There are usually one or two mopeds on Craigslist along with a whole bunch of scooters.

  18. packratmatt Avatar

    Around here the YZ80 was the bike to have. I had a Honda Hobbit and a Kreidler back in the 80s. They were great for checking on lawn mowing jobs. Not so great for off roading. These days I still them downtown but everyone is wearing full face helmets. Safe to be sure but not as cool as they think.

    1. BЯдΖǐL-ЯЄРΘЯΤЄЯ Avatar

      Back in Europe, more specific The Netherlands, Kreidler was the moped to have. In The Netherlands you were allowed to ride a moped limeted with 50 cc and top speed of 40 km/h at the age of 16 (cars only at 18). Of course we learned quick that Kreidlers were made to improve that top speed. At one time I had one that went over 130 km/h, the carb went up from 12 mm to 21 mm, exhaust original 16 mm went up to 34 mm and used an dimensioned expansion chamber canister. The inner of the engine was polished, and exhaust and inlet port honed out twithin few milimeter where the piston rings ends. The exhaust port had special tapered opening to exhaust to boost the expansion chamber effect. Also we drilled holes in the side of the piston alined with inlet port.
      Result of all this was a 14k to 15k rpm screaming 50 cc being chased by the cops.
      Fun times.
      <img src="http://www.kreidler.nl/verkiezingen/16-01-2009/robert1-2-klein.jpg"&gt;

  19. CptSevere Avatar

    When I was a kid in North Florida in the late seventies, I used to borrow my grandparent's Motobecane moped and see how far I could lean it over on undeveloped streets in the retirement community they lived in at the time. Way out in the sticks where I lived, I had my own 100cc Chaparral stupid little dirtbike, but I liked fooling around on their moped. That was silly fun, and harmless. A year later, I saved up and bought a Yamaha 650 twin, and that was it for riding the moped. Yeah, like scooters, they're OK until you get a motorcycle, then you'll never go back. However, there's a retired guy here who somehow got ahold of a Puch moped, and he seems to be having a great time buzzing around on it from one bar to the next. Even the everpresent bikers get a kick out of it.

  20. Deartháir Avatar

    Since this is where I grew up, they never really took off in my part of the world:
    <img src="http://skitrax.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Rossland-BC-1.jpg"&gt;
    This is the same town where Rick Mercer (a minor Canadian celebrity) experimented with street bobsledding:
    [youtube NUTF-h7IgiE http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUTF-h7IgiE youtube]