I love San Francisco so much that it's almost a problem. When I think about taking a trip somewhere, my next thought is, "yeah, but there's so much awesome stuff going on right here, too." Of course, no city is perfect. San Francisco's faults are common to most big cities: parking is a pain traffic gets unwieldy during rush hour.
Enter the moped. I used to think that "moped" was another name for scooter, but it's not. Considering that mopeds, with a few exceptions, haven't been mass produced since the 1980s, it's not all that surprising that no one knows what they are anymore.
A moped is actually a hybrid between a small motorcycle and a bicycle. They were originally designed for the motors to assist in pedaling, not to completely take over. As small engines became more powerful the need for human power diminished and eventually they were replaced with scooters.
If you want a moped these days, you have to buy an old one, usually from the seventies. And if you live in a city, it might be something you should consider. Here's why:
Mopeds walk the line between bikes and motorcycles, and in most places get the benefits of each. My moped goes between 40-50 mph at top speed, which means that just like a motorcycle, I can keep up with traffic, go up steep hills, and get places quickly. However, unlike a motorcycle, I can park it absolutely anywhere I want, including sidewalks. I go anywhere I want in San Francisco without even considering parking, and 100% of the time am able to chain the bike up to a street sign or parking meter.
Like motorcycles, I can drive in between lanes of traffic. That means that if there's a huge line for a red light, I zoom up to the front and cut the whole line. It's considered rude if other bikers are in it, but I can also use bike lanes. And, in a pinch, I can even drive slowly on a sidewalk if I need to go the wrong way on a one-way street. I've timed myself against friends with cars a few times, and I always get places faster than them, usually 30% faster-- and that's not even factoring in parking.
Just like the average car driver, I fill up my tank every week. The difference is that I put in about .7 gallons, which comes out to $2 usually. I use the moped as my primary transportation around the city, driving every day, and that covers me. If you happen to run out of gas you can put it into bike mode and pedal it around.
This is mostly just a summation of the benefits I already mentioned, but together they make the moped a really fun and effortless way to get around. Zipping around the streets, weaving past cars stuck in traffic, and never worrying about parking make it a real joy to get around the city.
A totally awesome moped will cost you less than a thousand. I'm selling my old one for $700, but you can buy slow-but-running ones for as low as $400. Parts and upgrades are all pretty cheap, too. A new big carb is $70, a new pipe is $100-200, a 64cc upgrade kit is $150.
Laws vary by state, but you generally don't have to buy insurance for them. If you have to register them (in some places you don't), it's likely to be a one time fee of around $20 for the lifetime of the moped.
People get annoyed (maybe rightly so) when I declare something the best thing ever and then don't address the downsides. So let's get to that.
I consider this to be a positive, but since these things are forty years old or so, you can't exactly bring them to the dealership to get them serviced. You end up doing a lot of the maintenance yourself. Believe it or not, that's one of the reasons I bought my moped initially; I felt like as a guy/human, I should understand how engines work and be able to work on them.
I went in knowing just about nothing about engines, and now have done all sorts of work, including scary sounding things like replacing the cylinder and piston, replacing the carburetor, and adjusting the brake cables. Maybe most importantly, I have a decent idea of how a two stroke engine works and how all the components work together. Most of this knowledge is thanks to moped enthusiasts at the shops and from mopedarmy.com.
Mopeds have the simplest engines possible, so they're great to learn on. If you're not willing to learn, you'd better live near a moped shop. San Francisco and Austin both have excellent ones, but most places don't.
Which one to Buy?
My moped is a 1974 Vespa Ciao with a 64cc kit, Polini Top One pipe, 13:13 carb, variator, and Red air filter. That's about as tricked out as a Vespa Ciao can get.
A Vespa Ciao was my only option because I needed something light and small so that I can store it in my RV while driving. It's a great choice, but a stock Ciao needs to be upgraded before it can handle any sorts of hills. The most popular brand is Puch, and I believe they're a bit more powerful out of the gate.
The best place to find one is your local Craigslist.
im trying to look for a moped that looks cool and new and is approved in Ohio. Does anyone know where i could find one like this?
if you do know please tell me. i've been looking for a long time. thanks
I write for a 50cc mopeds site in the UK and I love these babies. I would so like to ride a moped over where you are - it rains so much here!
As someone wrote above, mopeds are TERRIBLE for the environment I ride a bicycle and whenever a moped passes me its hard to breathe from all the crap they spew. If I see these machines unguarded they may end up with a chiseled head.... destroying these machines is win-win for everyone in the long run. Kill your f%$^&ing moped and be responsible. Don't spew crap into the air and think its ok! Its not!
I rode a motorized bicycle throughout college, and it was by far the best way to get to campus, for all the reasons you mentioned above.
Do you store your bike in your RV? If so, does it make the place smell like gas?
This is awesome. I've been driving around on a scooter in India and I've been considering getting one if I end up settling somewhere for more than a few months. You make a great case for the moped instead of scooter.
Just wondering how loud these things are? Could you hold a conversation next to one or is the engine quite deafening?
You can only go 20mph max on nice road bike unless you lance armstrong or something. And you sweat a lot, which can make going to a lot of places not practical. You can go city car speeds with a moped which makes a big difference.
Electric bikes have limited range unfortunately.
I have a 93 tomos and i love it.
for parts and other moped enthusiasts check out your local moped army chapter.
ebikes are the new way to go. No license or insurance required because they are in the same category as a bicycle. Milage and speed is limited, but they are better on the environment than motorized vehicles and a ton of fun to drive. Big cities would be better places if everyone drove an ebike.
awesome post at the perfect time. I am hopefully picking up a moped tomorrow. Tomos Targa LX. Also, while they were more popular years ago in America they continue to be heavily used around the world and you can find new ones if you want to, they can run from about $1200 to well over $2000.
Buying used seems to be a better option.
I now know better than to estimate the time moped projects will take. A quick half hour job turns into a frustrating afternoon after just one or two minor speedbumps. And that's what happened today.
One of my tires went flat last week, but instead of just replacing the tube, I ended up buying new wheels, tubes, and tires, because my old ones had spoked rims that weren't quite as straight as they once were, and didn't quite have as many spokes as they once had.
To ease into the work, I decided to do the front wheel first. Taking off the back wheel requires removing the belt, chain, brake cable, and then you have to take the transmission out of the hub. The front wheel should only require removing the brake cable.
The level of sophistication of parking lots vary wildly across the globe.
For instance, in Singapore, all the cars are equipped with a chip that is hooked up to a special card. Every time you roll into a parking lot, or pass through a toll gate, it automatically deducts the money from your card. It's kind of like a pay-as-you-go SIM card for your phone, but for your car instead. Result: no traffic congestion.
In South Africa, some government Jeenius hatched a brilliant scheme to create more jobs: knock down all the parking meters and replace them with live human beings to collect the cash. This is one of those criminally-stupid ideas that could have been invented by no one who isn't in an official government position.
On one particular parking lot in London, England, a similar scenario took place. A lone parking lot attendant -- let's call him John -- stood there at the entrance of the parking lot, collecting people's money... every day for 30 years.
Yup, one of those old school working types. Don't see a lot of them these days. They just get a job and stick to it.