Most Americans have never seen a moped. But times are changing: in the 23 states where mopeds were legal last year, nearly 100,000 pedal poppers were sold. Sales are expected to double this year and the next, peaking out in the 1980;s when mopeds will be as common as 10 speed bicycles.
What are Mopeds? The name means "motor assisted pedals" and that just about sums it up. Mopes are heavy duty bicycles with tiny motors attached. The rider can pedal for excercise or relax and let the one or two horse power engine do the work. Mopeds should not be confused with the old fashioned motorbike. Motorbikes were for the most part, unsprung brakeless wonders suitable for the very young and brave. Mopes have large positive acting brakes, sturdy frames, and spring suspensions. Anyone who can balance on a bicycle can ride a mope.
Nor should mopes be confused with motorcycles which require coordinated clutch and gear manipulation and have the power to get you in trouble before you can say Oh @#%&! Mopes are quiet almost sedate vehicles which go solely upon command to the throttle grip. Hand levers, one for each wheel stop the bike. Speeds are limited to 20, or in some jurisdictions, 30.
Mopes are lightweight machines able to dart nimbly through traffic and comfortable enough for trips of 20 miles and more. While no one recommends this, Dick Hartnett, a student at University of North Florida, rode a vespa moped from Jacksonville to San Diego. Thais epic 2,617 mile journey earned him a place in Guiness Book of World Records. He reports that he did not have to pedal assist the motor and that the only maintenance was changing the spark plug and cleaning the carburetor at the approach to San Diego.
The cross country trip required 16.5 gallons of gasoline, which works out to 157 miles per gallon. Around the city, the typical moped delivers 130 to 150 mpg. The french velosolex, the all time economy champ, can squeeze out more than 200 mpg.
Initial cost ranges from $300 for stripped down models to $500 for the most sophisticated. Maintenance costs are low, particularly if you are willing to do the work your self. In all the manufacturers are probably right when they say that moped travel costs a 1 penny a mile.
While mopes are new to the united states they are well known in other quarters of the world. Best estimates put the mope population at more than 20 million with the greatest concentration in Europe, africa, south east asia. Six million mopeds are registered in France alone!