The Mobylette is a moped made by French manufacturer Motobecane. First introduced in 1949, the Mobylette enjoyed a 48-year history and production numbers exceeded 14 million bikes. In 1981, Motobecane filed for bankruptcy, and ceased production of their moped line.
The 50 series is probably the most refined and sought after moped manufactured by Motobecane. Most of the information in this article refers to the 50 series.
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Though similar to the 50 series, there are several important differences in the AV89 series.
Mobylettes share almost entirely the same engine. The bottom end, cylinder, head, and exhaust are common to most engines. Differences lie in the ignition system (6 volt versus 12 volt), the drive system (variator vs. clutch and single speed), and the intake system. The intake system usually consists of a Gurtner carburetor and appropriately-sized intake manifold, which differ by model. Larger Dellorto carburetors are preferred as an after-market performance add-on. Autisa, Airsal and Polini make 70cc kits for Mobylettes, the latter requiring the Polini Motobecane racing bottom end.
The variator allows for the drive system to attain a lower gear ratio when then engine is at idle, and a high gear ratio when the engine is at higher RPM. The Mobylette Variator is a simple, yet functional, device. Consisting of a sliding and fixed plates, the variator can increase or decrease the forward gear ratio, allowing more efficient use of the engine's RPM.
The following drive belts are known replacements for 50-series Mobylettes:
- Goodyear 17321
- Gates AX30
- Gates A30
- Napa 4l320
- Dayco 17320
- Guide to Motobecane spark and timing
- Converting from stock Gurtner AR carburetor to a Dellorto SHA carburetor
- Motobecane porting
The Mobylette, a moped once sold by the millions has fallen victim to modernization. The Mobylette first hit French roads in 1949. By the 1970s, its popularity had soared to such an extent that some 750,000 were being made every year. Tough EU legislation on pollution which decrees that the standard two-stroke, 49.9cc engine is too dirty to pass new vehicle emissions standards. The Mobylette, France's little moped that could, is headed for the junkyard of history.
The last French-built Mobylette rolled off the production lines in November, 2002 at the MBK plant in St Quentin, north-east France. Pedro Alvarez, head of MBK has fond memories of the bike "It pains the heart a little." The typical model was nothing more than a souped-up bicycle with a headlight in the front and an engine instead of pedals. But Mobylettes enjoyed a reputation for being solid, reliable, cheap and easy to maintain. They transported young lovers to their first date, farmers to market and postal carriers to letterboxes. For teenagers, who could legally ride a Mobylette from the age of 14 without needing a licence, they were a dream come true.
But despite its long pedigree, few self-respecting French teenagers now turn up at school gates astride a "mob", as they were once affectionately known. "Their friends would make fun of them," Mr Alvarez admits. Today, the fashion in France is for scooters in bright, flashy colors. Sales of the modest Mobylette plunged to just 11,000 units prior to their discontinuation. Some 30 million Mobylettes have been manufactured since they were introduced in 1949, according to Mr Alvarez.
"We are very proud of our little ‘Bleue’, but we have to face up to economic reality," said Mr Alvarez. The vehicle's demise comes as France fights to preserve its identity in a world of disappearing economic, cultural and linguistic barriers. Berets were once almost a national symbol; today, young people prefer hip-hop style woolly hats. The French language, once required for diplomacy, has long lost ground to English. So anxious is France to stem the tide that the law requires radio stations to broadcast a minimum amount of French music.
Despite the country's fondness for it, the Mobylette was no match for European anti-pollution legislation that comes into force next year. The vehicle's two-stroke engine doesn't meet new vehicle emissions standards. Mobylettes were not known for their beauty but are arguably the most famous moped brand and have sold incredibly well.
About half of the 30 million Mobylettes sold since 1949 were a model nicknamed la bleue (the blue) so called because they first sold in just one color. Production of that model stopped in mid-November, Alvarez said. Mobylettes carried young lovers on first dates and farmers to market. Postmen used them to deliver mail, and teenagers allowed by law to ride them without a license at 14 souped-up the engines to race.
"In the 1970s, les bleues were really something. Every young person dreamed of having one," said Maurice Bernot, a 50-year-old computer engineer who started saving at age 10 to buy his first Mobylette four years later. "This Mobylette is mythic."
He recently bought another one, a 1957 model he reconditioned to ride to work and skirt traffic jams in his southern town of Toulon. It does just 25 miles an hour, but "it reminds me of when I was 14," Bernot said."You rediscover sensations you realize you'd never forgotten," he said. "The real pleasure is when you have a 2-kilometer jam of cars before you and it takes two minutes to get past them."
The Mobylette had recently enjoyed a revival of sorts. Nino Quincampoix, the quirky male lead of the hit film "Amelie," rode one in his cross-Paris hunts for Amelie Poulain, the dotty waitress with a heart of gold. The Mobylette was also featured on a set of stamps released by the national post office in March, along with the Concorde jet, TGV high-speed trains, the France ocean liner and the 2CV, the car Citroen stopped producing in 1990. About 400,000 people voted to include the Mobylette in the series.