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MotoPed: A New Kind of Hybrid (now with video)

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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.

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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!

Gabe Ets-Hokin is the Editor of City Bike Magazine, and a frequent contributor to MotorcycleDaily.com

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79 Comments

  1. halfbaked says:

    I’m surprised that no one has pointed out that the additional components the buyer must provide the engine, forks, shock, seat, plastics, tank, brakes, kick-start lever, rims, tires, cranks, stem, bars, freewheel and headset can not possibly be purchased new for $2K USD. the White Bros Grove fork and Rockshox Vivid R2C shock featured on this bike are worth nearly $2 grand themselves. Any parts pulled off a used mountain bike would have to be thoroughly rebuilt and brought up to spec. Brakes and rims in particularl would not be safe unless they were virtually brand new. Personally I’d rather have a Sachs MadAss, Sherco 4Tricks or that Yamaha Chivicker I was always hoping they would make.

  2. sonnus says:

    Just checked out their website. They are running a kickstarter on mass-produced version until September 6th. Definitely check it out if you’re interested.

  3. Al says:

    I would like more info on the Kit

  4. Al says:

    I would like a kit how do I get more info .

  5. John says:

    It would be interesting to take a Honda Grom and do this to it.

  6. John says:

    Lose the pedals, no point to them!

    • George Krpan says:

      Pedals are an advantage. Putting one of the pedals at six o’clock substantially lowers the center of gravity, approximately 175mm, 7 inches. Also you can get clip in pedals, foot less likely to come off. Get on Youtube and find some downhill videos, mindblowing. On some of the courses a motorcycle just couldn’t cut it.

  7. John Cameron says:

    Probably one of the dumbest videos ever made. What was the manufacturer thinking when he shot this piece of idiocy? Was he out to sabotage his business in its infancy? I think that I recognize the area he is riding in and I know that the city council would would go absolutely ape shit and immediately outlaw such vehicles locally and then press for state bans after seeing this video and noticing where all of this action is taking place. He is riding the thing in a city park over mowed grass for chistsakes, an action that would be sure to immediately result in cries first for criminal charges against the rider and and then for the bike’s total banning. Not to mention his doing long wheelies on very recognizable city street frequented by local pedestrians and bicycle riders. This sort of thing might be ignored if it was done a regular bicycle. It certainly won’t be ignored on a bike with a motor.

    I have two dirt bikes and I absolutely shudder about what would happen if this video got in the hands of our already hostile state legislature which already hates off road riding.

    • John says:

      Relax, old man, don’t get your suspenders in a bunch.

      • MGNorge says:

        He makes a good point. In many areas this would lead to no good. Conscientious dirt bike riders would most likely shudder at the thought of bad PR this kind of thing could rain down upon them. I found myself thinking the same way when watching the video. Nope, suspenders still intact!

  8. Lenz says:

    Great little beast in terms of its functionality but its in “no mans land” for on road useage due to registration and insurance costs / requirements. My personal opinion is this type of power-assisted bicycle should be broadly encouraged as super cheap transport.

  9. George Krpan says:

    How about a “fatbike” version like a Surly Pugsley?

  10. Gary says:

    Watching the video again, I’m starting to think of this bike as more of a 150cc (why would you limit yourself to 50cc when there are 150cc available) trails bike then motorized bicycle. It really is a hooning good time.

  11. Mr.Mike says:

    I have hilly property that this would perfect for but I wouldn’t want to disturb my neighbors with the sound of the motor. If this were electric I’d be in.

  12. Gronde says:

    I like the concept of this bike. Can you ride a 50cc bike on bike trails in Southern California? Isn’t there a law that states bikes with less than 50cc’s don’t have to be licensed in California? I think it would be easy to build a junkyard special on the cheap and still have a great time!

  13. Gary says:

    I don’t know who collaborated with Cam Woods to design this thing, but I’d bet good money high-grade cannabis served as their chief inspiration. I’m just sayin …

    • TimC says:

      So you mean “loco weed” or they were “inspired”? Some people think cannabis is not a performance-enhancing drug, but then they don’t snowboard….

  14. David says:

    I LOVE IT, I WANT ONE, I MEAN I REALLY WANT ONE, OMG!!!
    I was thinking of buying a DR400SM, but this has changed my outlook!

  15. todd says:

    Anyone remember the Garelli Tiger Cross? Same thing but legal. I think Peugeot had a pedaled dirt bike too.

  16. BillyGoat says:

    What are the petals for? Who wants to ride a 110lb bicycle? Anyone ever ride one of those heavy Chinese Sears bikes? This is 6 times worse!

  17. katahdinkid says:

    “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.”

    I know this is a device to get your attention and all, but outside the states you can find all kinds of 50cc+ “scooters” that look like sportbikes (Cagiva for instance). Theres no market in the states due to our lack of motorcycle licensing restrictions; age, engine capacity, horsepower, etc. FWIW

    Cool concept, like the out of box thinking, but cant see utility. Sometimes adding your two favorite things isnt always a recipe for fun.

  18. SecaKid says:

    This bike and the Grom make me think that the next thing in motorcycling, might just be, who can make the smallest, most fun bike. Bikes have just gotten too big, too fast, too heavy and too expensive. Some people want to ride a bike that is just fun. I can’t wait to see how the Grom sells.

  19. George says:

    Neat product.

    Bad idea.

    Violates all sorts of laws about motorized access v. non-motorized access and licensing.

    Promotes abuse of lands (city parks, sidewalks, bike lanes, etc.) where motorized traffic is not allowed.

    Ultimately products like this will reduce lands available to ride motorcycles off road and will cause additional restrictions on motorcycles in general.

    Then there is the product liability of letting an unlicensed kid loose on the street with a motorized vehicle…

    IF, it were limited to 20 mph max then MAYBE but I always disliked the mopeds as well as generally they were junk.

    • Colors says:

      Sounds like you are already lying down in the face of tyranny waiting for the tyrants to walk your liberties. They are our laws, don’t let them pass that kinda crap. If this is still a free country, then I’m free to ride what I want, where I want.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        Then by your definition, this is no longer a free country.

      • George says:

        I suggest if you take this bike to any city in the US and ride it through the city parks on the grass and on dedicated, unpaved mountain bike trails and I will bet there will be all sorts of people lined up to add legal restrictions on the bike including:
        1) Mountain bikers that don’t like their trials screwed up by motorized traffic.
        2) Most park users that don’t want bicycles off bike paths and don’t want motorized vehicles on anything but roads
        3) Cops that want licensing and training requirements
        4) Pedestrians that get run over looking for insurance to compensate them for their injuries…

        All of the above will label this machine a motorcycle because it is not a bicycle and they won’t know any more difference. Most non-motorcycle riders can’t tell the difference between a KTM DS and a HD!

        There will always be people that will screw up everything but needlessly upsetting the non-riding public as this bike and the video promote will just result in more negative restrictions on all motorcycles.

      • John says:

        Why wait, when you can surrender your liberties up front out of pure habit?

    • Daytona James says:

      Be clear… the BIKE doesn’t violate all sorts of laws… the people who potentially buy these bikes may violate those laws. The fact that so much of the MD gallery recognize the implications more in opposition to the way the manufacturer chose to put their promo vid together is perhaps a good thing. It shows a responsible audience… kudos.
      I don’t recall this kind of negative response when KTM released a very similar video on their products not so long ago. KTM pushes the boundaries of appropriateness when it comes to marketing their products. Don’t get me wrong, I love KTMs… it is incumbent on the consumer to use the marketed product in a manner befitting their local regs. Up here in the interior of BC, we don’t have such restrictive land use laws. I suspect it’s a bit more contentious in California… common sense should prevail in all cases. In this case, shoot the message and not the messenger.

      • tla says:

        yea, guns don’t kill people…..but if you leave a gun laying around long enough, sure enough a jackass will pick it up run up some trouble with it….

  20. Daytona James says:

    Wow… I am so surprised at the lack of enthusiasm here. I started road racing at the same time I became involved in competitive mountain-biking. I’m not only jazzed about the new micro-market this product taps into, I laughed until I cried watching the video thinking how cool it would be to commute to work on then find some great trails on the way home at the end of the day. Slightly north of 50, I’m getting tired of peddling my ass up the big hills and wouldn’t mind a bit of help. C’mon… it wheelies, sucks up the rough stuff on trails. If you can’t sport some wood for this thing, you should ease up on the geritol.
    Count me in.

    • Dave says:

      “C’mon… it wheelies, sucks up the rough stuff on trails.”

      I’m going to bet that the bike in the video is not build with the 50cc honda motor. I still think it’s very cool though.

    • jim says:

      I’m with you. This looks so awesome.

      My commute very rarely exceeds 50 mph, and being able to switch to ‘bike mode’ to ride past the gridlock would shave 30% off my ride. I’m sure it uses less gas than my Monster 1100, and it’d probably be more fun around town.

  21. David Duarte says:

    With brake lights and signals, it would make a great gas-sipping back road commuter.

  22. Hair says:

    I had not planned on commenting until I watched the video.
    Reading the write-up and looking at the bike I was not able to think of one riding senario that this bike could benefit me. Don’t get me wrong I like the bike. But where could I ride it that would expand my current riding options. My primary problem with access is that all of our local trails are being converted from motorized to non-motorized. That designation treats this bike the same as it would treat my dirt bike.
    Then I watched the video and after my furry subsided I thought that I would comment. Watch the video count the venues that this bike is being ridden in. Then separate the venues to ones that you can currently access with a normal motorcycle. And the ones that it would illegal to ride this bike. Is it legal to ride a motorized bike in a bike lane? Is it legal to ride it on the sidewalk and up and down stairs? Were those forest trails open for motorized travel? Was the bike being ridden within the limits of the law on the street?
    Normally I would not care about any of this. But here in the west we are losing access to public lands faster than one can imagine. Most of the riders here support trail maintenance efforts. Most of the riders here ride within the guidance of the law.
    I really can’t see how this bike when ridden as promoted can have a positive effect on our efforts to keep access to public lands, bike trails and or scenic byways.
    My wish is that the promoters of this bike ride it in venue that is better suited for their style of riding. And while they are at it. Maybe do something to convince me that bicycle brakes can reliably control a bike on a decent with the extra mass of a motor on the frame.

  23. Gary says:

    I watched the video on the manufacturers site. That is one serious hooning machine. If built right, the price is hard to justify.

  24. paul246 says:

    A video clip is one thing. If you ride this machine like he does in the clip, it will be a piece of junk by the end of the first summer of use. Plus, by that time the lawmakers will be devising new rules to quash machines like this. Too bad, because it will probably have negative fallout on the other people riding more sedate power assisted bicycles, such as my wife’s 31cc Honda power assisted bicycle.

  25. mickey says:

    That would have been awesome to have instead of that stupid Sears Allstate moped I had when I was 13 in 1963. In 1965 I got my first real street motorcycle and haven’t ridden anything with pedals since. Now at 63 knees are shot and couldn’t ride a pedal bike if I had to.

  26. MotoBum says:

    One word sums up this innovation: badass.

  27. xootrx says:

    Anybody ever hear of the Whizzer? From the late 30′s to just about 3 years ago, it was the same concept from a different era. No where near the capability of this thing, that’s for sure, but fun in its own, funky little way.

  28. Norm G. says:

    definitely something for the biker. “bicyclists” however don’t want anything to do with this.

  29. Grant says:

    Looks like a ton of fun!

  30. Azi says:

    Interesting concept, but I think powered motos and MTBs should be riding different trails. Powered bikes chew up MTB trails, especially uphill sections and singletrack. Not cool, especially for the poor trail builder.

    MTB and dirtbike advocates in many countries have fought a long and hard battle to gain legitimacy with various National Parks and Forestry agencies, so I think these hybrid manufacturers (including offroad e-bikes) should share some of the effort in community engagement as well.

  31. ApriliaRST says:

    Pretty cool, but that thing would eat a pair of bicycle tires in a day if ridden like in the video. But then, when you’re using it like a bicycle, you have to lug the motor around… which might be great for those wanting the exercise, but most people would simply end up using the motor almost all the time.

    Regardless, I like the concept of mixing a mountain bike and a small motorcycle.

    Did I mention that I’d like bigger brakes with the sustained speeds a motor could make?

  32. Josh C says:

    There have been a couple versions of this, sold as complete bikes for $1500 or less since 2006 or 2007, none of them ever gained traction in the US.

  33. Tom K. says:

    Argonne Labs in Illinois (think Sheldon, Leonard, Raj and Howard) are working on a battery project, that if successful, will finally make electric cars feasible (providing enough range and short enough recharge time at a low enough cost and weight that they can be commercially viable without Gub’mint subsidies). If they succeed, and if anyone can, they can, that 50cc motor will become a boat anchor and this type of thing will be electrified, and even lighter and more fun. I think the timetable is three to five years. On a related note, how come I’ve never read a review of KTM’s “Freeride”? Is that available yet?

  34. Gronde says:

    I would remove the pedals and ride it like a moped, dirt bike, etc… Too much weight to pedal uphill, which mountain biking has a lot of.

  35. Tim says:

    This is a great idea. I want one of these. Probably good for 150 mpg or so. I would think an urban dweller woul love this thing. Small enough to keep in an apartment and fast enough to be useful. Looks kind of cool too.

  36. Colors says:

    HAHA! Thats awesome! Not worth the $2900 all in, but definately awesome.

    • Dave says:

      You should see what the top brands get for a top of the line downhill mountain bike or a 15lb road bike. Enough $$ to have a pretty special day at the motorcycle store. lol

    • Ralph says:

      Even for the city dweller. For this cash i’d rather have a new Honda Grom, I think it’s a way cool little bike. If my daughter was a little older I’d buy a Grom and store it in the crate until she’s 16.

    • JSH says:

      It is $3800 not $2900. $1800 for the frame kit and $2000 for the other kit. That is unless you do the kickstarter campaign and roll the dice and send them $3000 with no guarantee that you will get anything for your money.

      I also don’t get it. You could spend $3000 to $4000 on a build it yourself bike/motorcycle hybrid that you can’t ride on mountain bike trails, bike trails, or the road or $3000 for a Honda Grom that come assembled with a warranty. Oh, and that you can actually use.

  37. stratkat says:

    hmmm or you could take a lightweight dirtbike ride it up the hill shut it down and coast down cause thats basicly what you are doing here. youve taken a lightweight bicycle and added weight, not sure i get this.

  38. Mike Simmons says:

    At last! A new bike that’s NOT a Harley lookalike and has no gas tank seams! What’s not to like?

    ;^)

    • Glenn says:

      No beak either, which is universally despised on this website, and seems ubiquitous on anything resembling an adventure bike.

  39. MGNorge says:

    I like it for what it is but just not sure where it would fit in here in the states. It’s unique, that’s for sure.