When one hears the word "moped" images of bicycle-like machines with small
engines usually come to mind. That picture is pretty close to reality as
the classic moped has BOTH a motor and pedals for locomotion. In this
article we're going to briefly cover traditional mopeds. We'll spend most
of our time taking about moped-legal scooters. Not because we don't like
traditional mopeds (we DO like them very much) but rather
because moped-legal scooters are much more common and readily available
What is a Moped?
the name implies, it's a two-wheeled conveyance that allows for both human
(pedal) and petrol (motor) powered locomotion. In the early
days of the internal combustion engines, it was pretty much a case of
installing one of those newfangled motors on a bicycle. From the early
1900s until World War II, there was much more development in motorcycles
than in mopeds. When WWII ended in Europe, the demand for simple and cheap
transportation skyrocketed. Very few people could afford a car or
motorcycle and a lot of people got around on bicycles. This resulted in
prime conditions for moped development to say nothing of the iconic
Italian scooters. Many bicycle makers started offering small auxiliary
engines for their products. This included Ducati, Motbecane, Moto Guzzi,
Peugeot and others. In 1952 the Austrian company Steyr-Puch (known by
Puch in the USA, rhymes with 'book') introduced the MS-50. This
machine departed from the bicycle-based design and included elements such
as a pressed steel frame, fan-assisted engine cooling, 2-speed
handlebar-shifted gears and an elaborate electrical system.
In the late 1960s mopeds grew
in popularity and diversity. By the "energy crisis" of the 1970s, there
were about 125 different models of mopeds available in the USA. The moped
craze continued until the early 1980s when a combination of recession,
mandatory licensing and insurance and other factors caused many brands to
disappear from the US marketplace. Today, just a handful of traditional
mopeds are sold new here.
What is a "Moped" Scooter?
In this case, 'Moped' is a regulated specification. Many people think it
is simply a 50cc scooter which is NOT the case. In the State
of Minnesota, a scooter can be licensed as a moped ONLY IF it meets all
three of the following criteria:
1.) Electric motor or petrol engine with a piston
displacement of 50cc or less.
2.) Maximum of two brake horsepower (2HP at the
3.) Maximum speed of 30 MPH on a flat surface.
Many current 50cc scooters are NOT moped-legal because they do no meet the
second two requirements. These include the Yamaha Zuma, Vino & C3 and
Vespa LX50 & Vespa S50 among others.
If you considering purchasing a used 50cc scooter, look at the license on
the back. If it is legally registered as a moped, it will say "MOPED" on
the license plate. If not, it's considered a motorcycle and you will need
a motorcycle endorsement on your license and will NOT be able to park in a
In the State of Minnesota, a
person can legally operate a moped-legal scooter with a valid driver's
license. No motorcycle endorsement is required. All moped riders must wear
protective eyewear. Moped riders under 18 years old must wear a
DOT-approved helmet as well. All mopeds registered in Minnesota must have
liability insurance coverage. A 15 year old can get a moped permit after
completing a state-approved moped safety course.
What About Moped Parking?
This is a bit more complicated. The moped legal code, 169.223 (4) states:
"the provisions of section 169.222 governing the
parking of bicycles applies to motorized bicycles (mopeds)".
Section 169.222 subdivision nine states that bicycles can park in racks on
or near sidewalks unless said parking impedes pedestrian traffic or: "unless
prohibited by local authorities". This means that local rules can
supersede state parking regulations. For example, the City of Saint Paul
only has a few designated parking areas downtown for 2-wheelers. The
University of Minnesota is rife with mopeds parked in bike racks, BUT they
require a permit. In a lot of cases, one can park their moped-legal
scooter in a bike rack, but it's a good idea to verify this as opposed to
just assuming it's OK.
This can be a very big deal. I
have several friends who work in downtown Minneapolis and have free moped
parking available to them. In one case, the use of a moped-legal scooter
results in a savings of $289 per month in parking fees during the
30 Miles-Per-Hour? What the....
Yes, that's one of the requirements for moped licensing. If you commute
between Minneapolis and St. Paul on I-94 during rush-hour, 30 MPH might
seem fast. If you regularly ride on surface roads in the metro, you'll
know that 30 MPH is slow. Pay attention next time and see what speed most
of the vehicles are travelling at on a street posted 30 MPH (assuming
traffic isn't backed up). If you want to keep up, you'll need to be
able to go faster than 30 MPH.
Moped-legal scooters generally
utilize three elements to restrict performance in order to meet the moped
1.) The intake is restricted by a small carburetor jet
or a plate or gasket between the carburetor and the intake manifold.
2.) The exhaust is restricted by a cone or gasket.
3.) There is a governor installed in the transmission.
Some scooters utilize two of these, some all three. The point being that
it is possible to de-restrict your moped-legal scooter and give it a
higher top speed and sometimes a little more acceleration. If you do this
or have it done, you are supposed to re-register your
scooter as a motorcycle.
Beyond de-restriction, there
are numerous performance modifications readily available including "big
bore" engine kits, performance exhausts, performance transmission kits and
so on. I am not here to judge you or to suggest that you bend the laws
regarding your moped. I'm just saying that you may not have to live with
that 30 MPH limitation.
What Moped Should I Buy?
If you want a new pedal or motor moped, I think that Scooter Therapy in
Madison Wisconsin still sells Tomos mopeds. That's about the closest I
know of for new mopeds. There are lots of used mopeds in the Twin Cities
and if you visit the
Minneapolis Mopeds website these guys could
probably point you in the right direction. This group has some VERY
knowledgeable people in it and is a wonderful resource for all things
If you are looking for a
moped-legal new scooter. I recommend the Kymco People 50, the Genuine
Roughhouse, the Genuine Buddy 50, or the Honda Metropolitan. The first
three are sold in the Twin Cities by
and the Metro is available at Honda Powersports dealers. The Kymco People
50 is reviewed in this issue.