The forerunners to motorcycles as we know them today are quite simply bicycles fitted with a small engine. During the first decades of development those engines were steam powered and ineffectual but later the combustion engine took over and the rest, as they say, is history. Now a new American start-up is taking the engine-powered bicycle concept to new heights.
, started in 2008 by Cam Woods in Santa Cruz, California, offers the Motoped Frame Kit which allows customers to construct an engine-powered mountain bike from the ground up. The Frame Kit comes with a frame, swing-arm, jackshaft assembly, sprockets, bottom bracket, rear hub and exhaust system all custom made by the company. Customers must then find forks, wheels, tires, a rear shock, brakes, cranks, pedals, freewheel, engine, tank, seat, plastics and throttle. Motoped offers a full list of compatible parts on their website to help ease the process.
Woods started Motoped with the intent of creating a motorized bike that would run on a Honda XR50 engine. The fuel-sipping engine settled in Woods’ mind for a few reasons. First, it has been used for decades and has plenty of aftermarket upgrades available. Second, it’s been copied to no end by numerous Chinese companies that have done many things with displacement and design, but who have all largely kept the same mounting structure. If one were so inclined, he could fit a 124cc Takegawa engine and really give the bike some kick.
Woods then set to designing a drivetrain and came up with a now patented pedaling system “that combines the engine drive with the pedal drive through a jack-shaft located in the swingarm pivot. This means that the rear wheel drive chain is not loosening and tightening as the rear suspension travels through its arc. Also, this allows for one chain going to the rear wheel, unlike most motorized bikes that use two chains to the rear wheel.” (Quote excerpted from the Motoped Kickstarter
The muffler and swingarm are made of 6061 aluminum and the frame is constructed of U.S. certified chromoly tubing and powdered coated metallic grey. The 135mm rear hub is custom built and has a 14mm axle. On the left side of the hub is an ISIS mountain bike brake disc mount and on the right side is a solid mount for the sprocket, which is built for a standard #420 motorcycle chain. Front and rear shock mounts are designed for standard mountain bike kit.
The Motoped Kickstarter page puts a completely built bike close to $3000 dollars. But with only $300 dollars allotted for the engine, $250 for the wheels and $120 for the rear shock in that calculation, it’s easy to see how that price could escalate real quick.
According to Woods, the high price is a primary reason for the Kickstarter campaign. The company has been selling small quantities of their kit for two years, but can’t offer a reduced price until they receive a bulk of orders to make manufacture of some components feasible offshore. Motoped plans to keep the main frame construction based in the U.S., but items like the exhaust system and bottom bracket could be outsourced to Asian manufacturers for a better price.
Time is running short, however, because the Kickstarter campaign ends September 6, 2013 and needs $250,000 to move forward. Currently, just days before the deadline, the effort has raised $130,351 in pledged support. There are a number of pledge levels, one of which allows customers to sign up to receive a Frame Kit for $970, which is normally priced between $1500 and $1800.
It’s clear from the video included below that Motoped has the urban commuter, guerilla stunter and off-road adventurist in mind as a potential customer base. The customization potential will likely be a draw as well. Though it appears to be more motorcycle than bicycle, the Motoped is an intriguing new chapter in the history of motorized bicycles that will undoubtedly be a blast for those that can afford the ride.