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A picture of several mopeds from a ride sponsored by the Moped Army. In the front is a Garelli, followed by a Motobecane, and in the rear is a Sachs.

Mopeds are a class of low powered motorized vehicles in legal literature normally defined by limits on engine displacement, speed, power output, transmissions, or the requirement of pedals. Moped classification is designed to allow the use of small motorised vehicles avoiding safety restrictions and licensing charges of larger motorcycles. Some motorized bicycles, small scooters, and small motorcycles fit the definition of a moped.

Typically, mopeds are restricted to 45-50 km/h (28-31 mph) and engines less than 50 cc. Some localities require pedals, thus making them a form of hybrid transport, using both human power and machine power. Because of their small size, many jurisdictions consider them "limited speed motorcycles."


The earliest mopeds, introduced in the early 1950s, were nothing but bicycles with a helper motor in various locations, for example on top of the front wheel. These were commonly called cyclemotors. An example of this type is the Velosolex brand, which simply had a rubber roller driving the front tyre. A more innovative design was known in the UK as the Cyclemaster. This had a complete powered rear wheel which was simply substituted for the bicycle rear wheel, which originated from a design by two DKW engineers in Germany. Slightly larger machines, commonly with a 98cc engine were known as autocycles. However, some mopeds, such as the Czech-made Jawa, were derived from motorcycles.

A further category of low-powered two-wheelers exists today in some jurisdictions for bicycles with helper motors—these are often defined as power-assisted bicycles or motorized bicycles. Some jurisdictions, however, may categorize these as a type of moped, creating a certain amount of confusion.

Some mopeds have been designed with more than two wheels, similar to a microcar, or the three wheeled (two front, one back) transport moped.


Moped's ancestor - a bike equipped with a motor

The word moped was coined by a Swedish journalist in 1952, as an abbreviation of motor and pedal.

Local definitions

United States

While the exact legal definition of a moped varies from state to state, a moped's speed generally may not exceed 30 mph (48 km/h)( even if it can go faster) on level ground (in a few states this number is 20 or 25 mph (32 or 40 km/h), and in most states, the maximum engine capacity is 50 cc, although a few states allow up to 85 or 130 cc. Some states require pedals, while others do not.[1]

United Kingdom

The term moped describes any low-powered motor driven cycle with an engine capacity of less than 50 cc and a maximum design speed of 50 km/h. If used before 1 January 1977 it must be moveable by pedals. A moped can be ridden either on a provisional license (with 'Learner' plates), a full motorcycle license or a full car license.


Russian moped ZiD-50 "Pilot"

The moped is legally defined as a two- or three-wheeled vehicle with engine displacement of no more than 50 cc and maximum speed no more than 50 km/h. Such vehicles require no licensing. Pillion passengers are only allowed when the driver has a full moped license.


In Alberta, Canada, mopeds require a class 6 (motorcycle) or class 7 (learner's permit) licence and must have engines under 50 cc. In addition to this, they must not have a driver-operated transmission. They are allowed to carry more than one person. Mopeds are subject to all of the same traffic laws as other vehicles, and all riders must wear helmets.


Mopeds can be driven with M-class driving licence, at the age of 15. People born before 1985 can drive a moped without licence. The power of a moped is not limited, but the speed limit is 45 km/h and engine capacity can be a maximum of 50 cc. Mopeds are allowed to carry one passenger with the driver, if the moped is registered to two persons. Both driver and passenger have to wear helmets. After EU membership, EU regulations increased maximum weight of moped and speed limit was changed to 45 km/h from 40 km/h.

New Zealand

Mopeds can be driven with any class of driver licence. Mopeds are classified as having an engine capacity not exceeding 50cc and a maximum speed not exceeding 50 km/h. Electric mopeds must have a motor between 600 and 2000 watts. Mopeds do not require safety testing (known as a Warrant of Fitness in NZ) and are subject to lower licensing costs than motorcycles, though one still needs the right equipment (Helmet etc.).

Southeast Asia

In Southeast Asian countries, mopeds are classified as small motorcycles similar to Honda Supercub, or locally known as kapchai in Malaysia. A kapchai moped is usually powered by small 2-stroke or 4-stroke engines ranging from 50 cc to 125 cc, but recently the displacement range was increased with the introduction of the largest displacement kapchai model, Yamaha Y135LC.

In Malaysia, kapchai bikes may apply the same highway speed limits as cars and larger motorcycles since modern kapchai models are capable to reach the top speeds of about 120 ~ 130 km/h, therefore all kapchai bikes are allowed to be used on public roads and expressways. However in Indonesia, mopeds are not allowed to be used on Indonesian tollways.


Mopeds are available in two classes. Class 1 (also known as EU moped as it was introduced to comply with European Union rules) is a moped designed for a maximum speed of 45 km/h powered by an engine of 50 cc or, if it's an electric motor, has a maximum power of 4 kW. A driver's licence type A (motorcycle) or B (car), a driving licence for tractor or a class 1 moped licence is required to ride a class 1 moped. In traffic class 1 mopeds are regarded as motorcycles (but may not be driven on motorways or motorroads) and has to be registered and have a licence plate. They are however tax free. Class 2 is a moped designed for a top speed of 25 km/h and has an engine with maximum 1 kW. No licence is required, but the driver has to be above 15 years and wear a helmet. In traffic they are regarded as bicycles unless there are signs explicitly forbidding mopeds. Mopeds registered before June 17 2003 are called legacy mopeds and they are subject to the same rules as class 2 mopeds, but may have a top speed of 30 km/h.


Mopeds require either a car "B-class" license, or a special moped license that is supposed to be taught and delivered in schools, but in reality often requires an external driving school. They are limited to 50 cc and physically restricted to 45 km/h, either with mechanical or electronic locks. This regulation is, however, widely ignored and is estimated that close to 95% of all Italian 50cc mopeds are illegally unrestricted.


In Greek slang mopeds are referred as "Papakia" (Greek: Παπάκια)- meaning "Ducks". They are usually powered by small 2-stroke or 4-stroke engines ranging from 50 cc to 125 cc. They are very popular among youngsters due to their small price and maintenace cost, but are widely used by all age groups. The most known "Duck" was the 80's Honda 50cc moped, which is still in use even today!


Mopeds are divided into "Small mopeds" and "Big mopeds", 'Small' mopeds have a speed limit of 30 km/h, and 'Big' mopeds have one on 45 km/h. To drive a Small moped, you have to have a Moped license, and be 16 years. If you are 18 years, and have a motorcycle or cardriverslicense you can drive a big moped. All new mopeds (both types) bought after 1 June 2006 must be registered with a license plate, and have insurance. The older models is not required to have a license plate. Both models used to have a maximum of 1-1.2 Bhp (750-890 W) and 50cc, nowadays the limit is 3,8 Bhp and 50cc, but nearly 75% of all Danish mopeds are illegily unrestricted.

European Union

There is yet no law for mopeds commonly throughout the European Union; each country has their own laws.


In juristrictions where mopeds are limited by power output or top speed it is common for mopeds to be sold with the ability to surpass those limits but with restrictors to keep them below the limits. Most dealerships will unrestrict a moped at no expense if the owner so desires. They can also be de-restricted later with minimal expense. Unrestricted 50 cc mopeds commonly reach speeds in excess of 80 km/h. Most moped go to about 40 mph

Moped culture

As mopeds and repair parts have become scarcer, and as a certain nostalgia has grown around mopeds (not unlike that of classic scooters), enthusiasts have formed an increasing number of organizations devoted to moped collecting, repair, and lifestyle.

Mopeds Gone Wild—A rally sponsored by the Hells Satans branch of the Moped Army
  • The Moped Army is a moped club comprised of local branches from the United States and Canada. Different branches put together annual rallies around the country.

A number of unaffiliated local and regional organizations also exist, such as the RCMP from the Greater Toronto Area, Rocket Ship Tomos from Japan, the MOFOs from New Jersey, and The Variators, which were formerly a branch of the Moped Army, from Ottawa.

Moped safety

Riding a moped safely has similar considerations to motorcycle safety, however, some concerns are exacerbated on a moped. Their smaller size, while offering finer control than would be possible with a larger bike, also makes them harder to see.

See also

External links