While a Swagtron electric scooter is a great way to commute, many people are starting to bring back the love of mopeds as well. Even though they are old-school vehicles, they still require license plates to be legally used and teenagers who get the special moped license also have to use Learner plates.
History of the Moped
While mopeds are modest rides which are not at the level of a motorcycle or perhaps even a scooter, they were the foundation of a few generations of motorcyclists and while this type of history is something every aficionado should cherish, there are signs that mopeds are making quite the comeback in the United States when it comes to popularity.
The term ‘moped’ is quite frankly a mix of the words ‘motor’ and ‘pedal’ because the earliest types of this vehicle were nothing more than simple bicycles which were somehow fitted with a small engine but still retained and needed the pedals to be able to work properly.
In the early days, the pedals were still needed to start the engine and pull away from traffic lights because the start and stop systems were not yet extremely well made nor the engine very powerful. While the term ‘moped’ was coined somewhere in the 1950s, after the Second World War, it took another two decades for its popularity to expand all around the world.
The simple story is that after the Second World War people had a deep desire for cheap, reliable forms of transportation which were also fuel-efficient. Motorcycles were the cheaper alternative to cars while scooters were the cheaper choice instead of motorcycles. However, neither of those represented a great answer to the fuel problem.
Therefore, manufacturers all across the European continent began the production of a new generation of a small-motor vehicle which could be made to work on a bicycle’s skeleton. The flexibility and ingenuity of the idea made the new products an instant hit, especially in countries like the United Kingdom where just about every teenager had one.
When moped sales began to drop due to the improving economy, the industry got a much-needed boost in the form of the U.K. government trying to ban 16-year olds from being able to ride bikes which were more powerful than 50cc (cubic centimeters).
What Happened Then?
It was obvious that the companies were not just going to sit around and do nothing because mopeds had become an important part of their revenue. The solution that they found was to introduce a new breed of a moped which was basically the ancestor of what we have today.
This new type of vehicle was essentially a cut-down but still highly-functional motorcycle that had incorporated pedals to be able to bypass the government’s law. This way, the manufacturers were legally adhering to the law while completely ignoring its spirit.
What these events did was span a golden-age for mopeds where they were extremely popular all around the continent and their fame even started spreading to America and other sides of the world as well.
However, this was not meant to be as starting from 1977 the authorities started reinforcing the moped for teenagers ban, even going as far as eliminating the pedals from the equation. To this day, a moped cannot legally have an engine over 49cc or be able to go faster than 28 mph.
Mopeds in Modern Times
Nowadays, mopeds have become something of an ‘odd grandpa’ to the new generation of scooters, electric bikes, and motorcycles in a world which hates to be stuck in rush-hour traffic and is always looking for ways to get around faster and cheaper.
Even though some law changes and technological breakthroughs have scratched many of the differences between mopeds and, say, scooters, an old-school moped is still not very hard to spot provided people have some information about what to look for.
What we mean by this is the fact that from a mechanical point of view, the term ‘motorcycle’ is used to define anything and everything from a moped to a scooter and last but not least the actual two-wheeled vehicle which we call ‘motorcycle’.
This has led to a lot of legal changes due to the increase in the number of vehicles which can now have an engine up to 50cc and the need to classify them. Therefore, today’s scooters which are not more powerful than the 50cc demanded by law are also legally classified as mopeds.
In plain English, while all mopeds and scooters can be classified as motorcycles because they have two-to-three wheels and an engine, not all (but some) motorcycles and scooters fit into the moped category.
What Do We Legally Do?
As you may imagine, this has created somewhat of an upheaval in the legal world because anything that is able to run on a public road must be classified and accounted for. Therefore, while some laws are now applicable both to old-school mopeds and to the new-world scooters, some of them don’t.
For instance, both scooters and mopeds require that a person be at least 16 years of age to be able to legally ride them and to have completed the Compulsory Basic Training (CBT).
For mopeds, when a person has accomplished both these conditions, he or she can legally ride up to a 50cc moped with Learner plates on but without being able to also carry a passenger.
When that person is 17, the same rules apply to be able to ride up to a 125cc motorbike without the Learner plates or the passenger. However, this is not a great long-term solution as the CBT certificate will expire in a couple of years, at which point most people who still want to do this opt for a full motorcycle license.
There are two types of licenses which are specifically designed for two-wheeled vehicles which are not motorbikes above 125cc: the AM moped license and the A1 motorcycle license. Both of them can be taken at 17 years of age provided the CBT is still valid and the would-be rider has passed the motorcycle theory test.
The difference between them is that while the moped license one only allows you to drive up to 50cc vehicles with Learner plates, the A1 motorcycle license gives you the possibility to drive stronger vehicles without the learner plates and it also sets you up quite well if you will want to take the A2 motorcycle license when you’re 19.
Some Other Things to Point Out
As we’ve seen, while the definition of mopeds has not changed for a while, the category has extended to be able to include more types of vehicles into it which prompted legal changes as well.
Another thing we have to point out is the fact that people who are legally able to drive cars are also allowed to drive mopeds for as long as their car license is valid without the need to use Learner plates.
Therefore, this also means that due to the overall classification that we mentioned earlier, mopeds must, just like any other two-wheeled vehicle, abide by the same rules. People who ride them need to wear the same protective gear, are required to have a motorcycle endorsement, license plates, and, of course, have a legal insurance policy.
When it comes to insurance, you’ll find that mopeds are usually cheaper to insure than scooters or motorcycles because they are being seen as a lower risk due to their reduced engine power.
Another thing worth mentioning is that despite all the technological breakthroughs, mopeds are still not allowed on the highway so you should bear that in mind if you’re thinking of buying one and feeling the wind in your hair at maximum speed.
What to Remember
Because the general category of two-wheeled vehicles has expanded, the plethora of rules set into place ensures that you really have to do your homework well before deciding what to buy.
Teenagers who have the AM moped license are still legally required to use the Learner plates, even though adults with a full motorcycle or car license do not have to do this. When it comes to mandatory regulations, however, a moped has to be reported and use license plates just like any other vehicle.
While many people prefer electric bikes and scooters these days, mopeds are making an underground resurgence and there’s nothing cooler than riding one on your way to work!