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Kid if you must, but this piece on how an enterprising guy in Nairobi adds motors to bicycles — making some transportation magic happen — blew me away. (Thanks, BTW, Mr. Shalin, for the awesome tip!) Obviously here in the USA this sets off the lawyer crowd in a major way, and pisses off road planners and pretty much everyone else, too. But it’s not unprecedented here, either: I’ve seen smaller electric-only versions of this even here in Texas. Sure, they may not always be completely legal, but hell: If it works, people will give it a go.

Check out the full post on the AfriGadget site for lots more detail (and a video!), but here’s the skinny: The guy who built the bike in the picture imports Japanese 48cc two-strokes, and installs ’em on bicycles. The result: a “motorcycle” with a top speed of around 25 mph — that gets about 164 miles per gallon.

Imagine one of these in San Francisco — assuming it could handle the inclines. It’d be pretty darn handy, and you could always pedal your way home if you screwed up and ran out of petrol. Of course, that’s also assumes you don’t brain yourself on a tree (or a car).

Motorized Bicycles in Nairobi [AfriGadget]


9 Responses to Low-Buck Transportation — In Nairobi

  1. T says:

    When I was but a wee lad, they used to sell a similar gadget in the Sears catalog.

  2. mike d says:

    They still make Whizzer’s that can be ordered online. Also there’s a bunch of online communities in the US where you can find 48-88 cc two and four stroke kits to add to regular bikes starting at about $150. Try MotoredBikes.com

  3. Jerry says:

    Not so sure about the legal status of such vehicles as it seems to be different from state to state. Oregon seems to ignore the existence of these vehicles. They regulate gas-powered scooters and electric-powered bicycles but nothing is mentioned regarding a gas-powered bicycle. basically, the DMV regs say that mopeds must be titled and registered, but Oregon law specifically exempts motor-assisted scooters, electric assisted bicycles, and personal mobility devices from title and registration requirements. However, even the gas scooters are limited by maximum 35 cc displacement and electric bicycles are limited by 1,000 watts and must also be capable of being pedal powered.

  4. David Bryan says:

    You can’t hardly drive around Tucson without seeing one of those things. I’m going to rig one up myself, one of these days. At Ace Hardware they’ve got a bike engine on display right by the door, mounted on a green military-style-painted bicycle.

  5. mike d says:

    Here in LA you don’t have to license or insure (since we have mandatory Auto Insurance laws) anything under 50cc’s.

  6. Dwainedibbly says:

    Gas-powered makes it a moped in most states, I think.

    Electric? In most US jurisdictions if it’s 750 watts or less and not capable of exceeding 20mph on flat ground under electric power only, it’s defined as a bicycle and entitled to user bike lanes, etc. Like any bicycle, ebikes are vehicles & must obey traffic laws.

  7. Trevor says:

    I have a motorized bike that I ride to work (17 miles each way) several days per week during the nice-weather months here in the SF Bay Area. It’s registered with the state (cost me $18 for permanent reg) and my route includes both public roadways and bike trails.

    In true Toolmonger style, the $600 kit from http://www.bikeengines.com/ was just the starting point. Mine has an upgraded intake, carb and resonant-pipe exhaust (aka 2-stroke supercharger) plus a second 1.5L fuel tank plumbed in series with the stock 1L tank so I don’t have to refuel so often. I get about 80mpg, which is acceptable given that I spend most of my commute at full throttle. CA speed limit for motorized bikes is 30mph; mine is, um, capable of sustained cruise at higher speeds than that. 🙂

    It’s awesome. I love riding it, although it is a bit of an odd beast — not really a bike anymore, and definitely not a motorcycle. On days with bad traffic, I can get home faster on the bike than I can driving.

  8. Shalin says:

    Glad you liked the story!

  9. Drew says:

    It seems that stopping is more important than going when you’re rolling on two wheels. Do any of these kits include brake upgrades? Granted – newer, higher end bikes generally have powerful brakes, and disc brakes are becoming more common, but most of the bikes being modified with an engine probably aren’t nice bikes with good brake components.

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