The Future Of Motorcycles Could Be Powered Bicycles

Screenshot: FortNine

Motorcycles are great. Sometimes, when the weather is beautiful, the road is winding, and the traffic is non-existent, I think bikes might even be better than cars. But motorcycles are also expensive, dangerous, too powerful, not all that great for the environment, and occasionally incredibly out of touch with buyers. The motorcycle industry is going through a phase of change right now and could leave behind a lot of companies, and a lot of riders.

As the world’s population moves increasingly toward dense city centers, we need something a bit more mobile. Electric-assist bicycles seem to be one of the answers, but they’re still incredibly expensive. How can we reduce that cost and make it more accessible to the average person?

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I’m not implying that a Whizzer-style motorized bicycle is the only move forward, mostly because they pollute even worse than the average moto, but the idea is a novel one. We need bikes that aren’t too heavy to carry up to walk-up apartments in the city and aren’t too expensive for the current economic climate. And, if we’re being honest with ourselves, we could afford to be a little more active as a population. Maybe pedals aren’t the worst idea?

If I had something like a five-horsepower electric motor (perhaps a repurposed car starter motor?), a simple stack of chain gears to help that power perform to its best, and enough battery for a 20-mile pure EV range, I’d be pretty happy. I can’t imagine that such tech costs the many thousands that e-assist bikes can run. Something that falls between the $200 China-motor Craigslist special that FortNine built in the video below and a modern bells-and-whistles e-bike would be perfect.

The average American commute is under 12 miles. If even the lowest 10th percentile used something like this to get back and forth to work, traffic would substantially recede.

If another 10 percent of companies could commit to regularly allowing its staff to telecommute, that would be an absolute dream. Could you imagine the world with 20 percent fewer cars on the road? I’m getting shivers just thinking about how great it would be.

Okay, maybe a little power-assisted pedal bike won’t fix the world’s problems. It wouldn’t even fix motorcycling’s problems. And this gas-powered cheapo job didn’t even have the guts to finish out the task at hand. But it shows promise and gives me hope, and that’s all I’m really looking for right now.

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I have an unused bike sitting in my garage. I might just have to mock something like that up. Let’s go riding!

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About the author

Bradley Brownell

Jalopnik contributor with a love for everything sketchy and eclectic.