It wasn’t too long after the 1970s 10-speed bicycle craze got going strong before a number of Americans decided they wanted to beat the gasoline lines with a motorized vehicle rather than something that was leg powered. Well, along came the moped.
Mopeds were already popular in Europe and Asia but were somewhat new to America. The simplest of them weren’t much more than a bicycle with a small 2-cycle motor. Back in the 1950 kids played around with a motorized bike called a Whizzer. Well, mopeds weren’t much more than a slicked up Whizzer.
The moped I was most familiar with while growing up, was the Solex Horse. It had a stamped steel frame, a crank and chain, a solid flat front tire, and a small 2-cycle motor that sat above the front tire and drove the tire via what wasn’t much more than a sandpaper drum connected to the engine and using gravity to force it against the tire.
The think worked by peddling up to speed and then throwing a lever that covered the engine onto the front wheel causing it to spin and ignite. It was affordable, simple, easy to repair, economic on gasoline, fast, and dependable.
The bicycle shop I was part owner of decided to add mopeds to our
line and Solex was our first choice. Later we began selling a couple of brands, Motobecane and Puch, that were of more conventional design but not better in quality than the Solex.
I don’t recall what a good moped would cost but I do remember that a local jeweler, Ray Dennis, started selling a small bicycle engine kit and sat above the front wheel and worked much like the Solex.
I think the laws said that any vehicle less than .50 cc didn’t require a license tag or a driver’s license and that made the moped even more attractive. Honda and other Japanese manufacturers weren’t slow to see the market but went for vehicles with engines .50 ccs and up. These required licensing but since they were more rugged and faster the market drifted that way. It may have been the Honda-50 that gave rise to the slogan, You Meed the Nicest People on a Honda.