Get more miles out of mopeds

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - Rad­i­cal fuel trans­for­ma­tion idea #2 AL­WYN VILJOEN • al­wyn.viljoen@wit­ness.co.za

WHEN it comes fuel, we are told the price is linked to the in­ter­na­tional crude oil in­dex and we have to like it or lump it. With us burn­ing 5,8 bil­lion litres of petrol and diesel in the first quar­ter this year, the price we pay runs into hun­dreds of bil­lions and many Wheels read­ers ask for ideas to save on this ex­pense.

This is the sec­ond ar­ti­cle in a series of rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent ideas that an­swers the fuel que­ston with ad­vice that go beyond in­flat­ing tyres or lift­ing the right foot.

Last week, Wheels re­ported on the view that South Africans can grow bio­fuel from hemp. Even if such homegrown bio diesel may not be cheaper, at least all the money stays in the coun­try, boost­ing re­gional economies.

Now the two-wheel­ers in town say the best — and health­i­est — way to save fuel is to cy­cle ev­ery­where, maybe us­ing a small en­gine to as­sist up KZN’s steeper hills.

One such cy­clist is John Kass­ner, coowner of the Jays B n B in Claren­don.

He bolted a Golden Ea­gle 38 cc fourstroke en­gine kit — im­ported from the U.S. — to his moun­tain bike and still cy­cles over 60 km a day on it, de­spite be­ing in his mid seven­ties. “We all need to do a hell of a lot more ex­er­cise.

“You have a death wish sit­ting in that car. Apart from ev­ery­thing else, [as­sisted cy­cling] is huge fun, more fun than a mo­tor­bike,” Kass­ner told Wheels in 2016.

There are many ways to as­sist the ped­als on a bi­cy­cle, from an old fash­ioned moped wheel run­ning on top of the rear wheel to a 250 Watt elec­tric hub mo­tor — which seems to power ev­ery sec­ond bike in China.

Both moped wheels and hub mo­tors re­quire ex­pen­sive lithium bat­tery packs. Now, as a pro­po­nent of elec­tric cars, I hate to ad­mit the weight to power ra­tio of bat­ter­ies is not yet ready for our steep hills and longer dis­tances.

For our to­pog­ra­phy, fuel en­gines still of­fer the most en­ergy per kilo­gram and a small four-stroke en­gine makes the most of each litre.

Tuner of 4x4s and in­staller of V8 en­gines, Gary Pea­cock in Pi­eter­mar­itzburg, has fit­ted sev­eral such en­gines and warned the bike frame and tyres must suit the speed.

“Our last lit­tle en­gine could push the bike to 80 km/h, which is plenty fast on those wheels,” he said.

Wheels bike opini­a­tor Con­sta­ble Shay Ka­lik rode a help-me-pedal bike as­sem­bled in Pea­cock’s work­shop.

“My of­fice is a mo­tor­bike, so I know a bit about bik­ing, but this will be a first,” she said as she du­bi­ously cir­cled the moun­tain bike with its two ex­tra levers up front and a sec­ond chain at the back.

After a few turns in the yard and a spin around the block her ver­dict was if the cost was low enough, she would ac­tu­ally com­mute on a bike like this.

“It’s got power for the hills, you don’t worry about park­ing, and ped­alling stretches the fuel even fur­ther.”

Cost­ing the moped op­tion

Most pawn shops have sturdy bikes for around R2 000. Eco­trax Bike Builders in Cape Town cur­rently has a 66 cc en­gine kit for R2 300, but warns “a de­gree of me­chan­i­cal knowl­edge is use­ful for in­stalling the bi­cy­cle en­gine”.

To which we add a 50 cc bike li­cence is also needed, as a power source equiv­a­lent to 49cc is where a bi­cy­cle be­comes mo­tor­bike that needs a rider’s and ve­hi­cle li­cence in most mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

If you choose a 49cc en­gine to avoid the li­cence queue and costs, you could start sav­ing fuel on a moped for less than R5 000 by next week, postage in­cluded.

PHOTO: AL­WYN VILJOEN

After a spin on this 49cc moped, mil­len­nial biker Shay Ka­lik says she could do such pedal-as­sisted com­mut­ing, if ab­so­lutely no mo­tor­bike was avail­able.

PHOTO: FILE

Sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian John Kass­ner says a pedal as­sist bike is the best way to keep fit and have fun, never mind the fuel sav­ings.

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