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