minibike

minibike

[min-ee-bahyk]
minibike: see motorcycle.

A minibike, also recently known as a mini moto or pocketbike, is a miniature motorcycle. Most traditional minibikes use four stroke engine to turn the rear wheel via a chain. Small cheap gasoline engines like ones produced for yard equipment are most often used, though most designs require a horizontal crankshaft engine. This means that typical walk behind mowers, which use vertical crank engines, cannot be used. Some models use a two stroke engine, and electric-powered models are also available. A 2-stroke engine usually creates a louder, higher frequency noise then a typical four-stroke engine, this is because a two-stroke engine has a power stroke, and subsequent exhaust pulse every rotation of the crankshaft, while a four-stroke has a power stroke, and an exhaust pulse every other rotation of the crankshaft. In effect, two-strokes sound as if they are operating at double the speed of a four-stroke engine. Also, an improperly tuned two-stroke often releases unburnt fuel, and thick blue smoke out exhaust during normal operation, these features, along with a minibike's small size, mean that minibikes are rarely street-legal.

History

The concept of pocketbikes comes from Japan . The first pocketbikes appeared on the market, a super-fast 2 ft. high, 3 ft. long motorcycle that is "supercool". in the 1970s and '80s , originally costing up to $4,000 .

Like go-carts, the first minibikes were made by enthusiasts from spare parts found in their garages. They were first popularly used as "pit bikes", for drag racers to travel around in the pits during races in the late 1950s. They were very useful for this purpose, as they could maneuver very well in the tight pit roads, fit in about the same space as a small bicycle in a trailer or pickup, and they were faster than most previous forms of transportation. As racers brought them home and used them around their neighborhoods, many children liked the idea of having a "mini motorcycle" and started building their own. A market for minibikes developed and many cottage and major industries developed to meet the demand. Famous minibike companies include Arctic-Cat, Rupp, Taco, Heath, Gilson, and Fox, many of which also made other power toys such as go-carts, trikes and choppers. The height of the minibike/go-cart era was from the late 1960s to the early 1970s in America. Many of the famous brands, foremost Rupp, have gained a cult-following of enthusiasts and owners.Early Minibike Powertrain These early minibikes usually consisted of a powertrain containing a small fourstroke, horizontal shaft, flathead engine. The power tansmission usually consisted of a crank-mounted centrifugal clutch and chain drive to a rear sprocket. As the minibike and the mini-powersports field grew and expanded, Comet intriduced a small variable-ratio belt system (much like a snowmobile's) called the Tourque-a-Verter, which allowed for the better tansfer of power from the engine to the rear wheel, reulting in better top speed and acceleration.

Types

Today minibikes have evolved into several specialized types, all around the concept of a mini motorcycle:Pocketbike/Minimoto
These look like sport bikes and are used to race (Pocketbike racing) on tracks used for kart racing. The usual size of these bikes less than 50cm in height and 1 meter in length. The engine usually packs a 39cc to 50cc two-stroke engine with a maximum of 15 horsepower. Maximum speed varies between 30 to 70 km/h. Pocketbikes are available in both gasoline and electric versions. Popular brands are Polini, GRC, Stamas, DM Telai, ZPF, Blata, and DSF. The popularity of these types of minibikes grew due to the influx of cheap pocket bikes imported from China. Brands from P.R. China are V-Racer and Sendai. A pocket bike is a miniature version of a Grand Prix (GP) motorcycle. GP moto is the nickname for a racing motorcycle. So, in general, a pocketbike is a scaled-down replica of a GP motorcycle. There are two engine types that pocketbikes come in. The most common pocketbikes are two-stroke engine ones, although newer designs are pointing towards the creation of four-stroke units - due to even-more restricting pollution laws.Pit bikes
True to the original concept of a small scooter used to quickly move around the pit areas of motor racing tracks and events. They look like motocross motorcycles and are also used in some motocross competitions. Recently the sport of mini moto (racing pit bikes on motocross and supercross tracks) has taken off. There are numerous series in the United States and there are also full fledged mini moto pros. The Las Vegas Mini Supercross is the biggest mini moto event of the year. Known brands include ThumpStar, Pitster Pro, BBR, MotoVert, OGM and Workz.Mini Bike/Pitbike Racing and Competition
Pitbike Racing and Competitions takes the form of Supermoto racing using a form of Pitbike/minibike with a wheel size of 10inch front and rear with supermoto slick tires fitted. The bikes are prepared for racing with precautions such as catch tanks to collect possible fluid spillages being dropped onto the tracks causing possible skidding hazards, to fellow competitors. Mini choppers
Mini choppers are mini bikes that look like Choppers.Midi motos
Midi motos were then introduced, these are similar to the Pocket/Mini moto in style etc but they are slightly bigger. They are still tiny in comparison to a real bike of their replication but the seat height is about a foot to two foot higher than a mini motos seat height. They started off with 47cc 2 stroke engines (capable of around 48-64 kmh/30-40 mph) in the midi moto's and then all the way to 110cc 4 stroke engines (capable of around 86-105 kmh/55-65mph) - some sites selling them may say 113 kmh (70mph) but these chances are rare. Most midi bikes are made in China and usually outfitted with a Honda engine or replication of a Honda style engine. Besides Honda (which has the popular Honda Dax and Honda Monkey midi-motos, other brands are Yamaha and Sach.Quad bikes
Mini bikes that look like quad bikes which are four wheeled off road motorcycles (all terrain vehicles).

Legal status

Netherlands

In the Netherlands, minibikes/mini motors are not allowed on the public road. Doing so will lead to a fine and possibility of confiscation, but it is more likely that only a warning will be given, followed by a fine and/or confiscation when a second violation has been made. It is legal to ride a minibike/ midi motor on private land at all ages.

Australia

In Australia mini-bikes/mini-motos are illegal in all states. The only legal places are private property or the various kart tracks around the country (which are commonly used by mini moto racing clubs e.g. Wollongong City Raceway which is the only approved track for minimotos in NSW). Riding on the streets or any public place will result in a $1600 or more fine which in most cases is worth more than the bike itself.

USA

DOT laws vary by state, but for the most part minibikes are illegal for use on public roadways since most do not carry the necessary equipment (and often size requirements) to be street legal. In many states the seat of a motorcycle must be at least 25" off the ground, which is often a limiting factor in registration. Persons caught operating pocketbikes or minibikes on public roadways are subject to a number of tickets, including but not limited to: 1. No indicator lights. 2. No rearview mirror. 3. No horn or signaling device. 4. No license plate. 5. No headlight. 6. Too-small muffler (noise pollution). 7. No registration. 8. No insurance. 9. Improper lane change. (no blinkers) 10. Reckless driving. (With these machines, just being on the street is considered reckless.) 11. Operating a vehicle without a license (if rider is under 16 or does not have a driver's license). This can cause a set delay in getting your license when you are 16, depending on state.

These tickets could all up to over $2200, so a joyride can get pricey fast. Now that's a worst-case scenario, but pocket bikes are illegal for public roadway usage and are intended only for private property or off-road use.

Some of the larger "super" pocket bikes, most commonly the X18, X19, and X22 meet all the requirements and can be registered for legal street use in most states. These bikes have headlights, turn signals, tail/brake lights, a horn, and speedometer, and can also do the speed limit in most scenarios(typically 4 stroke bikes can reach speeds of 55mph). In many states all you need to do is add a rearview mirror and a license plate bracket, but check with local DMV authorities for exact requirements. In some cases if the bike requires minor modification to meet requirements, you may be able to register it as a "unique/homebuilt" vehicle afterward.

Like a full-size motorcycle, the rider must carry insurance, have a current inspection, and wear a helmet if local laws require it. Depending on if your state classes a pocketbike as a "moped" or full "motorcycle", you may or may not need a special motorcycle license and a regular driver's license may suffice.

In general no bike is ready to go on the street out of the box. Riding on public roads without registration is illegal anywhere and at your own risk. The "super" pocket bikes typically are FMVSS certified, check the retailer's site or call them for information. Most times a Manufacturer's Statement of Origin is required to register, if you plan on putting your bike on the street you should ensure that this is included.

Canada

In Canada's Ontario province, it is a matter that is up to a police officer discretion whether or not to press charges; but it is illegal to ride on roads and side walks. Minibikes cannot be ridden on public roads and depends whether or not they can be used on sidewalks.

UK

In the UK, it is illegal for minibikes to be ridden in public. The only places these types of vehicle may be ridden are at specifically designated facilities or on private land with the owners permission. All of these Minibikes are regarded as "motor vehicles" as defined by section 185 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and so to be ridden on the public road, a motor vehicle must comply with all aspects of road traffic law and meet the mandatory European construction requirements by having a "Certificate of Conformity" indicating that they have European Community Whole Vehicle Type Approval (ECWVTA).

Minibikes are not manufactured to meet these requirements, and would need to be modified significantly to do so. Reported instances of this occurring are incredibly rare, meaning that it is very unlikely that minibikes can actually be registered for road use. However, where a minibike or other vehicle does not have ECWVTA, it might conceivably pass a Motorcycle Single Vehicle Approval (MSVA) inspection which would result in a Ministerial Certificate of Approval, permitting it to be road-registered.

In addition to the Vehicle Type Approval, to be ridden on the road the minibike must be registered with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, display a valid road tax disc (vehicle excise duty), and the driver or rider must be aged 17 or over (or 16 if the vehicle meets the definition of a moped), have an appropriate driving license, have vehicle insurance covering the vehicle's use and wear a suitable motorcycle helmet. The only exceptions relate to electrically-assisted pedal cycles and mobility aids for disabled people.

In the UK in 2005 and 2006, minibikes became the focus of concern about road traffic safety and anti-social behaviour, when seven deaths – five young people and two adults – were attributed to them by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

During August 2006, the UK Government ran a campaign to highlight the dangers of minibike misuse on roads and their anti-social use. A guidance document was produced to provide police and other agencies with practical information to deal with the issues and prevent misuse. The guidance outlined the legal status of minibikes and included information on enforcement measures and the provision of legal sites.

More recently the tragic death of Abbi Perrin from Louth has brought the dangers back into public view. BBC News "Man jailed over mini-moto death"

Police will seize, destroy and often prosecute the riders when caught riding in public .

Safety

It should be noted that pocket or mini bikes are not toys, despite often being treated as such. Even the cheapest 47cc Chinese-made bikes (often going for as little as $150) are capable of speeds of at least 25mph. The 49cc "super" pocket bikes can do 30-35 out of the box, depending on rider weight, while the 110cc four-stroke bikes can do well over 50mph. The gas-powered bikes are substantially faster and require more skill than the off-the-shelf electric bikes that typically top out at 10-15mph.

As with a full size bike, the rider should wear a helmet and protective clothing, even for off-road use. You don't have to be going highway speeds to get painful road rash, it can happen at 10mph. Professional mini-moto racers wear full leather suits like GP racers. While a leather racing suit is beyond most people's enthusiam, a good helmet and some knee/shin pads should be minimum.

A good rule is to treat your mini/pocket bike as you would a full size motorcycle.

Legal sites

It is the responsibility of the individual to ensure that they (or their children) use minibikes correctly but there is no specific obligation for local authorities to provide a facility to ride minibikes safely and legally.

See also

References

External links

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