The moped may be small and not that fast (at least not when restricted), but that hasn’t stopped it from winning the hearts and minds of countries all over the world.

Whether they’re zipping through narrow city streets or bouncing along pathways, these little things prove that size isn’t everything.

 

  • But do you know where the term “moped” comes from?
  • Do you know which state in the US had next to NO laws regarding mopeds in 1977?
  • And do you know what a “brombakfiest” is (unless you’re Dutch, can you even pronounce it)?

That’s what you’re about to discover in this article, where we’re going to cover 7 lesser-known things about mopeds.

Just like one about scooters, we won’t focus too much on a specific moped brand here – it’s all about mopeds as a whole.

But first, a little reminder…

When I say “mopeds,” I’m talking about small bicycle-framed vehicles with 50cc engines, NOT 50cc scooters, which are often labeled as “mopeds.”

It can be not very clear, and many people don’t know the difference. So, if you’re unsure of the differences between mopeds and scooters, this article will help clear up any confusion.

1. The Term “Moped” is Swedish in Origin

“Smorgasbord,” “ombudsman,” “moped.” Three seemingly unrelated words, except for one thing:

They are all Swedish words that have been adapted into the English language

The word “moped” dates back to 1952 and a Swedish automotive journalist named Harald Nielsen.

At the time, a special type of bicycle-like vehicle powered by a small two-stroke engine was starting to become popular – and given that it was motorized and had pedals, that’s why the name “moped” came to be – and remains to this day.

2. “Moped” in Some Other Languages

Although the term has undoubtedly become a part of the English (and even German) language, certain languages have created their names for mopeds.

Take Denmark, for example. It may be next door to Sweden, but in Danish, a “moped” is called a “knallert.”

And in France, it’s called a “vélomoteur” or “cyclomoteur” – the latter translates to “cycle motor.”

Even “Mobylette” (a moped made by Motobecane, shown below) has become something of a generic trademark in France to refer to mopeds of any type.

3. Turning 15 Means You Enter “The Moped Age” in Sweden

When the moped arrived on the scene in Sweden, it did so under little to no restrictions. The scheme was known as “Fyra Friheter” or “The Four Freedoms.”

What this meant was that to ride one, you did NOT need any of the following:

  1. A license
  2. Insurance (not even third-party)
  3. Tax
  4. Registration

But please note that I said “little to no restrictions,” not “no restrictions.” That’s because you needed a few things back in the early 1950s to ride one.

First, the moped couldn’t go faster than 30 km/h or have more than 0,8 horsepower. But above all, anyone who wanted to ride one had to be at least 15.

Although regulations regarding mopeds have changed in Sweden since 1952 (even to the point where they’re divided into Moped Class 1 and Class 2), the age limit of 15 years old or older has remained.

It’s become something of a magic number – when someone or something turns 15 years old in Sweden, it’s often known as “entering the moped age.”

Unfortunately, as “magic” as this number might seem, not that many who had a moped at 15 graduate to even a 125cc bike when they’re 16 (or older).

When they’re old enough to get a driving license for a car, the mopeds are usually put aside permanently, and they never touch anything two-wheeled ever again.

Case in point, the scores of classifieds on Swedish e-commerce sites like Blocket and Tradera that go something like this:

“I’m selling my moped because I’ve passed my driving test”

“I’m selling my moped because I’ve got a car,”

“I’m buying a car, so I’m selling my moped”

If I had a dollar for every listing like these phrases, I’d be able to buy plenty of these mopeds.

Yes, it seems like for as hyped as the “moped age” is in Sweden, it appears to end as quickly as it arrives.

4. In 1977, the US State of Indiana Had Next to NO Moped Restrictions

During the 1970s oil crisis, the fuel-efficient moped took off – even in the United States.

After they received the official legal classification of “motorized bicycles,” brands like Puch, Tomos, and Motobecane set up shop all over the US and began selling mopeds left and right.

Like in Sweden, most states had some common restrictions on engine size and the minimum age to ride a moped.

According to the book “Mopeds” by Paul Dupre, the most common moped restrictions were:

  • The rider to be at least 15 or 16
  • A maximum top speed of 30 miles per hour
  • A maximum power output of 1 BHP

Then again, a few states were a little less restrictive.

For example, Indiana had NO restrictions back in 1977 – apart from a maximum 1 BHP power output limit.1

5. There’s a Full-Length Documentary About the Moped Army

Swarm & Destroy is owned by Hardcore Productions. All rights reserved.

Yes, that’s the same Moped Army that resurrected the moped as a form of transport in 1997.

In 2003, a documentary produced by Hardcore Productions titled “Swarm & Destroy” (a fitting title, given it’s the group’s official slogan) was released on DVD, featuring interviews with some of the members, who share:

  • The origins of The Moped Army
  • How they got into mopeds
  • Moped-related anecdotes – some of which are pretty funny.

One of my favorite anecdotes revolves around one member who chased down a couple of would-be thieves in nothing more than his underwear.

Aside from that, the DVD release of the documentary also features:

  • Stunning artwork by Zach Page-Wood,
  • Some behind-the-scenes stills
  • The route of the BBQ6 moped race (as covered in the documentary)

Even more interestingly, there’s a 10-minute short titled “American Style Violence,” filmed in 1998 by two original Moped Army members, using two laptops and web cameras, and features a staged revenge on two moped thieves.

If you’d like to check out Swarm & Destroy – keep a close eye on eBay. Sometimes, old copies pop up – and they’re quite the collector’s item.

6. There’s a Special 3-Wheeled Moped Called a “Flakmoped” or a “Brombakfiest”

Original image by anaulin, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

We started this list in Sweden, and now, it’s time for a revisit with an…unusual moped design, to say the least.

The country that created the Forshaga Shopper – a three-wheeled moped with an enclosed cabin design, also has something called a “flakmoped.”

It’s unclear when and where this moped was invented, but it’s quite something else, that’s for sure. 

Roughly translated as “Flatbed moped” in English, this moped has one noteworthy design feature: a big flatbed area in the front, much like one you’d see on a pickup truck.

Although you might not see a “flakmoped” in cities, you might find one or two buzzing around if you head out into the countryside or the archipelago areas.

You can even get fully electric versions from companies like MGB Starbridge.

Meanwhile, in the Netherlands…

One thing that surprised me was that this design isn’t exclusive to Sweden – even the Dutch have these things.

The only difference is that this kind of moped is called a “brombakfiest” in the Netherlands.

There’s also company based in Herenberg called “CargoBee” that builds electric versions.

7. A Mobylette Conquered Canada and Alaska

Original image taken from MopedTrip.com

Since mopeds are small and slow, most people wouldn’t dare to take one on a cross-country trip – especially not through terrain like the Canadian wilderness.

That did NOT deter Walter Muma (pictured above), though, who in 1978 took a 3-month long trip across Canada and Alaska – on just a tiny 1978 Motobecane 50V.

In that time, Walter covered a distance of 18,660 kilometers (or 11,500 miles), which, until 2007, was the longest trip anyone had ever taken on a moped.

If you’d like to read more about Walter Muma’s trip (including the route and the specs of the Mobylette), check out the site mopedtrip.com.

  1. DuPre, P. (1977). Mopeds.