Gas Powered Commuter Bike?

The other day when I was on my way to work, a guy on his gas-powered bicycle pulled up next to me.

We nodded to each other and I made a right turn towards my office and he went straight.

So what are your thoughts on gas powered bikes? Do you think it defeats the purpose of bike commuting, or is it something that could help more people get on their bikes? I’ve spoken to a handful of bike commuters who think the 50-80cc engine kits are sorta like “cheating.” If you had this kit, you wouldn’t benefit from the exercise and it does let out emissions.


  1. Ben W

    The biggest issue with gas-assisted bikes is the cheep chinese kits people usually use. The mounting hardware is questionable, even dangerous. The two-stroke motors can pump out more smog-forming pollutants then a dozen modern automobiles. Other then the “keep it under 20mph” rule, they aren’t regulated in the slightest.

    What’s particularly unfortunate about these gas-assisted bikes is that bicycles are one of the few forms of transportation where inexpensive ELECTRIC HYBRID options have really caught on. They perform well, are safe, quiet, and are environmentally benign. Why fuss with gas when when you have an option like that?

  2. Ghost Rider

    I’m with Ben — I was slow to come around to E-bikes (both hybrid assist and fully electric), but in previous articles we’ve featured here, I was schooled by a number of commenters as to their utility and ability to get folks out of their cars even if they aren’t in the best physical shape.

    A gas kit, though, is cheating.

    These gas-powered monstrosities pollute like nobody’s business, both emissions-wise and in the incredible noise they can make. It may sip gas, but at what cost to the environment?

  3. dman

    Most people probably use them because it’s cheap, good mileage, and doesn’t require a special license like a real motorcycle. I think it’s lame.

  4. ha1ku

    So basically they are mopeds? I guess if they are street legal whatever floats the rider’s boat. Not for me, personally.

  5. Charles Duffy

    +1 to Ghost and Ben.

    Not all assist options mean you aren’t getting any exercise — my ebike requires a cadence in the 85-90 range to be getting the most from the motor — but as far as I know, these really aren’t meant to be pedaled along with, and they *do* pollute.

    On the other hand, having folks on two wheels is still better than four.

  6. Adrian

    There’s no shame in an assisted solution. I agree with Ben W though– these little motors are pretty terrible from an environmental perspective, so this particular assist is not a good one and the rare exception to the “one less car” rule.

  7. BluesCat

    Aside from the air pollution and cheap and dangerous mounting kits, those little suckers are noisy, too. Put it all together and it is a horrible thing to do to a perfectly good bicycle!

  8. Shane

    I bought one of these Chinese motors and a cruiser bike for myself. I live about 13 miles away from work with some huge hills right before I get back home. That’s a little too far and too much for me to do with leg power alone, so I decided to get one. I put it all together, but I’ve been set back with issues with the chain falling off. When it does work, it’s a lot of fun, and gets something like 100 mpg. When I do get it up and running I’m planning on only using it when I need help getting uphill, and when I get tired on the way. I think it’s a great way to get people into bike commuting. It’s like a little motorcycle, so it’s a lot of fun, and it becomes a normal bicycle when you squeeze the clutch and lock it into place.

  9. dugg

    you ever see how the sprocket gets mounted to the wheel? bolted through the spokes.

  10. JeffS

    They’re a horrible solution to a non-existent problem.

    If you want a motor, buy a scooter or motorcycle and quit pretending you’re pedaling. We know better.

  11. Raiyn

    I’m no fan of any assistance on a non cargo bike (Stokemonkey’s on Xtracycles and Dummy’s are fine and I’m warming to the E hybrids) but there’s a special place in Hell reserved for these psuedo-green phonies in my (never-so) humble opinion.

  12. Derek

    Would you prefer to be hit by a gas-powered bicycle going 20 mph or by 4 tons of glass and steel going the speed limit? Think about it.

  13. Derek

    (Oops, I meant 2 tons.)

  14. Phil

    I’d take an e-assist bike any day over a gas-powered assist. Think about all of the environmental costs involved in producing a gallon of gasoline, manufacturing an internal combustion engine, maintaining an internal combustion engine, the pollutants given off by the internal production engine, etc. While there certainly are some from e-assist devices, it certainly seems they’re a whole lot greener.

  15. Noah

    Here are my thoughts.

    Anything you add — batteries, gas motors, electric motors… actually makes the bike+human machine less efficient. Batteries are toxic and heavy. And most wall outlets you’d charge them from in the US are powered by coal. So as with plug-in hybrid cars, a “rechargeable” bike is also going to be more often than not a coal-powered bike.

    And what do you do with those heavy, toxic batteries when they stop holding a charge long enough to get you where you want to go, and become an extra 20-50 pounds of dead weight combined with an un-usable heavy electric motor? You’ll have to chuck them, or “Recycle” them. But the parts of the battery that are hardest on the environment can’t be restored or easily re-used. They’re disposed of.

    So neither gas nor electric assist is really “green” – they both have their demons. It’s far better to shed some pounds (while bicycling?) and muscle up a bit.

    As for gas powered bikes? I pass several of these things on my road bike. Most of them are only good to 15, maybe 20 miles per hour. I can sustain those kinds of speeds for an hour or longer on level terrain, and fuel it with a vegan burrito if I so please, not coal, nor gasoline, or even solar power.

  16. Mick @ electric bike company

    That is a lot of power for such a tiny bike, and would be more dangerous than an e-bike without all the benefits of being green etc.

  17. FauxPorteur

    As already mentioned, these tiny engines have basically ZERO emissions regulation, it may get upwards of 100 miles per gallon, but the emissions are just crazy.

    The people that generally purchase these things are people that want a motorcycle but either cannot afford one or don’t have valid drivers licenses.

    The bicycles these types of kids often get added to do not have adequate braking systems to deal with 20+mph stops (especially as they are quite often added to bikes with 1.5″ or narrower tires). If you weigh 175lbs, you add another 30-50lbs to an already 30-50lbs bicycle, you need more than a 1974 Weinmann side-pull caliper with 30+ year old pads.

    If you do make the unfortunate choice of buying one, good luck getting good service at a bike shop (stink-eye at best), and prepare to get even worse at a motorcycle shop.

    Instead of getting one of these, just get crazy low gears on your bike a 48t/38t/28t crankset mated with a 12t-34t cassette has low-enough gears to get nearly anybody up any nearly hill.

    If you are doing extreme hills AND riding 50+ish miles a day, an electric hybrid system such as the Stokemonkey is a much better option than anything else I’ve seen on the market.

  18. dukiebiddle

    I completely fail to understand the notion of “cheating” in regards to other peoples’ commuting choices. We’re all transporting ourselves; not playing a game. They sound awfully noisy and e-bikes seem to be a much more practical solution, but if they’re legal, whatever floats others’ boats is fine with me. As Derek said above, one more commuter on one of these smelly noisy beasts I one less car that can kill me.

  19. jamesmallon

    For rednecks only.

  20. Graham

    dukiebiddle, I couldn’t agree with you more. It is impossible to “cheat” unless you are playing a game. I would not own one of these gasoline powered bicycles myself simply because I like not having to buy gas to get around and because I’d be worried about straddling an internal combustion engine strapped to a bike frame. (This seems like a good way to char your nether regions to me.)

    If people want to ride these things, go for it. I think that setting speed limits for people using bike lanes is simple common sense, though.

  21. Nate

    The irony about this post is it shares the screen with Google ads for 50-80cc engine kits (and 35 mph) for as low as $109.

    I like what Jeff S. said: “horrible solution to a non-existent problem”.

  22. RL Policar (Post author)


    That’s actually kinda funny. But those ads are generated automatically based on the content of the site.

  23. Jon Karak

    I think dismissing motorized bicycles as insufficiently pure is misguided. The fact is, power assist bicycle commuting is a legitimate transportation ALTERNATIVE. If someone needs a little help before they can make their commute on two wheels, then we should be supportive. The problem is that the market is very small and there are not many quality products available to the average consumer.

    As a practical matter, like a typical bike, a motorized bicycle is much cheaper (MPG, insurance, repairs, etc.) than a traditional auto or gas-powered scooter. It never becomes so worn out that the whole vehicle must be replaced–a few new components and it is good as new. In a competitive environment of product manufacturers producing the same standardized components, consumers are in a very favorable economic position.

    Any way we can get people off of 4-wheels and onto 2-wheels is a win for everyone.

  24. Rip

    you guys are lame, i’ve had mine forever… it’s safe, reliable and an awesome grocery getter.

    as far as the emissions go… who cares. sometimes i start my up car engine and leave it running in idle, while i ride my 2 stroke engine bike wide open – balancing to drive the bike with no hands so i can spray hairspray cans into the air during my commute. i don’t recycle and i leave all the lights on at work when i leave for the day.

  25. Meer123

    The question posted by the author is “So what are your thoughts on gas powered bikes?” and not is “Gas better than electric” or “do you get more excercise or less” or is it greener then pure pedaling.

    Yes – it does have emissions – yes it does require less effort than a regular bike and yes, the electric solution has come on strong and in many ways is a much more elegant and green way of getting assited propulsion.

    I love my Gary Fisher Chronus (the old one with a flat bar and fat slicks, not the new weight watching weenie) and I love pedaling it for recreation and fitness. But I also have an older garage sale sourced MTB with a cheap chinese 2 stroke that is both fun and endearing (for different reason) … one does not compete with the other … and when finances and time allow, I suspect I’ll one day try and do an electric bike build up as well. Broaden your horizons and leave your hate mail out of it. I do this because I am a bicycle enthusiast – not because I’m Lance Armstrong or a greenie or hate cars … just like bikes … even those with a little extra oomph when you need it … it’s not a race so it is not to be considered as cheating … the gas bike just allows me to go further and faster and arrive not looking like a stick of melting butter … it aint for everyone but you need to try it before you judge it, you might like it ? It’s cheaper than a high end set of Dura-Ace gears or a nice set of road wheels and is the furthest thing from being and extravegance. Most kits can be installed (and removed, if you dont like it) in an afternoon so most folks can do it themselves so it’s a great project if you like to tinker like many bike folks do.

  26. Bob

    I too had a gas powered bike. It was very fun and fuel efficient. Some can reach up to 30 MPH, but I usually maxed out around 27 after the break in period. In the end it broke down. But if your lokking for power and speed, then it’s for you. And to the commentors who said “For rednecks only,” and “a special place in Hell reserved for these psuedo-green phonies in my (never-so) humble opinion,” you should be ashamed of yourselves. There is no need for childish biasis like that in this world. Comments like that add nothing to anyone’s arguement. They only show your inhability to bring evidence to the table. Such disreguard and cruelness towards your own species. Shame on you both! Good day!

  27. JackTar

    Hello all

    I have am 65, great health except for the tenonitis I have in my legs from riding my bicycle so much. I now have both a bicycle and a motorized bicycle. Not all motors are the cheap 2 cy. chinese, that are loud and polluting. I have a 4 stroke, fairly quiet, low r.p.m. motor. Honda makes a lite weight 4-stroke motors, and are very low polluting. It can be done. As for E-bikes, with out a lot of money, I can’t buy one that will go the distance. I power along very carefully, obeying the laws. As for Portland bicycling, I have seen many arrogant riders, riding illegaly, with no regards for other peds.,autos,or other bikers.(think brakeless bicycles). I hope the”true” bicyclers well see that there’s many reasons riding a motor assisted bike, and it’s far greener than a SUV, in all ways. One thing more, Just imagin the I-5 Bridge, with mostly bicycles of every king moving across it. Jack Tar

  28. Jeff

    I have an electric bike now, and would like to get a gas bike. I use it primarily for transportation, but pedal the whole time to get the exercise I need, and to help the motor. If I get a gas bike I can go further, and enjoy it much more. I want to ride up in the mountains if it has enough power to do so.If I am just pleasure riding I do not use the motor at all. I only use it going uphill, or if I am in a hurry.

  29. tdogg

    What about people that want to get out of their car but are too weak to get up all these hills around portland because they have cancer, weakened immune systems, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue, neurogenic muscle atrophy, etc? What if they can’t afford an electric bike or a “real” scooter because this economy is so screwed? They are pretty effing exspensive.
    It seems like there is a lot of snobby, judgemental cyclists around PDX.
    I don’t necessarily like the gas emissions from the bikes but I also don’t judge others for using them, because I have no idea what their circumstances are just by looking at them.
    Everyone needs to quit hating and start praising each other for making steps, whether they’re small or big, towards a more healthy community.

  30. gary

    i’d like to build one off a atlas cargo bike with a the robin suburu motor. sure it’s cheating if compared to peddling cyclist, not so much if you’re driving a car. there’s two types of users…. those that use bike paths for recreation and those who travel somewhere that the bike path doesn’t go. i’m thinking an electric is gonna be a $700 plus battery every few years whether u ride it or park it so it’s best to use an electric every day to get the most milage out of the battery

  31. Arya

    You see, it’s quite different in America. There really is no practical use for a gas powered bike. We have super wide roads that- even though can legally allow cyclists to use the road with cars- are deathtraps because of the rage car drivers get from the thought of having to share the lane with a cyclist. We also have public transportation, and majority of inhabitants have cars. If we were in a 3rd world country with iffy roads and cars at inflated prices due to export taxes and what not, (Vietnam), motorcycles, scooters and gas bikes would be the norm.

    As to cheating…I’ve never seen a Criterium with someone bolting a 4 stroke to their carbon frame felt f1. But to each his own. I got into a bad car accident. Car is totaled, insurance too high, and the car was not even paid off. California makes is so nice to have a moped by enforcing that you have a motorcycle license for a 49cc and above moped. *Unless it has peddals. Enter the gas powered bike. I agree, those chinese kits are scary and pollute a lot. But when state laws demand that you have a license to ride a moped, have insurance for a moped, cant afford another car because you are a college, and some of your classes are miles away on hilly terrain- it makes sense to consider some form of motorized bicycle.

    Don’t get me wrong. Distance is not an enemy. I did many century rides with my father. But I currently have a fixie and a backpack that easily weighs 30lbs. I don’t like that setup and would change it if there was a solution. Luckily, I bought an electric mountain bike to sustain the weight, go on rugged terrain, reach speeds up to 28mph and still allow me to pedal when I don’t want to waste battery. It’s not cheating. Some kids can’t afford insurance or the price of a vehicle. Instead an effort should be made to promote cycling and at the very least….electric powered bikes. Just my 4 cents…

  32. Ash

    How exactly is it cheating to get to work economically and not covered in sweat. Everyone is entitled to their opinion an here’s mine. First and foremost if you are commuting then getting to work is what your goal is and whether that is by a standard automobile or a standard bicycle or a motorized bicycle makes no difference to your employer or to the clock. Secondly I must have forgotten the majesty associated with using coal power that is translated in to electric power which charges these bicycles and also I will now remind you that those rechargeable batteries will have to be replaced with use. Where do you think that battery will then end up? I have ridden my bicyle 14 miles going back and forth to work fives days out of the week working full time between rides and I actually do not own a motor assisted bicycle…yet. I don’t understand the cultish-ness that seems to be clouding around “legitimate” bicycling and illegitimate motorized bicycling. If all our goals is commuting then commuting itself is what is important.

  33. Raiyn

    Since you’re nearly five years late to the party, here’s the hard and fast answer. I have no problem with motorcycles. I have no problem with mopeds. I DO have a problem with people claiming that the aforementioned vehicles are “bicycles”. When your primary drive (regardless of marketing claims – what people will ACTUALLY use as the primary) isn’t your legs it ain’t a bicycle. On the other hand, if the amount of assist (note that word: assist) were to be tied to what effort you’re producing at the crank (more pedaling effort = more power) and not available in a “throttle” control I’d be all for it.
    As for the rest of your diatribe – Dude, seriously WTF? You’re kind of defeating your own argument.
    Yes, coal power is bad. I’ll agree with you all day every day on that. However, coal isn’t the only source of electricity out there and there are some of us who utilize non-coal sources to recharge batteries. There are even more folks who will recycle their worn out batteries responsibly especially since there are several retail companies and/or local agencies who collect them. (I went to Lowe’s Hardware – of all places and they had bins out front for CFL’s, rechargeable batteries, and something else – probably plastic bags).

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