I’ve been, somewhat obsessively, researching motorized bicycle laws, engine kits, builds, bikes, and the varied options available for something like this. Come Sunday, it was actually starting to bother me how much time I was spending on this. I finally realized there was only one way to stop the madness.
I poured myself a large glass of whiskey...
...sat down on the couch....
...and ordered everything.
Disclaimers: This build is for entertainment and learning purposes only. I do not expect to get any practical use out of the end product. I understand this is the worst choice of 2-wheel motorized transport.
The bulk of my research when into engine kits. There are a variety of them available from the low $100s up into the $500 and $600 range. As far as I can tell the only difference between them is performance upgrades and... what stickers they have on them?
No really, as far as I can tell there are really only 1 or 2 manufacturers of these things, all in China, and a bunch of US resellers that vary the markup on them.
I did a fair amount of research into who makes “the best” kit, but online bias being what it is, most reviews were either complete horror stories or people saying they’d crossed the Darian Gap on one tank of fuel without any issues. Not a lot of helpful information in the middle.
The most reasonable reviews, summarized, said pretty much all 2-strokes are crap and that is part of the charm. They’re going to be as reliable as a step-dad at Christmas and the quality control is non-existent. Either roll the dice or buy a 4-stroke.
To that end, I did look heavily into 4-strokes. They’re more reliable and I think they sound better, but the 2-strokes are more powerful, more charming, and less expensive.
2-stroke it is.
Vendor and Kit
I was originally omitted to buying from BikeBerry.com as they’ve released a fair number of semi-helpful videos, though they do scrub their online reviews. I feel like if I buy one of their kits, maybe they’d have some money to buy decent fucking tools to use in their videos! But I digress. BikeBerry was running a 4th of July Weekend “sale” (announced on July 5th because nothing matters) and by the time I’d comitted to buying things to make the madness stop, they’d “sold out” of most of their kits.
I put “sale” in quotes, because checking back now all of their prices are the same as they were when the sale was on.
I put “sold out” in quotes because now, three days later, almost everything is back in stock.
There is a lot to unpack there, but I think the TL;DR is they might not be a great company.
BikeBerry no longer being a viable option to make the voices stop, I found a kit on Amazon that shipped with prime and bought it. In this case it is Seekutek branded, but as previously mentioned I don’t think that means anything. It also comes with a speedometer, but reviews of those mostly indicate they’re garbage.
Plus, you know... POINTS!
For this one I considered a bunch of options. My first thought was beach cruiser with added brakes. That said, cheap beach cruisers aren’t known for being well made... or very good at being bikes.
A mountain bike was an alternative, but I really didn’t want to have a bunch of extra junk (IE shifters) on the handlebars. While gears sound like a good idea, I don’t expect they’d get used much. I could do a fixed gear conversion, but that sounds like additional complication.
Used vs new was settled quickly by a browse by Craigslist. Everything was either scrap, extremely expensive, obviously stolen, or a combination of all three.
Ultimately I decided my first idea was the best. A cheap beach cruiser would be an excellent proof of concept to build off of. If I end up loving this thing and driving it all the time, I can upgrade to a more expensive frame when this one breaks. If, as I suspect, I ride it a few times and then let it collect dust in the back of the garage, I’m out less money overall. This fits with my idea of this being a cheap laugh.
I ended up with a Huffy Nel Lusso single speed. It sure is... an bike. I think it looks cool, but the cup holder and front basket are a bit much and will not remain.
I’m interested to see if it will arrive broken, or if I’ll get the honor of doing that myself.
I didn’t want to go overboard here before I actually had the thing built, but two thing struck me as needed: brakes and chain tensioner.
The first is a no-brainer. The bike comes with coaster brakes by default and that seems like a pretty bad idea. Caliper brakes should be a quick adder to enable this thing to actually... you know... stop.
The chain tensioner came from reading a lot of reviews and watching a few videos. The chain guide/ tensioner that comes with most kits is a fixed piece of metal with a roller on it. They’re know for needing constant adjustment, unreliability, and generally being shitty.
A cheap upgrade to those is to get a spring loaded tensioner that mounts to the engine. This should keep the chain from slapping around and generally make for a better ride.
I did, however, only just now realize this may not work with the chain guard provided and I am really pissed for not thinking about that before just now...
This is likely some decent foreshadowing. Oh well...
Total spend so far
Before all the parts have come in, lets see what my initial spend has been on this “cheap and cheerful” project. All prices include sales tax.
- Engine Kit - $160
- Bike - $140
- Tensioner - $26
- Caliper Brake Kit - $33
- Single Brake Lever - $10
- 2-Stroke Oil - $14
- Chain Oil - $9
- Chain breaker - $9
- Total: $400
Not too bad, considering my budget was... $400.
Still to buy
The only think I know I need to buy are a lock, helmet, and lights. I am holding off on these until the bike is built because I don’t trust myself to finish this project. Estimated spend on all of that is about another $100. I might also spring for a “computer” for speed and distance purposes, which will be about another $40.
When is this going down?
All parts are due in tomorrow, with the exception of the tensioner. I expect to get to build it this weekend and then fall of my face shortly thereafter.
Wish me luck!