“Cyclist” Learns That a 50cc Engine on a Bike Makes It Not a Bike Anymore

Get yourself one of them electric bicycles and you will receive some form of guidance or counseling on where and under what conditions you can ride it on public streets. Get yourself a second-hand bike that’s a home-made motorized contraption, and you might find yourself falling foul of the law.
A viral sensation: an old bicycle with motor from a washing machine, allegedly capable of 68 mph 1 photo
A 28-year-old “cyclist” from Cork, Ireland, William Dos Santos, knows all about that. At the end of January this year, he was pulled over by a garda for apparently speeding on what looked like an electric mountain bike. Upon closer inspection, the garda determined that it was just a regular bicycle that had been modified with a 50cc gasoline engine, the Irish Examiner reports.

As such, the man was fined and charged with having no insurance, no tax and no license to operate the motorized two-wheeler. In court, Dos Santos argued that “once a bicycle always a bicycle,” saying that he’d bought the modified bike from a delivery guy who had performed the modifications himself. It was a “leaf blower engine” that was weak, he said, and could only be operated if you pedaled. It was also not powerful enough to take the bike at great speeds.

Dos Santos claimed he assumed he didn’t need a license or to pay insurance, since his contraption was still a bicycle. The judge set him straight: his bike had a throttle and could run on the engine only. Moreover, its 50cc engine develops 2.7 hp, which meant he could travel at considerable speed. It was technically a mechanically propelled vehicle, or MPV, and as such, required a driver’s license, insurance and tax.

There’s a happy-ending to the story: Dos Santos acknowledged that he was wrong and that he was illegally riding the two-wheeler. In return, the judge struck the insurance and tax charges, fining him just €100 ($84) for having no license.

The lesson here is that, if you attach an engine to your bicycle, there's a good chance it is no longer a bicycle in the eyes of the law.


Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories