Gasoline Engines Make Bicycle Racing More Fun

Motorized bicycle racer

As soon as there were internal combustion engines, someone was looking at his bicycle and wondering how to fit the two together. In recent years, there have been quite a few builders making kits to transform bicycles into motorized commuters and some have built bikes emulating the style of those very early years. But, as long as you have wheels and an engine, the obvious next step is racing, right? That's what Baird Bergenthal and a few of his friends thought. They're in Tuscon, Arizona and after riding these racers around for a while, it became obvious they needed to get on a real track.

Motorized bicycle racing action

It's no longer a few guys on crappy Chinese two stroke bike engines, smoking around at 25mph. Those same motors are being modified to reach speeds of 45+, and there are a few guys mounting 212cc 4 strokes on bikes, and a few nutty e-bike guys pushing bikes over 100mph. There's everything from homemade Briggs and Stratton motors, to 11hp watercooled Morini's, all custom tailored to bicycles.

He's put together some races at Adams Motorsport Park in Riverside, California, beginning on June 16th. The primary rule for these racers is they have to have functional pedals. It probably helps a lot on the start, too.

It's obvious you don't have to be a big bucks racer to have some motorized fun on a track and with these bikes, you get the chance to use a few of your wrenching skills, too. What's not to like?

I don't usually follow this sort of thing, so if you race mopeds or scooters, this is probably no big deal, but it shows it's easy for a few guys to build some very low cost racers and have some fun. No GSX-Rs or R1s involved, no 180 mph speeds either, just a good time.

Think it looks like fun? If you're around Riverside, maybe you should check it out.

Link: Motor Bicycling
Link: Adams Motorsport Park

UPDATE: After some poking around in the links these guys provided, as I mentioned in a comment below, I see they're building some pretty interesting bikes. Here's one from Joker Machine with a Honda GC160 engine. That's an impressive build. I like it.

Motorized bicycle from Joker Machine with Honda GC160 engine

Motorized bicycle from Joker Machine with Honda GC160 engine - click to enlarge

Video below:


  1. scritch says

    That looks funner than s**t! Way to go, guys! It’s sad to see the top classes of motorcycle racing flagging because it’s just too damned expensive, and telling that the best professional racing is in the lower, cheaper classes. What these guys are doing is bringing mc racing back down to the people, and back to the garage mechanics at the very affordable level. Sure, they aren’t going to thrill spectators with sheer speed and sound, but I’m sure they are having every bit as much fun as Hayes, Stoner, and Checa, because they don’t have to deal with pleasing sponsors. Probably more fun.

  2. says

    As the ancient saying goes, “If you want to make a small fortune in racing motorcycles….First, you start with a large fortune.

    Oh! what the heck, think I’ll walk over to Walmart today and buy a cheapie bike and clamp my Jacobsen snowthrower motor on it. I didn’t have any use for these knobby old knees anyways…..

  3. jeff_williams says

    Epitome of the saying, “It’s more fun to ride a slow bike fast than a fast bike slow.”

  4. says

    SoCal Motor Bicycle Racing has been racing Motorized Bicycles in California since June 18th 2011. There have been 3 races since then at Grange Motor Circuit near Victorville, CA.

    The race photos in the article are of the last Grange race on June 2nd 2012 just a few days ago.
    Check out our facebook page to see our future races.

    • bairdco says

      that’s right. i’m in the middle with the lean going on. ended up with a strong 4th place finish. that was a great battle.

      Neil also puts on races in southern california. this “sport” is really catching on!

  5. GuitarSlinger says

    A fantastic and fun looking return to the very roots of motorcycling in general and racing in particular . More fun no doubt than a Barrel of Moneys and a heck of a lot cheaper ( less ‘mess’ ) to boot .

    This trend being the new Poster Child for the age old Axiom ;

    “Everything that Goes Around … Comes Around “

  6. S. Sin says

    That is too cool. I’m gonna definitely go! Everyone should try to come out to race or watch.
    Heck, go buy one off of craigslist and I see you on the track!

  7. todd says

    Definitely more fun for the racers – but then it’s not too hard to become one yourself. I had put some work into my ’77 Peugeot moped to compete in some of the local moped races but put it on the backburner for the last few years. Maybe I should dig it back out.


  8. says

    I’m one of the nuts that puts a 212cc HF on a bicycle and races it. These things are a blast and the cost is a fraction of what a real motorcycle is. I used to race MX and desert and this is just as much, if not more fun than that. I raced Mtn. Bikes competitively for over 10 years as well………ask me which I prefer now? lol

  9. Tom says

    I’ve been thinking about one of these ever since I read an article about a Huffy Mountain bike made into a near replica of an early harley davidson.

  10. GenWaylaid says

    We used to have regular races here in the South Bay a few years ago. They’d cone off a course in a big parking lot and everyone with a tiny motor to race would show up and tailgate. The motorized bike crowd wasn’t very big then, but there were separate heats for mopeds, Go-Peds, mini-karts, and pit bikes.

    The really tight curves on those parking lot courses led to a lot of interesting crashes for the mopeds. One advantage of going down at those speeds is that even basic “commuter” riding gear will let you walk off without a scratch.

    Having never seen motorized bikes racing in person, I don’t know if they’d be more interesting than racing-modified mopeds. There’s quite a lot of DIY engineering in either case. From what I’ve read on motorized bike forums, it seems those little engines fail in quite a variety of ways under race conditions. That might be less scary than purpose-built moped racing motors, which seem to fail mostly by detonation.

    I’ve tuned mopeds in the past, but since I’ve been road-focused, I tend to stop when the speed gets to be too much for the handling and brakes. Moped components are often near the limits of their engineering at 45-50 mph. I would imagine bicycle-derived components hit that limit around 30 mph. If you want to go faster than that, it had better be on a closed course.

    • says

      Motorized bicycle racing started in Arizona on the streets before moving to a Go Kart Track in Tucson but has died recently to lack of support.
      SoCal Motor Bicycle Racing has already had 4 races in California with the first one on June 18th 2011 and the last one at Grange Motor Circuit last weekend on June 2nd 2012.
      It’s a really small group of enthusiasts. There was a motorized bicycle race on the East Coast on May 26th 2012 and only 2 riders showed up.

  11. JesseT says

    there are go-cart tracks all over the US they could race them on,,,Dirt tracks too!!!! this reminds me of my early child hood days, i love it!!!

  12. B*A*M*F says

    That blue and red bike in the first photo is just so cool. The lines of that bike would scale up really nicely if a person wanted to build something a bit more road friendly.

    This sport looks like a hoot.

    • bairdco says

      that’s a 1937 Shelby Airflow frame that was cracked, so i welded it all up, added 16″ Moped wheels with drum brakes and Pirelli tires.

      most riders use modified 26″ bicycles. 16″ moped wheels are the same as a 20″ bicycle, so my bikes a lot smaller, handles awesome, and has no problem keeping up with the bigger bikes.

      the whole bike was built with mostly used parts, besides the motor, and cost under $400. it’s a really inexpensive way to go racing.

      as far as “roadworthy” goes, that bike tops out at 45mph, and i ride it through southern california traffic everyday, dicing it out with all the crazy drivers. you should see the looks i get from your average daily commuters..:)

  13. says

    Hey # 96, I will see you there.
    Thanks for coming out to the race last weekend at Grange Motor Circuit.

    S. Sin has a 48 cc motor on a 24″ stingray bike, not the fastest bike on the
    track but he has just as much fun as any of the “fast guys” lol

    • S.Sin says

      Yup, I am having fun and improving ( at least I hope so) my riding skills on the cheap. Just building my confidence…

  14. bairdco says

    thanks for the press, Paul, that’s awesome!

    i’m actually based out of orange county, california. been building bikes for a few years, and the first race i entered was in tucson. those guys out there started it all.

    Neil, socal motor bicycle racing, motor bicycle racing, and any other alias’s he’s using has put on a few races out here, starting on the Willow Springs kart track (i gave an ounce of flesh for that one) and now hosting them at the Grange Motor Circuit in the desert outside of Victorville.

    my races at Adam’s should be going off! if anyone’s in the neighborhood next saturday, come by and check it out!

  15. steve says

    Sometimes less is more, if you know what I mean! This is good old fashoined grass roots racing. Maybe if it catches on more people will become enthusiasts and ride!

  16. Paul Crowe - "The Kneeslider" says

    Following some of the links you guys aren’t shy about throwing in here, I’ve noticed some interesting bikes. A few companies are building racers for this grassroots sport and they look very well done. Taylar Motorbikes, looks like a one man operation, fabbing up a leaf spring front end and some other neat pieces, there’s a bike from Joker Machine using the Honda GC160 engine which looks very good in the installation and probably performs very well, and lots more.

    As I mentioned above, I haven’t been following this, I wasn’t even aware of it until I got a note from Baird, but some of these guys are building sweet bikes and you can have the best of everything without breaking the bank.

    If you’ve given up on racing because you can’t afford to build a competitive bike or if you aren’t ready for 150 mph speeds or maybe you just want to have fun instead of turning it into some kind of profession, this motorized bike racing looks very appealing. I highly recommend checking it out.

  17. says

    Shy? You want links, you gotta check out

    The Arrow Cycles crew dominated taking the top 3 places at the June 2nd 2012 SoCal Motor Bicycle Race at Grange Motor Circuit in the 66cc 2 Stroke Class.

    Dave Rust is building case inducted reed valve 2 stroke motors and sells all the
    parts to make your bike a winner. Dave casts the reed boxes in his own foundry.

    1st #88 Jim Rust, Arrow crew
    2nd #8 Magrider, rider for Arrow
    3rd #5 Ryan, Arrow crew

    4th #33 bairdco
    5th #98 Nashmoto on a 49 cc 4 stroke

    There will be pics from the race here:

  18. SoSauty says

    Such a variety of backgrounds jumping in on this action, no motorsport has more garage shop innovation than motorizedbike racing. Electric (e-bikes) classy mo-peds from France, 2stroke ChinaGirls from the desert dirt of Tucson, and HarborFreight 212cc thumpers squeezing into the frames. Not alot of moola or speed neccessary for 1st timers, low power 20-30mph street legal commutter bikes run in their own competition friendly class.

  19. Joe says

    Nothing new,these contraptions are called Mopeds,motorised pedal bikes,always been around and used in Europe for decades.

    • Paul Crowe - "The Kneeslider" says

      Joe, if you read the article, you’ll see I mentioned motorized bicycles have been around as long as the internal combustion engine, that’s more than decades, that’s over a century. The point here is the organized racing these guys are trying to get under way, something that seems relatively new. If you have that over in Europe, point us in the right direction and we’ll take a look.

      • says

        Motorized Bicycles complete with pedals were the first evolutionary step towards motorcycles. Motorized Bicycle Racing started in Arizona on the streets, then progressed to the Musselman Honda go kart track in Tucson.
        Nicknamed the “DeathRace,” the last Tucson race was on April 16th 2011.

        SoCal Motor Bicycle Racing held the first California event on June 18th 2011
        and held three races since then with the last event on June 2nd 2012.

        If anyone knows of any other current organized Motorized Bicycle Races here or in other countries please post the info.

        There have been some fairly well attended races in Russia too. I don’t know if they are still happening.

  20. B50 Jim says

    Looks like the most fun you can have and not get arrested! As a kid I always wanted to put an engine on my bike but never had the chance (or the cash) to do it. This looks like go-karting on two wheels, like karts were in the early ’60s. It’s a great way to learn fast riding at low cost and relative safety.

    Honda makes a nice little 2.5-hp 4-stroke engine that turns 7,500 rpm….. hmmmmm….

  21. says

    It’s the way that motorcycles began.
    My very first motorized vehicle was built on a bicycle frame and a lawn mower engine. which I built when I was about 9 years old..

    Have a lot of fun with it!