Motorized Bicycle Boardtracker from Mike Chiavetta

Mike Chiavetta board tracker bicycle

Mike Chiavetta board tracker bicycle

After recently covering the growth of motorized bicycle racing, it seems the idea of stuffing engines in bicycles is getting even more popular, now it's showing up in the car mags. Mike Chiavetta, a member of the Donut Derelicts hot rod club in southern California, put together this freelance boardtracker, not really a replica of anything, just built in the style of the old racers, and it showed up in the most recent issue of Hot Rod.

It's hardly a show winning custom of any sort, but it does show what you can do with some very basic parts, a good bit of scrounging, hands on skills and not much money. The whole bike cost about $150 dollars. He loosely tied the idea of a Henderson board tracker to an old junk beach cruiser bicycle and the bike you see here is the result.

He cut and welded the frame until it would fit the garage sale Kohler engine he had. He used a 30s Chevy brake light for the headlight, adapting a flashlight for the tail light. The leather seat is covered with leather off of an old briefcase.

The gas tank is carbon fiber! He happened to have some scraps from doing composite construction on airplanes, the fuel filler is the cap from an old acetone can.

He rebent the handlebars by lowering the weight of his car onto them until they were just what he wanted.

This is the kind of do it yourself, hands on construction that anyone can do if they're motivated. You can learn a lot and have a pretty cool little low budget runner when you're done. It's street legal, too, licensed as a moped.

I spotted this in Hot Rod and passed it by, then Bob sent me a note to take another look. Glad I did. Thanks, Bob.

Found a write up on bikerhotline, where these photos are from via September 2012 Hot Rod

Mike Chiavetta board tracker bicycle

Mike Chiavetta board tracker bicycle

Comments

  1. JustAmazed says

    That Kohler is what, about 250cc and 3250 rpm operating speed? Bet it’s the only “moped” that has enough torque to lift the front end. With a little leg help, of course!

    Nice craftmanship. Good looks. Meep meep.

  2. mikesundrop says

    Nice, there’s some inspiration to get a project going no matter what you have.

    I love the absurdity of a Kohler cast iron lump and a carbon fiber fuel tank.

  3. GuitarSlinger says

    These motorized bicycle creations are about one thing and one thing only ;

    F-U-N ! …….Period ……. Nuff said .

  4. HoughMade says

    Looks good! Under the law, it’s a motorcycle, but as I have learned, if you don’t ride like an idiot, the cops just smile and wave. Great bike!

    • Mike Chiavetta says

      As long as I can pedal it like a bicycle, promise to wear a helmet, and not go faster than 35mph the California Department of Motor Vehicles will issue a one time fee of $19 ans a legitimate licence plate. Build one, you won’t be disappointed.

  5. B50 Jim says

    Looks just right! Taking motorcycling back to its roots. That “Kohler cast iron lump” probably has about the same horsepower that the original, circa 1900 engines had, but it will run forever and sip gasoline. I’m partial to the 5-hp Briggs&Stratton sidevalve, mostly because I once raced go-karts in that class; it’s amazing what you can get out of that little roto-tiller motor with a little work and no extra money. Put one in my old Schwinn Tornado, and it would be a great ride.

    Back to Mike’s bike — The law might be a little hazy here — the engine is way over the 40cc limit, but it has pedals and no gear-type transmission. I’m thinking a cop would give it a pass unless he was having a bad day. Really, you wouldn’t want to go much faster than about 30 on a bicycle anyway; they are made for one human-power and speeds up to about 25. My neighbor who is into motorized bicycles says it gets pretty scary past 30. To do this right you’d need to reinforce the frame to stop oscillations, use much better wheels with heavier-gage spokes, thicker hubs and much bigger bearings, and find tires rated to carry the extra weight at higher speeds. Oh, yeah… better add a disk brake up front to help that poor rear coaster brake.

    • BigHank53 says

      In many states there’s a class called “motor driven bicycles” or something similar. It was intended to cover Whizzers or other, older accessory motors. The regulations are much less restrictive than moped regs, or at least they were in New Hampshire, the only state I researched them closely in. In NH, there’s a limit of 5 hp. Nothing about lights, safety equipment, top speed, or displacement.

      Your home state may vary wildly, of course. And if you get caught being stupid one shouldn’t be surprised when the cops are less than amused.

      I’ve actually got a couple engines sitting around that are itching for a fate like this….

      • GenWaylaid says

        Yeah, in California “motor driven cycle” is the moped classification: 50 cc, 2 hp, automatic / 1-speed transmission, 30 mph. That said, it’s mighty difficult to tell the displacement and horsepower of a motor just by looking at it (unless it’s ripping down the road at fifty-plus miles an hour).

        From what I’ve experienced, bicycle components are right at their engineering limit at 30 mph, and moped components hit the limit around 50 mph. Might as well gear to that top speed and take the rest in off-the-line torque!

    • Mike Chiavetta says

      Naaaa, my bike is rock solid stable with bicycle tires and tubes. I’m building a 1911 Springer Indian front fork and hit a big bump at speed and it worked fine. I made the unusual curved front spring out of 20 bids (layers) of carbon fiber . The next one will have a 1932 straight spring of 30 bids, also an Indian design. Am I having fun? You bet I am…

  6. Miles says

    The only bad looking part of the whole build is the kohler engine shroud.

    I love the fake oil pan, really sells the engine.

    Kudos, wish I had the dosh and skill to make one.

  7. scritch says

    I’ve got an old Cushman motor (garage sale $12 and runs – sorta) that would be ideal for this kind of project. Time to get the torch out!

  8. todd says

    Hmm, I have an old ’58 Homelite chainsaw and a 1909 Pierce track bike… Maybe not. I already have my ’77 Peugeot moped for that.

    This is really cool and I’m always kicking myself for donating all those other bicycles and yard equipment.

    -todd

  9. Mean Monkey says

    Hey! Well done, Mike Chiavetta.
    I hope it’s as much fun as it looks.
    My favorite story from my dad– was that he stole the Maytag gasoline motor from his mother’s washing machine to make his first motorbike. Gram wasn’t pleased.

    You da champ, Mike.

  10. HoughMade says

    I didn’t mean to get s bogged down in legalities, but I have a fair amount of knowledge in this being both a lawyer and a motorized bicycle builder/fanatic. Usually 50ccs is the limit regardless of horsepower, and most places it must be both under 50ccs and 2hp or under to avoid motorcycle equipment and licensing requirements. Even old Whizzers, which are 148ccs, are considered motorcycles most places.

    That being said, chances are you could ride years and never have a problem.

  11. EMC2 says

    wow, you guys are lucky…

    Down here in Oz, the *maximum* allowed is 200W – about 1/4 of a HP

  12. '37 Indian says

    This bike and the “Flying Merkel” that we saw a few days ago are both pretty cool in their own respective ways and show ingenuity and craftsmanship. I agree with the positive comments left by others. What bugs me about both of them is that they are not what they say they are, in other words, they’re counterfeit. I’m glad that when I go to antique bike shows, all of the bikes I see are the real deal. No one dares to take an old J C Higgins bicycle, put an old Honda Dream 150 engine on it and paint “Rudge Ulster” on the tank. Most of us would recognize the fake and scoff it off, but what of the youngster who’s never seen a real Rudge before and believes the fake to be real? Is it then ok to write “The Spirit of Saint Louis” on a Piper Cub? “PT 109″ on a Bayliner Capri? I would like this bike better if he’d put “Chiavetta Special” on it and left Hendersons have their dignity. In th 60′s and 70′s, Floyd Clymer goofed up the Indian name by calling cheap, far Eastern and Italian made kids’ bikes and mopeds “Indians”. To this day I’m still explaining that the “Indian” moped that you can get for $200 is not a REAL Indian. If you’re going to make a replica of a historical brand, make it an exact replica, or don’t use their name on it.

    • HoughMade says

      It’s an homage, not a replica and is not being passed off as the real thing. Somehow I think a kid at a vintage motorcycle show will have someone to show him the way…if he even needs someone to.

    • todd says

      Clymer did that legally, those are “real Indians”. You just happen to not like them for some reason.

      -todd

  13. fharmon says

    Aw, everyone but grandma knows its not really a henderson,(come to think of it she might know best!), lets be tolerant and just say it is deticated to the memory of. I was wanting a harley and stuck on something else and was tempted to write “not a,” in small letters
    in front of the h-d logo just for fun, just tongue in cheek fun, ya know? Its good to see that he did the build, thats what counts to me.

    • mikesundrop says

      Kind of like my ‘YAMAHARLEY’ RD350 I had in high school. (Girlfriends dad rode Harleys and he always told me ‘to get a real bike’ so I added ‘rley’ to the tank)

  14. Scotduke says

    It looks fun. Even if the motor is larger than it’s supposed to be, the low power output might allow this thing to be used without too much restriction. It’d need a licence plate here in the UK and you would certainly need to be prepared to argue your case with the authorities.

    Bear in mind that the motorcycle Glenn Curtiss hit 127mph on back in 1907, and which is in the Smithsonian in Washington DC, was little more than a bicycle with an air-cooled V8 squeezed into its spindly frame.

  15. anders says

    I like the technique used to ‘shape’ the handlebars. I once had to use a long 2×4, cinder block fulcrum, breaker bar, and my jack, to loosen the rear wheel bearing nut on a 280Z. Raise car, execute ‘controlled’ drop :^) …

    ACE

  16. Carolynne says

    Every time I see one of these I get excited. They seriously are sooooo cool. I wonder if I could build one (with a little help of course)

    • B50 Jim says

      Hi, Carolynne –

      I knew you’d like to ride one! They’re not very hard to build, and if you have normal skills with tools you can certainly knock one together on your own. Start with a good bicycle, preferably something from the 1950s when they really built ‘em, and add the various kit components that are readily available. Pay attention to (and spend money on) the rear hub — some kits fasten the sprocket to the spokes, and that wrecks the wheel, then crashes the bike, in short order. Get a hub that affixes the sprocket to the hub like any self-respecting motorcycle. Beyond that, it’s a matter of deciding on displacement, whether to use a centrifugal clutch or get a nifty motorcycle-style lever-actuated clutch, add lights, etc. Most of the components are Chinese-made and you have to be careful with carburetors especially; a few clinkers get past inspection. Building one is a lot like working on your bike when you were 12 but bolting on some heavier parts. I learned quite a lot about it from a neighbor who has built several. His latest runs 60ccs and is styled in steampunk fashion, complete with copper-tube exhaust. Of course he would like to ride a “real” motorcycle but his wife interprets his marriage vows to specifically exclude “real” motorcycles, so he does the next best thing. He appreciates it when I ride my B50 by his garage to stop and talk bikes.

        • HoughMade says

          Yes. There is a website called motoredbikes dot com that is a great forum and has more info than you will ever need.

          • B50 Jim says

            That’s where my neighbor finds the stuff he needs for his bikes. Most of it bolts on with minor or no fabrication so you can have a motorized bicycle using the tools you have on hand; some minor welding might be needed. Anyone who can rebuild a bicycle and has a welding shop nearby can build a motorized bicycle.

  17. john says

    As far as laws and regulation go…how is this bike any different than a Honda PC-50 or a Puch Maxi N?

    • HoughMade says

      If this bike were under 50ccs, nothing. It’s not. Even a small Kohler engine is over 100ccs (much over). In California where this bike is from, there is an intermediate level that’s not quite scooter and not quite motorcycle, but it has to be registered and a certain license is required. Motorized bicycles, scooters and mopeds which are under 50ccs do not have to be registered at all (most places) and do not require a special license, or in some places, any license.

      Once again, this is a great bike. I’d ride it any day if I had the chance (but I also have an MC endorsement).

  18. Paul says

    You guys are funny. Bicycle components have a limit of 25mph?

    You guys do realize that professional road riders have average speeds higher than 25mph right? And those bikes weigh 15lbs and are mostly carbon fiber.

    You also realize that downhill mountain bikes can hit speeds as high as 45mph across rocky, brutal terrain with jumps that make MX look timid.

    The reason motorized bicycles ride so horribly at speed is because their builders know very little about how REAL bicycles are designed to compensate for those speeds. Modern downhill bikes are very stable at speed and thats mostly because of the angles and geometry, but they look don’t look like a vintage motorcycle and they can’t be had for free, so you don’t see them buzzing around on the street.

    • B50 Jim says

      Exactly. The reason to ride a motorized bicycle is to have the “look” of a vintage Whizzer or the thousands of bicycles that owners over the years have bolted engines into and had all kinds of fun riding. A modern mountain bike certainly would handle better, but it would look more like a small motorcycle, not a motorized bicycle, and there’s a big difference.

  19. says

    You must not be using the right bike components ;) Both downhill and road racers exceed 40 MPH regularly, often by fairly large margins, although I have no idea how much of an impact the added weight/torque of a lawnmower-sized gas engine would have.

    cl

    • B50 Jim says

      The old Schwinn-style bikes were designed for speeds below 30 mph, which was about the max a kid could do, pedaling like a demon downhill. Still, in my younger days we had some spectacular crashes on those hills. With frames that weren’t very rigid and questionable steering-head bearings, a speed wobble was a heartbeat away and attacked without warning. Add the weight of an engine and related hardware, and everything better be tight and well-bolted together. The difference between then and now is that we’re 45+ years older and don’t walk away from crashes like we did. I have three friends who recently crashed their bicycles (non-motorized) — the tally is: one shattered pelvis requiring months of recovery, one fractured hip ditto, and one case of road-rash infection that required 3 days hospitalization. It makes motorcycles look a lot safer.

    • BigHank53 says

      The “right” bike components will certainly handle higher loads and speeds. On the other hand, brakes that cost $250 per wheel, $100 headsets and $300 hubs puts you right back into real motorcycle territory.

  20. todd says

    Too bad, the original bike would potentially have up to 150 ft-lb of torque, depending on the rider. This Kohler engine maybe has one-tenth that. My tongue is planted firmly in my cheek.

    -todd

    • B50 Jim says

      My Schwinn had more torque than that (I was a chubby kid) but figuring the 1:3 gearing and 26″ rear wheel, a lot of it was lost getting to the ground. Then I suppose there’s the weight factor — a heavy rider generates better torque but needs it to get the weight moving. It’s all physics. Tongue in cheek, of course. We rode among the clay slag hills left over from long-ago strip mining, and the extra torque helped me pull up the steep hills, and the extra weight gave me an advantage in screaming down the hills. We had to dodge the guys on their Bultacos, but that added to the fun.

  21. says

    This is a one off custom bike that we are donating part of proceeds to the Jeans for Justice Cause. Call us for more information.