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I'm looking for something a little bit better than your average bike in terms of transportation potential, but cannot be a license-required vehicle as I cannot get a driver's license. I also don't have good terms with regular bicycles as every single one I've had has worn out well before even 2 years of daily use.

I thought the obvious:

1.Electric bikes (too expensive though and customizing to fit my needs would be difficult too);

2.Public transportation (the price isn't the issue, but the waiting/inconvenience/limited means);

3.Walking (I already do this and while it is manageable, it takes forever to go anywhere far obviously).

What would be a more ideal, not-so-expensive way to do better than a bike, but less than a license needed vehicle and/or slow and limited public transport? Any other in-betweens I may be missing?

  • Can you be more specific about what needs to be better than a bike? Also, what issues have you had with the bikes you've had? – LShaver Apr 23 at 19:55
  • Some way of transporting that I can use myself at my convenience, but that is more reliable than a standard bicycle at the least. Most bikes I get have many issues over not so long periods of time, such as broken chains; wheel bearings damaged/parts going out of place; frame bending; and misalignment/general wear downs. I do ride almost every day, so this might explain it -- but it still is an issue if you can't even rely on a bicycle for at least 2 solid years. Also, there are other annoying, stressing problems like inner-tube damage; tire issues; and having to refill air every few weeks. – Buddy Fup Apr 23 at 20:20
  • Basically the whole point to me was getting these transportation vehicles to avoid high costs and burdens like cars with insurance, gasoline, licensing, lease payments/etc. But if I'm getting a bicycle to have to spend hundreds in repairs and/or stress having to fix and pay everything in a DIY way, it becomes not much better than a car which I can't afford/manage anyways. I know nothing's perfect, but bikes have become a bad memory. – Buddy Fup Apr 23 at 20:22
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    A bicycle needs maintenance like every other means of transportation. If you are not willing to do the maintenance, pay somebody to do it. Otherwise you wont get anything better than a bicycle when you want mostly carbon-free, low cost, individual transport. E.g., I got a new bike (800€, so not that expensive) last November, been doing about 2.000 km since then (daily comute) and the maintenance so far has been tightening some screws, pumping air thrice, and most importantly, oiling the chain regularly. Quite reasonable effort for low cost, healthy transport. – Erik Apr 24 at 11:32
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    I also don't have good terms with regular bicycles as every single one I've had has worn out well before even 2 years of daily use You buy the wrong bikes or don't maintain them properly. If you change that, that requirement (complication) can be removed from the question. – Jan Doggen Apr 29 at 8:40
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An electric scooter would be ideal.

Bicycles suffer from a peculiar characteristic of humans, namely that they produce power at a ridiculously low RPM. Power is force times speed. If speed is low, to get any useful power, you need huge amounts of force. The rotational equivalent is that power is torque times RPM, very similar to the linear equation.

Let's consider how much torque a 100 kg rider that pulls up 30 kg from the handlebar exerts. 130 kg = 1275 N. That at 0.17 m crank length is 217 Nm. It's probably more torque than in my car engine!

I don't know what issues you have had with bicycles, but I'm suspecting it may be related to the drivetrain components, such as chains and sprockets wearing out quickly. They do that because of the huge forces involved, due to the low rotational and linear speeds.

Here's some bicycle failures: http://pardo.net/bike/pic/fail-001/000.html -- those occur because bicycles are lightweight and need to withstand extremely high forces.

Additionally, handlebars, stems, etc. can crack due to huge forces involved when pulling up from the handlebars to obtain more force on the pedals.

Also, most bicycles are designed to be easy to pedal. If you have electric propulsion, for example low rolling resistance of tires is no longer a must. Thus, you can have thicker tires that get less punctures. Bicycle tires are designed to be usually low rolling resistance, at the cost of frequent punctures.

Ideal electric scooters use typically smaller wheels for higher RPMs at the same linear velocity. They use a different drivetrain that works at high speed, allowing the engine to spin at 10 000 RPM or so. Electric motors like to spin at 5000 - 20000 RPM, generating very little torque but considerable power due to the high RPMs. Less torque equals smaller numbers of failures.

One answer recommended a 50cc scooter. The cheapest are often two-stroke engines generating very harmful exhaust emissions. Even the 4-stroke ones may lack a catalytic converter (although I was reminded that the best models may have a cat). Actually, the non-catalytic-converter tiny 50cc engines are more harmful than a car engine if you consider only the harmful emissions (they may generate a little less CO2 per mile, though). So, whether a 50cc scooter is environmentally friendly will depend on the exact model: do get a 4-stroke one with a catalytic converter.

I'm sure most places are modern and allow electric equivalents to 50cc scooters. Get such an electric equivalent! Chances are it will eventually save you the amount of money you have to spend on gasoline.

Edit: after this answer was written, I found that one of my workmates has bought an electric unicycle. It requires considerable skill to use, but it's much lighterweight and smaller than a bicycle, and you can carry it wherever you go including carrying it in public transportation. Cost is significantly below 1000 USD / 1000 EUR. Whether you dare to invest in unicycling skills is another question, but it may be a very useful investment.

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    Consider the small diameter wheels of an electric scooter versus the large diameter wheels of a bicycle, and a bicycle has a much greater capability due to stability. As for 50cc scooters, both Honda and Yamaha have four-stroke engines with catalytic converters. Also, consider fuel injection versus carburetors and liquid cooling versus air cooling but these specifications can depend on the model. – S Spring Apr 26 at 0:57
  • Here is a link to a Honda 50cc scooter with a catalytic converter: motorscooterguide.net/Honda/Ruckus/Ruckus.html. – S Spring Apr 26 at 1:17
  • Here is a link to a Yamaha 50cc scooter with a catalytic converter: motorcyclistonline.com/2013-yamaha-zuma-review – S Spring Apr 26 at 1:23
  • Thanks, answer revised! Indeed it may be the cat has finally reached the 50cc engines! – juhist Apr 26 at 16:50
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In general, any two or three wheeler with a one-speed transmission and no manual clutch, or with a two-speed automatic transmission, and a ~50cc engine, is a moped. Some states don't require tag and insurance but most states require a driver's license. Also, the top speed of the moped is likely required to be 30 MPH. Note that only "most states" require a driver's license.

If a traditional moped with larger diameter wheels is wanted then the Tomos was recently re-imported. Otherwise, Honda has a long-wheelbase 50cc rat scooter as well as traditional scooters. And Yamaha has some 50cc scooters.

I have previously suggested a new type of moped. The 50cc engine would go into a mountain-bike or beach-bike frame like a motorized bicycle. The moped would use mountain-bike wheels, tires, and brakes but DOT approved. So the moped would weigh about 60 to 75 pounds instead of double that amount. A computer would limit engine RPM to make the 30 MPH top speed but since the moped would have extra power available it would not slow down just because of going up hills. The moped would have a four-stroke engine for torque if not otherwise expected. Also, the one-speed moped would automatically clutch by control of a computer.

Motorized bicycle ? That currently and most often refers to a two-stroke engine put in a beach-bike frame. When the police are spotted just turn the engine off and pedal.

As for a bicycle I recommend a gravel-bike which is a lightweight bicycle with wide tires.

Electric bicycles are a problem because they are more often designed for top speed instead of hill climbing. In other words they are pedal assist but work best with faster pedaling. I think maybe we should go to throttle controlled electric bicycles with 20 MPH top speeds but most states would call that a moped and then make them illegal because of not having DOT tires.

Now Europe has light and heavy quadricycles that are four-wheel vehicles not regulated as cars. Take a look at the Twizy. But there is no such thing as a quadricycle in the U.S. and therefor a lot of three-wheel vehicles are being designed for the U.S. which are then regulated as motorcycles. The three-wheel vehicle works best as having two front wheels and one rear wheel.

Somehow kit cars come to mind. The Stalker 7 is one of many Lotus 7 variants. Or there is a Factory Five "AC Cobra" variant. In fact an aftermarket C3 Corvette frame can be used to build a kit car by replacing the OEM "birdcage" subframe with a roll cage. The result is not likely to have swinging doors.

A favorite small motorcycle is the KTM Duke 390 or RC 390. But Honda, Kawasaki, and Yamaha all have popular small motorcycles.

Basically, a person's life depends on their vehicle.

  • Here is a full-size sit-down electric-scooter: images.app.goo.gl/7YK7yKyoPP3UJRfT8 . It looks very chunky. What is missing is a moped, designed like a mountain bike, that has a hydrogen fuel-cell. The mountain bike frame could hold the compressed hydrogen. – S Spring Apr 30 at 20:17
  • A hydrogen fuel-cell would allow a smaller vehicle battery and save weight. A hydrogen fuel-cell sends electricity to the electric-motor/battery system. A city fueling system could be developed for a city-vehicle system. – S Spring Apr 30 at 20:28
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Depending on what country/state you live in, a sub-50cc moped/scooter might be an option. Some areas allow these to be ridden with only an age requirement — no license needed.

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    I cannot understand why in the sustainability site the recommendation is to use a vehicle with very likely a two-stroke engine and no catalytic converter (although some do have a four-stroke engine, yet they still don't have a catalytic converter)! – juhist Apr 25 at 17:32
  • Because it is more sustainable than a ICE car. There is no magical pass/fail threshold for "sustainability". Anything that is better than the "normal" option moves us in the right direction. Your personal standard for "sustainability" is pretty-much irrelevant, because no-one else shares exactly the same views. In other words, your way isn't the only way. Other approaches, which you may not agree with because they don't meet your personal standard, can be entirely appropriate/legitimate/valid. – Tim Apr 25 at 22:10

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