Elkhart: Moped Army Riders make the News!!

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Elkhart: Moped Army Riders make the News!!

Postby Micronaut » Sun Sep 18, 2005 4:36 pm

http://www.etruth.com/News/Content.aspx ... ge=#photos

ELKHART -- It starts with a faint vibration underfoot -- a slight tickling of the pavement.

They get closer, buzzing like a swarm of bees down the road, the scent of fuel trailing them.

They're here ... every Wednesday night in Elkhart. Who are they? Young people, knees pointed toward the sky, zipping down the road on motorized bicycles.

They call themselves the Moped Army.

Mo-peds are becoming more popular -- and not just for DUI offenders or teens, according to Elkhart resident Devin Biek, 23.

The Moped Army, a group of mo-ped enthusiasts that originated in Kalamazoo, is a burgeoning underground movement that proves this.

There are branches of Moped Army in almost every big city. Members say they like mo-peds because they are retro, trendy and economical.

Devin, his brother C.J. Biek, 28, and their friend Eric VanDiepenbos, 22, get together every Wednesday night to take mo-ped rides with friends.

The brothers started the Elkhart branch of the Moped Army, named Motion Left, after Devin's mo-ped shop in Elkhart called Motion Left Mopeds, at 811 N. Michigan St.

Members admit that when they first got their mo-peds, they thought they were a little dorky. Now they laugh as if they have a joke only they can appreciate.

They just may have a right to laugh. The Biek brothers and VanDiepenbos traveled about 1,100 miles last month to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan on their mo-peds, all for less than $50 in gas.

During the trip, they stopped at gas stations quite a bit. After all, those tanks hold only about a gallon. That gallon can take them 80 to 100 miles, though.

"Mo-peds were introduced to America during the gas crunch," said C.J.

Devin added that 70 percent of his customers at Motion Left ride mo-peds because they are more economical.

The army doesn't just ride them for fun, either. They ride them to work. They ride them in the winter, all bundled up. They take them on vacations, camping gear strapped on the back.

It helps that their mo-ped engines are supercharged, so they can cruise at about 40 miles per hour. Stock engines usually go about 30 miles per hour.

The only drawback is the stigma mo-peds carry, said Devin. People think they are drunk drivers who can't get their license back.

VanDiepenbos said he's been pulled over and had a police officer immediately ask him if he had "some form" of ID. He said, "I have my driver's license," to the surprise of the officer. Biek added that the officers in Elkhart all know them by now, so they only get pulled over when they go out of town.

The guys said the Upper Peninsula trip was the longest they had been on with their mo-peds. They camped every night but one, and made their goal, which was to ride more than 1,000 miles.

They were somewhat prepared for breakdowns. Devin said they brought plenty of spare parts, including a spare engine.

VanDiepenbos' bike broke down a little more than expected. First a clutch went out, which took a couple of hours to fix. Then he blew a piston in the crankcase, which tore up the engine. That took a little longer to fix; they had to piece together two demolished engines.

After so many breakdowns, VanDiepenbos' bike could go about 32 miles per hour. He had to walk the bike up multiple hills because it was so under-powered, while the Biek brothers waited at the top.

At one point, the guys pulled in to a gas station and almost pulled right back out because there was a large group of bikers who snickered at them.

"They thought we were pretty crazy," said Devin. After talking to them and realizing they were a traveling mo-ped group, the bikers started taking pictures of them.

The woman in the convenience store told them she had never seen Harley guys so impressed.

They decided to cut across Lake Michigan by ferry from Ludington to Manitowoc because of the engine problems. The trip took about a week.

The Upper Peninsula was just a warm-up, the mo-ped guys said -- their next trip is something cross-country.

With gasoline prices climbing so high these days, they might end up having to drop $100 on their next trip.

Contact Melissa Madden at mmadden@etruth.com.
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