Laws on Mini Motos

Mini motos and pocket bikes are miniature motorcycles, often measuring less than a quarter scale of a full sized motorcycle. Mini motos have grown extremely popular as a mode of inexpensive transportation, due to their small size and relatively high performance. New laws have been put in place in many states and counties to regulate these mini motorcycles.

What is a Mini Moto?

A mini moto, or pocket bike, is a miniature motorcycle that is typically powered by a gas or electric motor, with displacements ranging from 49 to 125cc. Most gas-powered mini motos are by a small displacement single-speed two- or four-stroke motor that is connected by a drive chain to the rear wheel. These motors are often found on basic yard equipment and run on regular gasoline. Electrical mini motos use a small battery and electric motor for propulsion. Mini motos are available in a variety of styles, with sport bike type being the most common.

Need to Regulate Mini Motos

Mini motos are typically sold as off-road only vehicles, meaning that they are not legal for use on public roads and highways. However, newer models have been produced and are equipped with headlights, tail and brake lights, turn indicator, and speedometers with the intent to become street-legal. These mini motos are often sold as motor scooters, which are defined as vehicles that operate on small wheels and utilise a low-powered gasoline engine, and often are represented as a motorised skateboard with handlebars.

California and Mini Moto Classifications

California Vehicle Code 400(a) classifies pocket bikes and mini motos as motorcycles, which is any motor vehicle having a seat or saddle used by the rider and is designed to travel on not more than three wheels and weighing under 680kg. California Vehicle Code 405 further defines a mini moto as a "motor-driven cycle," which is a motorcycle powered by a motor with a displacement of 150cc or less. What these codes boil down to is that a mini moto operator must register the vehicle as a motorcycle, possess a state-issued motorcycle endorsed license and wear proper protective equipment. However, as most mini moto manufacturers do not place Vehicle Identification Codes (VIN) on their products, the California Department of Motor Vehicles does not allow mini motos to be registered.

Other States Views on Mini Motos

California is not the only state to view mini motos as motorcycles. Pennsylvania classifies both a motor scooter (motorised skateboard) and a motor-driven cycle as motor vehicles requiring registration and licensing to operate on public roads and sidewalks. In addition, Tennessee requires motor-driven cycle operators to possess an M-Limited endorsement on their driver's license. Should a mini moto be registered and operated on public roads, the operator is required to obey all traffic laws and may be required to carry insurance.

Universal Helmet Laws

Most states have a universal helmet law that requires all motorcycle and motor-driven cycle operators and passengers to wear Department of Transportation approved helmets. Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana and Texas only require operators younger than 20 to wear a helmet. As of 2009, helmets are not required by law in Idaho, New Hampshire, Iowa and Colorado.

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About the Author

An avid motorcyclist, Chris Gilliland has immersed himself into the two-wheeled world while balancing work life and raising three daughters. When he is not managing the parts department of a local, multi-line motorcycle dealership, Gilliland can often be found riding, writing or working on his motorcycle blog, Wingman's Garage.