The word 'moped' is a combination of the two words motor and pedal. The first moped was nothing more than a bicycle fitted with an internal combustion engine. The internal combustion engine allowed the two-wheeler to run even when it was not powered by human energy. The history of the invention of the moped goes back to the invention of the bicycle -- the basic idea on which it is based.
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Invention of the Bicycle
In 1817, German Karl Drais Von Sauerbronn invented the basic bicycle, or what he called the Laufmaschine or running machine. This invention, which Sauerbronn meant to be an alternative to riding horses, was made entirely of wood and had two wheels, a wooden seat and steering handles. The rider could propel himself using his feet. In 1839, Kirkpatrick McMillan invented the first pedal-propelled bicycle.
In 1868, Frenchman Michaux-Perraux added a small steam engine to the cycle, giving it greater power. A similar invention was made at approximately the same time by Sylvester Howard Roper of Roxbury, Massachusetts. Motorised cycles were first available to be commercially sold in the 1890s. Only a few hundred Hildebrand and Wolfmuller mopeds were manufactured; they were scrapped due to the high costs of production and technical difficulties.
The First World War and the Great Depression did not give inventors much opportunity to work on the moped, although the motorcycle was a popular means of transport at the time. After the Second World War, there was a shortage of fuel and consumers wanted an economical alternative to motorcycles and automobiles. Bicycles became popular again, and makers like Peugot and Ducati would offer a small auxiliary engine with their bicycles.
In the 1950s, Steyr Puch of Austria, originally a bicycle manufacturing company, introduced its MS-50 model. This was the first moped to deviate from the bicycle design and format, and it was the first moped that could be completely driven by its engine. In the 1960s and 1970s, the market was flooded with expensive multi-speed and cheaper single-speed mopeds. By 1975, at least 125 models of mopeds were available in the United States. This craze died down when the recession hit in the 1980s, and mandatory licensing laws were passed. Today, the moped lives on in various forms --- mopeds, no-peds, motorised cycles and their cousins, the scooters.
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