Laws for Bicycle Engine Kits

Written by jonathan d. septer
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Laws for Bicycle Engine Kits
Installing an engine kit on a bicycle may create a vehicle legally defined as a moped or motorcycle. (Old mopeds in front of a vintage store image by Ivonne Wierink from

Laws applying to bicycle engine kits differ greatly from the federal level to the state level. Local laws typically follow state laws closely but often apply greater stricture. Federal law supersedes state law. United States federal bicycle laws set manufacturing standards of quality, while state and local laws denote the legal definitions of bicycle use. Although many kits exist allowing for motor-driven bicycle mounting, most of these kits create vehicles considered illegal in many states.

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Federal Motor Bicycle Law

ASTM International, formerly American Society for Testing and Materials, defines the quality standards many global manufacturers meet for product safety, according to the ASTM International website. ASTM International standards create and carry out materials tests to ensure products such as bicycles and motors designed for bicycle mounting, meet minimum requirements for strength and durability. Many federal safety standards for bicycles comply directly with the ASTM International standards. These standards help protect consumers from injury and manufacturers from frivolous lawsuits. Federal laws do not cover bicycle vehicle operation or addition of motor laws.

State Motor Bicycle Law

Most states limit bicycle motor-driven speeds under 20mph, according to online powered cycle site Electric-Bikes. Bicycles equipped with motors may travel over 20mph if the motor ceases output at less than 20mph. Most bicycle engine kits cannot meet these regulations. Electric assist bicycles, equipped with on-board computer chips designed to limit motor output to less than 20mph, help riders remain within legal limits. State laws also govern road usage, sidewalk passage and bicycle lane and path travel. Local state transportation bureaus often set the laws governing bicycle vehicle use on public thoroughfares. Bicycles equipped with motors capable of exceeding 20mph typically receive definitions of moped or motorcycle and must meet all laws, including insurance, titling and operation, regarding such vehicles.

Local Motor Bicycle Law

Local laws may further restrict motored bicycle operation. Many cities require any motored vehicle operator to carry a state operator's license. Many cities require helmets for bicycle operators even if state laws do not. Cities often restrict bicycles from sidewalk passage or limit the travel of motored bicycles. Many bicycle lanes and paths restrict motor vehicles of any kind under local laws. Contact city, county or municipality lawmakers to learn what local laws may affect adding a bicycle engine kit to a typical bicycle. Most lawmakers limit motor-driven bicycles since such vehicles often cannot meet the safety standards of similar vehicles, such as mopeds and motorcycles. For example, bicycle brakes often cannot produce ample stopping power above 25mph.

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