30 July 2012


A month ago, I ranted and raved about electric bikes.

As "Ailish" and other commenters pointed out, bikes with motors, or other non-human assistance, are nothing new.  In fact, there have been motors of one kind or another on bicycles for almost as long as there have been velocipedes.  

So, as ironic as it may seem, it's really not surprising that some bicycles have "motor" or some similar term in their names even though the bike's only engine is human.  Perhaps the most famous example of this is the French line of Motobecane bicycles.  "Becane" is a colloquialism for "bicycle" in France, so, in essence, "Motobecane" means "motorized bike."

(Note:  Bicycles currently sold in the US with the Motobecane name have absolutely no connection to the company in France, which no longer makes bicycles.  The company that markets the current Motobecanes simply purchased the right to use the name in the 'States.')

Other bike makers have used automotive motifs, particularly on models intended for pre-teen boys.  I think now of the "Chopper" and "Krate"-style bicycles, which had stick shifters meant to evoke the ones found in race cars, as well as racing stripes, checkered flags and such.

Schwinn actually made a model that was called "Motobike." As a kid, I remember seeing one in the basement of my great-aunt's house; if I remember correctly, my great-uncle or their son (my mother's cousin)--or, perhaps, both--rode it when they were boys.

I have no idea of where that bike is now.  But I found a photo of one in an eBay listing.  According to the seller, the bike was made in 1938.  

Another eBay listing revealed the perfect accessory for that bike:

Believe it or not, it was made in the USA--in Illinois, to be exact.

Isn't it interesting that the box reads "Bicycle Ignition"?

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