Reinventing the Romantic
By Jason Bosch | Photos By Zoe Magold-White
Three years ago Tim Husmann rebuilt his love of a machine into a very specialized local business. The machine is the moped and the business is Moto Ocho.
Mopeds can be likened to gutter punk bastard children born from a motorcycle and a bicycle. Traditionally small motorbikes with pedals, these rebellious machines first came on the scene in the early 1900s but saw their renaissance during the energy crisis of the 1970s when gas shortages and high fuel prices took a piss on people’s daily commutes. Mostly foreign companies such as French Peugeot and Motobécane increased production and imports to the US. The Austrian company Puch made over 2 million mopeds during this era.
With over 130 moped clubs across America, Tim Husmann, owner of Moto Ocho, along with co-conspirators Lisa Rieks and Josh Gill, are part of a growing community of enthusiasts involved in rebuilding, restoring, maintaining and riding mopeds. “My brother Duncan was in the Spokesmen club in Denver and I started borrowing his moped a lot and realized I needed to buy one myself.” Tim explains, “That was ten years ago and I’m still hooked. They make people smile…bring back memories with the old timers and young people love them too.”
About half the community is DIY (Do-It-Yourself) and work on their own bikes. “It’s a lot of work to bring them back to life,” said Tim. “Imagine if your car sat for 30 years”. Some mopeders challenge themselves to squeeze every bit of power out of a machine that wasn’t intended to go over 30 miles per hour. At Moto Ocho you can buy a 50 cc up to 80 cc upgrade kit, which can get your bike speeds up to 60 mph. Tim tells me that working on these bikes combines art and some kind of black magic tech know-how. Some people are purists and restore their bikes to their original state while others mix and match engines, frames and parts creating a sort of Frankenbike or so-called “Rat Bike.” Others just buy their mopeds and pay to have them fixed, which Tim and his team are happy to do.
Every other Sunday at 5 PM in front of Moto Ocho people meet up for a ride, which typically lasts 2 -3 hours. There’s a lot of camaraderie on these group rides. “Someone breaks down pretty much every time,” laughs Tim. “We all just stop and wait for them to fix their bike or they’ll just leave it chained up and ride with someone else. The mopeds are really pushed to the limit,” Tim explains, “there are some really junk builds out there.” Last February Tim took part in a group ride to San Francisco. They trailered their bikes to Frisco, Colorado and rode the rest the way. Their destination was Treats, one of the biggest parts suppliers in the US.
“There’s a certain charm about these little bikes and making them your own. Through Moto Ocho we attempt to reinvent the romantic” -Tim Husmann, founder of Moto Ocho The practical benefits to owning a moped are that they get 80-100 miles to the gallon, you don’t need a motorcycle license so long as your bike is under 50 cc, you can chain it up like a bicycle so you don’t need to worry about parking (most models weigh only about 120 pounds), the 3 year registration is only $5, and insurance is just $60-$100 per year. It’s a great way to get around. “You just need to be cautious. Like riding your bike. You need to ride assuming no one sees you,” explains Tim.
You can buy a moped anywhere from $700 to $1500, sometimes less on Craigslist, but you’ll have to fix them up. In addition to doing repairs and restorations, Moto Ocho sells new aftermarket parts. There are some boutique parts shops here in the US but most come from overseas.
In the future Tim hopes to do a Pikes Peak ride. “I don’t think it’s been done”, and has dreams of manufacturing and marketing a bike here in America. Currently no Mopeds are made in the U.S There’s an online community of moped enthusiasts at mopedarmy.com with news, events, forums and a Wiki. Moto Ocho, a moped restoration, repair and sales shop located at 2830 Larimer Street in Denver, is a welcoming place for those interested in mopeds and the community around them. Check out moto-ocho.com or visit the shop at 2830 Larimer Street. They can be reached at 720-439-9886.