Shop turns out mo-peds that get 150 miles per gallon
Sep 29, 2005
In a bike shop near downtown Tucson, a steady stream of Bob Dylan is playing. Together with the scent of oil familiar in any mechanic's den and the presence of a dog named Cash, the mood is set at Spooky Tooth Cycles.
Co-founder Roland Bosma, 29, started the bike company in early 2004 using a converted room in his home as his shop.
"I was in a cafe and the person behind the counter asked me if I had any mo-peds for sale. He only had like $400 to spend," Bosma said. "I didn't have anything, but it started this whole thought process."
He began to wonder how to provide an affordable option for people without cars who disliked having to rely on public transportation but didn't think bikes were feasible as a primary way to get around the city.
"I got to thinking if the revolution was ever going to happen, we had to start with transportation," he said. "Mobilize the people."
He started building custom motorized bikes and, in January, moved Spooky Tooth to its current site.
As his business grows, his mission remains the same.
He still speaks of a revolution rooted in the same socialist principles as guerrilla-leader Ernesto "Che" Guevara. An image of Guevara, taken during his own motorized-bike journey through Latin America, graces Spooky Tooth's Web site.
Spooky Tooth custom-creates motorized bikes that they say, if used legally, can be an affordable, convenient alternative to the more conventional methods of transportation.
"There's such a dichotomy between cars and their high costs, and bikes and their prices," Bosma said.
Over a five-year period, the total cost of a 2005 Toyota Camry SE, sold at a suggested retail price of $19,203, will average $25,904 including fuel, maintenance and repairs, according to Cars.com.
A Spooky Tooth "Bare Bones" bike costs $450. Engine replacements, should they be necessary, cost about $85, including parts and labor. Each bike can get about 150 miles per gallon, Bosma said.
Spooky Tooth can customize each bike with handlebars, seats, custom paint jobs and modifications to the engine.
Many states, including Arizona, classify motorized bicycles as mo-peds. But a few, Missouri and Maine among them, classify them separately and grant them privileges similar to bicycles.
Sgt. Mark Robinson of the Tucson Police Department said he couldn't say whether Spooky Tooth bikes are legal because he's not familiar with the company. But in general, he said, motorized bikes that meet the state's standards are street legal.
Spooky Tooth stock bikes have 48-cubic-centimeter engines and can go up to 25 miles per hour, Bosma said. Both of those are within the state's parameters for street use.
Spooky Tooth also sells customized bikes outfitted with an 80-cc engine that enables the bike to travel at speeds up to 50 mph. But those bikes, because of the larger engine, cease to fall under the definition of a mo-ped.
Legally, they're categorized as "motor-driven cycles," or motorcycles, Sgt. Robinson said.
Some customers said their passion for the bikes is about lifestyle, not speed.
"I fell in love," said George Doe. "It was something I was looking for all my life. It's the motor, it's how the bike is put together. God, it's so neat. . . . Even the police stop me and ask me where I got it."
He now owns two of the bikes.
Henry Aguilar, another of Spooky Tooth's customers, found the bikes' design similarly appealing.
He first saw one of Spooky Tooth's motorized bikes at a bicycle swap meet and "swooped in for the kill."
When he's riding it, "even the Harley (Davidson) guys have to smile at me," Aguilar said. "But there's no competition. It's like comparing apples to oranges. Apples can't get mad at oranges."
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