Saturday, August 25, 2012

Cheap-Ass Chinese motorcycles and scooters (Part 1)

My goal over the last year or so has been to work toward leaving the rat race and all the crap that goes along with it. The hardest part in doing this is of course finding a place to live. I bought a small patch of dirt for $400 and found an old junk travel trailer for another $200 and pulled it out to my land. It’s a crappy little shack but it solves the question of where to lay my head for the night. With a little work it should be quite comfortable.

The next “major” problem to be solved is of course transportation. A bicycle would certainly be the best option as far as cheap transportation is concerned. No gas to buy, no insurance needed, and it would provide daily exercise to help maintain good health. If I were going to be living in town (or even a few miles from town) this would definitely be the way to go-no pun intended.

My “zombie hideout” is 18 miles from the nearest population center however and almost 9 miles to the nearest convenience store! It would take two hours to get into town on a bicycle and another two hours to get back. For once a month trips this might work but for day to day needs this is impractical. I need a cheap-ass means of transportation that’ll get me where I need to go in minutes not hours. A small fuel efficient scooter or motorcycle should do the trick and over the last several months I have be looking into this option.

Relying on a motorcycle or scooter as your primary means of transportation does have  its downsides of course. You can’t ride in inclement weather. It’s pretty dangerous in heavy traffic and even in areas where traffic is light you still need to practice defensive driving techniques much more so than you would in a car or truck. But I think the benefits outweigh those negatives. At least they do for me as I will not be living in a major population center and if I’m no longer whoring myself out to “the man” for slave wages then I’ll just stay put when it rains.

Now let’s look at some of the benefits of using a small scooter or motorcycle to get your ass from point A to point B. They’re cheap on gas, getting between 50 and 100 miles to the gallon (or more) depending on several factors like size of the bike, how you ride it, the weight of the rider, etc. Basic liability insurance is much cheaper than an automobile, costing just a few dollars per month depending on your driving record and who you are insured with. Finding a place to park is usually pretty easy and you can go places on a bike that you wouldn’t even dream of with a car or truck.

Clearly a small scooter or motorcycle is one of the best options you can choose for transportation if you are living on a small amount of money. A good used Japanese bike is certainly your best bet but finding one at a reasonable price now days is next to impossible. Time to look at the dreaded cheap-ass generic China bikes. 

These things are produced by the millions every single year at numerous factories in China under a multitude of different brand names. Some factories produce these generic bikes with no "brand" on it at all allowing the importer to put their own stamp on the bike.When I first started looking into the option of buying a motorcycle or motor scooter for transportation it was for the simple reason that I'm a broke bastard who rarely has much money so naturally I began looking at the cheapest crap I could find.

Again let me state that if you are lucky enough to find a good used Japanese bike at a reasonable price then you shouldn't even consider anything else. Especially if a motorcycle or scooter fits into your personal zombie survival strategy. For those who aren't lucky enough to find a good deal on a Jap bike however a china bike could be a good choice if you are willing to do the homework before you purchase one.

Keep in mind that even the best Chinese motorcycle or scooter is going to require more maintenance and repairs than the worst Japanese machines. But at 20 to 25 percent of the cost what do you expect. If you have very little money to live on and you don't mind doing a little work on your bike from time to time then you might be able to make this strategy work for you.

 In part two I will go over some of the different sized bikes that are available and discuss some of the problems you can expect to encounter when you purchase one of these Cheap-Ass machines. I'll discuss in more detail why you should consider buying one even if you don't plan to use it as your primary means of transportation. And as always I'll try to provide you with plenty of food for thought about the subject.


  1. Hey Tex, Nightshift here.....I still say if you can swing it spend 1500 on a decent Jap bike. You can get 40k miles out of a single cylinder small bike. I don't see anyone holding onto China bike. I stand by the cry once concept here. Jap scooters are as high as small bikes so I lean towards the 125 to 250 cc bikes. Even seen some 20 year old runners under a grand. Bigger cc but they still get 50 mpg. I think in the long run you will be further ahead. Small dual purpose bikes are high but you can find them. Don't know what kind of price range the China ones are you are looking at. I paassed on a running older nighthawk 450? for 600. It had 13000 miles on it. Keep looking.

  2. I am ordering electric tricycle soon

  3. You can mount a small motor on a regular bike if it's legal where you live. There are kits all over the internet.

  4. I've given this option a lot of thought as well Tex. A motorcycle is so much less to operate and maintain than a car. Tune ups, oil change, new tires, insurance, fuel, all so much less than a car.

    I would try to look find an older Japanese bike if you can? The older bikes are easier to maintain and work on yourself. A dual sport (or enduro as I believe that they're sometimes called?) as nightshift suggested, has more capability, and is more versatile, but if the route between your property and work is a smooth one, you should be able to get by ok with a street only bike.

    Keep in mind that most states have a minimum CC rating in order to be able ride on a state highway or freeway (it's 250cc in many states). For this reason I would recommend getting something with an engine at least as big as what your state requires if at all possible. You may never want to ride on a highway, but it's nice to have the option to do so should you ever need to?

    Bikes at the 250cc size or smaller will have mileage in the vicinity of the 75 to 100mpg. Personally, I would want the most mileage out of a motorcycle as I could get, and so I would avoid bikes too much larger than the bare minimum needed for highway travel. Larger bikes do not get as good of mileage as one may think? In many cases, not a lot better than a small car, at least according to some of the mileage ratings that I have read? As an example, I once saw a Honda 750cc advertised. In the ad it was mentioned that it got 57 miles per gallon. A small car such as Geo Metro or a smaller Honda car will generally get between 45 and 50mpg.

  5. Wimmera, An electwic twicycle? WOOOOOOOW! Make sure you get one with the little ding-dingy bell on it and the pink and white tasles dangling from the handlebar grips.

  6. Thank you for the advice Tex Dakota.
    Maybe I get Solar Electrical Trike (Sande-009)made in China.

  7. Hey Tex! - Congrats for wading into a subject full of dogma and coming out with a fresh opinion!

    Three points:
    1 - I posted elsewhere in response to your "Living On Less Than $10,000/yr" post that, here in Washington, my motorized bicycle is free of registration and insurance requirements. Turns out I was wrong... I just haven't been caught yet. As of this year there is a registration requirement (about $44/yr), but still no insurance requirement.

    2 - This site shows how to push a 125cc scooter to over 200 mpg. The same approach should work for little 49cc mopeds. It will significantly boost their mileage, plus allow higher speeds (although that would be wrong). Might also make them a little more comfortable in a light rain.

    3 - About a year ago I bought a decent 1989 Geo Metro for $1,000 that consistently gives me over 50 mpg on the freeway. It will zip along at over 70 mph if pushed, but I tend to drive it under 60 to extend its life. It costs $44/yr to license and insurance runs me only $220/yr. For the money I think it's a better option than a small motorcycle. About the same acquisition cost, mpg and operating cost. However, it is freeway worthy, more crash-resistant, will carry a lot more, and it can even pull a small trailer. It is truly all weather, including snow and ice... and I don't have to wear a freakin' helmet to drive it!