Since the very beginning of the automobile, people have been racing motorized vehicles. Henry Ford himself was actively involved in auto racing from 1901 to 1913. Back then, auto racing was truly a harrowing experience with open cockpits, unpredictable handling, and no helmets to protect yourself from injury. Our love for automobiles has led us to continue pushing the envelope, honing our knowledge and expertise in auto mechanics, and allowed us to continue to find creative ways to get faster and trim some time off our runs. Over the years racing has evolved into many forms, from NASCAR to Indy car, circle track to drag racing and many other variations. Drag racing itself originated in the dry lake beds of California in the 1930’s. The need for speed soon pushed these cars up over 100mph. The real action, however, started after WWII with kids and cars hanging out on America’s street corners. The classic muscle car became the ultimate status symbol, leading to rampant street competition. With no fear and a need for speed, these kids started racing down ¼ mile city blocks, and from that the modern form of drag racing was born.
Just like the evolution of racing in general, drag racing has also taken on many forms. Around the time that cars were getting fine-tuned for ¼ mile matchups in the 50’s and 60’s, motorcycle enthusiasts were starting to drag race as well. Motorcycles were modified for more speed and stability. Stock frames were often cut and lengthened. Stock rear tires were often replaced with fat wide tires for more traction.
The Rise of Moped Racing
In more recent times, moped scooters have become extremely popular to modify and drag race as well. Mopeds generally prove to be cheaper and easier to modify, and as a consequence they have exploded in popularity worldwide. Many videos can be found online depicting these lightweight rockets blasting down the racetrack. Some are even faster than their motorcycle drag bike counterparts. Just like motorcycle drag bike racing, moped drag racing is truly an international sport. It seems to be most popular on Asian countries such as Korea and Japan, but it also enjoys great popularity in the United States.
When it comes to designing a race-caliber moped scooter, several factors need to be considered. First of all, the bikes are very light, so weight distribution is extremely important. Power is important, but too much power can be very dangerous, especially if the weight distribution is off. These scooters are so light that you could lose control quickly sending you for a flight if you’re not careful.
Because of this power advantage, scooters utilizing smaller motors like the 50cc, will opt for a 2-stroke motor to maximize power and minimize weight. Once you get into the 100cc and bigger motors, you will start to see more 4-strokes however. 2-stroke motors are fundamentally less efficient because they are trying to squeeze all of the steps of the combustion cycle (intake, combustion, exhaust) into 2 steps as opposed to 4.
Experts say that 4 stroke engines are about 25% more efficient than 2 stroke engines. 4 stroke engines also have much cleaner emissions, they last longer, and the spark plugs don’t foul. 2 stroke motors require oil to be added to the fuel for lubrication, whereas 4 stroke motors have oil reserves and require oil changes. Because of this, many serious racers lean toward larger, 4 stroke motors for durability and efficiency.
At the end of the day, racing is fun and exciting, regardless of what form you choose. Sometimes the most exhilarating part is being able to make changes and improvements to your race vehicle that in the end, translates into more wins and faster times. Understanding the relationship between man, machine, and the laws of physics can be very satisfying. Like these dudes below. They’ve got it down.