Can you buy a street-legal two-stroke off the showroom floor in the United States? The answer, surprisingly, is yes, and if you’re willing to step-astride a 50cc moped (engines of 50cc or less are exempt from federal emissions requirements).
Second Stroke is a moped sales and repair shop in Brooklyn, NY. We took a friend there to pick up his souped-up Puch Magnum, which had just received a new clutch, some electrical work, and a new spark plug.
We were shocked and surprised to see on the showroom floor this 2012—street legal and two-stroke—Tomos Streetmate R. For those who aren’t aware, two-strokes can make nearly twice as much power for a given engine capacity, but are very dirty, since the oil is mixed directly with the gas and is burned in the combustion stroke.
Second stroke was also littered with other mopeds. A Solex, old Motobecanes and Puchs, and a few Honda Hobbits. In many states, mopeds exist in a gray area between motorcycles and bicycles. Some states don’t require moped riders to wear helmets or have motorcycle licenses. We love riding mopeds because of the slow-bike-fast thing. You can ride flat out racing your friends and not exceed 30 mph, though it’s the most fun to ride at that speed on very twisty, small streets.
Though two strokes have been all but phased out, we keep dreaming of the day when the fabled direct-injection two-stroke comes into production and gives two-stroke power and character with cleaner emissions. Yes please.
The pertinent bit:
§ 86.401-97 General applicability.
(a) This subpart applies to 1978 and later model year, new, gasoline-fueled motorcycles built after 31 December, 1977, and to 1990 and later model year, new, methanol-fueled motorcycles built after 31 December, 1989 and to 1997 and later model year, new, natural gas-fueled and liquefied petroleum gas-fueled motorcycles built after 31 December, 1996.
(b) Motorcycles with engine displacements less than 50 cc (3.1 cu in) are excluded from the requirements of this subpart.
(c) Motorcycles are excluded from the requirements of this subpart, if with an 80 kg (176 lb) driver, it cannot:
(1) Start from a dead stop using only the engine; or
(2) Exceed a maximum speed of 40 km/h (25 mph) on level paved surfaces.