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Australian Cyclemotoring

by Andrew Joyce

Late last year I read with great interest Dave Beare's report about Les Amis du VéloSoleX and the 100 mile run.  I used to own a French VéloSoleX 3800 on which I covered long distances on trips around the Gippsland area: hilly country.  The best range I got on a tankful of fuel was 74km (46 miles), taking 2 hours 48 mins.

I bought the 1972 VSX second-hand in good order on 1st November 1988 - Melbourne Cup Day - for A$150.  I was indeed fortunate to get it at that price as clip-ons were expensive to buy at the time.  Yes, I did ride home on the machine, 116km (72 miles).  It ran very well; it had a split overflow hose and the throttle bar was missing but that was all soon fixed.

11 December 1988.   Despite having the 'flu, I covered a total 220½km (137 miles) in 8 hours 27 mins running time: that included the 46 miles on a tankful I mentioned before.  The three stages of the journey were the 68 miles to Traralgon in 4h 19m, then against a strong head wind the Solex covered 32 miles in 2 straight hours and, after another interval, 35 more miles in 2h 35m.

16 March 1989.   Inverloch via Kongwak, Korumburra, Warragulk, Moe, Morwell, Traralgon and return: 153 miles.  I took under 10 riding hours and almost got mowed down by one speeding motorist coming around a bend.  I got some verbal abuse too, but I ignored them.

19 April 1989.   Today I covered 155 miles all told, including 69 miles in 4h 26m despite a head wind and rain.  That was over flat ground, then came the hilly country to Traralgon again, but this time the route was done a little differently to steer clear of traffic.  I brought along spare fuel as the Solex's round fuel tank only holds 1.3 litres.  Generally, I am averaging between 160 and 165 mpg because of the hilly country.  From Traralgon I returned a bit circuitously to keep out of harms way (traffic, of course).  I calculated the total riding time as 9h 46m.  As a rule you have to have breaks every now and again.

16 January 1990.   I rode 171½ miles from Inverloch to Melbourne, the capital city of Victoria, and circuitously to Noojee.  13h 50m of which almost 12 hours were spent riding.  Unbeknown to me, I was riding with choked-up port, which explains the drop in speed.

17 January 1990.   70 miles south of the former timber town, Noojee to Warragul, Korumburra and then home ... and a rest.

18 January 1990.   From Inverloch to Sale: 109 miles in 7h 53m riding time.  I rode without the air cleaner, having to jiggle with my thumb on the top of the carburettor; you'd be amazed at how it went.  But I still hadn't realised that the ports were choking up with carbon.

Yes, the carbon was almost ¼" thick on the top of the piston and the ports were entirely choked up, so it took plenty of decoking.

When the Solex was in its prime, it would manage a top speed of 25mph.  It was quite unheard of for people to ride mopeds or motor-assisted cycles over such long distances in Australia at that time.

I now own a brand new Spartamet motor-assisted cycle with a 30cc Sachs engine.  That cost me A$2,250 including the computer gauge.  I have done some long distance rides on it when I have found that the spur gear drive has positive advantages over the Solex's roller drive.  The Spartamet can climb reasonable hills under her own power.

One of my long distance trips on the Solex included 40 miles non-stop on a long winding uphill section, steep in places.  I took every ounce of my power in pedal assisting the VéloSoleX, and nearly busted my boiler getting the machine up.  I thought I'd never get to the top.

Last November, I rode the same route on my new Sachs Spartamet.  It gave me the opportunity to judge for myself the difference.  The Sachs is de-tuned to 195 watts (200 watts being the maximum allowed by law) But I found that its 30cc engine has a shade more power than the 49cc VéloSoleX.  The main difference is that the Sachs spur gears are more efficient than the roller drive of the Solex with the result that I found it easier work pedal assisting up the steeper sections of the long uphill climb.

I have experimented with metal, rubber and carborundum rollers.  All roller drives lose so much percentage but a rubber roller in the wet loses a lot.  Carborundum loses less power in the wet than metal or roller - but it still loses some.

In comparison, a Motobécane Mobylette has a maximum power output of 1000 watt (1.34bhp) and, although the centrifugal clutch, belt and chain drive is only about 40% efficient it would climb hills no pedal assistance.  I tried it up a huge hill with about a ¼-mile run up at full throttle; it made it up to the top at a slow speed.  A Honda Express has plenty more power with a two-speed auto transmission.  Its power take-off was four or five times more than the VéloSoleX and twice as great as the Motobécane.

Nowadays, a driving licence is no longer a right, but a privilege.  You don't have to break any law to lose your licence: if you have a disability or chronic illness your licence can be suspended or even cancelled - that's the law in my country.  When you live out-of-town in the country, by a few or several miles, a motor-assisted bicycle comes in handy, especially if you live alone where public transport is limited and taxis are too expensive for someone on a disability support pension.  A bicycle or a motor-assisted cycle is your sole means of transport and you can cover a huge distance if you have the will to do it.

I understand that some members of the public believe that motor-assisted bicycles should be treated the same as motor cycles, needing a licence, registration, insurance but they don't understand that there are certain individuals who are unable to hold a licence for a motor cycle or car and that public transport is limited.  Yes I have pedalled many miles on various bicycles but, because of a chronic illness, I'm unable to pedal as much as I'd like.

I live on a highway that can get very busy with traffic at holiday time.  The only cycle path where I live is the one from Wonthaggi to Cape Patterson, so extra care has to be taken on the roads.  I've had two bad accidents in my life, one in 1964 when aged 3, and one when 17 in 1978.  I am indeed fortunate to be alive today.  Things are better now: it was 5 times more dangerous on the roads 25 years ago - but there are still some careless individuals about.

First published - April 1995

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