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My life as a hard-core lawbreaker

By Staff | Jul 12, 2015

Do you ever wonder where our ideas for stories come from?

Well, some just develop from covering meetings or being at public events. Others are suggested by our readers. A few we just seem to stumble onto. It’s called being in the right place at the right time.

Some, like the one about mopeds on the front page this week, just come about through a series of random encounters.

First, a half dozen or so people commented to me about the number of mopeds cruising around town, and they asked me what the rules were for them.

Then, during a chance encounter with Blue Earth Police Officer Missy Felion (and no, she was not stopping me for a traffic violation) the subject of the mopeds came up again. That was because a young boy had been injured when the moped he was riding on collided with a car. And, she said the police had some concerns about the safety of those riding these little mini-motor scooters.

Which is when I thought this should probably be a story in the Register and use it to explain just what the rules are for these fun motorbikes.

That led to an interview with county attorney Troy Timmerman, who also had a strong concern with the growing number of mopeds around Blue Earth. And, a concern whether all the laws were being properly followed by those riding them.

I have some personal experience with breaking the law with a moped. That is because my moped actually wasn’t a moped at all.

It happened probably 20 years ago or more.

A friend told me he was going to sell his motor scooter at a garage sale. I asked him for how much, and he said $250 but he would take $150. I asked him if it ran and he said yes, but added it was actually his wife’s and she had crashed it and she wanted it gone from their garage and out of her sight.

So I bought it, sight unseen. How could I go wrong for $150?

Turns out it was a great deal. Sure it was dented and scratched, had some broken parts from the crash, and wasn’t very pretty. But it was fun to ride and I rode it all over town all summer long.

It was a Honda Aero 80.

That number 80 in the name means it had an 80cc (cubic centimeter) engine. And, despite the fact that it looked more like a moped than some of the mopeds running around Blue Earth now, it wasn’t classified as a moped.

It was a motorcycle, I learned. Really, I thought? Really, I was told.

I was shocked to learn from my local chief of police that I was a lawbreaker. I had to have a motorcycle endorsement on my driver’s license in order to ride my little scooter around town.

It seems a moped has to have an engine 50cc or smaller and anything with an engine larger than 50cc is classified as a motorcycle. Really.

And once your chief of police knows you don’t have a motorcycle endorsement, your law-breaking scooter riding days are over unless you are willing to continue to be a criminal, or you go get your endorsement.

I chose the latter.

So, it was off to a 48-hour motorcycle class held over one weekend (Friday night, all day Saturday and most of Sunday). They even provide the motorcycles for you to practice on. At the end of the grueling sessions of class work and riding training, you get an official certificate which you can take to the DMV and get that motorcycle endorsement on your license with no further testing.

My classmates were all going to go out and ride Harley’s to Sturgis, I am sure. When they asked me what my ‘bike’ was, I told them it wasn’t a Harley, it was a Honda. Gold Wing or Night Hawk, they asked. Aero 80, I answered, rather sheepishly.

They didn’t laugh. At least not out loud. And they also were quite surprised I needed a motorcycle endorsement to ride that little scooter.

Since that time I have sold the scooter and actually did get a real, full size motorcycle a Honda Gold Wing.

Why the heck not. I already had the license.

But, I sometimes miss that little Honda Aero 80 and my life as a hard-core, lawbreaking biker.