Derringer Cycle | Scoot

California cool

Mopeds went out of fashion decades ago, and while today's feet-forward scooters and electric bikes may offer efficient transportation, they don't deliver much in the way of enjoyment or style. Californian Adrian Van Anz has hit on what may just be the perfect formula for efficient-yet-fun transportation via his stylish Derringer Cycle. The motorized bicycle delivers a top speed of 35 mph and a range of up to 300 miles via a single 1.8-gallon gas tank, and looks damn fine doing it.

The Derringer Cycle was born out of a need. "I was trying to come up with something that filled the gap between my Schwinn and my Ducati," says Van Anz. "I got the idea of building a board-track tribute machine powered by a small-capacity engine like that in the racy little Aprilia SR50 scooter I'd looked at buying but couldn't really see myself using."Cheap, Chinese-built two-stroke engines were available, but Van Anz found them to be unreliable. Then he came across a compact Honda four-stroke utility motor commonly used in water pumps and cement mixers.

Van Anz installs the pull-start 49cc engine in a high-tensile steel bicycle frame outfitted with a host of sourced and custom parts. Rear suspension is provided by a sprung Brooks saddle from England while a strutted Springer front end copied from a '50s-era Schwinn Jaguar resides out front. The Derringer's 24-inch-wide handlebar is actually a regular bicycle bar turned upside-down, with a conventional throttle and a front brake lever operating a 70mm drum. The rear brake is a Shimano Coaster assembled with custom shoes. Paint, tires and many other variables are selected by the buyer prior to purchase, ensuring that each Derringer is unique. That's a factor that's helped make the bike a big hit in trendy Los Angeles, as well as around the world.

Our testbike started easily with one pull, and the torquey Honda engine engaged smoothly to send the cycle sailing forward. The sprung Brooks saddle is surprisingly comfy, and thanks to the big wheels you feel quite high off the ground with a good view over the roofs of surrounding cars. The dropped handlebar isn't too extreme to be rational, and the Derringer's minimalistic brakes deliver a reasonable margin of safety, as experienced when a Beverly Hills babe backed her Aston Martin into my path.

Despite the engine's small displacement, I never found it necessary to aid it with pedal assistance while climbing the hills around Bel-Air. And since the Derringer has a Honda built engine at its heart, it's unlikely to ever require pedal-propulsion due to a mechanical failure. The bike's $3500 price tag includes custom options, a matching helmet and packaging if shipping is necessary, and is in line with modern mopeds and small scooters of comparable performance.

Because the Derringer isn't a performance oriented machine, its appeal transcends the typical motorcycle customers while the familiarity of its bicycle architecture makes it unthreatening. It's a people magnet, too. "Women, children, grandmothers ... everybody will come up to you to ask about this," says Van Anz. "I've had some pretty wild-looking bikes and some crazy cars in the past, but nothing stops people in their tracks like the Derringer does."

TECH SPEC

Price $3500
Engine type a-c single
Valve train OHV, 2v
Displacement 49cc
Transmission Centrifugal clutch
Claimed horsepower 2.5 bhp @ 7000 rpm
Claimed torque na
Frame Tubular steel
Front suspension Springer fork
Rear suspension Sprung saddle
Front brake Drum
Rear brake Coaster
Front tire 26 x 2.00 Schwalbe
Rear tire 26 x 2.00 Schwalbe
Seat height na
Wheelbase na
Fuel capacity 1.8 gal.
Claimed dry weight 65 lbs.
**Contact ** www.derringercycles.com

VERDICT**: 4 out of 5 stars.

Functional art or fashionable transport?

They say: "The intersection of nostalgia and adrenaline."
We say: "Undeniably cool , surprisingly functional."
Derringer's 49cc engine means that in most states the operator doesn't need to have a motorcycle license or carry insurance, reducing operating costs even further.