Buyer Beware: Mini-motorcycles

(National) Dec. 7, 2004 - New tiny motorcycles, called mini-motorcycles or pocket bikes, are eye-catching, and they're a magnet for young people.

Consumer Reports' testers just evaluated pocket bikes costing between $450 and $600. They may look cool, but the engineers found the faster they go the less stable the bikes feel.

At 20 miles-per-hour, their top speed, it's hard to hold a straight course. And, once you put on the brakes it takes 20- to 30-feet to come to a stop.

Dave Trezza says making tight turns is another problem, "You don't have a very large turning radius." As a result riders have to pick up the bike to turn it around.

The mini-motorcycles are not supposed to be ridden on the road, but people do. And, compared to other vehicles, the bikes sit very low to the ground, making them tough to spot from a car or truck.

R. David Pittle, PhD, the director of technical policy at Consumer Reports, says they're too dangerous, "The instructions say 'don't use them on the street.' Many municipalities are saying 'don't use them on the sidewalk.' They're not designed to go off road. So, all you can do is drive them in your driveway. That doesn't make any sense."

No matter how cool they look, Consumer Reports says there's no reason to buy them. Unlike regular street motorcycles, no government agency regulates pocket bikes for safety. And, the government does not keep statistics on injuries or death. To date Consumer Reports knows of at least one death and several injuries.

by Judi Gatson

posted 6:00pm by Chris Rees

Copyright © 2004 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. All Rights Reserved.