Letters: Super Conversions


In California, can a bicycle be converted to an electric motorcycle legal for the freeway? If not, what section of the CVC prevents that?

Michael Roth

Michael, this is an interesting question. From our perspective, it would be ill-advised, because bicycles aren’t made to handle the stresses that would be put on their parts at those speeds and the amount of power the motor puts on the frame and its other components.

We did call the California Highway Patrol and spoke to an Officer Salcedo who said that it would need to be built by a manufacturer, like Honda or Harley Davidson (who is coming out with electric motorcycles next year), or via a potentially more time-consuming process of getting it registered by the DMV.

The Motorcycle Legal Foundation says that according to California law, a custom motorcycle is “built for private use, not for resale, and is not constructed by a licensed manufacturer or re-manufacturer.” The key factor in getting your motorcycle or chopper registered is obtaining a title. If you purchased the frame and engine parts together as a kit, then the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on the frame and engine should match the VIN on the title of ownership, and you should easily be able to transfer the title. However, if your bike is comprised of some salvaged parts—some new, some manufactured by you—then you will need to apply for and obtain a new title. In order to do this, you must save the Manufacturer’s Certificates of Origin for each part.

If you want to make your own and go through the tedious registration process via our wonderful DMV, you’d be better off taking an old motorcycle and setting it up with a powerful motor and a big battery. Check out the conversion kits that Shanghai Customs is making for a Honda Super Cub.