*Scroll to bottom for the update.
Yesterday I was perusing Craigslist for bicycles like I always do in the morning. Minding my own business–not planning on branching out into a new field of mechanical study. That’s the thing. You can’t plan anything when it comes to the random nature of the universe, which is beautifully reflected in the myriad of new and exciting projects you will find on Craigslist.
Like I said–minding my own business, looking for bikes. Scrolling down the ads, nestled amongst the Huffys, there they were. A pair of Velosolex (Solex) mopeds! I had seen one of these on American Pickers, and Mike was very excited when he found it. That made me excited, because I am susceptible to marketing. Oh boy.
There are times when you have nanoseconds to do research. And the thing about mopeds is that I don’t know diddly squat about them. These mopeds are highly unusual around here, so they were going to be gone quickly. I quickly Googled them and found them for sale at between $550 and $4000. Here was a pair for $500. I called up the owner and arranged to go to his place to check them out.
The owner was Ned, and he was a good old dude. He had lived in France and Spain, and he taught me a saying in Catalan that I should have known, because I am married to a Catalan woman. “Barcelona es bona, si la bolsa sona (Barcelona is good if your pockets jingle).” Indeed, my pockets were lined with the spoils of many good days of selling bikes, and I was in for the adventure. I bought Ned’s mopeds, partly because I was going to buy them, and partly because he said there was another guy who called him after me offering more money for them. True or not, I don’t know.
So now I have these mopeds. The yellow one kind of runs. The blue one does not. They both turn over (the motors’ internal parts articulate). The frame on the blue one is wobbly. The yellow one has a rattle can paint job. Let it be known that I don’t know much about motors. I know that they need fuel, spark and oxygen. I know that they’re loud. I know that they need clean spark plugs, clean carburetors, and clean gas. So I’m going to address those issues. I’ve never cleaned a carb before. I don’t know what a carb looks like. It’s just something you hear all the time. Apart from the motor, these things have wheels, hubs, bottom brackets and headsets like a bicycle. Look at those cranks–cottered cranks! My (sarcastic tone) favorite!
For my own reference, here is the text of Ned’s ad:
“Two vintage French-made Velosolexes. These 1940-1950’s motorbikes have a 49cc motor on front fender. You pedal them up to speed, and they roll along at 300 miles per gallon! Great fun. $ 500 is for the pair, and includes a substantial hitch-mounted carrier (pictured.) Both motors re-built. Blue one needs a little tweaking in the throttle, but runs great. Saddlebags included. A great gift for an adventuresome couple. My age is your gain. Come by and see them. Call me at ### ### ####.”
For the record, these are not 40’s-50’s bikes. The yellow one is a 4600 model, which was made for a few years starting in ’74. And the blue one does not run. Who knows when they did. I’m pretty sure I can get them going again. I have resurrected countless lawnmowers. How different can these be?
*I’m not a moped guy. I unloaded these for $40 less than I paid for them. These particular mopeds are weird, dangerous, and very finicky. They will only run if the planets are aligned and the moon is full. If for some reason you get one, give it to your sister-in-law as an anniversary gift when she’s not home.