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  • Tue June 10 2008
  • Posted Jun 10, 2008
By Bret Hayworth Journal staff writer SIOUX CITY -- Todd Young was fed up with forking out funds for rising gas prices, so he got a Spooky Tooth. Initially, he was uncertain what to call his ride, but it's made by the Spooky Tooth firm based in Bisbee, Ariz. Young said the transport isn't a motorcycle or a bicycle. "I don't want to call it a moped," Young said. "Some people like to call it a motor-assisted bicycle." But he does know one key attribute of the ride Spooky Tooth officials call a motorized bicycle -- it gets an estimated 150 miles to a gallon of gas, making it Young's preferred mode of transportation. "I named it Freedom," said Young. "I wanted to save money on gas and said I'm not going to get a moped. I decided if I'm going to look stupid, I'm going to look stupid riding that, not a moped." Mopeds may or may not have pedals and are generally classified as small motorized vehicles, along the lines of motorcycles but with smaller engines. Young, a 1993 Lawton-Bronson (Iowa) High School graduate who's lived in Sioux City since 1994, still has his 2004 Dodge Dakota pickup, but he rarely drives it. He works as a rental property manager and, in performing maintenance tasks, makes many trips around town, such as to buy supplies at Home Depot or Menard's and then head to a rental to fix a faucet. He puts his wrenches, screw gun and assorted other tools in saddle bags mounted on the motorized bicycle. Young, a former triathlete who still frequently bicycles, has noticed a difference in outlook by those around him. When he's on a bicycle, he gets little berth from motorists, and some flip him off, Young said. He contrasted that to when he's on Freedom. "People stop me all the time, they want to know what it is. I get a lot of thumbs up," Young said. "People cheer this thing on, they think it is cool." Young said his father chuckled when he saw the transport Young's had since early May and asked if he recalled the small motorcycle the family used during Young's youth. Young said his dad told him, "That's what I got to get through the (first) gas crunch, when gas was a dollar (per gallon)." Last week, unleaded gas prices rose to a new record of $3.80 in Sioux City. The motorized bicycle is easy to operate, Young said. A few turns of the pedal for about 20 yards gets it started, then twisting the left-hand clutch and the right-hand throttle sends it into operation. There's no odometer, but Young estimates it tops out at about 30 mph. "I mainly try to go back streets. I try to stay off anything busy," he said. Spooky Tooth was the name of a little-known English progressive rock band in the late 1960s, but it also is the name of the firm that since 2004 has made motorized bicycles and hybrid electric bicycles. Motorized bicycles are by far the biggest sellers, Spooky Tooth owner Roland Bosma said, and the firm has sold four motorized bicycles in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. "One hundred fifty miles per gallon makes everyone happy," Bosma said. They're popular around Tucson, Ariz., where about 400 people ride them, he said. Spooky Tooth begins with a bicycle frame, then adds a small motor and components according to individual orders. The base price, fully assembled, runs from $600 to $750, depending upon parts chosen by the buyer. "We support the do-it-yourself community," Bosma said, by offering an engine kit for $250 that buyers can install themselves. "Every single one of our owners is a tinkerer," Bosma said. He said the typical buyer is a male 15 or older who had "a dream to put a motor onto a bicycle, and we've finally done it. It is kind of freedom, if you will." Young's purchase of a fully built and engine-tested Spooky Tooth totaled $705, with delivery cost factored in. He said he used to pay $70 per week to drive his pickup, which gets 15 mpg, so with his new ride using so little gas, "it will pay for itself in a couple weeks." Young's motorized bicycle has a half-gallon gas tank. When he got the Spooky Tooth, he filled a five-gallon gas can and each morning tops off the tank before heading out for work. He's still using the original contents of the gas can. "I fill up my lawnmower more than I do this," Young said. Since there's no odometer, Young doesn't have a precise computation on mileage. With the hills that are in the city, he figures it's not the full 150 mpg touted but more like 120 mpg. He said the only downside to the motorized bicycle is that he'll use it less in winter. "I'll try to ride it through October, I'll ride as long as I can," he said. "I just love driving by the gas station." Bret Hayworth may be reached at (712) 293.4203 or brethayworth@siouxcityjournal.com

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