Travel, maps, DIY, mopeds

Mopeds are 50cc motorbikes that have pedals, and are usually about 30 years old. A few friends in Michigan found some and started riding them around, decided they were really fun, and the idea spread. Now the community of moped restoration is nation wide, organized, and highly networked.

The online community is called Moped Army, and membership is decided by an annual members vote. Non-members have access to public forum, all the repair threads, and the information wikis on all the makes, models and part resources.

Local chapters are called gangs, and they’re everywhere. Throughout the year each chapter hosts a rally, where anywhere from 50 to 300 riders converge and take over the city for a weekend. This is a chance for people who might only meet over the internet get a chance to meet people and bikes in person.

Here’s where it gets relevant to this week’s topic.
Every rally is structured the same way. You show up, get a welcome pack that includes a map and itinerary, and go on about a ride a day that shows off the best the host city has to offer. Rally rides can be really massive. Others are small and lean. Either way, riders see a locals only view of the host city, taking back roads or main roads, but always staying on freeway alternatives because most bikes can’t go over 55 or 60mph.

Rally maps are always DIY, and each attempt to address different needs, from where police tend to be more strict, where the best food is, and how to contact the breakdown van if you get stranded (this happens to about 20% of the bikes on any ride).

I haven’t kept any of my rally maps. Usually they get lost or destroyed in the process, and they’re never posted online to avoid the complications of advance access to a ride. However, there are a lot of videos and photos of what this kind of event looks like.

Here’s Cincinnati 2010

SF 2008

Louisville 2011

LA 2008

Before I moved to New York me and a friend rode from SF to Sacramento on a bike that went 55mph. We had to gps our way through side streets for two days before we arrived. It wasn’t easy to find roads that could get us though safely, meaning no highways. When we pulled over to consult our gps, people always stopped to ask us about the bike (we rode doubles all the way), or to see if we needed help. The best directions we could ask for were from these strangers.

So this idea of maps really feels like a point of departure for engagement with space. No matter how well I prepared by reviewing a map of a place I’ve never been, I still end up asking people how to get places. If I have a  hand made map to refer to, it really opens up a conversation that could go anywhere.

Categories: Reflective Posts


I work as a digital media producer, am pursuing a masters in Media Studies at The New School, ride bicycles and mopeds, listen to lots of music, and maintain an unreasonably large book collection for the size of my Brooklyn apartment. Right now I'm developing research on teams of experts who come together to solve problems and create things. I'm interested in games, integrating multimedia in to unexpected aspects of life, and learning to do as many new things as possible.


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2 Comments on “Travel, maps, DIY, mopeds”

  1. March 7, 2012 at 11:05 am #

    Thanks for sharing about these rallies and the very interesting videos. As a child visiting Mount Rushmore with my family, we were coincidentally in Sturgis, South Dakota during the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally when thousands of Harley-Davidson bikers congregate. The aesthetics are different, but I wonder if the balance between company organization and DIY initiatives is similar.

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