After the Acadia ride my interest in mopeds has been rekindled. Fear not I’m not giving up scooters but to me they are from the same family. I thought I would offer up my observations of the Puch Maxi family of mopeds based on past ownership and last weekends ride.
1978 Puch Maxi-Luxe Hi-Torque
I have owned several Puch Maxi’s. I bought my first one in high school. It was one of the many sold into private hands when the moped rental business in Bar Harbor closed down eons ago. I used that moped to commute all the way from Trenton, Maine to Swans Island, Maine for a summer. It was my island transportation during the week. Later I took it to college with me. It served me well there. I eventually gave it a security guard at the college and he used it for years. They are tough little bikes. They are one of the most reliable and well known of all mopeds. Performance is good and parts are readily available. Perhaps the benchmark standard of the “classic” mopeds.
Maxi’s are very light. Most average adults can easily manhandle one into the back of a pickup by themselves. They have a classic step through design making them easy to mount and dismount. All are 50 cc two-strokes (you mix oil in with the gas, calls for 50:1 most run it a bit richer like 32:1 or 40:1) and they came in 1, 1.5,and 2 hp versions. Avoid the 1 hp versions as they have serious restrictions machined into the engine and are hard to get any kind of speed and power out of. The other two only have minor differences in the carburetor and intake. They came in several variations, including the Newport, Sport, Maxi, Maxi-luxe, and more. Most have a solo saddle but some came with a bench seat. Most have cargo racks and a multitude of accessories were available like windshields, cargo baskets, turn signals, saddle bags, and more. They had a long sales record in the US from the early 70’s to late 80’s. Most are single speed so no shifting. There are a few models with the two-speed transmission but it still shifts on its own. These will have the Roman numeral II beside the name on the side cover, for example Puch Newport II. The single speed models are easier to “hot rod” and tend to be a bit more durable. They can handle about 300 pounds of rider(s)/cargo and stock hit about 30-35 mph.
Operating a Maxi is quite simple. You have two brake levers one for the front and one for the rear brake. A standard motorcycle twist throttle, starting clutch lever (under the left hand grip), hi/lo beam switch, horn button, engine kill switch, fuel selector valve (right side of bike above engine) , choke (left side of bike on top of carburetor), and fork lock round out the controls.
To start a Maxi you make sure fork is unlocked (only key activated thing on bike), turn the fuel selector to on, apply the choke, turn the engine kill switch to on, squeeze the starting clutch lever and either pedal the bike along, or with the bike on the center stand kick the pedal in the same direction as you would to ride the bike. As the engine warms release the choke. Once warm you do not need the choke. You can also roll the bike along and then squeeze the starting clutch lever. Once it starts using any method be sure to release the clutch lever! Obviously each machine is different and they can be obstinate beasts to get running until it is in excellent tune and you are used to it.
To ride simply twist the throttle and away you go …. slowly. All mopeds are a bit slow off the line. They get much more responsive as some engine and road speed builds. Such is the nature of the single speed transmission and two-stroke engines in general. Braking is through coordinated use of both front and rear brake levers located on the handle bars. Your feet just rest on the pedals. I often assist the bike taking off with the pedals but seldom find a hill the bike can’t climb on it’s own. Turn signals were an option but usually they don’t have any and you use hand signals to tell other drivers what you are doing.
The suspension on the Maxi is good but primitive. There is no hydraulic damping only springs in the front fork and rear shocks. The ride is a little bouncy and squeaky but not bad. The brakes (drum both front and rear), while adequate, can experience a great deal of fade under heavy use. Always best to keep your eyes on the road and react quickly to any hazards. The solo saddle can be a bit wearing on taller and heavier people. The bench seat is much better as it gives you the option of sliding back and changing up your position on long hauls. You do lose your rear rack though with this option. The wheels are large in diameter and roll over irregularities fairly well but because the tires or so skinny hitting a crack in the road running parallel to your direction of travel can be hazardous. Large potholes should be avoided as they cause your suspension to bottom out and could rupture a tire or even bend a rim. They corner fairly well as they are light and have good ground clearance but they are not sport bikes. It’s a good idea to keep the pedal on the inside of the corner at the top of its rotation or it could hit the ground and cause a spill or a broken foot!
They get exceptional mileage 80-100 mpg and once in good tune are pretty reliable. The moped I used last weekend had an after market exhaust on it. This made it louder than stock and gave it a bit more power. There is no limit to the “speed” parts available to upgrade your moped. It’s like the scene in “Mad Max” the movie. “Speed is just a question of money, how fast do you want to go?”. Keep in mind you can bolt a lot of these parts right on the moped but to get them to work optimally and reliably they take a great deal of carburetor “tuning” experimenting with different jet sizes. Most modifications to a stock moped will immediately cause it to no longer be legal as a moped. Seldom are they bothered by law enforcement but they would be well within their rights to ticket you if you do not have it registered as a motorcycle and have a motorcycle license or permit.
The Maxi is a great classic ride and quite affordable. They are a practical alternative to a car for errands, commutes, and they are a heck of a lot of fun. Make all the jokes you want about mopeds, I am perfectly happy to be seen riding one. And what an amusing sight that must be.
As always ride safe,