Motorcycle vs. Moped

Motorcycles and mopeds may look different at a glance. But are they? The truth is that the two actually share many characteristics and even the same footpaths in history. Although mopeds and their larger counterparts share a lot of similarities, their most significant differences come down to size and power. While motorcycles and mopeds share a similar blueprint, the effort it takes to build one - and their intended purpose - varies between them.

Motorcycles vs. Mopeds: The History 

The term “moped'' originated from a Swedish journalist named Harald Nielsen in 1952 as a mash-up of Swedish terms, which translates to “pedal cycle with engine and pedals.” It was a term given to any motorcycle that could also be pedaled.

In the modern era, the term “moped” applies to almost all low-powered, super economical, and two-wheeled vehicles, except they don’t necessarily need to have pedals to be considered a moped. Some of the earliest motorcycles were essentially mopeds due to their low power. Still, people yearned for more powerful motorcycles as the years went on, especially as motorcycle-based racing events such as board track racing quickly rose in popularity. Pedals were pretty much obsolete by 1918, but they stuck around on mopeds for a much longer time.

The first official “motorcycle” was introduced in 1885 as the Daimler Reitwagen. The Reitwagen was officially the first recognized two-wheeler to have a petrol-fueled internal combustion engine. However, mass motorcycle production took much longer to kick-off, with production series motorcycles first appearing in 1894 from Hildebrand & Wolfmüller.

So, what exactly differentiates the two? To get a clear understanding of the difference between motorcycles vs. mopeds, let’s review each in detail.


As mentioned before, both mopeds and motorcycles share a very similar history but went their separate ways as time moved on. When the first mopeds were being built, the only thing on the mind of the creators was to create an economical and easy-to-use vehicle that could take you around short distances without the leg workout involved with riding a bicycle. Initial engines were installed just to make pedaling easier. Over time, the moped received upgrades like headlights and taillights and the ability to carry a passenger. Still, the vehicle remained true to its roots and stayed small and lightweight.

Motorcycles may have started the same way, but they quickly took an abrupt U-turn and headed in the opposite direction. As bikes became more and more popular, people wanted more power, comfort, and unique designs to tackle varying terrain. Today, most motorcycles are above the 100cc mark and come in various styles to suit riders’ requirements.

Key Differences

The most noticeable difference between the two vehicles is their size. As mentioned earlier, mopeds are designed to be cost-effective and lightweight. So, they are usually a lot smaller and lighter than your average motorcycle. Generally speaking, a typical moped should be below 50cc. Most models will typically have pedals for a little extra power via human effort. 

Motorcycles are bulkier, heavier two-wheelers that emphasize comfort and rideability. While most motorcycles will be much more efficient than most cars on the road, they can’t compare with the gas mileage offered by a moped. Still, what is lost in efficiency is gained in performance and a much more comfortable ride.

Main Purpose

If you live in a densely populated urban area, you probably have a good idea of just how frustrating it can be to get around town or find a parking space - even if you finally manage to do so. Motorcycles are a great way to overcome these obstacles, but they aren’t the best alternative. Bicycles are great too, but they can be tiring. Enter the moped, ideal for zipping around town to tick off your errands with a highly economical running cost. It is perfect for those looking for a quick way to get around town without firing up their heavy bikes. They are also ideal for people who own a car, but perhaps need a cheap and easy-to-maintain second vehicle for running errands.

Motorcycles, on the other hand, are a little more serious. They are built for higher speed and comfortable rides. Motorcycles also come in various designs to help them perform at their best in different scenarios. A dirt bike is one example of a motorcycle built for a specific purpose. For someone looking for a two-wheeler as their primary vehicle, then a motorcycle would be preferable.

In the Modern Era 

Over the past century, mopeds and motorcycles have taken different paths in their evolution. But it seems that they just might be coming back together again - thanks to the efficient utilization of electric power. 

We are in an era where vehicle companies are working continuously to roll out electric-powered vehicles. In fact, some of the biggest automakers have promised to go fully electric within the next decade. What does this mean for motorcycles? They are going through the same transition. 

With range and efficiency in mind, modern electric scooters and motorcycles utilize simple designs and lightweight structures. Some might even say these electric two-wheelers are the new-age version of mopeds. 


In summary, both mopeds and motorcycles are great, effective vehicles when used for their intended purposes. While there is no doubt that a moped will not compete with a motorcycle in a straight line or a battle for comfort, they are one of the best “bang for your buck” vehicles out there, and they are ideal for commuting in large metropolitan cities. On the other hand, if you are looking to cover long distances and want a more comfortable ride, then a motorcycle is the perfect two-wheeler for you.