Operating a Motorized Bicycle in South Dakota

Discussion in 'General Questions' started by KTOKTO, Sep 16, 2016.


    KTOKTO Member

    I am looking to build a 2 stroke kit for us in South Dakota but want to check the legality of everything before I start. I know you need to stay under 50cc to be considered a moped and I knew shift kits weren't legal but I ran across something regarding the clutch that kind of sucks.



    Moped (50cc or smaller)
    Chapter 32-03
    A moped is defined as a motor driven cycle equipped with two or three wheels. If a combustion engine is used, the maximum piston or rotor displacement shall be 50cc, regardless of the number of chambers in such power source. The power source shall be equipped with a power drive system that functions directly or automatically only, not requiring clutching or shifting by the operator after the drive system is engaged.

    from section 32-3-1 a moped is defined as

    (9) "Moped," a motor driven cycle equipped with two or three wheels. If a combustion engine is used, the maximum piston or rotor displacement shall be fifty cubic centimeters regardless of the number of chambers in such power source. The power source shall be equipped with a power drive system that functions directly or automatically only, not requiring clutching or shifting by the operator after the drive system is engaged;

    My question is what are my options here regarding the clutch. I don't want to go the four stroke/centrifugal setup at all. I am wondering, is there some type of reliable centrifugal clutch setup for the two stroke kits or some other solution?

    Thanks for the help!


    KTOKTO Member

    I am also looking at this site


    It raises two concerns. 1. The Clutch. and 2. Insurance. Just wondering how one goes about insuring a motorized bike.

    In South Dakota, a moped is defined as a bike that:

    • Has 2 or 3 wheels.
    • Has an engine that is no bigger than 50 CC.
    • Has an automatic transmission.
    If your bike has an engine that is bigger than 50 CC, then it needs to be registered as a motorcycle. On the other hand, if your moped meets the above requirements then it does not need to be registered or titled.

    South Dakota is one of the less specific states when it comes to differences between mopeds, scooters and motorcycles. The state has the same laws and requirements for both mopeds and scooters. As such, if your scooter exceeds the above requirements for mopeds, then it is also considered a motorcycle; if not, then it is considered a motor scooter and does not need to be registered or titled.

    Moped and Scooter Laws
    Since South Dakota considers mopeds and scooters to be a subset of motorcycles, the state requires drivers to carry insurance. You’ll need to carry proof of insurance at all times while riding.
  3. Frankenstein

    Frankenstein Active Member

    The written laws in SD are similar to the ones in my home state of your northern neighbor. Also relatively close to the ones here in PA.

    The power source shall be equipped with a power drive system that functions directly or automatically only, not requiring clutching or shifting by the operator after the drive system is engaged;

    The power source (engine) is equipped with a power drive (drivetrain or transmission) which doesn't require clutching after engagement, as it is direct via a chain. This portion of the written law is open ended to allow pedal start or electric start. So after comming to speed you drop the clutch to drive, you do not need to shift or clutch from neutral to continue using the drive system, as it's engaged upon start.

    Automatically is used to allow for electric start vehicles, so the machine doesn't have to be rolling to permit starting.

    Now while you aren't aloud to drive it if shifting is required, it doesn't mean you can't drive it if you are capable of shifting, so as long as clutching isn't required to shift. Shift kits do not require shifting after the engine is engaged, you are more than welcome to keep the bike in first gear, you may shift as well without needing a clutch.

    With it being written that you can have a direct drive (not automatic transmission) then logic of mechanical design would HAVE to imply that the 2 systems can be disengaged from each other. Otherwise you would have a vehicle that, once the motor is started, would result in you being unable to stop unless the engine was stopped, you'd have to kill the motor every time you came to a stop sign, and start it again to move, also means that brakes would have to stop a running engine in an emergency. Since this is highly illogical to a safely designed vehicle, the clutch would have to be the only part of the law being kinda tossed up in a hard to understand manner.

    It does not say that a clutch cannot be used to disengage the motor from the drivetrain. It says that a clutch cannot be required to disengage for shifting purposes or required for normal operation of the drivetrain. Since a shift kit is technically a direct drive system as a matter of engaging the rear wheel, just like the left side drive most commonly found, just set up differently, then it would have to be assumed that a form of disengagement would be required, that is, our clutch.

    If not then scooters or mopeds that are dot legal with a direct drive would be designed without a clutch, so that turning the back wheel would engage the motor, making movement of the vehicle nearly impossible without either having excessive resistance or possibly starting the motor, both are either unreasonable or unsafe.

    So, as a legal argument can be made, either you can have a vehicle that better fits the definition of a law, so it's "more" legal, which makes them happy, at the sacrifice of having a more dangerous vehicle, which promotes the opposite.

    It's round about easier, much like the Erie test case, to stop arguing that the motor assisted bike must fall into one of the definitions already written, and rather let the bicycle, the core of the body of argument, remain legally as a bicyle, so that somebody else will eventually write more specific laws that dictate them.

    When that happens, at least in a legal realm, the object in question falls through the cracks, and lands in the Grey Zone.

    Remember the police only act as a group, if you demand a superior to appear before decisions like tickets or having your bike impounded are made, then they must comply, at least to confirm their authority as a genuine police officer at a bare minimum. My argument would be that an officer should know exactly the laws he's enforcing, and if it means demanding a lawyer before speaking to a superior as well then do it.

    Information is the best weapon.
  4. zippinaround

    zippinaround Active Member

    Well you could always get a centrifugal clutch and pull start then no clutching , some of the old laws here in Ireland contradict the newer ones , when I was questioned by a guard one day I started spouting the older laws and he left me go on my way .

    Others have had serious charges brought against them since tho including driving a vehicle unsuitable for road use , no insurance etc. One guy who was banned from holding a licence had his ban extended by 2 yrs and they all got hefty fines too.

    From what I gathered tho they were all speeding around messing whereas I just go from A to b as discreetly as possible , hard to know what to do now tho
  5. Frankenstein

    Frankenstein Active Member

    Yeah, I'd say it's safe to say that if you are driving like an idiot you'll get the pin, if you do this while on a suspended license (even if the laws say you don't need one) then you are even more so asking for trouble.

    I think it all boils down to is safety, they obviously can't pull you over under suspicion that you don't have a license or have a suspended privilege to drive. So the only way to circumvent it is to tag up vehicles with plates, so if you have none it gives them an RA.. For the most part however they are concerned with safety and not too much more. For the amount of time I spent without a plate on the road I was only pulled over once, and it was for the same reason I ever got pulled over in my truck, failed lights.

    Our police force seems to be OK with people riding regular bikes and even pulling off block long wheelies up the main street here in the wrong direction, it's a one way road with a 30-50 mph speed limit (depends on if you're Puerto Rican or not and if it's a school day)

    The road is part of a hill, so at 30mph you get over that hill and don't see what's comming till you just about get to the top.

    I couldn't imagine myself doing something so stupid but I bet if I did do the same on my motorized bike I'd get pulled over. Course I could always go Puerto Rican style with it and use my 4 ways, which seems to make everything OK when it comes to traffic laws and regulations...

    Zippen I feel you on that new contradiction of the old ways laws, can't say I know diddly squat about Irish laws but the country is beautiful and braveheart was a damn good movie. Anywho, the old vs new laws can be a huge pain since half the people know old laws and the other half knows new, and the third half is left scratching their heads. Double check your country or state or walled village (braveheart didn't teach me much about modern Ireland) laws for small add in statutes that say or imply that newer laws take dictation over older ones, just hope that you don't find old laws that contradict laws that say new laws are better.

    Also people should note that driving anything on a state road is a privilege. Privilege! Privilege! Privilege! I know there are people who will disagree they live on these forums as well, but if you are riding around on a state designed, funded, built, and maintained road, then you are basically obligated to do what they ask before using them.

    Some say that's impeding on their right as a Citizen of the United States of America. They believe (and are correct in believing) that they have the right to unimpeded travel across the nation from one place to another as they please. OK I get that, but it didn't say you have the right to use state property to do that. You are more than welcome to ponder through the forests and great planes being bit by mosquitoes and larger bloodthirsty beasts, crossing rivers by foot, up big rocks and back down, and ride your bike too. I'm doubtful anyone will stop you, unless you use my backyard as part of your vacation plans. Yea see I own the rights to my backyard sorta like the state owns the roads, if I see you crossing my yard with a bike and not paying the toll well then I have to impound your bike. Also get off my lawn!

    I know I'm getting off topic but hey if you're really going to pull the United States citizen traveling unimpeded bullshit to get your way, I suggest driving your bike across the Whitehouse lawn and through the building, out the back, and through the imperial garden, do a few rounds on the running track while your at it trying to escape about a hundred secret service guards.

    Politely explain that the fence you broke through was impeding on your right to travel, and so was the Whitehouse, and the garden, and they had no right to hit you with 2 bullets, pepper spray, and a taser because your rights to travel all willy nilly without regards to laws or consequences.

    People just use common sense. Please.

    KTOKTO Member

    Thanks for the clarification Frankenstein. That makes sense now that I re-read the law. I will plan on sticking with the stock manual set up for now. There are plenty of 49cc stuff on the roads around here and the cops are pretty decent guys so I'm sure I won't have any issues. Just want to make sure I have all my bases covered before I proceed. Thanks.