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Some choose alternative to high gas prices

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By Larry Rowell

An increasing number of motorists are switching from four wheels to two in an effort to minimize the pain at the pump. And Wayne Wells says he's having fun on two wheels.

Wells said he rode a motorcycle about 30 years ago and only recently became interested in a moped after he saw a local attorney, the late Jim Miller, riding his around Campbellsville.

"I bought my moped mainly for camping, but it has turned out that I ride it almost every day," Wells said.

He said he gets almost 90 miles to the gallon on the 49cc moped. He rides it daily on multiple trips to his farm and in running errands around town. That would amount to at least a gallon of diesel per day with his truck compared to about one-fifth of a gallon for the moped.

Higher fuel prices have forced a run on the moped market.

Ready to Ride Motorsports on Saloma Road has sold out of mopeds and smaller motorcycles priced from $1,099 to more than $6,000, according to Eddie O'Banion. He said they should have more in the next month.

A+ Paint and Body Panels on South Central Avenue has sold three shipments in the past six weeks. John Phillips, salesman at A+, said that they are selling mopeds and small motorcycles from 49cc to 150cc for $1,100 to $1,600.

Kentucky law states that any two- or three-wheel vehicle having an engine cylinder capacity more than 50 cubic centimeters requires a motorcycle license, registration and insurance to drive.

Mopeds, however, have a cylinder capacity less than 50cc and don't require a motorcycle license, registration or insurance. A moped license isn't required as long as the driver has a regular driver's license. Mopeds are not permitted on roads where the minimum speed is in excess of 30 mph.

There's actually quite a difference between a scooter and a moped, though the terms are often used interchangeably.

"Most of the scooter or go-cart type vehicles that do not fit the definition of a moped would not qualify to be registered for street use, and would not be legal to operate on the street, even if the operator was licensed. These motorized vehicles could be operated legally on private property with the permission of the owner," according to the Lexington, Ky. police department Web site.

Though Wells says he appreciates the gas-saving mileage of his moped, he is also aware of the heightened danger of riding one.

The day he bought the moped last December, he wrecked it.

"I tried to miss some gravel in front of George Wise's house and ended up in the ditch," he said.

He has also had two near misses just in the past week.

"I don't think people are paying attention to motorcycle riders," Wells said.

Going too fast on a moped can also be a problem, Wells said.

"Going downhill at 40 mph, as light as it is, it really rocks with the wind," he said.

Wells said he hasn't been wearing a helmet, but he plans to buy one soon.

He is a member of a moped club with Jack Pogue and Steve Grady. In a take-off from the movie, "Wild Hogs," they call themselves the "Jr. Hogs."

The Hogs, Wells said, ride every couple of weeks mainly on side roads like subdivision streets such as those in Forest Hills.

Though Wells said his wife Kathy thinks he's going through his second childhood, another member of the family has joined the moped club.

His son, Rob, lives in Danville and rides a moped 10 miles round trip to his job as a computer programmer.

Wells said he tries to be careful when he rides.

"I enjoy riding these things; people will laugh and tell me they saw me," Wells said.

To promote motorcycle safety, the Kentucky Motorcycle Program offers rider-training courses in 18 locations throughout the state. More information can be obtained at www.msf-usa.org.

- Larry Rowell is a Kentucky Press Association summer intern. Contact him at lrowell@cknj.com. Comment on this story at www.cknj.com.