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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Do you remember Suvega - Auto cycles and Zuma

Search on Zuma would most likely take to ‘Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma’ – the  President of South Africa as also the African National Congress (ANC).

Otherwise,  Zuma  is an air cooled 49 cc two-stroke scooter made by Yamaha Motor Company.  Technically, it  features a 14 mm Teikei carburetor with automatic choke, reed-valve induction, a fan-assisted cooling system, a Yamaha exclusive Autolube Oil Injection System with an easy-to-read indicator light located on instrument panel which alerts rider when oil level gets low, and electric starting with backup kick start.  Zuma also features  five spoke cast wheels with low-profile 120/90-10 front and 130/90-10 rear tires. The scooter also has 155 mm hydraulic front disc brakes and rear drum brakes.  It is a two seater with modest storage compartment.   Zuma can carry up to 315 lb (143 kg) of passengers and cargo.  In order to comply with Environmental Protection Agency regulations, the 2008 model has a restricted throttle and a catalytic converter, limiting it to a top speed of 30 mph (48 km/h).

Even as you read this, some can remember the popular Suvegas and Lunas ruling the Indian roads.  For the uninformed, they were the Kings of Indian road for many years – when the moped revolution took India by storm.  In fact the earliest of the mopeds were simply bicycles fitted with motors. 

If your Insurance wisdom recalls that there existed in the Motor Tariff, provision for rating Auto cycles or Mechanically pedal cycles – then you are considered grey !!  In the erstwhile All India Motor Tariff,  such vehicles were charged a mere Rs.30 + 0.40% of IEV for Own Damage.  The definition for Auto cycles was ‘any motor cycle with an engine capacity exceeding 35 cc but not exceeding 75 cc with a constant gear ratio and having pedals for self-propulsion’. 

Moving away from Insurance and rating, the first of the mopeds to hit Indian roads were as early as in 1955.  Decades later TVS jumped into the fray and became the market leader with its TVS 50s, XL and other variants.   Mopeds were mainly bought by the lower middle class, also proved to be a utility vehicle in rural areas.   Kinetic Motors with Luna, Luna Super, Luna TFR  and Mopeds India’s brand of Suvega were ruling the roost.   Mopeds India was a company  incorporated in Coimbatore  and had its plant in Tirupathi.   

These utilitarian contraptions were  low-powered motorcycle designed to provide economical and relatively safe transport with minimal licensing requirements.  In most countries, the legal driving age for a moped is lower than for regular motorcycles and cars. Mopeds are typically restricted to 50 km/h (30 mph) from a maximum engine displacement of 49 cc (3.0 cu in), though there are a few variations.  In India, Driving Licence issuance is State subject.  The  minimum age limit is 18 years for all vehicles; however licence for motor cycle having engine capacity below 50cc (cubic capacity) have a minimum age limit of 16.

There has been an interesting case involving the moped in the US State of Indiana – located in the Midwestern United States and Great Lakes Region. Its capital and largest city is Indianapolis, the second largest of any state capital.

The cause of action arose in June 2009, when a person by name Lock was riding a moped  Zuma at forty-three miles per hour.   A Trooper noticed the Zuma did not have a license plate and pulled Lock over.  It was also found that  Locks driving privileges were suspended and arrested him.   The State charged Lock with Class D felony operating a vehicle while suspended and cited him for two infractions: No Registration Plate on Motorcycle and No Motorcycle Endorsement.

In Nov 2009,   Lock filed a motion to dismiss, which, after a hearing, was denied.  The facts were recorded as :
-   the Defendant, Michael Lock, was operating a 2009 Yamaha Zuma on US 24 near County Road 800 North in Huntington County.
-  Indiana State Trooper Nathalang observed the Defendant and received a radar track on his vehicle of 43 mph.
-   Upon stopping Defendant’s driving privileges were suspended for being a habitual traffic violator under Indiana Code 9-30-10.
-   the vehicle driven Yamaha Zuma had two wheels, an internal combustion engine with a cylinder capacity of 49 cubic centimeters, an engine rating of not more than two horse power, and an automatic transmission.

Based on those stipulations, the trial court found Lock guilty, and, at the request of the State, dropped the two motorcycle-related infractions against him. The trial court sentenced him to 180 days, and ordered forfeiture of his driving privileges for life.

The Court held that  a conviction unless no reasonable fact-finder could find the elements of the crime proven beyond a reasonable doubt.  It was for the State to prove that the defendant’s felony and Lock argued that State did not prove he operated a motor vehicle, because his Zuma is exempt from the provisions of the statutes.  The Court held that  the State did not prove the Zuma was a motor vehicle and stated that  Legislature did not define “maximum design speed,” nor did the State (at trial or on appeal) provide a definition.  The Court reversed  Lock’s conviction of Class D felony operating a motor vehicle while privileges are suspended.  The appellate court said that whether it was a moped or not, the state hadn’t proved the Zuma fit the legal definition of a motor vehicle.

And for lack of clarity -  Lock was able to be win…………..

Regards – S. Sampathkumar.


  1. sampath ji
    one more motorised cycle was 'mofa'.
    present day electric bikes do not have an engine. does it need to be registered / insured as per law?

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