They’re the smallest bikes you can ride, and are accessible from age 16 in the UK on an ‘AM’ licence. 50cc mopeds are the first piece of proper freedom that many older riders had, riding to school or college like a boss on an old Yamaha DT50 or Honda MB-5 in the 1980s.
Nowadays, they’ve been usurped a bit by electric bicycles and e-scooters, but there’s still something about a proper, petrol-powered engine in a two-wheeler that makes it feel ‘proper’.
Here’s our pick of the best 50cc bikes and mopeds, from cool Italian performance ‘peds like the Aprilia SR50 and classic legends like the Piaggio Typhoon, to more prosaic beasties like the Honda Vision 50 and Kymco Agility.
All will do hundreds of miles on a gallon of unleaded, and should lead to a proper biking life in no time at all…
Honda Vision 50
Okay, there’s nothing very rock and roll about a Honda Vision – but as super-cheap, super-reliable transport, it definitely hits the mark.
The Vision has been around since the 1980s in its original two-stroke form, but the most recent version uses a super-clean four-stroke motor that meets high emissions regs.
Performance is standard moped fare – around 3-4bhp, with restricted top speed of 30mph, and with simple twist-and-go transmission.
It’s as practical as it is easy to ride too. There’s decent storage under the seat, a storage hook on the legshields and a cubbyhole for extra storage up front.
The rear suspension has a single-sided swingarm with monoshock damping, while the brakes feature a disc up front and drum out back. Some bikes also feature Honda’s CBS linked-brake system, which combines the power of the front and rear brakes, adding safety on slippery roads. Later bikes needed ABS to comply with Euro regulations.
Yamaha Aerox 50
The classic sporty moped of the mid-2000s, Yamaha’s Aerox gave the styling of the firm’s R-series supersports bikes in a slick urban-ready moped form.
It had a high-end design, with disc brakes front and rear, plus single-sided rear suspension, red-finished damper springs, and chunky Paioli forks.
The engine was a liquid-cooled two-stroke with peppy acceleration, though in restricted form, it had the same performance as most other mopeds – speed-limited to just 30mph.
It’s super-light and nimble around town, with 13-inch wheels and chunky tyres. Best of all, it was available for several years in Valentino Rossi replica paint schemes, with the same FIAT sponsored bodywork as the factory Yamaha MotoGP bike…
Peugeot Django 50
The Django is a super-stylish retro scooter from French firm Peugeot, which combines classic good looks with practical performance and low running costs.
It uses an air-cooled four-stroke engine making around 4bhp with electric start and automatic gearing. Speed is limited to 30mph in standard moped form, but it’s the looks of the Django – based on the S55 scooter of the 1950s – that really grab you.
Art-Deco style vents, slick alloy wheels, and aerodynamic bodywork work brilliantly together, and the Django comes in a range of colours, from sophisticated blacks and greys to red and blue and two-tone variations.
Lexmoto Hunter 50
Lexmoto is one of the great budget bike firms, importing high-quality machinery from China at good prices, with excellent spares and warranty backup.
The Hunter is a ‘proper’ bike rather than a scooter, with four-speed gearbox and hand-operated manual clutch rather than an automatic twist-and-go transmission.
The engine is a clean-running four-stroke, which is amazing on fuel, with the 12-litre tank giving a massive range of around 300 miles.
There’s a hydraulic disc brake up front, with a drum rear brake, 18-inch motorcycle-spec wheels and tyres and even a rack on the back for carrying luggage or fitting a top box.
Priced at just over £1000 when new, the Hunter 50 is a definite option if you want motorcycle looks, but are restricted to a moped licence.
Bullit Heritage 50 Black
The so-called ‘Monkey’ bike was first invented by Honda in the 1960s, but there are loads of fun replicas about – like this Bullit Heritage model, It’s got the same compact chassis and air-cooled four-stroke engine as an old Honda design, with a four-speed gearbox rather than the twist-n-go automatic transmission you find on scooter-style mopeds.
It runs on chunky 10-inch wheels with fat tyres, and has a powerful disc brake up front with a drum out back. It’s a classic kickstart design, and there are even pillion pegs and a rear seat, so you can take a pal along once you pass your test.
The Heritage isn’t just for 16-year-olds either. It makes a great little runaround for motorhome, boat and caravan owners too – and you’ll see loads of little scoots like this around marinas and campsites during holidays.
Piaggio Typhoon 50
The Typhoon, in 50 and 125cc form, was one of the best-loved moped scooters of the late 1990s and 2000s. It combined chunky, aggressive styling with solid chassis and engine tech, and is great fun to ride round town or on longer rides.
The original design used a two-stroke motor, based on the same tech used on other Piaggio and Vespa designs, so it’s a well-proven engine.
The chassis used a simple steel tube frame, with longer-travel front suspension, and stylish plastic bodywork, comprehensive dashboard with fuel gauge and speedo, and smart dual-beam headlight.
It uses a simple twist-and-go transmission, so is easy to ride, and a disc brake up front with drum rear gives good stopping power. Chunky-treaded 12” tyres grip well on uneven surfaces, and there’s decent storage space under the seat.
Add in super fuel economy and auto-lube two stroke oiling, and you’ve got a really useful tool for getting to work, school or college…
Vespa Primavera 50
Vespa is the archetypical Italian scooter brand, and the Primavera (Italian for ‘spring’) looks like it could have arrived straight from a 1960s art house film shot in Rome or Milan. Indeed, the original Primavera scooter actually first appeared in 1968.
This modern update is all new under the classic styling though, with a super-clean, three-valve four-stroke engine, all-new steel chassis and updated front suspension.
The svelte leg shields keep your smart Italian suit or frock away from the weather, while the LCD dashboard includes a clock and fuel gauge. Underseat storage takes a helmet, and with the optional windscreen and top box, you’ve got a smart, practical, stylish little moped…
Aprilia SR50 Factory
Aprilia’s always prided itself on making extreme hardcore performance machinery – and the SR50 Factory did as much as it could for a 30mph moped.
The engine was a fuel-injected two-stroke Purejet design, with clean emissions and much lighter weight than a four-stroke design, as well as great fuel economy (more than 140mpg claimed).
It boasts disc brakes front and rear, with low-profile sport tyres on the 13-inch wheels. Suspension is proper motorcycle-spec kit, with hydraulic damping, monoshock rear suspension and USD-styled front fork.
The sporty bodywork comes in a range of paint schemes, including WSB-inspired colours, and the comprehensive dash includes a high-tech LCD information display panel.
Kymco Agility 50
A light, nippy entry-level moped, the Kymco Agility does what it says on the tin, pretty much. A simple air-cooled four-stroke engine gives full statutory moped power – around 3bhp – and gets up to the 30mph maximum speed sharp enough.
Fuel economy is good too, with a claimed 120mpg easily achieved. You’ll not find many cheaper ways to get around than this.
It’s a full-auto scooter, with twist-and-go variomatic transmission, disc front brake and a drum rear. All-up weight is just 92kg, and the seat height is nice and low too at just 785mm.
It’s got a kickstart backup to the electric start in case the battery runs low, there’s ample underseat storage, and a slick rear rack for extra luggage or even a top box.
RRP for the 2020 version was around £1,800, with the Euro5 emissions-complaint 2021 bike costing around the same.
Rieju RS3 50
Spanish firm Rieju has made a name for itself with its super-trick mini-bikes and scooters, all under 125cc, but with high-end chassis gear, stylish bodywork and great performance.
The RS3 is typical of the firm’s sporty motorcycle designs, with a full race fairing, twin-beam supersports frame, USD front forks, rear monoshock suspension and an aggressive, sporty riding position.
The two-stroke engine is usually restricted to moped power outputs (around 2bhp), but can be de-restricted once you hit 17, producing a full 8bhp – heady stuff, and enough for a top speed of over 60mph (with a bit of a tail wind…)
The front fork is a Showa USD unit, with a 280mm disc and twin-piston caliper, while the rear also has a disc with single-piston caliper.