The Big Car Database

Motobecane Motorcycles

Motobécane was a French manufacturer of bicycles, mopeds, motorcycles, and other small vehicles, established in 1923.

"Motobécane" is a compound of "moto", slang for motorcycle; "bécane" is slang for "bike."

In 1981, Motobécane filed for bankruptcy and was purchased by Yamaha and reformed in 1984 as MBK. The French company continues to make motorscooters.they also made fingerbar mowers at least up to 1981

It has no relation to Motobecane USA, which imports bicycles from Taiwan manufactured to their specification by Kinesis Industry Co. Ltd. under the Motobécane trademark.


Industry Bicycles, Mopeds,Motorcycles
Founded 1923
Defunct 1981
Headquarters France
Products Bicycle and Related Components, mopeds and motorcycles


For many years Motobecane was France's largest manufacturer of motorcycles. Charles Benoit and Abel Bardin joined in 1922 and designed their first motorcycle in 1923, a 175 cc (10.7 cu in) single cylinder two-stroke-engined bike. By the 1930s Motobecane was producing a best-selling range of motorcycles. In 1933, they produced their first four-stroke machine with 250 cc (15 cu in) capacity. During the 1930s, they manufactured a longitudinal shaft-drive inline-four engine motorcycle in 500 and 750 cc (31 and 46 cu in). During this period, the firm entered road racing competitions and won the Bol d'or endurance race.

After the Second World War they produced the single-cylinder D45 motorbike that filled a need for cheap transportation. The successor was the Z46, equipped with modern suspension. Like many European motorcycle manufacturers, the 1960s proved difficult for Motobécane as cars became affordable. As a result, sales decreased. The arrival of cheap, efficient Japanese motorcycles also hurt sales. They continued to produce two-cylinder 125cc motorcycles throughout the 1970s. They also manufactured a small number of two-stroke, three-cylinder 350cc and 500cc bikes.

For a time in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the company competed in Grand Prix motorcycle racing claiming several victories in the 125cc class and finishing second in the 1980 125cc road racing world championship.


Motobécane introduced a moped, the Mobylette, in 1949; over the next 48 years, Motobécane manufactured 14 million Mobylettes. In Indiathe same model was manufactured under licence by Mopeds India Ltd under the name Suvega. In the UK Raleigh manufactured Mobylettes under licence from Motobecane as the "RM" series from 1960 until 1971. In the late 1960s these "Raleigh" mopeds accounted for 38% of UK moped sales. American retailer Montgomery Ward imported Motobecane mopeds and sold them via their catalog under the Riversidecaptive import brand.

In 1978, Canadian Walter Muma rode a 50V 11,500 miles on a 3-month trip that began in Toronto, brought him to Alaska, and back to Toronto.

After being acquired by Yamaha, MBK continued producing mopeds, becoming a force in French moped racing.


In 1942, responding to the disappearance of civilian fuel supplies, the directors instructed an engineer called Éric Jaulmes to look into the possibility of producing a two-seater pedal car to compete with the Vélocar. The result was a three-wheel pedal car. Pedal power reached the single rear wheel via a chain and an 8-speed cycle-style gear system. The emphasis was on weight reduction, and the vehicle weighed just over 30 kg, of which approximately 28 kg was accounted for by mechanical components and just 4 kg by the light metal lozenge style body. A single central fin on the tail-piece of the body was featured not for aerodynamic reasons but in order to accommodate the rear wheel.

During the 1950s and 1960s automobile use and ownership in France grew consistently, and much of this growth came at the expense of motorcycle producers. Long lens photographs appearing in L’Auto-Journal in December 1961 showed the results of a serious Motobécane project to fight back by developing a small “quadricycle” format automobile. One of the pictures showed the Motobécane prototype on a boulevard near the company’s plant and the Porte de Valette being overtaken by a Renault 4CV: the little Renault looked uncharacteristically large and the Motobecane, positioned between the Renault and a Paris bus, looked barely larger than a child’s pedal car. In fact the prototype was 2730 mm long and 1180 mm wide, which was enough to accommodate two people side by side in a fashionably boxy little body: from the side, at first glance, it was hard to tell which end was which: however, the cut-out sections on each side covered with a dark coloured fabric "door" was angled towards the front of the car.

Although the manufacturer was unfamiliar with automobile technology, they were happy to incorporate into the design a form of the innovative infinitely variable transmission which a few years later became a defining feature of DAF cars. Power came from a 125 cc two stroke engine installed at an angle of 7 degrees from the vertical in order to keep the flat front hood/bonnet low enough for the windscreen to be foldable forwards over it in the manner of a traditional Jeep. The prototype's motor-cycle connections were apparent from the large spoked wheels which might not have survived on a production version of the car.

Both a two-seater “KM2” microcar and a “KM2U” microvan were foreseen. In the event, however, neither passed beyond the prototype stage.


Under the name MBK, the company continues to manufacture scooters for the European market.



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