Moto Ocho Revives Mopeds in Arapahoe Square

Whether for nostalgia, practicality or pure fun, mopeds are making a big comeback. Moto Ocho is the place to purchase your first -- or to have your first (you know, that 35-year-old Puch in the back of the garage) restored.
Sitting at a table that's obviously seen its share of friendly gatherings, and with some old Johnny Cash playing in the background, Tim Husmann says, "I believe in the idea that things aren't so easily disposable. That things should be repaired, things should be fixed. I feel like the way the world is going, it's more, 'Oh, it broke, I'll just buy a new one.' But, you know, if it was made well enough to begin with, you can learn how to fix it and keep it out there on the road."
Admittedly, Moto Ocho, Husmann's moped restoration, repair and sales shop, wasn't born strictly because of this belief system, but if anybody deserves a pulpit on which to philosophize about the benefits of refurbished modes of transportation, Husmann certainly does.
Moto Ocho is almost three years old, and in that short time, the business has graduated from a rental storage unit to a little place on Larimer to its current location: a 3,000-square-foot space just north of downtown that opens to both Curtis Street and Broadway.
And yes, it's mopeds only. 
Scooters are fine and dandy, but Husmann is focused exclusively on mopeds -- motorized bicycles, for the uninitiated. (Scooters have bigger engines and no pedal power.)
"Every once in a while, somebody will try to bring a scooter in," Husmann says. "There's no animosity, but we just don't work on those. So we pass them on to the people who do."
At this point, even if Husmann was willing to branch out into other motorized contraptions, he wouldn't have the time. His shop currently houses about 90 mopeds. A handful of those are rider-ready and for sale (prices generally range from $750 to $1,200 for an essentially stock machine in good working order). Others are either customer's mopeds that need reconditioning, or else they're inventory Husmann will use for parts or eventually overhaul and offer for purchase. 
"We get slammed every summer with people bringing in old mopeds that aren't running," he says. "So we can't build then because we're too busy with repairs. It's been really good, though, and everything we've built over the winter, we've always sold out of during the summer."
Frugal and funMoto Ocho only works on mopeds.
Part of the appeal, of course, is the practicality. Mopeds are incredibly easy and affordable to own and operate. As long as the engine isn't bigger than a 50cc, riders are required only to have a valid regular driver's license, as opposed to a motorcycle endorsement. Registration is $5.85 (seriously); insurance is around $100 per year. 
"And you get about 80 miles per gallon," Husmann adds. "When you're living in high-density urban areas, they're awesome for getting around town."
They're also awesome for bringing people together for a bit of communal merriment. Moto Ocho hosts group rides on summer weekends that typically attract 30 to 50 fellow moped enthusiasts.
"One of my favorites is going out to Golden," Husmann says. "We ride out there -- get on 32nd and cut through the Highlands -- and hang out for the afternoon. It's super fun. We check out other peoples' bikes, ask questions, they might ask questions about what we're doing. It's exchanging knowledge in that way."
And contrary to Business Management 101, Husmann is not at all opposed to exchanging knowledge. In fact, in addition to the group rides, Moto Ocho is famous for its "Fix-It And Ride" events, which begin with Husmann teaching customers and connoisseurs some of the finer points of moped repair. Once the engines are humming, the entire group saddles up and heads out for an afternoon cruise. Past destinations include Denver institutions such as Casa Bonita and Lakeside.
"The whole point of the Fix-It And Ride is to teach people who want to learn -- and don't mind getting a little greasy -- how to fix their own bikes," Husmann says. "You want to know how to clean the carb? Cool, this is how you do it. You want to put on a different exhaust pipe? Cool, here's how you do it."
"The idea is that we're building up the knowledge base for Denver as a whole, and not just saying, 'Oh, well, sorry, you're going to have to bring that in for repairs.'"
Tim Husmann began Moto Ocho about 3 years ago. A loyal following
Husmann estimates that maybe 15 to 20 percent of Moto Ocho's regulars take full advantage of the Fix-It affairs and actually get more hands-on with their mopeds. It's not a huge number, but it's certainly not irrelevant. Which brings us back to Business Management 101. Husmann is well aware that his willingness to share knowledge, to be so amicably transparent, builds a strong loyalty base, which ultimately builds a strong customer base.
"And it's such a great mix of customers," says Lisa Rieks, Husmann's wife and colleague. "Because mopeds have nostalgic value and this new sense of cool, we're not cornered into one particular type of customer. It's a really broad range of both ages and interests, whether it's an old-timer or somebody in their twenties -- or anywhere in between. We really meet an interesting mix of people."
And Moto Ocho has an equally interesting mix of mopeds. There's a black and red Pinto Rambo with knobby tires that looks like the lovable tough guy of the moped world. There are a couple light blue jobs that seem ideal for zipping back and forth to the local farmers' market. And then there's the trike.
"The Puch TriRad," Husmann says. "I think those will always be some of my favorites. They were only made for a few years and they're so much fun to ride. I'm almost done restoring the red one, and I'm planning to sell it this year. It will be the first one I've ever sold. It's hard to let them go."
Indeed, because to Husmann, things -- mopeds in particular -- aren't so easily disposable, but at least when the red TriRad does sell, it will be out on the road, right where it belongs.

Read more articles by JB Bissell.

Based in Denver, JB writes about local happenings and far-flung places often getting sidetracked at various points between. He can be reached here.
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