Building a Front Wheel Drive recumbent lowracer – England

recumbent lowracer

Ian Swindells of England built this lowracer from scrap and custom parts.

Ian W. Swindells (forum member swizz69) always wanted a recumbent bicycle. Researching online brought him to the AtomicZombie builders forum.

After learning about the Warrior Tadpole Trike, Swindells was motivated to design and build a Front Wheel Drive recumbent lowracer. In a feature article for the AZ newsletter, Swindells discusses the project and the challenges along the way.

Read his story>>

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A unique highway lowracer

A big wheel forkless lowracer

 

Even though my bike building has come to a bit of a halt this year, that doesn’t mean I’m not coming up with new ideas on a daily basis.  A few times a day, I like to find a quiet place to relax with a notebook and sketch up new project ideas. I have really missed my Marauder. I think it may be time to make another long wheelbase lowracer so I can get out once in awhile to feel that burn as I push both machine and engine to the limits. The terrain out here is not the same as the city, so my lowracer will need to have suspension to take me down the gravel road out to the highway. There isn’t much traffic on the paved highway around here and the ride would certainly be challenging thanks to hills and tight corners.

Another option is to transport it to a nice stretch of country road about 15 minutes from here where there is very little traffic and fairly smooth straight terrain. There are many cyclists using this stretch. I can just see myself eating roadies up once again as I slip under the wind and pass them one by one!

 

Some forkless bike examples

 

This time though, I want a very unique lowracer that has 700cc or 26 inch wheels on the front and back, a rear suspension, over seat steering, and no front forks. Yep, you read that right, no front forks! I have two designs for a forkless bike: one with a hinged triangle and the other with a wrap around frame that allows the front wheel to pivot much like the front wheels of a quad or tadpole trike.

Having no fork over the front wheel would mean that a larger wheel could be used without obstructing the pilot’s view. This will also smooth out the ride, so it would be a decent chassis for an aerodynamic fairing, allowing the rear suspension and long frame take up the bumps. Suspension is a must on a faired lowracer since these things can easily reach automobile speeds, making the smallest bump feel like a pothole. The forkless design and long wheelbase configuration also keep the front of the fairing low so that you can see the road ahead rather than having to peer around the body. This type of streamliner would not be all that great for pack racing on a track, but out on the open road, it would be a real blast!

 

A crazy pivot fork bike

 

The easiest forkless design is shown in my sketch and in these cool examples, where the hub pivots on a kingpin held in place by a single tube that wraps around the wheel, leaving space for the turn. I would run a connecting rod up to a control arm just behind the front wheel and then use dual cable steering to get around the curved tube so that there would be less flex in the system and tighter side tolerances for a fitting into a full fairing.

My other version involves a hinged triangle with the pivot very low behind the wheel to keep the tiller effect minimal. I have tried this in the past on this crazy ride called “Tour De Hell”, but the result was a bike that had serious bad attitude and took a lot of practice to ride smoothly.

Of course, having a short wheelbase and a huge amount of tiller, this bike steered like a front end loader, swinging from side to side and causing serious steering feedback. I think this system would work out on a long wheelbase recumbent if the pivot had more caster and was placed much lower to get it closer to the axle. I am not sure if I will actually try the pivot fork design since the other method would defiantly work as expected.

Perhaps this winter I may cut some tubing and lay out my new forkless highway lowracer. I always wanted to build a long wheelbase lowracer and then go all the way on a fiberglass fairing so I can get out and push the limits of what is considered possible under human power. I certainly won’t be heading to Battle Mountain to race with the big boys of speed, but I would certainly have fun smoking past road bikes doing 50 MPH on a faired lowracer down our country roads!

~ Brad

No summer this year!

More rain – what a surprise!

 

Well, it’s official – this has now been the worst summer I have ever experienced in all my time on this planet! I have a total of five days of bike building time in since the snow melted and will be officially throwing in the towel this year. Normally, I can get three to five bikes out in a year, but this year will leave us with only one new bike plan, the Transporter Cargo Bike. Now, it may sound like I am giving up too soon, but with the fact that it rains almost 90% of the time here lately and the fact that I have oodles of yard work to get done mixed in there with a 10 hour work day, it’s not lookin’ too good, eh.

There have been some cool lightning storms this year which is pretty typical, but the rest of the time has been spitting rain every hour or so. I would rather have a massive downpour for hours and then some clear skies for a few days, but this year it has ALWAYS, ALWYAYS, ALWAYS been raining just a little. This makes it like a swamp down the hill in front of my bike building shack, and since I have to work and photograph projects outdoors, it is impossible. It’s just enough rain to stop me. And, I have given up falling for that stupid “20% chance of rain” lie they tell on the weather network because what that really means is spitting rain every three hours so you can’t work outside, Suckah!, bwa ha ha ha ha!

The line snapper after a good wind

 

Another thing that is happening around here is intense bursts of wind. Now, I’m not talking about a nice summer breeze, I mean tree-snapping, furniture-flinging, tent-collapsing wind. This unnatural weather amplification downed this old +80 foot tall tree at the corner of our yard and it snapped the hydro line with such force that it broke a hydro pole in half down at the bottom of the hill. The good news is that I wanted to clean up this part of the yard and we now have a woodstove, so free firewood!

Being a noob at cutting wood, I took my brand new chainsaw and worked on this monster tree for three days, getting what seems to be at least a cord of wood out of it. But after a week of use my chain seems dull. Is this normal for a chainsaw? Hmmm…at that rate I might as well look for a huge bow saw and spare the hassle of fiddling around with mixing oil, bar oil, dull blades and all that noise.

This will be my view for the rest of the year

 

So, instead of fooling myself into believing that I may actually get to build anything this year, I have decided to work on adding some useful stuff to the AZ site. We will be starting the new welding, grinding, and bike hacking tutorials /DVD production soon and I am dedicated to adding all kinds of bike tech calculators to the main site. I want to hear from our community and get a list of suggestions for making online calculators.

I am working on the following calculators and converters: tubing weight, metric/imperial, spoke length, Ackermann steering, chain length, rake & trail, and gear ratio.

If you have an idea for an online calculator, please suggest it in the forum: http://forum.atomiczombie.com/forumdisplay.php/189-Conversions-calculators-amp-more
That’s all that’s new here. I am looking out the window and guess what, it’s gonna rain again soon!

~ Brad

The time and space conundrum

Our basement before any renos were done

 

Time and space are those two things that have always managed to stump the world’s greatest thinkers, leaving us to the stark realization that we are but visitors on this rock, hurling through time and space at 66,000 miles an hour, tethered to a burning sphere by an invisible force in an unfathomable universe. This most of us take for granted, while refusing to believe these forces have any more effect on us than a butterfly beating its wings halfway around the world.

Yeah, I stole that quote from the X-Files and my mention of time and space here is under a different context, a more literal one; most of us need more free time and a larger space to work in! I am constantly trying to find more room for my junk (priceless parts collection) and at the same time store my creations, but there is never enough room, so often bikes are recycled for parts after a year or two. This constant shuffling of stuff then leads to my ever present lack of time, and often I just let things pile up and work around the mess since a full cleaning would take most of the day away.

After we moved into a single wide modular home, I knew that my indoor workspace would need more a lot more room; it was time for some basement renos. I have a fair collection of electronic bits for my work, so storage space and workbench room are very important. I decided to turn one end of the basement into a lab. It’s always fun to share photos of our workspaces, and since I have blogged about my old bike building shack down at the bottom of the hill, I thought it would be fun to show the space I am occupying as I write this now. The lab!

Anyone who has been in a modular home knows that they are 16 feet wide and long, really long! We decided to custom design the modular to sit on a full 9 foot basement so that we would double our space and end up with huge windows, making it seem less like a basement and more like a split level. The engineered trusses are great because all of the ductwork is out of the way, 9 feet about the floor level.

All of my electronics parts, robot bits, and good bike parts ended up in the basement, since we have very little outdoor storage space. The AZ parts orders are also packed down here on the brown table. There is a decent amount of space here, but I have not had much time to organize it or do any work. I did however, get to complete my new lab recently and am typing out at you from it right now.

Working with wood instead of steel

 

When you are a DIY type, it doesn’t matter what materials or tools you are using – you just measure three times, cut once and adapt along the way. Working with wood is certainly easier than steel, but doing a proper renovation does take a lot of research into code. Living in a Northern climate and having a 5 foot concrete wall with a 4 foot stud wall on top took some amount of planning in order to get the insulation done correctly. I had to build another 2×6 wall an inch ahead of the concrete wall and create an air barrier on the cold side then a vapor barrier on the warm side, keeping to an R24 insulation value.

Sure, I know what I am talking about now, but when I started, I didn’t know the deference between an air barrier and a moisture barrier. A moldy basement was not something I wanted, so I did my research. The secondary wall took out about a foot from the width of the room, but it still ended up being 14×16, and that was certainly enough room for me to work on my technical projects and plan writing.

My new lab partially completed

 

I continued the secondary wall up to the top, added a suspension ceiling, lights, lots of electrical and then put down a waterproof composite floor that looked like hardwood. I was quite happy with the final results, considering much of the things I did were new to me. I still need to finish building the cupboards and workbenches, but I am quite comfortable on the temporary tables and have plenty of room to store my stuff.

So, if time permits, I will once again expand my space, enjoying the rewards of DIY and learning new skills as I move along.  No doubt, if you are the type of person who would build a bike, you probably enjoy other DIY projects as well around the house and yard. DIY is a way of life!

~ Brad

New Plan Online – The Transporter Cargo Bike

The Transporter Upright Cargo Bike

 

Well, it’s finally online! The Transporter Upright Cargo Bike is the latest addition to the AZ plans page and is ready for download. It has been a real battle trying to find a few hours between the rain to get the bike photographed, but the weekend played nice for an entire day. I had fun moving some cargo around the yard and down our windy, hilly dirt roads and everything worked perfectly.

This plan takes a typical department store mountain bike or road bike and converts it into a rear loading cargo bike, leaving the front section of the bike in its original form. By keeping the part bike mostly unmodified at the front, the ride and stance is much the same as any bicycle, so you can head out into traffic and maintain eye level with those gas guzzlers.

A typical yard sale mountain bike

 

This plan is highly adaptable to your needs, and includes a rugged frame that can carry many different types of cargo carrying systems. The Transporter can be made to practically any wheelbase and the entire plan only requires standard bicycle components and a few lengths of round or square tubing, so it will be an inexpensive and straightforward build. I opted for a flatbed cargo top since I intend to move some large items around such as firewood and potted plants.

Testing the brakes down our hill

 

I loaded some heavy cargo and drove the bike down the steep hill up to our driveway for a brake test. Even using only the front disc brake seemed to offer adequate stopping power, and the handling was good. The only learning curve was getting used to the wide turning circle of a bike with an 8 foot wheel base. I did manage to get it turned around in the width of our narrow dirt road, but did use the entire road to do so. For typical navigation, the bike handles just like a regular cycle.

Blending in with the wildflowers

 

Our field is just bursting with color these days thanks to the rainforest-like climate over the last few months. Normally, the wildflowers bloom in shifts of yellow, white and then purple, but this year they are all here at the same time. I rolled the Transporter over to the edge of the yard and got some great shots of the bike contrasting against the rolling blue and white sky and the matching yellow in the field. I think photographing a bike is almost as fun as riding it, and I enjoy trying out different backgrounds to set the mood of the shot.

Well, there you have it, another plan completed. We are now turning our focus towards a set of highly detailed welding, grinding and bike hacking tutorials which will be part of our tutorials page and offered for sale as a complete DVD as well. I should be able to do most of the filming under the non-leaky section of the old trailer, so the rain will not get in the way this time.

~ Brad

100 million volts and an un-ridable scooter

Lightning and propane – not so good! This picture was taken after dark.

Last night was yet another typical example of the weather around here for the last two months – torrential downpours followed by non-stop lightning. Is it just me or has the weather really changed over the last few years? Everything is much more intense it seems, with more snow, more rain, more heat and more cold. Global warming? Yeah right, maybe in the summer, but winter around here is worse than ever. I would like to propose a new term for this wild shift in weather – “Climate Amplification”. Things are not hotter or colder; they are just more intense.

But, I did have fun with the camera last night.

A very intense strike at the back of our yard

The lightning flashes were so intense and so often that it was easy to capture them with a camera. Odd, when I was younger I tried so many times to get just one photo of lighting but never could and now I can get 50 good shots on two days out of a typical week. Perhaps my next project should be a giant high voltage capacitor that can store 100 million volts and then convert it to a lower voltage for later use. Hmmm…as some of you might know from this project, I actually have built equipment almost capable of that feat!

http://lucidscience.com/gal-rock%20disaggregator-1.aspx

Oh well, the show was definitely fun to watch, and the strikes were not so close that we felt like running.

Watching lightning is so cool! My favorite strikes are the ones that look a mile wide and make that phhhzzzzttt-shhhaaaaaaa-powwwwwwww sound, rocking the house to the foundation. I actually captured one of these strikes last night, and judging from the photo, the strike was probably just at the boundary of our yard, about a mile away. You know the lighting is close when sound and flash are less than a second apart since sound travels at 750 miles per hour.

I could never actually ride this thing!

OK, enough about the weather, it’s starting to aggravate me now since once again I am stuck indoors due to the usual 60% chance of thunder showers today. Maybe one day I will actually get to take the last few photos needed to release the Transporter Cargo Bike plan.

As a diversion, I dug deep into my bike graveyard photo director and found this funny one wheeled scooter contraption that I built and could not ride. The idea was to balance like a pendulum and kick with one foot to glide. I figured it would take some serious practice to learn to balance this thing, but being decent on a unicycle and able to pilot almost anything, I thought I could do it – wrong! After a long weekend at camp and almost non-stop practice, I managed a total of about 100 feet on the one wheel scooter. Seems, there was not enough counter force at work when pushing along the Z axis, although side-to-side balancing was pretty easy.

Of course, I will never give up until I make a workable one wheeled scooter and do have another plan that involves some counter acting weights and a sneaky lever system, but probably won’t try it anytime soon. I did make this thing out of the one wheel scooter though, so it wasn’t a total loss.

http://atomiczombie.com/Tutorial%20-%20The%20Spin%20Scooter%20-%20Page%201.aspx

Well, that’s about it for now, not too much in the way of bike building progress, but tomorrow is actually calling for no rain, so the Transporter may get finished finally. If it rains again tomorrow, I am giving up on building anything with wheels and will start making water craft!

~ Brad

www.AtomicZombie.com

Mutant Ninja Flowers and a Turtle

The AZ Yard Muncher

I know, it’s a bizarre name for a blog title, but when I started doing these morning musings, I decided to just write about the day before and try to keep it fun! As I had mentioned previously, this place has been like a rain forest lately, with rain almost every day for weeks on end. This onslaught of cloud juice has made bike building a real chore since I work outdoors mainly and have a completed bike that I need to take final photos and videos. Yesterday, the rain turned into more of a drizzle so I took this rare opportunity to get the mower out and get some of the yard cut. Now, this may not seem like much of a big deal, but we have to mow a three acre section of the yard. OK, that may also seem like no big deal but get this…I hand mow the thing!

No doubt you think I am insane for mowing three acres with a hand mower, but we have no place to store a ride mower, and this twice monthly mowing sure keeps my legs in good shape. Of course, a true garage hacker would NEVER EVER use an unmodified appliance, so of course I turned this otherwise tame mower into a beast of fury by modding the deck.

As you can see, the safety guard thingy that once held the bag has been replaced by a steel horn like thing that looks more like a snow thrower output horn. This little mower can now shred 3 foot grass, leaves, even small trees into mulch, tossing the shavings in the air a good 10 feet. Before I made this scary mod, the mower could barely cope with knee high grass and would jam up once every half hour. When I mow this yard, it takes me seven to eight hours if I walk non-stop, only stopping to refill the tank.

Mutant mow-proof wild flower

 
Since we have been having rain forest like rain lately, I have not been able to mow for more than two weeks, and these tall yellow glowers have taken up most of the yard. I don’t know what these things are, but I don’t think they are from this planet, and probably came here on an asteroid or some alien probe. In two weeks, these things grew over 2 feet tall and they can actually survive being run over by the mower. Yeah, no kidding, I mow them over two or three times and they just pop back up! I pulled one out by hand for inspection and they seem to have a stem made of green carbon fibre. At less than a quarter inch thick, the stem is so durable that it cannot be snapped by hand, and is as strong as wire. Anyone know what these things are? I wonder if dynamite will get rid of them?

Half-way through my mowing, a turtle decided to crawl up the hill through the tall grass for a visit. This little guy/gal was a bit annoyed by being picked up at first, but then relaxed and seemed to enjoy the free ride to the other side of the yard, away from the Yard Muncher. There are several creeks and ponds way back in the yard, but these are almost a mile away, so it must have really wanted to explore to make that kind of journey.

This cool dude came for a visit

With the way the weather is changing around here, I wouldn’t doubt that the next thing that comes wandering our of the pond will be a big ol’ gator.

~ Brad