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>>

Paper, Proto, Plan, Precipitation!

A tandem tadpole trike sketch

I was really hoping to have the Transporter Cargo Bike ready to show off for this morning’s blog, so far this year has turned our area into a rain forest. Sure, it’s great for the garden and berry trees, but not great for getting any welding or building time in because my shack has no doors or windows and leaks when it rains. Add to that the 2 foot tall grass and I am starting to wonder if perhaps winter would be more productive after all! OK, enough complaining I will save that for the end of the blog!

While searching for something else to blog about, I thought of what it takes to turn an idea into a working project. I divide the process into three steps: paper, prototype and then plan. Most of the time, an idea never leaves the paper stage. I currently have 43 full spiral ringed notebooks of bike ideas that I have collected from over the last five years. Sadly, I never kept notebooks before that time, so a lot of cool and crazy ideas ended up in the recycle bin.

I usually start with a few pages of rough sketching just to get my head around the basic idea and how it might look.  It takes only a few minutes to sketch up a bike. The sketches offer a decent view of many of the difficulties in designing a bike or trike such as chain line, seating position and steering. I can usually determine if an idea is viable within a few pages worth of sketching, and by the 10th drawing often the bike or trike is radically different than the original idea. This tandem tadpole trike sketch seemed workable, so it was one of the few drawings from several thousand that moved to stage two – prototype.

The Viking Tandem Trike

All of the AZ plans go through a prototype stage so that ideas can be tested in the real world and then either modified or scrapped. Having a rough prototype means I can beat the hell out of the vehicle and see what it can take, making any adjustments that may be necessary. This tandem trike proto was made of electrical conduit and BMX wheels and took about two weekends to put together. We tested this trike at a campground for three days, beating it up over trails, down rough gravel roads, and even off road at times. It held up, even though there was no frame trussing and many of the welds were only half finished. My thinking is that if a poorly build proto can hold up to abuse, then a properly built final design would certainly hold up to just about any conditions. So, the next step was to turn proto into plan.

Turning paper into prototype

When I built the Viking Tandem Trike based on the original prototype, I made it a lot more durable and added many new features such as an unlinked transmission system, adjustable bottom brackets, dual disc brakes and under seat steering. The 1.25 inch conduit was replaced by 2 inch square tubing and the frame was properly triangulated for supreme strength. Building a plan from a prototype is a much longer process because every step has to be meticulously photographed and documented, but it is worth the effort when I see completed projects based on our plans being posted in the gallery.

So I am 95% into the plan stage on the Transporter Cargo Bike and only need to add the brake and shifter cables to complete the plan. But, the rain-man seems to have other plans, keeping me indoors as of late.

This is a typical site out here lately

The weather report has been practically the exact same for more than a month – a 40% chance of thunder showers and high humidity. What that means is that it spits rain once every few hours and dumps rain once a day. The grass is constantly wet, and my bike building shack smells like the back of uncle Jeb’s cabin…ack! I am at the point where I need a nice dry sunny day to get the final photos done, even if the rain holds off for four hours, I would be happy. Oh well, the apples and berry trees are sure enjoying the new rain forest, but the lawn is getting so tall it may take three days to hand mow the yard the next chance I get! I wonder, is there such a thing as an anti-rain dance?

~ Brad

May 24 newsletter



Feature article by Brad Graham (Radical Brad):
*** Building a rebar greenhouse – Part 4 ***


In the Atomic Zombie builders gallery
Coming soon – manufactured parts for your bike projects
Head tubes and bottom brackets
Bike builders chat
Spring into bike building – offer ends May 31
This and other AZ newsletters are here.

AtomicZombie forum feedback

 “Brad & Kat: thank you so much, truly couldn’t do it without you. Thanks to all the people, no zombies, for taking the time to post your bikes, trikes comments and help. You all really help make it easier.

I love to look at all the bikes and trikes from all over the world.

Now, if we could just find a deserving person and help him with a really cool trike. Wait we are doing that. This is the best web site.

It is cool to be a little part of all this. Thanks from Arkansas, Mad7.”

Thanks, Mad. We’re pleased that you are a part of our special community.


Ottawa handmade trike & chopper

“Remember those plastic big wheel toys, where you cranked on the hand-brake to spin out? Meet its big-boy cousin ! Just pull up on the blue handle and hang on. I also built it so that it detaches with no tools required, a simple hook and spring system holds it in place.”


My son’s 1st project. Code name “Forked-up”.

6 bike plans for $36

Building custom bicycles is a great hobby that can be learned by anyone with a desire to create. The skills needed to dismantle, alter and repair bicycle components can be easily learned, and the parts and tools you will need are quite inexpensive. Discarded or worn out bicycles offer many good parts and can often be found at local scrap yards, city dumps, or yard sales for a few dollars. Even if you plan to build a custom creation using all new parts, this hobby will seem inexpensive compared to many, as you can purchase a brand new bicycle at a store for less than a hundred dollars.

The great thing about hacking and welding bicycles is that you will be working with all steel components, which are much stronger, more common, and much less expensive than high grade aluminum or carbon fiber bicycle parts. If you have never torn a bicycle apart before, then this basic introduction will show you all you need in order to complete a total bicycle autopsy in minutes, stripping an entire cycle down to the individual parts using only a few basic hand tools.

You can build your own recumbent bike, tadpole trike, chopper, velomobile, electric scooter, delta trike, quadcycle or tandem trike from our easy to follow plans. All of our plans are easily modified to suit your own needs and you can work with the materials you have on hand. Combine the ideas presented in several plans into a unique home built recumbent bike, or create your own racing trike based on one of our DIY plans. The possibilities are endless!

6 plans for only $36.

AZ newsletter February 27

Feature article by Brad Graham: How to spoke a car wheel for your phat chopper
Quad bike in England
California chopper
Bike builders community
Puerto Rico “Penny fake thing”
Warrior tadpole trike
*** Only three days left to take advantage of this limited time offer. ***

Slovakia traveler recumbent trike

“Hello. Here is my traveler recumbent trike from Slovakia.


  • 26″ wheels,
  • rear wheel steering,
  • front of the rider is tilting,
  • front wheel drive,
  • front suspension,
  • suspension seat,
  • delta concept,
  • Rohloff drive
  • and more…
Dušan from Slovakia”
Congratulations, Dušan. That is a great looking recumbent trike.
Atomic Zombie sez, “You rock!”


Noah’s mini DeltaWolf recumbent trike in the UK – kid sized

Submitted by Geoff Sagar, UK
Two Atomic Zombie thumbs up to you, Noah! A perfect fit.
Human powered trikes come in two varieties – two wheels at the back (delta), and two wheels up front (tadpole). The general opinion is that tadpole trikes are made for speed and comfort while delta trikes are great for load carrying, pulling trailers, and sending granny off to the shopping mall. But, not anymore! The radical DeltaWolf Recumbent breaks all the rules that have held delta trikes back for so many years. This trike is ultra low, very laid back, designed for comfort and speed, and has full-sized 26 inch rear wheels thanks to unique, yet easy-to-make rear hub axles.
The DeltaWolf Recumbent is also designed to be easy to build using only a welder and an angle grinder, and requiring only a single part to be machined (plans also show alternative to this machined part). The rest of the trike is made using a few feet of square tubing and standard bicycle parts that can be purchased new or salvaged from scrap bicycles. Even the unique rear wheel hubs are made using nothing more than a hand drill, and a few washer shaped steel discs.
There are no hard-to-find parts used in this project, and the only part that needs to be machined is a small threaded part that will allow a standard freehub to connect to one of the rear axels. The total cost of building the DeltaWolf Recumbent including the machined part is about $200, and could actually be much less depending on the size of your junk pile. The frame is made from mild steel square tubing, and can be put together in a few evenings, not bad for a trike that looks as good as it rides. Check out the video below to see how well the DeltaWolf Recumbent behaves as it handles tight corners and straight-aways.
All of Atomic Zombie Extreme Machines plans are downloadable PDF format. Multiple discounts, free tutorials, videos, gallery, newsletters, blog and more.