The HammerHead Winter Trike

hammerhead winter trike
Hammerhead winter trike

 

 

This simple DIY project is designed to inspire you to build a bike to conquer a typical winter climate with snow, ice and slush. The Hammerhead is a two-headed monster that eats snow and ice for breakfast, and has no fear of Old Man Winter or his frozen wrath.

I designed this two headed bike to give myself a way of staying in shape during the winter months. I used to take my fancy, overpriced mountain bike out for winter rides, but soon realized that it wasn’t suitable in deep snow or around icy corners, and the bike was taking a lot of abuse every time I bit the dust (snow).

Obviously, a three-wheeled bike was necessary to maintain balance, so I rebuilt one of those old-style trikes (the kind with two wheels and a big basket in back) and tried to make it as light as possible by removing all parts that weren’t needed, and then added some knobby tires for better traction. The results were very disappointing; not only was this bike as heavy as a tank, but it also had no traction at all. Because that style of trike only drives one of the rear wheels, it mainly just spun around on most surfaces except bare pavement. Adding a differential (a gear system to spin both wheels and transfer power between them) was just too complicated and would add even more weight, so I decided to scrap this type of approach.

My new plan was to have two front wheels for stability and one rear driving wheel for traction. The two wheels up front (tadpole style) design is popular on low-slung recumbent trikes, making them very fast and comfortable, but it is not a suitable design for a winter bike for several reasons.

First, you don’t want to be slung two inches from the slushy ground while winter riding because you will get very wet from wheel spray.

Second, most people driving motorized vehicles will not normally expect to see bicycles in the winter months, so you want to be as visible as possible. A low recumbent trike is not very visible to drivers of motorized vehicles.

Third, is road salt. If you live in a community that routinely uses salt on roads and sidewalks, then this is a problem because salt will corrode metal. Why spend so much and money on something that will require many custom-made parts, and will end up rusted at the end of the year?

Hammerhead is not only as high as a regular bike, but it needs only regular bike parts and a little welding here and there. The design uses a regular mountain bike with two head tubes welded on each side of the frame in order to support two sets of front forks and wheels. Both wheels steer at the same time just like skis on a snow machine. In fact, the steering linkage that I scavenged is from a snow machine!

The trike is called Hammerhead because I thought the finished frame looked something like a hammerhead shark. You see it too, right?

Parts You Will Need

Now that you have a plan and a desire to conquer winter, let’s start by gathering some parts. As shown in Figure 1, you will need a complete mountain bike (stripped down to the frame), two front wheels, two head tubes (ground clean) and a matching pair of front forks. The critical requirement here is that both head tubes, forks, and front wheels be identical or very close in size. Even the tires should be the same, as any mismatch will cause the final bike to be uneven and wobbly.

bicycle parts for the winter trike
Figure 1 — Gathering parts for the Hammerhead trike.

 

 

The first step is to create the two head tube extensions. Each head tube is welded to a pair of 12-inch lengths of one inch diameter thin walled electrical conduit, or similar bicycle frame tubing. These two tubes are then welded to each side of the original head tube on the frame. Both tubes are welded at exactly 90 degrees to the head tube, as shown at the top in Figure 2.

If the original head tube is not as tall as the two new head tubes, position the new extension tubes so that they are able to mate to the original head tube. To make a good weldable joint, fishmouth the ends of the tubing to conform to the round edge of the head tube as shown in the lower part of Figure 2.

Weld carefully, tack welding only at first to ensure that the two tubes end up at 90 degrees to the head tube. Any error here will result in a front wheel misalignment, so check the angles with a 90 degree square as you work. Look ahead to see how the extension tubes will place the two new head tubes at the same angle as the original head tube and at 90 degrees to the frame tubing.

hammerhead trike has two head tubes
Figure 2 — Creating the two head tube extensions.

 

 

When you have both head tubes welded to their two 12-inch tubes, it’s time to weld them to the original head tube on the donor frame.

As shown in Figure 3, the extension tubes are welded to the original head tube so that all head tubes are at the same angle and so that the extension tubes are at 90 degrees to the frame tubing. You want each head tube to end up at the exact same angle as the middle head tube so that the caster angle remains the same as it was on the original bike. If you imagine two identical bikes standing side by side, then you can picture what we want here.
At this point, just make a few good tack welds around the joint to secure all of the pars together. A final alignment check will be made by installing the forks and front wheels to compare them with each other.

align the head tubes
Figure 3 — Weld the head tubes so that all three align.

 

 

To ensure that the two head tubes are aligned with each other, put the bearings, rings, and forks on both sides and then install the two front wheels. Remember that both front wheels must be the same diameter, which is why both tires should be the same type. When you have both wheels installed, stand up the bike and place both forks in the straight ahead position for a visual inspection. With the parts only tack welded, you can probably make slight alignment adjustments by tapping with a mallet.

Once you are certain that both head tubes are aligned, weld around all of the joints, following the same order on both sides so that any distortions happen equally.

check fork and wheel alignment
Figure 4 — Checking alignment using the front forks and wheels.

 

 

To make this frame structurally sound, a set of trusses will be added to the front in order to triangulate the frame. The frame is somewhat rigid as it sits, but any hard force to either front wheel could bend the frame at the joint between the head tube and the new extension tubing.

With some simple trussing, we form a triangle on each side, making the frame extremely strong. Any tube with a diameter between half an inch and 1 inch will do for the trussing. I found some old lawn furniture with 3/4 inch tubing and cut a few pieces to make the trusses.

These trusses are welded from the top of each head tube to somewhere near the middle of the top tube on the main frame. The trussing should be installed a few inches head of where your knee will be when you are pedaling the bike. To find this spot, put on a crank arm and set the seat to your height, then mark it on the frame while you pedal. The main goal is to make sure your knee does not hit the tube.

truss tubing increases frame strength
Figure 5 — The truss tubing makes the frame very strong.

 

 

Stay tuned for more on this project. Part 2 coming soon.

 

AtomicZombie bike plans

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

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

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

DIY always gets attention

I’ve always had a passion for radical bike designs.

If you have been hacking things together for any length of time, then you probably know that your unique creations draw attention wherever you are. When I was in my early teens, I would string four or five scrap bikes together and my buddies and I would wobble down the street on my contraptions that often resembled bikes from Doctor Seuss books. Making it back home in one piece was a 50/50 chance because I usually only brazed my early bike hacks, but the one thing that was guaranteed was a lot of attention.  My intent was never to make something to draw a crowd, but I often found myself talking to a group of interested onlookers or even speaking into the camera on the evening news.

I took a long break from bike hacking after getting my first motorcycle (and job), but found myself back out in the garage in the year 2000 to rekindle my DIY roots and get my mind off the daily grind of living in the real world. I started collecting junk bikes and old power chair parts and concocted some cool bikes and robots out in the small garage just to have fun on the weekend. Oddly enough, I never took any photos or intended to publish these works. One day Kat suggested that I put some of the bikes up on my website AtomicZombie.com, which at the time was a home for electronics hacking stuff I was doing.

Getting youth interested in technology.

 

Well, within months I started connecting with some amazing people and realized I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed making art from metal, sometimes for fun, sometimes to be practical. It didn’t take long before the word spread locally, and we were dragging my creations to all kinds of events. The large video guided robots were always popular. I enjoyed inspiring young hackers to consider this great hobby. The robots were a natural crowd magnet since I controlled them from miles away via video link and could communicate to people by typing words into a speech synthesis station at the base, making the robot seem intelligent. Soon my remote robots’ main purpose was to draw in a crowd and baffle them with technology.

Photo op with some visiting teens from the USA after my World Record ride.

At one point, I decided to aim for a Guinness World Record, making the tallest rideable bicycle, and figure it would be fun and possible draw a bit of attention to the website which was now mostly dedicated to bike building. Well, I was certainly not ready for the storm that this thing generated once the word got out! I must have done a dozen live radio interviews, news casts and even a live spot on a a national broadcast of Canada AM . Tall bikes sure draw the crowds!

When the tallbike called “SkyCycle” made it to a full color page in the Guinness Book (along with my mug), I was shocked. I knew these crazy contraptions could draw interest, but I had no idea how far it could go. Even a simple recumbent bike like the Marauder would spend half the time parked as I explained the bike to interested people along a ride. No doubt, all you DIY enthusiast out there know what I am talking about.

When I think back to me pre-DIY days, I guess my inspiration did come from seeing others’ creations, although it was mostly in the form of photos from old Popular Mechanics books or the odd newspaper article. Now, with the internet jacked into our heads like The Matrix, it’s so easy to connect with other DIY folks and share advice, so the community is stronger than it’s even been. Back in the early 1980s I would have never thought that one day I would be saying, “Hey!” to a cargo bike builder in Africa and then a trike builder in Australia within a 15 minute span.

So, if you are a new builder just getting ready to roll open that garage door and head out on your new DIY creation, get prepared for the attention your work will draw.  You will now become the source of inspiration for a young generation of future DIYers, so make sure you pass along that attitude that drives us all, “Yeah, you can do this, too”!

~ Brad

Revisiting an unfinished prototype – sociable tadpole trike

In 2001, I decided to tinker in the garage with my angle grinder.

Once in awhile, I like to dig through my photo archive labeled “the Graveyard” where I keep photos of unfinished or failed bike and trike concepts made over the years. Sometimes these ideas just fail completely, or they become too complex to make into plans since I try to ensure that anyone with nothing more than a basic welder and a grinder can do the same work I do.

So, I was waiting for some microcontroller code to compile the other day and I want for a photo trip down memory lane and found an old project called “the Sociable Tadpole Trike” and it sparked some new ideas.

I remember building this thing sometime around 2001 or so. I scoured the ‘Net for any examples of a side-by-side (sociable) tadpole trike (two wheels up front) and there was nothing out there at all, so I thought it would be cool to make the first one. Without any forethought, I spent a free Saturday cutting up tubing to make the trike. I don’t think I even measure a single tube, but sometimes that’s how it goes when you are driven by an idea – cut first, measure things later!

I had some leftover machined 20mm tubes that were part of another project and they fit nicely into a 20mm hollow axle hub wheel set that I built the year before (these were eventually used on the Warrior and Viking Trikes). To make the front steering, fashioned a bracket from two pieces of angle iron and then welded the 20mm tubes to another tube that held some brass bushings. A bolt acted as the kingpin. The odd angles shown between the kingpin and axle tube are there to allow for center point steering (this makes the wheels pivot in their center on the road).

My first attempt at center point steering.

This steering system worked out quit well, but I never used it on any of our plans because it requires four machined tubes to be made and unless you have your own lathe, these small jobs cost a lot to get done at a machine shop. But, for this prototype I decided to just use whatever bits I had on hand in order to make the trike functional in the one free day I had to work in the garage. Yeah, back in 2001 I had a garage to work in, so I didn’t have to dodge the weather all of the time!

The prototype trike required machined tubes for the steering system.

The Sociable Tadpole Trike went together in a hurry and actually looked pretty good when it was done. The steering was almost perfect and the frame seemed stable and strong. I even had an independent transmission system rigged up that ran the two cranks to a transaxle that had independent derailleurs for each rider and a main drive system to the rear wheel, but sadly, I did not take any photos of this unit. I thought for sure that this trike would make it to the plans page, but after rigging up some temporary seats the next day, I found an unfixable flaw in this design – elbow room!

My prototype Sociable Tadpole Trike
 

It seems I misjudged how much room two people sitting side-by-side would need, especially with the captain having under seat steering, so the trike would need to be almost 5 feet wide in order to steer properly and not have the rides sitting shoulder to shoulder. I made the trike exactly 4 feet wide, and decided that a 5 foot wide trike would be too wide for any practical use. Eventually, this design was flipped around and made into the Kyoto Cruise Sociable Delta Trike, which was no wider than 4 feet.

But, the point of this musing is that I intend to revisit this concept once again, and have a wild and crazy idea on how to make the trike less than 4 feet wide, have an independent transmission, suspension, and need only simple components. Are you ready for this one? Front wheel drive and rear wheel steering!

Yeah, that’s right! It will have fixed front wheels driven independently like on the Kyoto Cruiser and run a linkage to a rear steered wheel.

Now, normally I would recommend against a rear steered vehicle as they have quirks, but in this case, the width of the trike along with the riders being placed over the front axles would make the trike stable. I wouldn’t use it as a racing trike, that’s for sure, but for a fun sociable trike, I think the rear steering would work just fine, and allow for a nice stable ride with a great turning circle.

Richard Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the Dymaxion

There was an interesting rear steered three wheel car called the Dymaxion invented in the 1930s by Richard Buckminster Fuller and it seemed to be quite maneuverable and stable from the text I was reading. The length and width of the trike seem to make the difference, which would make sense if you think about how a rear steered vehicle would handle.

A short wheelbase rear steered trike would want to oscillate due to momentum of swinging the rear during a turn, which would then cause the pilot to counter steer and create a hard oscillation that could lead to a rollover. Add speed to this equation, and you have a ride that would not be easy to tame. Add a wide track and a longer wheelbase to the vehicle and it should steer more sensibly, allowing the vehicle to make nice tight turns and handle in a controllable manner.

Now, this is just my “guess” on how the thing will actually work, but I have been thinking about making this my next trike project for 2013, since I really miss the aspect of cruising side by side. If this new FWD Sociable Tadpole Trike actually works, it may be the base for a full body, since it would be easy to make one due to the fixed front wheels and the teardrop aerodynamic shape. In fact, the body might look like a mini Dymaxion!

Well, there you have it, a new idea is born and it will involve some things that have not yet been tried, so I am all charged about either making a new plan or adding to my folder called “the Bike Graveyard”.

~ Brad

Update – Head tubes and bottom brackets for your bike projects

We are updating the AtomicZombie store to begin accepting pre-orders very soon. Because we do all of this in our spare time, we have to direct our attention to our “real” jobs and thank you for your patience.

AtomicZombie is a two-person operation – Brad and Kat – and there are only so many hours in day to get things done. We’re doing our best for our AZ family and aim to keep expanding our worldwide community.

We appreciate your understanding and continued support.

Yes, head tubes and bottom brackets are being made as I type this. We expect begin shipping orders in late April or early May.

However, we will be accepting pre-orders within a week. So, stay tuned to the forum, AZ newsletters, blogs and social network sites like Facebook for announcements.

Build a velomobile – Part 1

Every time I find myself standing at the gas pump, holding down the lever while the dollars spin past, I tell myself that there must be a better way. Let’s face it, the cost of using a gas guzzler adds up to a lot more than just a dent in your wallet each time you fill ’er up, although the pain you feel at the pump is certainly instant. How about all of the effects to the environment?

Using a gas powered vehicle to pick something up from the store a few blocks away is certainly convenient, especially on a cold day when you can just press a button on your car remote starter and let the interior heat up for you. But, with millions of people doing this, what is the net cost on the environment? Call me paranoid, but with the crazy worldwide weather we have been experiencing in recent years, I think the answer is obvious. From this point forward, I will use the word “car” to refer to all gas guzzling ground transportation vehicles.

Environmental issues aside, there are many good personal reasons to be leaving the gas guzzler parked more often. My health has been impacted by the convenience of the car since the first day I passed my road test. How did I all get around in the days before becoming enslaved to my car? Well, besides begging for an occasional ride, I got around on foot or by bike!

I remember how simple things were back then. My main concerns were usually how long it would take to get from point A to B and making sure that my tires had air. I had no expensive repairs, no insurance costs, no parking problems, and didn’t have to work overtime just to pay for fuel. Ironically, I had more free time even though it took a lot longer by bike because I didn’t have to schedule in time for exercise because it came with the lifestyle! That extra body weight was a direct result of using a car, too. Sure, the car helps me get around in a hurry, but I end up either wasting more time and money to sweat over a treadmill or consulting with a doctor on how to fix my health.

Seems as though in our later years we have things backwards, don’t you think? “DING!”Oh, hold on a minute, the truck is filled now. I have to go give the attendant another $70 bucks!

I’ve decided to get a grip on my shrinking wallet and ever expanding waistline, and find a practical way to leave the car at home as much as possible. Now, the key word here is “practical”. Living in the a rural area of Northern Ontario means that I will always need a reliable car or truck to move large cargo and to travel large distances to the city in the winter, but since there are some local stores within riding distance a bike could certainly be used for many journeys.

For those who live in the city, a practical human powered vehicle with some cargo capacity could also be used for many local trips, such as grocery runs or social calls. For me, practical also means affordable and robust, which almost always translates to home built, which to us DIY types is great news. Of course, there are commercially available human powered vehicles “velomobiles” for those who can afford them, but since they tend to be as costly as a decent used car, they are out of reach for most.

All of these velomobiles pictured above are obvious works of art, but there is no way I would ever part with ten grand for something that I could build myself. Obviously, there will be tradeoffs between cost and aesthetics, but there is no reason why a very practical and sturdy velomobile could not be built using readily available parts by anyone with a few basic tools and a lot of motivation.

In fact, I have seen some home built velos that are streamlined works of art, but often the cost of materials used and the skill set needed are beyond most of use weekend garage hackers, and the end product is more like a hotrod than a bike you would want to take out in traffic or ride around in the rain.

My goal is to build a body using basic materials that is both aesthetically pleasing yet at the same time tough enough to live in the real world. Living in the real world means taking Mother Nature’s wrath of rain, sleet, hail, wind, and constant bombardment of UV radiation. Living in the real world means surviving the odd ding, dent, or scratch from crowded urban environments, being able to bounce over a curb and take the abuse of a poorly maintained road without shaking to pieces. Living in the real world also means living in the urban jungle, so the vehicle will need to be visible in traffic and include the usual safety gear such as rear view mirrors, brake lights, head lights, turn signals and a horn. Living in the real world means offering the pilot some shelter from the elements without requiring any acrobatic maneuvers to climb in and out of the vehicle. And of course, living in the real world means that the vehicle must include some practical cargo carrying capacity for such things as groceries, a battery pack, and personal items.

So with all of these goals in mind, the first choice becomes – delta, tadpole or quad?

The type of base vehicle will determine the overall shape of the body as well as its load carrying capabilities, handling characteristics and aerodynamic advantages.  Choosing one of the three configurations was actually quite a chore as they all offered advantages and disadvantages when it came to costs, aesthetics, practicality, and ease of building. In the end, I decided that a delta trike would be the most practical base vehicle, but I will discuss all three possibilities, as well as their strengths and weaknesses.

Part 2 tomorrow

Freewheel axle adapters are in stock

Freewheel axle adapters

Shipments went out on October 4 to anyone who had back ordered the adapters. If your order contained freewheel adapters and other parts, your order was also shipped yesterday.

You will receive an email from Purolator (Canada Post for domestic orders) with tracking information within 48 hours. Thanks for your patience.

The freewheel axle adapters fit any Shimano style thread-on freewheel and a standard 6 bolt bicycle disc brake rotor. Drilled for a 3/4 inch axle and includes a 1/4 inch mounting bolt. Disc brake mounting holes are tapped for standard M5 bolts.

To add a transmission to your trike or quadcycle, you will need to install a freewheel onto one of the rear axles. A freewheel is a single speed or multi-speed sprocket that can ratchet in reverse so that drive power is only applied to the axle when it turns in the clockwise rotation. A standard Shimano type freewheel is installed by threading it on in the clockwise rotation. A more detailed description of a Shimano thread-on freewheel can be seen on our DIY tutorials page.

The freewheel axle adapter is used for these projects: StreetFighter Racing Quad, Kyoto Cruiser Tandem Trike, LodeRunner Cargo Bike, LodeRunner Tandem Cargo Bike and Aurora Delta Racing Trike.

The axle adapter can fit with these projects with some modifications: TimberWolf Suspension Trike, DeltaWolf Racing Trike, DeltaRunner Delta Trike and Gladiator Chopper Trike. More >>

Disc brake adapters

Our Delta Trike Axle Disc brake Adapter fits onto any 3/4 inch axle and allows for the installation of a standard ISO standard 6 bolt bicycle disc brake rotor. With this part, you can add reliable disc brake stopping power to any trike or quadcycle using only standard bicycle components. The included locking bolt secures the part to the axle and allows for easy removal at a later time. The 6 disc rotor mounting holes are also tapped so you can mount your bicycle disc brake rotor using the standard M5 bolts that are supplied with it. The DBAX34 Delta Trike Disc Brake Adapter is a high quality machined part made of aluminum and anodized black.

Bicycle disc brakes are widely used and fairly inexpensive, so they are the perfect option for adding brakes to a delta trike or any other DIY project that has more than one wheel in the back. Bicycle disc brakes are also highly effective on even the largest cargo trike, and will offer superior breaking power for many years without needing any adjustment. Our Trike Axle Disc Brake Adapter will fit any diameter disc brake rotor that uses the ISO standard 6 bolt mounting pattern. More >>

Build a Kids’ Electric Trike – Part 3

This image shows the drive motor and all three wheels installed on the basic trike frame. If I hold up the drive wheel and drop the motor wires across the battery, the drive wheel hums along, and seems to power the trike with a reasonable amount of force when it is on the ground.

Take note of which way the wheel turns according to wire polarity, so you don’t end up with a backwards moving vehicle after finalizing the wiring. Yes, the scooter wheel must turn in the opposite direction of the trikes rear wheel, or counterclockwise to move forward. If you have a large double pole, double throw switch, then you could even add a reverse function to the trike.

Trike seating

A very simple foot rest can be made with a piece of bent tubing, or a pair of conduit elbows welded together as shown here. Again, I try to use up whatever bits of scrap tubing are laying around the garage, so feel free to experiment with whatever foot rest designs you think will work.

The seat will be placed over the battery, helping protect the wiring, and to keep meddling hands out of the electrical bits. Using some ¾ tubing, or whatever scraps you have in the junk pile, make a basic seat frame like the one shown here that can be welded to the frame, allowing the seat to cover the battery, yet also allow the removal of the battery. An old kitchen chair with metal legs is a good source of metal for the seat frame as well as the seat cushion.

There is nothing critical about the seat frame other than allowing a comfortable sitting position and easy removal of the battery for charging or swapping. The simple seat frame shown in this photo allows the battery to drop into the battery box from the front of the trike once the seat cover has been removed.

The completed trike

Once you finish all of the welds and paint your trike, the young pilot will be able to hit the trails on a long running environmentally friendly vehicle. Of course, you have to do a bit of electrical wiring first in order to transfer electrical power from the battery to the motor, but since it is a simple matter of adding a switch in series between the two, there is no need for a circuit diagram. Just run one wire from the battery to the motor and then one from the other battery terminal to you switch, and then from your switch to the other wire on the motor.

If your scooter came with a throttle switch like mine did, then simply install the electrical system exactly the way it was on the scooter. If you have no throttle switch, then find a contact switch that can handle your motor’s power (5-10 amps typically), and you are ready to roll. I also added a front pull brake to the completed trike shown here although it was probably not really necessary due to the limited top speed and the fact that it stops moving within a few feet once the throttle is off.

The completed kid’s electric trike runs for many fun hours on a single battery charge. Top speed is limited to a “kid safe” level due to the lower voltage, and even if the trike stalls, the motor will not burn out because there is a limited amount of slip in the friction drive. This trike is so well behaved that it could be used indoors, and if you install white rubber tires, there will be no track marks on hardwood or linoleum floors. Oh, and yes, the trike can also move a fully grown kid around, as I have found out! Be safe and have fun.