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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Building kids’ chopper bikes – England

kids chopper

Another homemade bike made with the help of kids.


Building bikes isn’t just for the young at heart. It’s a past time that youngsters can participate in and learn some skills along the way.

Bike builder and forum member, Naughtyboy, of England shares more photos of his homemade bicycle choppers. Chopping up and re-building custom built bicycles a passion that he shares with his kids.

See more than 4,000 custom built rides: recumbents, trikes, tandems, choppers, electric, tall, cargo, motorized and fun bicycles at the AtomicZombie bike builders gallery: http://forum.atomiczombie.com/gallery

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Chopper mania – USA

chopper bike

Fantastic detail on this bicycle chopper.

 New Yorker and AtomicZombie member, Kempracing, has an addiction. But, don’t worry, it’s a good one.

He loves to design and build choppers. It doesn’t matter if they’re on two wheels or three. Each one is unique. Kempracing puts a lot of thought and care into his bikes.

Check out the detailed web design of this chopper. He built and donated this chopper for a raffle at the Howe Caverns Bicycle Show and Swap Meet in New York this past July. A lucky winner pedaled off with this beauty.

chopper trike

A custom built chopper trike for the Mrs.

And, an embedded star burst heart on the trike he built for his wife, Patty. Awww.

See more of kempracing’s custom built choppers.

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

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

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

AZ Newsletter February 20

 

San Diego chopper
Indonesia recumbent
Virginia beach cruiser
Illinois recumbent
Builders forum chat
** Feature article: Evolution of the Marauder lowracer
by Brad Graham (Radical Brad of Atomic Zombie)**