Down The Fabrication Rabbit Hole To Build A Recumbent Bike

‘Tis the time of the year to find as many reasons as possible to shut off the smartphone and get yourself outside. [Rich Olson’s] newest excuse is a recumbent bicycle he built from at least three donor bikes. Of course we’ve seen any number of bike mods over the years (the tall bikes that integrate a ladder to climb up to the saddle have always held a special place in our hearts), but [Rich] left us a nice trail of bread crumbs on how to get into this yourself without breaking the bank.

He worked from a set of open source plans, with additional instructions laid out by [Brian in Ohio] in a bicycle hacking series on the Hacker Public Radio podcast. We learn in the first installment that you can get your hands on a torch that uses oxygen and MAP gas to braze the pipe joints — a quick Duck Duck Go search turns up kits that have the torch and both gases for about eighty bucks. Ask around your neighbourhood and you’re likely to find some bike frames from the disused and broken cycles lurking in dark garage corners. That first podcast page even has images that show you how to lay out fishmouth cuts where the tubes will meet.

But what really grabbed our attention is the tube bending for the recumbent seat. This is a speciality part that you’re not going to be able to salvage from traditional bikes. [Rich’s] project shows off this image of a bend template and the two main rails he used from the seat; but how did he make those bends? The third episode of [Brian in Ohio’s] series covers the one simple trick that electricians don’t want you to know. Those rails are made out of electrical conduit and you can easily buy/rent/borrow a commonplace conduit bending tool which has the handy advantage of including angle guides.

You’ll find [Rich’s] video after the break which begins with a slideshow and ends with a demo ride. That lets us see the lacing on the back side of the seat fabric that keeps it taught, yet comfy in a way a standard bike saddle just can’t be.

If this still hasn’t convinced you to pick up a torch, you can also build a recumbent with a wooden frame.

13 thoughts on “Down The Fabrication Rabbit Hole To Build A Recumbent Bike

  1. I Started collecting bits to build a recumbent then discovered it was cheaper and mach easier to buy a second hand one. Now just need to find something to do with all the bike frames I collected ( might still make a recumbent )

  2. I’ve never understood why you’d want to put your body in a comfortable seating position and then place the steering where your hands have to hold up the weight of your arms. It’s as if people want to feel like driving their cars instead of pedaling a bike.

    How about putting the steering where your hands go naturally- down at your sides?

    Where are those handlebars (and the stem!) going to end up when you inevitably crash on your bike? Ouch!

    Tiller steering, long wheelbase, and no pedal clearance at the front wheel look like a bad combo to me, especially at low speeds, like when you’re trying to pedal up a hill.

          1. I don’t think so. Back in those days the long wheelbase bikes with steering at shoulder level were the most popular, but it seems that more recent bikes tend to be short wheelbase, still with shoulder level steering. A lot of the short wheelbase bikes have steering tubes that come up between the rider’s legs (it hurts just to think about it!) guaranteed to damage your favorite organs in the event of a crash.

            Based on reactions to my bike from hundreds of people who have tried riding it over the years, the thing that freaks them out most is the under seat steering which seems “unnatural”. People think it’s going to be hard to ride until they try it. I think people who are new to recumbent bikes feel safer when their hands and arms are up in front of them.

  3. I went down this rabbit hole a couple of times! It’s a blast. I love building bikes. I even built my first welder, which I built my first bike with. I have articles and info on my site:

    Also, if you want to go down this rabbithole yourself, I can’t recommend enough! Excellent information there, well worth the few bucks for a set of plans to build your ultimate bike/trike/thing.

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