Picture of Building a Recumbent Bamboo Trike Frame
I've always been fascinated by bamboo and when I decided to build a recumbent trike it seemed like the obvious material choice for me.  Bamboo is beautiful, light, stronger than mild steel and renewable.  It does present some challenges however, as culms or poles are not perfectly round, taper from end to end and remain flexible even when cured.  So building a 3 dimensional trike frame required a lot of planning, trial & error, and some techniques to account for the variable size of the bamboo.  This instructable will focus on the design and construction of the recumbent trike frame.  

Before building this trike, I had never built anything that moved or worked on bikes.  I had also never constructed anything using bamboo, carbon fiber or epoxy.  Needless to say, I needed a lot of help and resources to get this project done.  My primary source of information on trike building was www.atomiczombie.com.  Brad and Kat at Atomic Zombie sell plans for building recumbent trikes from old bikes.  Brad has put together an entire library of picture and video tutorials on bike building and maintenance.  The AZ online forum is filled with DIY builders ready to give advice on every aspect of recumbent trike building.  Without these folks, I'd still be doodling.  I purchased a set of plans from AZ (Warrior trike) to learn how to build the steering, front axles, hubs, and disc brakes.  Since these specific details belong to Atomic Zombie, I’m not going to divulge their plans, but I highly recommend purchasing a set for building out the rest of the trike.  They are very easy to follow, well illustrated, and reasonably priced. 

Other good bike websites I use:

Bamboo resources I found invaluable:

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ironsidesnh3 months ago

I wonder if I could substitute PVC pipes for Bamboo canes. Nice design .... Looks like a design I'd like to use for a great nation wide fund raising trip I'd like to use. I like the seat design that goes with this design aswell. any replies from other people than the maker of this craft is welcome. Keep up the great work I love this item.

caffre3 months ago
How is ur frame
Holding up
rickharris3 years ago
Really nice and a good set of instructions. How much does it weigh? My steel tube tadpole weighs in at 38 pounds a trifle heavy.

Going to go the whole way and make the body?

I still ride it - I am 62
kentdvm (author)  rickharris3 years ago
Thanks! The frame weighs 15 pounds but I haven't weighed the assembled trike yet. I'm guessing it's about the same as yours with the rear internal hub. The hub weighs about 5 lbs but simplifies running the chain by eliminating the stack of gears. I'll weigh it and let you know.

Would love to have a velomobile so I may give it a shot once I catch up on what I was supposed to be doing the past 4 months! Thanks again.
This guy has a Velo he built around a tandem trike. He was in Kansas City and I believe moved to Louisiana, so if you happen to be in the south somewhere, I'm sure he'd be happy to pass along some of what he learned.
Last I heard the tandem recumbent, velo and stoker were for sale.

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There is a FB group on building VM from coroplast over a regulat trike or bike frame, you might want to check it out.
aideym3 years ago
This is an absolutely fantastic trike. A fantastic concept and a fantastic Instructable. I have all the AZ books, some plans and some ideas. Seeing how you made this trike has given me a desire to go down this avenue. Using nature's Carbon fibre (or fiber as you guys wrongly spell it) looks like a common sense backyard approach to heavy weight steel, difficult to work with aluminium or full blown carbon fibre.
I love it and I want a go. Your methods for accuracy are something I will take on board in this and other future projects.
You can tell I'm enthused can't you?

aluminum, isnt hard to work with. long as u have the right tools. aluminum brazing rods for example. aluminum tig an mig will work as well. it all come down wat u have to work with. and how much u are willing to spend.

kentdvm (author)  aideym3 years ago
Thanks! Go for it! It's fun.
paqrat3 years ago
Please forgive my ignorance but wouldn't it be easier just to make the bike out of pvc reinforced with the carbon fiber?
olmon paqrat3 years ago
That would have rather defeated his goal of using bamboo - - & besides, I have seen pedal vehicles constructed from PVC, they tend to be rather ugly aside from the fact that over time ultra-violet from being in the sun tends to make PVC brittle.

u can use uv B & A plastic tubing to get the same end result too. an it can be welding with pvc clue an machined like metal, (soft metal).

kentdvm (author)  paqrat3 years ago
Probably not since you'd have even more carbon fiber wrapping and that's what takes all the time. On the other hand, carbon fiber is a lot stronger and stiffer so you could probably build a simpler frame. If you were to build a carbon fiber frame, I believe the pros would build a frame from foam and then wrap over it. After it's build, they pour acetone inside the frame to dissolve the foam. Of course the fastest way to build it would be from metal.
frankcox3 years ago
There is a method of joining bamboo I was taught by an old fisherman as a kid that will even make a but joint in pot metal indestructible. And it is simple, fast , and cheap!
Use nylon thread and epoxy , that's it! Rap the thread tightly and then soak with epoxy . Once it gets tacky weave the thread diagonally over the first layer then soak it add another layer rapped like the first , that;s it. On the thicker pieces it might be faster to use masons line which is incredibly strong stuff , it comes in differing strengths.
Try it , I guarantee the bamboo will fail elsewhere.
Cool project , how long did it take?
kentdvm (author)  frankcox3 years ago
Good idea. Much cheaper than carbon fiber that's for sure.
It took me about 6 months working on it when I could find time. There was a lot of head scratching also. Thanks

goto Alibaba.com an llok 4 carbon fiber there.

Forgot to mention you can use different colored thread on the outer rap to decorate the joints.
zoo2boy2 years ago
could you please email me the full diagram for the frame I want to try and modify it for the area I live in and I cant find any structurly sturdy designs except for yours. if you can please email it to me if not no worries its still a great instructable
kentdvm (author)  zoo2boy2 years ago
Sorry I don't have a diagram of the trike.
zoo2boy zoo2boy2 years ago
oh and I know that this describes all the processes but I need a diagram to really help understand.
AtomX12112 years ago
If you were to wrap the pvc in carbon fiber do you think it would be strong enough to use then? Or would you still stay clear of it?
kentdvm (author)  AtomX12112 years ago
If you put enough carbon fiber on it I think it would. I've never made carbon fiber tubing so it's just a guess on my part.
derfpa2 years ago
Very neat solution, I like it a lot!
Amazing! So easy anyone can do it! Thanks for the well put together 'ible! You rock!
abadfart2 years ago
very nice what did you do for the hub, i have considered lathing a hub and using push in skate board bearings
kentdvm (author)  abadfart2 years ago
I bought my hubs from Bitex. http://www.bitexhubs.com/htm/index.php
Here's a link from AtomicZombie you might consider on building hubs.
im not seeing the price on the bitex hubs what did it cost you
kentdvm (author)  abadfart2 years ago
I'm trying to remember but it seems is was less expensive than you'd think. Something like $60 for 2 with shipping. Sorry I don't have a better memory!
no problem that is about the ansure i was hopping for
ch4r3l2 years ago
Very well documented, well done and nice instructable. I really like your trike.

I planned on doing a bike tour through Europe, mostly to northern Europe, maybe Scandinavia. Seeing other trikes and recumbent bikes, I thought about building one. I still can't decide on a bicycle or a trike because of following reason:
If you go fast (up to 50 km/h or 30 M/h) and make a turn, do you risk to fall over?
This would be the only drawback for a trike imo, though it's advantages would be that you can maneuver it more easily, ride stabler with slower speed (e.g. uphill) and it would be easier to ride in a city.

Thanks for your effort to post this and your precious information!
ch4r3l ch4r3l2 years ago
I also wanted to ask, but forgot; how does the bamboo hold up in long-term endurance? Does it keep its quality in moist or rain (fog during night, rainy days...)? Can it last at increased usage over a long period? Would you use bamboo in my case where you'd depend on it for, let's say, 1 and a half month on a daily basis? Would you rather use a normal bike or a recumbent vehicle for pulling a trailer?

I also thought about the differences between recumbent bikes and trikes and came up with an idea of a recumbent bike with two helping wheels next to the back wheel that could be unmounted/mounted to switch between both vehicle types.

Any help or thoughts are very appreciated.
kentdvm (author)  ch4r3l2 years ago
This is the only recumbent trike I've ridden and I've not ridden it much unfortunately. That said, your center of gravity is very low and it would be difficult to turn this trike over. The hardest part is keeping your butt in the seat as you need tend to slide. Not a big deal if you anticipate the curve and lean into it. A trike is great on hills since you don't have to balance. For me, I love being able to lay back and enjoy the ride in comfort compared to a bike. And for most people, a recumbent trike if fast since you are so low to the ground and you are pushing against the seat. More bang for your buck.

If I were heading out on the trip you are describing, I'd take a different trike. The main reason being that if you break down, no one is going to be able to help you fix it. Whereas a bike shop could help you with a metal frame. I think a bamboo trike could do the trip, but things happen and you could find yourself stuck somewhere. Bamboo bikes certainly stand up to long rides, mountain biking, etc and the bamboo is sealed so weather isn't an issue.

Check out www.atomiczombie,com for great plans on building recumbent bikes and trikes. You'll get a lot of ideas and info from them.
kentdvm (author)  kentdvm2 years ago
Forgot to mention weight. It ended up a lot heavier than I thought once i got the fat tires, seat and all my junk on it. Weighs around 55lbs so i certainly didn't save any weight by building it out of bamboo. Check out www.atomiczombie.com for a lot of info on building and also plans.
ch4r3l kentdvm2 years ago
Weight won't be an issue since a few kg less or more won't matter with a trailer. When we (2 of my brothers and my father) made our bike tour from Luxembourg to Italy we crossed the alps and I had to carry twice as much weight as the others and it didn't matter much to me.

As for the low cg, I want to build a low racer similar to this one (with the same back-wheel construction as yours):


Thanks for the fast answer!
Misterbee2 years ago
What a great looking trike! I have ridden trikes for years, and have tout about building my own. Now that you have had it a while, can you comment more on how it rides? And do you mind me asking what the finished weight is? Great job!
kentdvm (author)  Misterbee2 years ago
Thank you! Unfortunately due to "life", I haven't ridden it much so I can't add a lot. This is the only recumbent trike I've ever ridden, but I'm sure it has more flex than a metal trike. While that makes it comfortable, the flexibility makes it feel less responsive. More swishy in how it handles. The only riding I've done is with my young son so we haven't gone on any long rides. I've been very pleased but I can't really comment on how it will hold up over time. The question is really more about my craftsmanship than the bamboo. The bamboo is very strong and I don't see it failing anytime soon.
Was the pvc version rideable?
kentdvm (author)  veryrealperson3 years ago
No. It was pretty flimsy and only dry fit together. Simply a model for cutting and orienting the bamboo pieces.
gjm3 years ago
Beautiful job; I like the way you used PVC pipe for the full scale model, very smart.
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