Front-Wheel-Drive Center-Steer Semi-Recumbent Bicycle

Picture of Front-Wheel-Drive Center-Steer Semi-Recumbent Bicycle
With two donor bikes and some other junk, any tinkerer can build a front-wheel-drive, center-steer, semi-recumbent bicycle. (FWD/CS/SR bike for short.) No welding or brazing required! No special tools required! No power tools required (but they can help).

Inspiration for this project came from the following pages:

The $18 Recumbent Bicycle

Build your own recumbent bike, the camel bike


Why? Because I wanted a recumbent, but I'm too cheap to buy one, and I'm too lazy to build a traditional one. It may be ugly, but it's the most comfortable bike I've ridden!
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Step 1: Principles and Tools of the Project

Picture of Principles and Tools of the Project
This project was originally undertaken with certain fundamental principles in mind:

1) Buy nothing new if available materials suffice.

2) No torches.

3) No special tools.

The good news is that by following these principles, I purchased nothing expressly for this project, and I saved my MAPP gas for more serious projects. On the other hand, aesthetics and perhaps safety are sub-optimal.

The tools I used:

- pliers
- wrenches
- screwdrivers
- power drill (not necessary, but it prevents tendonitis)
- files
- metal snips
- wood saw
- hacksaw

Obviously, by discarding my principles and using better tools, one can make a much better bike. I dare not suggest that anyone exactly follow my instructions; I offer this Instructable merely to give others some ideas.

Step 2: Choose Donor Bikes

Picture of Choose Donor Bikes
You will need 2 bicycles. One bicycle will provide the main frameset. (I call this the "frameset donor".) The other bike will provide the bottom bracket for the FWD. (I call this the "drive donor".)

The frameset donor should be female. Ideally, it should be large--at least designed for 26" wheels. I used an old road bike frameset that had been sitting around unused for about 15 years.

The drive donor should be no larger than the frameset donor. It may be smaller, at it is in this example. I used a kid's BMX-style bike.
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I used your instructions to build my rowing bicycle:

Thank you for the idea!
sennomo (author)  m a r i a n o3 years ago
I'm glad that I could help. Two-wheel-drive is a great idea! ¡Gracias a Usted! ¡Bien hecho!
djr67896 years ago
nerly finished mine just need a seet and to mod the handlebars
sennomo (author)  djr67896 years ago
Nice start! Two freestyle bikes should be a good combination. If you keep the rear pegs for a passenger, maybe you can make a seat that has convenient handles.
djr6789 sennomo6 years ago
thanks for the idea ill give it a try
jawnn10 months ago

Is it easy to ride? Or does the pedaling have heavy side forces?

sennomo (author)  jawnn10 months ago
It definitely takes some practice. The pedaling indeed does have heavy side forces. You have to pull on the opposing handlebar to compensate. A longer boom (i.e. from a larger-framed donor bike) should reduce this effect a little.
jawnn sennomo10 months ago

Have you seen this ???

samander1 year ago
Nice 'ible! I have 2 bikes and plan to cut up one of the frames for the drive. Do you know how one could build a mesh seat for this machine? I usually ride in the summer and vinyl can get hot and sweaty as you have conveniently reminded us. Thanks in advance for any info you may have. Again, an awesome bike. More people should ride recumbent bikes! :)
donkeyknee1 year ago
nice one
bobcat19473 years ago
Loved it !
SIRJAMES093 years ago
on the front where that partial tube is sticking up, can you put a light or reflector there?? a light might make it easier to be seen or maybe to see after dark.....
sennomo (author)  SIRJAMES093 years ago
Yes, that would be a good spot for a light. After I finished, I regretted cutting that tube as short as I had. If I try a do-over (with better sized parts for me) I'll definitely leave that tube longer for lights.
SIRJAMES093 years ago
for the seat, you could use 1/2" plywood for the base, cover it with CLOSED CELL foam & then cover that with open cell foam: about 1" to 3" of each.

The double layers of foam will remove the bounce, yet, still give you a soft ride for maybe 50 or 60 miles. Just a thought.
tonyscott3 years ago
it's a nice idea as a starting point, next I'd paint and make a better chair, congratulations mate.
nantachayo4 years ago
cheap but enjoy
Woodenbikes5 years ago
Very cool bike! I ought to build one too. Perhaps replacing the sheet metal U shaped piece with a thicker piece of flat stock with a 5/16" hole for the stem expander bolt to pass through. Twist it 90 degrees and have another hole for the Seat clamp binder bolt to pass through. (or more elegantly and stiffer is to find a longer replacement for the seat post and flatten the top of it and drill a hole through which to pass the stem expander bolt.)
sennomo (author)  Woodenbikes5 years ago
Thanks! Your latter suggestion (about replacing the seat post) sounds right on the money for the stem I'm using. Stiffness is sorely lacking as it is, making the wobbliness a bit worse. I'm even considering adding springs to the fork to "encourage" the wheel to center.
ill weld a post diagonlay from the frame to the sem to stop the wobbly ness
sennomo (author)  2 stroke 4 years ago
It might be difficult to remove the wobbling without blocking the steering.
green_rider5 years ago
brilliant, sennomo...
will try and build a similar one... soon... :-) 
how stable and comfortable is the seat? how easy/difficult is navigation, especially in heavy traffic? I live in mumbai, india... and the traffic congestion here has to be seen to be believed! :-) what's your average speed on this recumbent?  
ride safe... have fun... :-)
sennomo (author)  green_rider5 years ago
The seat is very comfortable and stable.  It's perhaps the best part. 

I have avoided heavy traffic with this bike, because it is not tall, so people in trucks might not see me.  The steering works fine on an even surface.  Bumps are more awkward with this bike than a standard bike.

The speed of this bike is limited by the 20" wheel and single-speed gearing.  Still, I can cruise at 20kph.

I can't imagine riding in Mumbai.  Mexico City was too congested for me, and I doubt it's as busy as Mumbai.
is Mumbai in mexico
sennomo (author)  2 stroke 4 years ago
Mumbai is in India.
ill weld on some some foot pegs in case u get uncomfortable and want coast like a regular bike
macdadyabc6 years ago
i made a recumbent bike this way about two months ago. I took a walgreens shopping cart, made a chair out of it , and then put two 10" wheels were the back cart wheels were. Then i welded on a down tube and struts, and the front looked just like yours. It was really hard to make it go fast though.
sennomo (author)  macdadyabc6 years ago
Sounds interesting. So, it's a trike? Can you post some pics of it?
i dont have it anymore. My dad made me take it too the dump, but just imagine cart chair with down tube and handlebars
Wow! You had a similar idea as I did! I had a shopping cart lying around. also a junk bike frame. I rigged it up so that the back of the frame is tied in the storage space under the cart, and the regular seat is on the bike. I couldn't figure any way to get it to pedal, so after pushing it like a scooter (and coasting on hills) I remembered this article. I don't have a bike frame on hand that I want to cut up, though.
love it mate ill probably do this and put 2 wheels on the back. so its a trike
sennomo (author)  cheesemanlovesrobots4 years ago
Good idea. The added stability will be worth the extra work.
ctherien4 years ago
Im Making a three wheeler with a big spoke in the front so it pulls back and the handle bars look bigger all i have to do now is adjust the seat higher and put the gear system on.
sennomo (author)  ctherien4 years ago
Sound interesting.  I hope you post some pics when it's ready.
bob482205 years ago
BillBiker5 years ago
Ummm only one thing to say...........BRAVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVOOOOO!
johnsonz5 years ago
mad props! that is pure sweetness.
henryxdam6 years ago
lol pure awesome!
Not to sound mean or anything, but my question is: What's the purpose of a front wheel drive bicycle with a giant seat? What does recumbent mean anyway?
sennomo (author)  extremegtafan6 years ago
"Recumbent" means "lying down". On a fully recumbent bike, you lie on your back. On a semi-recumbent bike, you recline a bit. There are various purposes for recumbent bikes. The number one purpose is probably comfort. Recumbents are easier on your back, neck, and crotch. Some people like them for speed.

You might want to read this: Frequently Asked Questions about Recumbent Bicycles

The front wheel drive is mainly for simplicity of construction. It is easier to build than a rear-wheel-drive recumbent, because the pedals are out front. To give my bike RWD would have required some extra pulleys and possibly some welding.
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