Introduction: How to Make the Bus Bike, a 9 Person, 6 Wheeled Bicycle.

Picture of How to Make the Bus Bike, a 9 Person, 6 Wheeled Bicycle.

 A few years ago i decided biking with my friends would be more fun than biking alone, and what better way to bike with friends than for everyone to be on the same bicycle! 

Thus the Bus Bike was born.

I used nine bicycles, cutting and welding them into three single-speed triple bikes, then welding bars accross them, and finally connecting the three handle bars in an english steering setup. 

It was pretty straight forward and turned and rode surprisingly well. With nine riders it was akin to a train. Very fast, very powerful and very difficult to stop. 

i hand built six wheels for it, using double gauge spokes, rims, and hubs, and put single speed bmx freewheels on the back.
I ended up taking this to burning man and all of the wheels eventually taco'd.
Foreseeing this possibility i brought innumerable extras and thanks to the rugedness and universality of the design was able to throw random wheels on where ever they were needed. I did find however that single speed coaster brakes should not be attached because of the riders desire to back-pedal constantly. 

I used a standard 110 mig for this project, be careful to grind away all paint when making the connections. 
Materials included, bikes (9+ extras for donor parts), around 40' 1.5" steel tubing, lots of wire feed, lots of grinding disks, saws-all blades, paint.  

I found a saws-all really came in handy for chopping up the bikes and rounding out the connection points, pre-weld.

Step 1: Get Your Materials

Picture of Get Your Materials

 your going to need a lot of bikes.
not just the obvious nine, but a least half again more for scavenging parts.

i used all new chains, and built all new wheels, but you definitely don't need to do that. The wheels ended up breaking anyway, and the chains were just so that they were all the same kind and saved time.

your going to need a bunch of steel tubing.

your going to need a lot of disposables, ie: grinding wheels, saws-all blades, and wire feed.

thats really about it.

Step 2: Cut Up Some Bikes and Weld Them Togeather

Picture of Cut Up Some Bikes and Weld Them Togeather

 So I wasn't building a beautiful bike. i didn't make a jig. i didn't even have a standard for for them.
My strategy with the cut and weld was, make the three triple bikes. anyway possible.

I tried to keep them straight, as best i could for the chain line, and i tried to keep them about the same length.

As far as design goes, you have to start thinking about your drive trains. Basically I used crappy mountain bikes so most of them used multi-speed width chain, which worked out quite nicely. The way the chain worked was it went, big chainring to big chain ring, little chain ring to little chainring. so the gear ratios were not perfect , but it ended up working out basically the same for everyone. 

Anyway the only reason you need to think about this now is that when you weld the bikes together make sure you have similarly sized chainrings paired together on the triple bikes.

Basicaly i cut off the rear triangle of the front bike, the front column and the rear triangle of the second bike, and the front column of the third bike. they ended up sort of sloping down in the back so that the last set of pedals came a lot closer to the ground then the front, but whatever, they cleared.

Also i used some pieces of the steel tubing to support the connections as you can see in the photos.

the handle bars were removed from the back two and welded where ever they fit.

Step 3: Drive Train

Picture of Drive Train

 unfortunately i don't have a picture of this, but like i said:
big chain ring to big chain ring,
little to little,
and big to free wheel.

also weld on rear derailleurs as chain tensioners in between the chain rings. these have to be welded in such a way that the spring is very tight, as three people pulling sometimes in different directions puts a lot of strain on the tension system. a more traditional tandem setup if you know what that looks like may be easier. i just had the derailleurs and a welder and was on a roll.

Step 4: Steering

Picture of Steering

some of you may be wondering how a beast with 6 wheels can turn. well it turns very well actually using a system called Ackermann steering. ( i always thought it was called english steering)
Learn all about it!:

basically you have to draw a line from the pivot point of whatever wheels you want to turn to the center of the rear axle. (or in this case the rear center wheel)
On these lines i extended a piece of pipe about a foot out from the handle bar stem, then attached a bar across all three of the front wheels. i suppose it would work for any number of wheels.

anyway, it works which is nice. 

Step 5: Gather Peeps and Ride It

Picture of Gather Peeps and Ride It

it was never very hard to find people to ride, storage was another thing though... 


srichie (author)2013-01-03

I'd love to see a video clip of this bike in action!

firesirt (author)2012-10-30

You should paint it so it all matches.

backward5coconut (author)2012-10-11

noticed this was at UCSB. nice to see others around here taking an inventive approach to bike riding. i would love to catch a ride on that thing sometime :]

verger (author)2012-04-12

So how fast have you had this contraption go up to? 100kph? :)

Owlgirl (author)2012-02-19

Sounds intresting.... very creative!

espdp2 (author)2011-05-09

I love the body language on your lady-friend, like "I will NEVER understand men!" Hahaha!

Whales (author)2010-09-19

Do you have a video of this thing in action?

Wasagi (author)2010-04-21

 That is amazing! You should get a patent, and then when it becomes famous, claim your royalties!! 

But in all honesty, this is one of the greatest bike projects I have ever seen. Good job!!!

rhbama13 (author)2010-04-19

So a two wheeled vehicle is a bicycle three wheeled tricycle, does that make this a nine man sexcycle? Very nice.

Pedal Princess (author)2010-02-12

That is so cool.

 Now build a 9 person trailer with room for cargo! Switch out drivers/passengers every now and then and tadaaaaa.

mr. clean (author)crazyrog172010-02-13

thats brillant i bet all 9 people could pull a pretty good size tralier although 9 other people would be hard to pull

El Mano (author)mr. clean2010-03-13

I've seen bikes with little gas engines attached, designed to fire when the pedals are used, adding a lot of power. Attach a couple of those (I won't pretend I know the first thing about what opposing forces might thus be introduced) and you may very well pull that trailer.

 Thanks, yeah it took a lot of work to get the thing moving but once it was going it was a train. it could certainly have pulled a trailer but definitely not one with spare riders!

The next one im working on is a 2X2 on abandoned rails. Made with a custom frame and just welding the bottom brackets etc. i think using the existing bikes added a lot of extra weight etc. On rails  the steering would be unimportant and the rolling resistance much lower. look for it in the Appalachian mountains this summer!

El Mano (author)2010-03-13

I'm thinkin' Bikerace.

007dna (author)2010-03-10

 I would love to do this, if I had the time. :)

Good job!

biofueljunke (author)2010-03-10

party on wheels win

thepelton (author)2010-02-13

That would be fun to ride in a parade, just as long as you had eight other guys willing to go with you.

roland985 (author)thepelton2010-02-25

3 would be fine, but at a cost to performance

thepelton (author)roland9852010-02-26

The more people involved in something, as in which way to go in this case, the more chance there is of disaggreement.

roland985 (author)thepelton2010-02-28

Ah, earplugs of the guy steering, and only one steering column attached. Simple.

roland985 (author)roland9852010-02-28

for sorry, not of!

 To be honest the more people on the bike the more fun it was to ride!

all three people in front could steer,(they were all connected together) though most of the time people were content to just ride, especially if they were in the back two rows.  

Also the brake levers were placed semi-randomly around the bike, so there was a lot of communication involved.

just trying to start and stop the thing used a lot of team work. 

At times the heading (especially at burning man where you could literally go in any direction) had to be reached by consensus, but that was part of the fun.

compare it to nine people on separate bikes, and i think you'd find that you actually have a much better chance of "staying together" and going in the same direction!

How about hydrolic brakes that are found on cars?

One braking lever, linked to all the brakes on the back of the bike.

Or regenerative braking, putting generators on ALL the wheels, and using wire to make them contact, hard, on the wheel, and using the braking power to charge a small battery (or a big capacitor, for that matter) which you could power a small motor, or lights. This is instructables! Use the imagination to full capacity!

 those are all great ideas, make it happen!

power to weight,
and reliability.

Lokisgodhi (author)2010-02-28

I think it might work better if you removed the  wheel and the front fork from the middle bike and just used it for steering. Likewise for the middle rear wheel. 

 I agree in terms of rolling resistance, but with this configuration the middle wheels were crucial in a few different ways. You can think of the busbike not as a single large bike with a stiff frame, but as three triple bikes welded together.

1. In order to keep the busbike as light as possible the lateral bars that hold the three triple bikes together were as small as possible allowing a lot of flex in the frames. So basically if you removed the two wheels in the middle, the middle bike would sag quite a bit, and put extra force on the outside wheels.

2. The middle rear wheel was extremely crucial. Each triple bike powers the wheel directly behind it. As you can see from the the pictures and step three, the drive train is pretty simple. In order to avoid axles and complicated drive train systems, just using existing bikes architecture worked very well. 

If I removed the rear middle wheel i would be cutting the power by a third, and since the bus bike weights upwards of 1800 lbs fully loaded, i really needed that power. The bus bike wouldn't really work if everyone didn't "pull their own weight".

For the next busbike i intend on building the frame separately where it would be easier to incorporate an axle and a way of changing the drive trains direction, so people wouldn't have to sit directly in front of the wheels.

Mr.Sticky (author)2010-02-24

This is like SUPER COOL!!!!!!!    A while ago I bought out an old bike shop w/ LOTS of parts & bikes.   This now has become my next project!!!

Mr.Sticky (author)Mr.Sticky2010-02-24

Another thing....Have you looked up ?    He has some awesome hacked bike creations

petedude2lu3 (author)2010-02-17

 you are taco'ing wheels because your chassis geometry is probably too rigid, so it does not accommodate uneven terrain.  If you launched over a curb on this bike, anything less than square off would critically load the corner wheel, with no shock absorption. Going centerline over a bump would give same results. Remember, 3 points make a plane, NOT 6. 

The easiest solution would be to use double suspension forks and frames, followed by a 6-pointed star (2 triangle) articulated frame geometry.

 wow that sounds great, I drew a million plans for this thing before one day i decided that this was the simplest easiest way to do it. i just gathered as many bikes as possible and made it happen. 

when full, the bike weighed over 1800 lbs so, i think that probably had something to do with the taco'ing. If i made it over again, i wouldn't use existing bikes, and id probably use four motorcycle wheels. or maybe custom giant wheels?

in the interest of simplicity the six wheels and the three triple bikes was the most reliable, easiest way to get everyone pedaling i could think of.

it actually did have a pretty good amount of flex, there was only three steel tubes welded across holding it together widthwise, which allowed it to flex around a bit at burning man, but yeah, there was no way it was going off a curb!

 I have made 2 bike trailers using salvaged 20" BMX front wheels. I have loaded them both with up to 3 passengers, pushing 600 pounds gross weight. climbed curbs head on at near 10mph, and launched down curbs at speeds beyond 20mph. Over >20miles, the wheels only suffered 1/8" axial runout, and nominal bearing wear. That's 300 pounds extreme live load per wheel, no suspension, 100PSI tires. The only taco I got was when I failed to wheelie for a curb and rammed it square at 15mph, bike only. You just have to distribute the load. Take a look at the rig at

cgshirley (author)2010-02-18

 This is great, do you have a video?

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