Introduction: Rec-liner Long Wheel Base Recumbent

Picture of Rec-liner Long Wheel Base Recumbent

This is my first Instructable so we'll see how it goes.

I want to document the construction of my recumbent bicycle, herein after referred to as the Rec-liner, or more probably just the bike.

The bike has a number of unique features that may be of interest to other bike builders including;
- under-seat, remote steering
- intermediate drive with an elliptical front chain ring
- mostly standard bicycle parts to make replacing and upgrading parts easy

I built this bike around 18 months ago, but as I did not have Instructables in mind at that time so there are no actual build photos. I have however pulled the bike apart a little to take some photos so hopefully this should make the following easy to understand.

Step 1: Materials

You should be able to build the complete bike using only two donor bikes but there are a number of specific requirements for each.

Donor bike 1 - Mountain bike with 26in wheels
Parts required:
- rear end (rear triangle, bottom bracket, cranks, derailers etc.)
- handlebars, handlebar stem, head tube, fork tube
- an indexed gear system is recommended

Donor bike 2 - Mountain bike with 20in wheels
Parts required:
- front end (handlebar stem, head tube, forks, wheel)
- bottom bracket, cranks

Both bikes would ideally have triple chain rings that are removable from the cranks.

Additional parts:
2.8m of 50mm x 25mm rectangular section steel tube (1.2mm thickness)
Plywood for seat
Foam rubber for seat
Scrap steel plate (3mm)
1m of 10mm threaded rod
2 x 10mm rod ends (female thread)
Plastic tubing (10mm inside diameter)

Welder (I used 130A arc welder with satisfactory results)
Usual tools required for bike maintenance

Step 2: The Frame

Picture of The Frame

I designed the frame with only one rider in mind, but with some allowance to move the seat to fine tune the length. If you are planning to build a frame you can use the measurements I give as a starting point. To give you some idea I have an inner leg length of just a little over 80cm and there is room on the frame to move the seat back about a further 10cm.

Start by cutting the rear triangle from the larger bike, including the seat tube and bottom bracket, Weld a 1.3m section of 50mm x 25mm rectangular section steel tube at right angles to the seat tube 175mm above the bottom bracket. This is now the new top tube for the recumbent.

Next cut the bottom bracket off the smaller frame, this will become the front bottom bracket on the new frame. Weld the bottom bracket to a 1m section of 50mm x 25mm rectangular section steel tube to create the new down tube.

Cut the head tube off the larger frame and grind back the cut sections to leave just the tube. Remove the bearing races and shorten the tube to about 75mm. Drill and file a hole big enough to fit the head tube into the new down tube. This hole should be about 650mm behind the bottom bracket, Weld the head tube into the down tube and then refit the bearing races.

To join the top tube and the down tube first cut a slot 25mm wide in the centre of the front bottom bracket. The top tube fits into this slot and the down tube is welded to the rest of the frame (hopefully this is clear once you have looked at the images). Now file away the top tube that protrudes inside the bottom bracket to allow clearance for the bottom bracket workings.

Next we make the back stay for the seat. This is a piece of rectangular section that is welded to the top tube just in front of the seat tube and to the seat stays on the rear triangle. Fit the wheel to ensure the new back stay will clear it easily. I was lucky enough to find a frame where the seat stays joined to a single tube before meeting the seat tube which made this problem a lot easier.

Finally the frame is completed by adding the head tube. Cut the head tube off the smaller frame and weld it to the top tube. The angle at which it is welded makes it parallel to the other head tube.

To plug the hole in the seat tube I used a rubber foot off a table leg.

Step 3: Power Train

Picture of Power Train

One of the interesting features of this bike is the intermediate drive. This has a couple of advantages over the usual designs for a recumbent power train.

Firstly the area around the cranks is clean with no front derailer, Secondly there is less slack in the chain; a number of recumbents I looked at when designing the bike had a bad habit of dropping the chain with some regularity.

Construction is straight forward. Cut the crank arm off one of the triple chain ring cranks and file back smooth to create the intermediate drive. Remove the inner chain ring and add some small washers to move it far enough from the middle chain ring so that there is no interference between the front chain and the rear chain.

Mount only the small chain ring on the front crank, I used the same spacers as I used on the intermediate drive small chain ring so they would line up, but this is probably unnecessary. I used an elliptical chain ring on the front so I spend more time on the power section of the stroke and this has worked well.

Finally you will probably need to tension the front chain to remove any slack. To do this I created an idler out of some scrap steel and an idler cog from a rear derailer. Adjust the 'front' derailer so that it does not allow you to shift to the smallest chain ring.

Step 4: Steering

Picture of Steering

The second interesting feature of this bike is the steering. When I designed the bike I decided I wanted under seat steering (to me it just looks more comfortable). On a long wheel based bike this requires remote steering.

The front of the steering arm is the simplest. Cut the end off one of the handlebar stems and weld on a piece of scrap steel for the lever arm. Place the stem in the front fork tube and tighten up the choke like normal.

The rear of the steering is a bit more complicated. Firstly cut the fork tube off the spare set of front forks. You will need to fabricate a new mount for the bearing race so that when the tube is inserted in the head tube about 30mm of thread sticks out the top. Next shorten the second handlebar stem so that it can be inserted in to the head tube, but remain as long as possible.

Insert the handlebar stem into the head tube, then insert the fork tube and mark where it comes up to on the stem. You want the top of the stem to be just below the bottom of the top tube so that your handlebars are not to low. Remove all the pieces and then weld some scrap steel just above the line you marked to create the lever arm. Reassemble as before.

Finally the steering rod is created from a piece of 10mm threaded rod with a rod end at each end. Once you have determined the appropriate length cover the rod with plastic tubing to make a smooth surface. The steering rod should run between the left crank and the frame, just above the bottom bracket.

Step 5: Seat

Picture of Seat

The seat is made of plywood, covered in high density foam rubber. The base of the seat clamps to either side of the top tube so that it adds no extra height between the rider and the handlebars.

Place the seat on the bike and move it forward or backward to get the desired length. Once I had the seat positioned I made up a mount to attach the back of the seat to the seat stay.

Drill holes in the top tube and seat stay and bolt the seat in place.

Step 6: Summary

Picture of Summary

As I said in the intro I built this bike about 18 months ago and since then I have traveled about 5000km on it commuting to and from work.

The bike is easy to ride with only the slightest pressure on the handlebars required to keep it going in the right direction. It has proven surprisingly agile despite its long wheelbase, and the height of the seat means its easy to see and be seen in traffic.

Please let me know if you find this Instructable useful, or if there is anything in this Instructable that is not clear.



vemven (author)2015-01-23

if I wanted to make it a 3 wheeler would I need 3 bikes?

mgshalim (author)2013-03-29

nice , may i have one :)

tamasic1 (author)2012-10-07

Kudos! Very high quality build and one of the best documented Instructables.

frankcox (author)2012-05-09

Great Job!

You should have won the contest.
One question , all the recumbents I have seen seem to be trikes, is it difficult to balance when you are not moving?

Layout (author)frankcox2012-05-14

With your feet on the ground it's possibly more comfortable than a bicycle. It is also fairly easy to balance at low speed with a little practice and confidence.

frankcox (author)Layout2012-05-14


mehpersonguy0 (author)2011-10-12

Just wanted to be sure...what type of arc welding did you use? (Stick, MIG or TIG?)

Layout (author)mehpersonguy02011-10-12

I used a stick welder with passable results. That said, I have since purchased a MIG welder and would never go back.

sayoian99 (author)Layout2012-01-27

ah im not too good with stick welding yet (all we've done is run a bead, nothing specific) we recently started on MIG though today so hopefully i can use the class (HS Welding) to make a recumbent frame, my teacher recommended using MIG for such a project

moimeme_81 (author)2011-11-26

when you used spacers to line up the gears was a really good idea, a well tensioned chain will last longer if it's in straight line than if it has to bend... it's the same reason to explain how to shift gears (you try to keep the chain in a straight line) also there is less noise. nice job

tonyscott (author)2011-07-04

great ideas mate, thanks a lot

snowluck2345 (author)2010-06-25

I was wondering, about how much does this weigh? Also, I was wondering, could you base a streamliner off of this? I don't have the money to buy a nice light recumbant. I'm 14 and going into tenth grade next year so I don't have alot of money.

Layout (author)snowluck23452010-06-26

You could easily put a streamliner body around this although it is possibly slightly longer and higher than most streamliners. Alternatively you could limit the body to only the area around the seat with just a tail fairing, and also possibly a small windscreen. The bike is slightly heavier that a steel framed mountain bike but not significantly so. Weight is only important for accelerating and hill climbing, not things you would typically find in a streamliner race.

snowluck2345 (author)2010-06-25

I was also wondering about the shocks on the front wheel, are those helpful i making a more comfortable ride?

Layout (author)snowluck23452010-06-26

The front shocks are really of very little use. Because of the distance between the seat (center of mass) and the front forks very little impact is felt when the front forks hit a bump. The main reason that the bike has them was because I wanted linear pull brakes rather than calliper brakes and that was the only set of forks that I had. If you have the option rear suspension would be a helpful addition.

maxpower49 (author)2010-03-26

 just a quick question i noticed you didn't do a part for brakes this isn't a immediate concern because i just got a welder an i am going to start one as soon as it stops raining and i get a welding helmet

Layout (author)maxpower492010-03-26

The front forks and rear triangle are standard and therefore have the mounts for (in my case) linear pull brakes. The only issue you might run into is if you have side pull caliper style brakes on the rear triangle and you have to cut off the mount where it joins to the seat stay. In that case you may have to fabricate a new mounting system.

maxpower49 (author)Layout2010-03-27

how would you extend the cables or are they long enough

Layout (author)maxpower492010-03-27

 I used generic cables and had no problems. If the length did become an issue you could always use a tandem cable for the front brake.

The Lance Armstrong (author)2010-03-26

Well done.

 Thank you. Praise indeed :)

varneyrobert (author)2010-03-11

Would you recommend a chain guard to prevent anything from getting caught in it ?

Layout (author)varneyrobert2010-03-11

 A chain guard might be a useful addition if you plan to ride with trousers. I rode to work in bike shorts so this was never an issue for me. A standard bike chain guard would be sufficient or even just the circular chain guard that attaches to the crank (see spank's picture below).

varneyrobert (author)2010-03-10

I know that you no longer have the bike but do you recall any of the angles in the frame?

Layout (author)varneyrobert2010-03-11

I never measured any of the angles, but if you use the dimensions included in the text you should not need to be concerned about angles.

When I built the bike the first thing I welded was the top tube to the rear triangle, all the other dimensions/angles simply flowed from that decision.

Conveniently the head tube angle also just seemed to flow out of this decision and it is welded at a right angle to the top tube. This may not be the case in all builds but I recommend an angle slightly shallower that what you would find on a standard bike (i.e. increased trail)

Layout (author)Layout2010-03-11

Actually looking at the images and rereading the text I realize that part of my last paragraph is incorrect. The head tube is not at right angles to the top tube but instead at right angles to the bottom tube (i.e. parallel to the other head tube). The remainder of the comment is however correct; aim for a head tube angle slightly shallower than on a standard bike.

varneyrobert (author)2010-03-07

How did you get the handle bars welded into the square tubing?

Layout (author)varneyrobert2010-03-09

Have a look at the third picture on the steering page.

I popped the bearing races off the head tube and cut/filed a hole big enough to accept it. Once it was welded in place I simply refitted the bearing races.

varneyrobert (author)Layout2010-03-10

Thank you

technodude (author)2008-06-22

Took my bike for its first ride today, the welds are only tacked, no brakes, the derailers aren't hooked up and I need to install a chain tensioner on the front chain. I only fell down twice..... maybe three times. But its a nice ride. Thanks again Layout Steve

Timothy Wooi (author)technodude2010-02-28

you can consider building a 3wheel recumbent ,a delta trike and forget about falling lus having the coolness of a 2 wheel recumbent!
 From tim Malaysia. 

Layout (author)2010-02-26

I would recommend mild carbon steel since you can't weld dissimilar metals and the bike frames are likely steel. Also welding aluminium requires specialized equipment.

Koosie (author)2010-02-25

Great Zeus's beard, that's awesome!

You've gone and confused the whole, general bike layout!

Pedal where you're hands were and stear where you're feet were!

spank (author)2010-02-07

just completed the bike made from assorted bikes from the tip, great instructable thanks for the great design, i had to re adjust the front rake due to exchanging front ends, now rides and handles great

darwin-t (author)2009-10-03

I am making progress. I have the frame done and both wheels attached. It is just tack welded right now. As for the steering,where can one find the "rod ends"? I actually sat on it today, so I'm on the right track.

Layout (author)darwin-t2009-10-03

Most automotive parts shops should carry a selection of rod ends. Or if that fails there are plenty of places where you can order the online. Look at shopping results for "rod ends" on google. It may be easier to go with a 3/8" or 1/2" thread in the US as metric threaded rod may not be as easy to come by. Also check the turns per inch, I know there are a couple of standards for 1/2".

darwin-t (author)2009-09-29

I'm building one of these - thank you so much for publishing this. One question - where can one find the high density foam?

Layout (author)darwin-t2009-09-30

In New Zealand I got the rubber from a company that specializes in rubber products (Para Rubber). High density foam is often used as bed rolls for camping so I would try some hunting and camping stores. Let me know how your build goes and maybe post some pictures.

darwin-t (author)Layout2009-09-30

Thank for the quick reply. I was trying to build using only one frame, so I deviated from your plan a bit and am sorry now. I have 2 more frames for parts, so I will see how it works out. I started with a gas welder, but the tip was too big. I bought a small arc welder but had so much trouble striking an arc I followed your advice and spent another $70 on an auto darkening mask. That is MUCH better. I'll post pictures when I get it done.

laundryshoppe (author)2009-03-18

Great instructions. Actually, you have inspired me to make my own. Yours is the simplest, best looking recumbent I´ve seen. Thanks

sayoian99 (author)laundryshoppe2009-06-25

yes,his looks better than those $1200 recumbents..._

CNCOPERATOR (author)2009-05-26

Since my brother and I are "short wheelbase" we would like to know how high the seat is from the ground. We really like the bike and plan to build at least three this winter. thanks for your reply

Layout (author)CNCOPERATOR2009-05-27

The seat sits about as high as a standard chair (450-500mm). If you can slouch in a chair and your feet still touch the ground you should be fine. The high seat was a design choice to let me see (and be seen) in traffic. You could easily drop the seat to 300mm if you wanted to by changing the angle of the rear triangle so the intermediate cog skimmed the ground.

littleharley (author)2009-05-19

Sennomo, I built a long wheelbase tadpole (two wheels in front) recumbent trike using a 10 foot X 3 inch D automotive exhaust pipe for the main frame tube. I'll try to post pics. Maybe someone can use some ideas: leans in turns, ackermann steering link, direct to the forks steering.

littleharley (author)2009-05-19

Very nice job on this bike. It looks comfy. I like the hi-density foam seat.

nowuknowjack (author)2009-05-18

Very nice results. I was thinking of something similar with above seat steering. I found that old Schwinn 10 and 15 speed parts are handy to have. I built a SWB from a BMX frame (no welds) and used a triple chain ring up front with a modified derailleur to take up chain slack. You can creatively use 1/2 inch drip irrigation line for a chain tube and keep your pants/legs grease free. A few more photos would be helpful. I get what you are doing, but others may not quite see how you do it. My next 'bent I will weld with a MIG wire feed so I hope I can get results as nice as yours. Very professional! A quick and easy seat is a one piece molded bass boat seat bolted to a plywood base. Some modifications are needed to cut the corners off so your legs can move to reach the ground. I was thinking also of getting a full suspension MTB as the donor for the rear triangle. Lots of possibilities!

bospin (author)2008-09-03

This is a beauty. I intend to build a recumbent one day and this one looks beautiful. Well done.

maxpower49 (author)2008-08-04

how long is the bike

Layout (author)maxpower492008-08-05

I have relocated to the US so I no longer have the bike in my possession. Its total length, front of the front wheel to the back of the rear was just a little over 2 metres.

sennomo (author)2008-07-09

Beautiful in its simplicity. Eventually, I hope to build a recumbent tandem, and the picture in my head looks a lot like your bike. I definitely want under-seat steering. One question, though: How is your turning radius to the right? I assume that your steering rod will contact the frame at some point. I'm thinking that a short wheelbase might offer flexibility there (if it's even necessary).

About This Instructable




Bio: By day a senior software engineer. By night an inventor who has not yet managed to give up his day job.
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