Introduction: Sociable Tandem Cargo Trike

Picture of Sociable Tandem Cargo Trike

If you like our trike and think it's a winner, cast your vote for our project!
The link is right up there at the top right.

This side-by-side, or "sociable" tandem trike was conceived and built so that two friends could sit next to one another, pedaling and enjoying the scenery. To share conversation and beverages. Drink holders are an obvious feature, but let's look at what this particular SociableTandemCargo Trike has to offer.

  1. Adjustable, semi-recumbent, side by side seating.
  2. Shared steering wand with solar stereo option.
  3. 15 speeds to choose from.
  4. Disc brakes on all 3 wheels, and a parking brake.
  5. A seat and cargo area in the back, that will carry 150 lbs. of whatever you choose.
  6. Roof rack with bungie hooks for light items or a solar panel.
  7. Standard parts, wheels and components whenever possible, to make this easy to build and fix.

This Instructable is for intermediate/advanced "Makers," who already have a working knowledge of metal working, bike building, basic engineering, and woodworking skills. It took us about 4 months from start to finish. There are 2 of us, but we did not work every day on this project, mostly weekends.

If you need more specific instructions, or have questions about where to get materials, visit us at Pineapple Trikes, our FaceBook Pineapple Trikes page, or email us.

Let's get started!

Step 1: Design Your Sociable Tandem Cargo Trike

Picture of Design Your Sociable Tandem Cargo Trike

Design your model in a 3-D program, such as Google's free SketchUp software. The link to our model is here.

You can also build a wire model, like the one we built for the trike, using welding wire stick and weld tacks.

Step 2: Acquire Your Materials

Picture of Acquire Your Materials

General Materials List


20 feet of 1" round tubing

20 feet of 2" round tubing

20 feet of 1 1/4" round tubing

small piece of 1/4" flat metal

1 sheet expandable metal mesh

10 ft. of 3/4 inch emt


1 sheet of 1/4" plywood

1 sheet of 1" plywood

Recycled bike parts:

One front end of a bike, trimmed down to the headset, head-tube and forks.

6 bottom brackets - 2 with viable pedals, cranks, bearings, etc.

2 twist-shifters for the back derailleurs

3 disc brake assemblies

3 sets of caliper brake mounting assemblies

2 sets of "suicide shifters" for the front derailleurs

6 complete chains


zip ties



6 - 4" long -3/4" bolts, washers and nuts


shade cloth

brake cables, stops, cable ferrule ends and sheathing

shifter cables, stops, sheathing

Paint and Finishes:

about 3 cans of metal primer spray paint

about 6 cans of whatever color you will paint your trike.

*optional: 2-Part Epoxy finish, such as "SmartGlaze."

Step 3: Tools, Equipment, Workspace and Expertise

Picture of Tools, Equipment, Workspace and Expertise

This is where we re-iterate that you should be an experienced builder to attempt this Instructable. We are assuming a working knowledge of metal and wood. We hope you have a space, albeit a garage, to work in so that your project stands a chance of surviving the elements. Our shop is an E7-Up, but we face many extra challenges because of all the dirt and exposure.

You will need a welder- we use a wire-feed MIG. A tubing-roller and a conduit bender are also going to be essential. We use this one from Harbor Freight. Tables, sawhorses and tarps can also be instrumental.

You need to have basic wood and metal shop tools including: angle grinder, jigsaw, hacksaw, sawsall, pliers, socket-set, sander, drills, bits, wire brushes, wire wheels, a flap disc, grinding wheels, cutting wheels, etc.

Step 4: Bend Your Tubing

Picture of Bend Your Tubing

If you don't have a tubing roller or emt bender, you can go to our other Instructable, "How to bend metal without expensive tools."

If you've got a CAD model, getting dimensions is straightforward. If you built a physical model, such as our wire model, here's a handy formula for calculating your curves: measure h (the height of the chord) and c (the length of the chord) and solve for the radius of the circle with

r = (c^2 + 4 h^2)/8h

One of our curves is 3" high (h) and 48" long (c). Here's the size of that radius:

r = (48*48 + 3*(4*4))/8*3

r = (2304 + 48)/24

r = 98"

Make a template with a 98" radius and you can hold it up to your tube as you bend it for comparison.

Here's a tip for not making corkscrews

Step 5: Lay Out and Weld Up Your Frame

Picture of Lay Out and Weld Up Your Frame

Because this is a large frame, you will need a couple of large tables to set up your frame. We used yardsticks, masking tape, and other props to function as a jig, for holding our frame pieces together.

A great rule to follow is to tack all the pieces together before you weld anything all the way. That way, you can make sure things line up, and are fairly symmetrical.

Cut and weld bottom brackets to the frame.

Step 6: Adding Adjustable Wheel Dropouts

Picture of Adding Adjustable Wheel Dropouts

In order to adjust the wheels so that they stayed parallel, we attached a home-made tensioner, made from a hardware store turnbuckle, attached to the wheel, and to a bolt welded to the frame.

Step 7: Make and Attach Jack Axles to the Frame

Picture of Make and Attach Jack Axles to the Frame

This will get the chains to line up with the wheels. We used heavy duty tires that are used by Yuba bikes for their Mundo model. The spokes are heavier than regular spokes, and the tires are rated for around 300 lbs. apiece.

Step 8: Attach Seat Runners to Frame

Picture of Attach Seat Runners to Frame

For our build we realized that the headset from a BMX bike was the perfect size to hold a seat tube (28mm diameter.) Our seats, with their 3/4 inch bottom seat support fit nicely into the handlebar clamp. The result is a solid, adjustable mounting point to accommodate different lengths of rider's legs.

Step 9: Seat Construction

Picture of Seat Construction

We found this guy online, (Seat frame construction, by Barnett Williams,) and followed his plans. The seats are brilliant!

Step 10: Welding on the Disc Brake Attachments

Picture of Welding on the Disc Brake Attachments

We cut out a flat metal pattern that the disc brake can screw right into.

You might also be able to find forks that already have disc brake attachments on them for the front, but will have to attach metal for the back. We repurposed caliper brake attachments, because they took the same size hex nuts as the disc brake attachments.

Step 11: Build the Non-heirarchical Steering Tiller

Picture of Build the Non-heirarchical Steering Tiller

Measure the distance from where you will sit in the seats, with your arm comfortably extended, to the headpost. You will want to bend the tiller into the shape seen in the photo, above. We used emt, with two crosspieces in the front. One is for attaching to the headset, and one is for attaching a light. We also reinforce our tiller with expandable metal mesh. It is nice for strapping on mini solar panels and stereo stuff.

Step 12: Shifters, Brakes, Cables and Sheaths

Picture of Shifters, Brakes, Cables and Sheaths

Attach cables and sheath with zip ties. When you get them all working the way you want, weld on some cable stays in strategic spots, then you can run the cables without zip ties after you paint the frame.

Step 13: Build the Roof Rack

Picture of Build the Roof Rack

Build the roof rack, weld in 3 frame attachment points and sew a cover that can be cinched on with paracord.

Step 14: Build the Back Cargo Seat

Picture of Build the Back Cargo Seat

Frame the back area up with EMT, on a metal mesh base. We made a removable box, bolted on to the frame in 4 places. Weld washers onto the frame, and you can drill guide holes, and then pop rivet the plywood on.

The plywood is treated with 2-part Bar Top epoxy. Smart Glaze is one brand that we like. We painted the glaze over the wood and the frame, as a protective coating.

Step 15: Design a Great Color Scheme

Picture of Design a Great Color Scheme

The simplest way to get an amazing color scheme is to borrow one from Nature. Choose a lovely bird, flower or butterfly and copy not only its colors, but also how much of each color as well as noticing how those colors are arranged.

Here, with some liberties taken for simplicity, is an Adelpha Californica's scheme revealed: it's overwhelmingly a rich chocolatey brown (around 70%), with (in descending proportions) cream, orange and gun metal blue/gray (most of the remaining 30%). A hint of red and black finishes it off. Especially important to notice is that not all the colors are "allowed" to touch. Orange only touches brown, while black touches red and brown and gray. Following these sorts of rules nails the "Wow" factor.

For our trike, we took inspiration from Buckeyes and Fritillaries.

Go right ahead and swap yellow for blue, or red for brown; the important thing is to create a consistent set of rules for your bike (or other project)

Step 16: Strip the Trike, Prep and Paint

Picture of Strip the Trike, Prep and Paint

Strip all the parts off the frame, group and label them so they can be put back on easily.

Grind and wire brush all the rust and slag off the frame.

Prime with a decent metal primer

Paint with a few coats of spray paint, and let cure, optimally in the fresh air and sun.

After a day or two, brush on a layer of two part epoxy. It will put a clear finish over your color that will make it glossy and with stand bumps and scrapes better.

This rattle can and epoxy paint job cost about $100. Here's a great video about how to paint with a rattle can.

Step 17: Reassemble Everything, and Go for a Ride!


NathanSellers (author)2015-04-22

This is really cool. It looks so comfortable. Did you enter it in the bike contest?

Thank you! Yes, we've entered it! Please vote for us! :)

This trike is very comfortable. Sitting like a normal person instead of perched up on your bones is quite pleasant.

voted. well done


Wow, your Batman costume is amazeballs!

Thanks. It was a fun project.

petermix01 (author)2016-02-26

Hi, I found your design very interesting.I liked it and I'm looking forward to make one myself. I realized you haven't say which metal you used for the frame. Was it steel, aluminum or other? Please let me know. Thanks

jwinston3 (author)2015-07-23

So I'm curious about the drive system and spindles. What did you use the spindles off of? I dont see anything about them listed in your parts list. I'l love to learn a little more about how you built that part

Rubeus Hagrid (author)2015-05-14

Have you been to the Maker Faire in the bay area?

As a matter of fact, yes we have! We'll be there this year as well. Look for us in the South Lot!

DIY Andrea (author)2015-05-05

This is absolutely amazing, I entered in contest with my trailer and my vote goes for this project! Congrats!

You and I get amazing results from simple tools. I love your video and your project!

Thank you for the kind words, Sir!

You, sir, are a gentleman.

Jim Weeder (author)2015-05-03

I saw 150 lbs for cargo. What about combined rider weight? My wife is losing weight but is at 350 lbs right now and we want to use this to help her lose faster, but if her weight is not going to be allowed I guess we will have to stick with walking.

Hi Jim! Excellent question. I'll give you the best answer I can.

We briefly carried four adults on the trike the day we also carried the clown. Everything seemed just fine. Total weight carried was in the neighborhood of 650 pounds. I've also ridden in the back area while two adults pedaled it and that seemed completely stable: no strange popping or creaking sounds (I've broken spokes on overloaded bikes so I know what impending doom sound like), so that would be a combined weight of over 550 pounds.

We are using Yuba Mundo wheels. Yuba claims the Mundo can carry 440 pounds plus the rider. I've no idea what the proper weight distribution should be on a Mundo, but 60% of the weight on the rear wheel doesn't seem unreasonable. We have, in effect, two rear ends of a Yuba cargo bikes. Can we carry 60% of 880 pounds plus riders? That could be in the 750 pound range. The trike has three wheels, so can it carry at least 50% more weight than a Mundo, which could be as much as 900 pounds?

Unknown. The challenge is that bikes never experience lateral forces on their wheels. When a trike goes around a corner, the rims have to absorb a force they aren't really designed to absorb. We did some clever things with the wheels to make them survive this kind of force, but this is still an off-label usage.

There's undoubtedly some vector analysis someone smarter than me could do to figure out when the wheel could fail. My intuition, as we've used this trike, is that under normal conditions (normal road slopes, typical driveway angles, average speeds around corners) we at least match the Yuba Mundo rating of 440 pounds plus a rider.

So yes, you and your wife won't break it. Plus you can carry your groceries.

Plus it's way more fun to ride alongside with your partner instead of wondering where they could have possibly gotten off to.

SCHLEPIC (author)2015-04-30

I was hoping for some depth into the design and construction of the frame and the drive train. So the yoke lever is essentially the brake lever, actuating all three brake cables? It's a great looking trike.

Captain Robert (author)SCHLEPIC2015-05-01

Oh! Yes, the yoke activates all three brakes simultaneously, just like the brake pedal in your car activates all its brakes at the same time. The yoke also carries all the shifters. It makes for a really easy system to use, as well as to route the cables.

If you're a bike rider, you know that we generally use the front brake more than the rear. About 80% of the stopping power is from the bike's front wheel.

I've done two things to control the activation of the brakes. I've tuned the front calipers to close fractionally later than the rear brakes. I also gave the front brake slightly more leverage (by installing its attachment point further from the yoke's pivot than where the rear brakes attach).

In use, what happens is the rear brakes grab first. This can help control your downhill speed. As you pull a bit more, the front brake grabs. When you pull hard, the front brake grabs the hardest, mimicking the behavior of an experienced bike rider's use of two braking controls.

SCHLEPIC (author)Captain Robert2015-05-04

That sounds fantastic. Consider adding more pictures when you have the time!

Captain Robert (author)SCHLEPIC2015-05-01

I understand that desire! I have to admit we've left some fun stuff out of this 'ible. We are hard at work getting our next vehicle ready for Maker Faire and a big race at the end of the month, but we also wanted to publish sooner rather than later.

I'm slowly adding more information as time allows. We are intentionally keeping this 'ible as more of an overview, since there are so many good recipes to build your own contraption available on the wwweb, and each builder's design satsifies a different set of needs.

I'll add some details about our design constraints and goals that drove the shapes and engineering.

SCHLEPIC (author)Captain Robert2015-05-04

Great. I look forward to seeing it.

hexnut (author)2015-04-29


CloudsDriftingBy (author)hexnut2015-04-29

Good news Hexnut! You can make one!

dulciquilt (author)2015-04-26

we have something similar to this we got theough , but it is four wheeled...actually two recumbents combined wide by side. We added motors as it was too heavy for two old people to get up some hills.

The disadvantage to ours is it really isn't designed for one person, so turns can be dangerous if empty seat isn't weighted. We have wondered how a three wheeler would do and have considered making one, but don't have the equipment.

Yes, this is an inherent problem for these types of vehicles.

There are two ways to solve it: make the vehicle weigh far more than the riders, or (that's a Boolean OR) make the track between the wheels wider. The Quadribent has a very narrow wheel track.

We built this trike to fit on bike paths, so its rear wheel track is 40" while our body centerlines are only 24" apart. This wide stance makes it stable. If we had two wheels in the front it would weigh about 35% more and it would be very stable even with one rider.

If I zoom down our driveway by myself, I have to slow down before I turn or I'll flip this trike. I've lifted the unweighted rear wheel once, going around a fast tight turn and it was scary.

What motors did you use?

We used hub motors we found on ebay. At first we had one on one of the front wheels, which did a fair job, but we still had to get out about twent feet from top of some hills and walk the bike, so we got two more for each rear wheel. One 24v and one 36v. The front throttle went out, so not using it, but plan to turn it around so we'll have reverse. It can be a pain backing it up manually.
I have only been in it when we got it up to 20mph and it was too fast for my, but hubby and a friend got it almost to 30moh, which I think was way too fast for saftey on this thing.
It's a blast to ride through town and see people's reactions. Always makes them smile and wave.
We haven't used it in a year because hubby has knee issues, but had surgery, so hoping we can ride it this summer. Have to get new tires and and seats, but otherwise it should be fine. Shared your i ke on FB as friends have been interested in building their own.

Ha! Yes, 30 mph would be scary. I've a friend who built a two-seater tadpole trike (one wheel in back) and the rear wheel is the steering wheel. At top speed, the thing will dump you if you try to take a corner. The geometries work to amplify the the turn, and so unless you are ready to fight the thing back into a straight line you will end up in a feedback loop that ends up in a crash.

keimel (author)2015-04-28


Lay out and weld up your frame"
Seems a little thin in how to actually do it. "Instructions not clear" - as it were. ;)

Care to shed a little more light onto that process?
Captain Robert (author)keimel2015-04-29

:D Yes, it's thin.

As we mention, this 'ible is aimed at the bike builder who has already made a few bikes. Here's a video that shows a tig welder and a table to weld chromoly. This guy's a pro.

We used a lot of tape, eyeballs and tack welds to get our frame aligned. If you're building a frame progressively (as we did; we layed up the main structure then added parts to it) the best practice is to tack the parts as you go along and then make all the welds at the same time. This will avoid embedding weird strains into your frame.

Captain Robert (author)2015-04-27


dbc006 (author)2015-04-22

Congratulations, that's one good looking and practical bike, have you thought about getting it mass produced, I'm sure that it would have a great demand.

Captain Robert (author)dbc0062015-04-23

As a matter of fact, we did design this to use off-the-shelf components. The jack axles are the only custom components.

We'd love to see these traveling up and down the roads and bike paths. It's a brilliant way to turn a trip to the produce stand into quality time with a loved one.

mtairymd (author)2015-04-22

Great job. It looks fun to ride!

Captain Robert (author)mtairymd2015-04-23

Thank you! Yes, it's one of the most fun rides I've ever peddled.

Wired_Mist (author)2015-04-22

Very Well though out ! If I didn't know anybetter I'd say you bought it ! Grats

Ha! That's exactly the look we were going for.

Jobar007 (author)2015-04-23

That is an incredible looking trike. I like that it is parallel instead of serial for the riders. The curves of the tubes not only add strength, but they add style that would otherwise be lost. Bravo, and thanks for sharing.

Captain Robert (author)Jobar0072015-04-23

Thank you for your kind words! Yes, we discovered parallel seating a couple years ago. Riding next to someone is profoundly more rewarding than riding in-line!

You're right, working the metal (bending it) adds up to 30% more stiffness - according to the metallurgy sites I Googled :)

BruceE3 (author)2015-04-22


About This Instructable




Bio: I just want to rock and roll all night and part of every day Facebook can't keep track of how many friends I have.
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