Introduction: How I Built a Drift Trike a Step by Step Guide.

About: no longer active.....
This is a step by step guide to replace the tediously long slide show that frankly did not do any justice to the trike build.

I first discovered the world of drift trikes about 6-8 months ago on You-tube and became instantly hooked and decided that I had to build one of these big crazy tricycles to have some fun on the many hills in the South Down of Northern Ireland area where I live.

I used to ride mountain bikes on these hills but past injuries have left me unable to grind the hills the way I used to,  this is something I have missed over the last few years  but  now that I have a drift trike I can once more enjoy the numerous hills in my area.

One of my friends lives at the to of this 2.5 mile long hill, this is why I had to build the trike, once I get well enough practiced I will ride this hill and upload a video.

The project started on the 18 of September and was finished on the 24th of December Lemmy Kilmister's birthday, is was going to have the Lemmy - Hawkwind - Motorhead theme but finishing the project on his birthday was an added bonus.  There has a time when if I had all these material ready I could have done this project in a couple of days, I had planned this to be an over winter project and was surprised that i managed to get I completed much faster than i had planned.  The trike will not see much action until spring has returned and the days are longer, warmer and drier and I get the road safety side of things organised.

Thanks for looking.

Step 1: Disclaimer.


This is only a general guide as to how i built my trike, I will not be responsible for anyone who decides to build a trike of their own, anyone building or riding a drift trike should take personal accountability for their own actions

Anyone even thinking of building or riding a drift trike should be aware of the numerous dangers involved.

If you build a drift trike build it strong to minimize the risk of failures that result in injury.

Drift trikes fall into the same category as bicycles and therefore require brakes and reflectors and also lights if you intend to ride at night.

Personal safety equipment should also be worn my all riders,  most drift trike riders wear full face motorcycle helmets, although an cycle helmet will be better than no helmet at all.  

In addition to a helmet knee and elbow pads are recommended along with gloves and wrist guard if you have them.  The more safety equipment you use the less risk of injury you will have if you do end up crashing.

Step 2: Doner Vehicles.

For my trike I wanted to have a front wheel with pedals and a freewheel hub, for this you will need to find a Huffy Green Machine or Huffy Slider, for those lucky enough to get their hands on a huffy slider you essentially have a drift trike already made but may find that you want to extend the rear axle and fit go kart wheels or other modifications as these commercially built trikes where not designed for the serious punishment that drift trikes can be put through.

I found a Huffy Green Machine listed on the owner had listed it as in need of repair, this was ideal for my project and I headed of on a road trip to pick up the Green Machine, I actually ended up buying 2 of them for £20 each.

The BMX frame was donated by a friend, I had planned to  use the forks and down tube of the BMX to build the frame for my trike but chose the option of a custom frame once I had tried out the Huffy / BMX combo.

Needless to say when I got my hands on the Huffy Green Machine I had to try it out.  I look like Donkey Kong Jr from the Mario Kart games on it, even more so when you add the music from the game.

Step 3: Cutting the Doner Frames.

The doner frames where chopped down to size using an angle grinder with a thin metal cutting disc fitted.

Details of the cuts are shown on the pics attached.

Step 4: Joining the Huffy Front Wheel to the BMX Forks.

After much searching on You-tube and the interwebs i found that most peoples solution for joining the Huffy wheel to the forks of their doner bike forks involved cutting both the huffy forks and the doner forks and required a smaller pipe to be inserted into the joint to add strength. 

The problem with joining the forks in this way is that there is no caster effect on the front wheel as you would have if you wher just using a standard wheel and foot pegs.

After much searching through pictures of other trike I finally noticed one that had mounted the Huffy wheel clamps on the BMX dropouts,  I decided that I would try this method but figured out that if i kept the huffy fork intact until I had welded it to the BMX fork that it would be a much easier job with allot less tricky measuring to get things lined up perfectly. This would also give me the caster effect that a Huffy Slider fork does not have, this should help the handling...  in theory that is...

The BMX dropout where cut off square with the forks and the Huffy fork was then welded to the drop outs,  you will find the details in the pics attached.  This was a long and tedious job that required about 20 mins of measurements and adjustments before the forks where tacked up, the wheel was fitted in the adjustment stage but removed once the forks where tacked in place as not to rrisk damage to The wheel during welding.

Once the forks where welded up the excess huffy forks where cut off, I turned some end caps to blank of the huffy tubes, plastic end caps could be used instead.

Step 5: BMX / Green Machine Frame Combo.

I had planned to use the Green Machine frame along with the BMX frame  but once I had it welded and sat on it for the first time and overpowering sense of impending doom overcome me and I decided to build a custom frame more suited to someone my size.

The huffy frame would certainly be OK for a kids drift trike but I found that the rear axle was just to narrow and the seat height was a bit to high and very unstable for my liking and I decided to air on the side of caution rather than risk another injury  as i already have a quite a collection of injuries due to falling of things with wheels.

I will not say that the Green Machine / BMX does not work as there are many trike out there based on such a design, this just proved the wrong type of frame for me. the narrow axle and high seat height would have certainly caused me problems most likely resulting in the trike flipping over, I also was concerned about the thin walls of the Green Machine frame not being strong enough to carry my weight.

Details of this frame are in the pics.

Step 6: Frame Geometry.

After much research on the interwebs and trawling through hundreds of drift trike pages on Facebook I finaly found 1 single tiny picture that had some frame dimensions on.

I also contacted a group of fellow Irish Drift Trikers based in Kilkenny for some advice on the geometry of a their home built drift trikes  (many thanks to Glen and Lee for their useful tips). 

The general rule is that there are no set rules and each rider has their own preferred dimensions, there are a few general rules that will reduce the risk of the trike flipping out.

Long, low and wide is a much safer option that short and narrow, even with a low seat a short narrow trike will flip out much more often than it should.

After much research I decided to aim for about 110 cm long, 95 cm wide with 40* rake on the forks with the seat about 150 cm forward of the axle,  I decided to move the seat forward due to several reasons,  short legs and the 40* rake required me to move it forward also it would totally eliminate the risk of the trike tipping over backwards, it may be slightly harder to throw into a slide but I would rather have this than have a trike that has a tendency to tip backward due to the seat being to far back over the axle.

Step 7: Seat, Wheels and Wheel Sleeves.

Before I started work on the frame I decided to buy some go kart wheels, and source a seat of some kind as the Huffy wheels and seat where not up to the task asked of them.

I asked around and managed to pick up an old plastic stacking chair from the local lawn bowling club for free.

I checked out numerous different types of wheel that other guys have used on their trikes, there are many options but in the end I settled for go kart wheels.  The go kart wheels where an unwanted expense to the budget of the build but  I was advised that they would be the cheapest option in the long run as other cheaper wheels would not last as long and eventually I would end up buying go kart wheels.  The go kart wheels have bearing designed to handle the speed and forces that a drift trike will be put through.

Drift trikes have PVC sleeves fitted over wheels to alow the trike to slide in the corners, to save some money on purchasing PVC water pipe i cut the Huffy wheels down and used them as the sleeves for the wheels, it works ok but I will eventually buy some PVC water pipe to replace them with as i think that the are a bit to flexible but they slide well enough for now and i'm interested to see how long they will last for

Step 8: Axle and Axle Stubs.

The Axle started out as 1 mtr of 30 mm steel tube with a 2 mm thick wall, this would be ample to carry my weight.

As I had yet to receive the go kart wheels  I did not know what the diameter of the bearings would be so to keep the project rolling along I turned the the bushings that would fit the inner diameter of the steel tube, the bushings where drilled out to 10 mm these would be later bored out to suit the bolts I would use for the axles.

The wheels arrived and i discovered that they had 15 mm bearings which left me with a slight problem that I could not get a 15 mm bolt, to solve this I skimmed 1 mm of a 16 mm high tensile bolt and bored the bushings out to 15 mm and welded the bolts in place.  there is still enough thread on the bolts to catch on the nylon ring of the Nyloc nuts used to secure the wheels in place, in fact that the peaks are now removed from the thread made it very hard to get the thread to cut a track in the nylon ring and it is held very securely.

I finally found the frame dimensions I was looking for and chose to cut the axle at 28" with the wheels fitted to the axle the overall length is 38" approx 96 cm which is bang on my set of dimensions.

Step 9: Custom Built Frame With Bolt on Axle + Seat Rail

I decided to build a custom frame out of 30 mm steel tube with a 2 mm thick wall.

Unfortunately I don't have all the pics I should have as I forgot to take some photos at some of the important stages and some of those I did turned out to blurred to be usable.

I decided to go with a modular frame with a bolt on axle so that at a future date I could change the axle design or add suspension without the need for re cutting and welding the frame again. 

I will not try and explain how it was done, the info is on the pics.

I did have a scale drawing done to give me the exact dimensions of the trike to suit the 40* rake and the size of my wheels to make the trike approx 110 cm long between the wheel base, but this drawing got destroyed during the welding and grinding process.

The down tube is set at a 60* angle of the horizontal tube the down tube is approx 16" long and the is cut at a 70* angle to give the 40* rake required for the frame.  To cut this angle i cut a template out of cardboard at the required angle and used this to help shape the end of the down tube, the pipe was also slightly scalloped so the head tube would fit snugly. 

I used 30 mm angle to make the seat rails, to give some added strength the rails were also drilled and plug welded to maximize the strength of the normal welds.

Step 10: Mounting the Seat.

The legs where cut of the chair frame as close to the frame as possible and the ends files smooth, flat plates where welded the the chair frame,  this would allow the seat to be bolted onto the seat rails, The flat plates where drilled with 6 mm holes, to mount the seat the trike was first assembled and the seat positioned on the rail and adjusted to be in the right position for me, the seat position was then marked on the rails, with the seat removed the seat bracket was then clamped in position making sure the seat was square to the frame and the holes where then drilled through the seat rails,  the seat is bolted onto the rails with four M6 x 20 bolts with nyloc nuts.

I could have drilled the rails so the seat could be moved to numerous settings but I just fitted it to suit my own legs length as I will be the person using the trike the most.

Step 11: Painting.

I first rubbed down the frame with an electric file to remove any rust, I then applied 2 coats of primer with about 24 hours between coats, I then added 2 coats of silver paint also with 24 hours between coats.

The seat frame and handle bars where also rubed down with the electric file and given 2 coats of prier and then 2 coats of black.

The BMX stem was very shabby so I used a wire brush in an electric drill to remove the paint and leave it with a brushed aluminium look which matches the colour scheme better. I also ordered some stainless steel screws for the stem but have still to fit them.

Step 12: Handle Bars, Brakes and a New Inner Tube.

The most important thing on the trike are the brakes, I find the idea of being able to stop most important.  I once failed to stop on a corner and ended up with a broken collar bone that 20 years on plagues me with pain on a daily basis so I will not take any chances when it comes to brakes.

I visited the local bike shop and purchased a new brake cable and sleeve and some other bits and pieces needed for the final assembly. 

I also got the inner tube replaced on the wheel just to be on the safe side, I've had an old tube blow out and throw me off a bike before so I would not to any chances for the sake of a few pounds for a new tube.

I plan to add a second caliper the the wheel to increase the breaking potential but also for another reason I will not go into now I will post details of this addition once I have it fitted.

I also picked up a cheap set of hand grips to improve the look of the trike and a cheap cycle computer so I can tell what speed this machine is capable of.

Step 13: The Wheel Disc.

I wanted to keep the wheel disc as it will help keep the toes out of the spokes on corners and during slides but the discs where badly faded and just would not do.

I removed all the old stickers which showed up the fading even worse so I rubbed the discs down with a fine grade wire wool and gave them a coat of silver Plasticoat spray paint.

I just happened to have a selection of airbrush stencils at hand, I used a bone pile stencil by Craig Fraser to add some basic detail to the disc, because it will get scuffed up when the trike is used I didn't go into any real fine detail and once the discs had the stenciling done I sprayed a solid border around the center and outer edge.

This simple effect seriously improved the over all look of the wheel and the trike.

Step 14: Decals.

Every trike has its own unique design and this one would be no different.

My trike was originally going to be called a different name which I will not mention here, just say that I couldn't get the right colour of green paint and it ended up being silver and became the Silver Machine themed on Hawkwind, Motorhead and Lemmy as I have been a huge Motorhead fan for the last 25 years or more.

Its just happened that it final touches where added to the trike on Dec 24th which happened to be Lemmy's 66th birthday.

I have a Craft Robo stencil cutter and used it to create all the decals for the back of the seat and the frame etc. 

Not all of the decals I had planed to use worked out the Maltese cross I had planned to use on the head tube just looked so wrong that I ended up using a Lemmy decal instead which looks much better and gives the trike much more character.

Step 15: Chrome Tail Pipes.

Because the seat position is about 6" forward of the axle the bolt on axle bracket was very noticeable and looked quite ugly to be honest.  To cover this up and add a bit of silly fun to the trike i reused the tail pipes from the Green machine.

I masked of the chrome pipes and then rubbed down the plastic with fine wire wool to give it a good key for the paint, I then sprayed it with several coats of black paint.

To add a bit more flair I added decals of the lyrics of the song Silver Machine by Hawkwind, the lyrics are quite appropriate for a drift trike.

The plastic trim was pop riveted onto the axle using broad head rivets.

The chrome pipes do give the trike a bit more flair than before and they have a reflective coating on the inside of the pipes so its functional as well as being decorative.

Step 16: Testing.

Now comes the fun part of testing what I had built, unfortunately I had to wait a full week before I even got to test the trike out because of Christmas, but I finally got a chance to try out my creation on the hill beside my house.

To be honest I had not planned the build to be finished as fast it was going to be an over winter project to be ready about the start of April, but I enjoyed the build so much I kept at it and finished far earlier than I had planned.

The weather was appalling and the road was very wet and covered in mud, I got 2 runs in before I decided to quit and go back home, reason being that you are sitting 6" behind the front wheel and anything that gest thrown of the wheel hits you right in the crotch so after the first 2 runs I was caked with mud and water, I desperately need to fit some kind of mud guards on the frame or box in the front wheel. 

I bought a cheap DVR camera on eBay for under £10 inc postage and attached it to my helmet with Velcro tape.

These are the 2 video i have managed to get so far,  due to a post Christmas cold, bad weather and the road now being off limits for a few weeks due to diverted traffic I have not since had the change to try the trike out again but i have been out and about looking for more hills in the area that are well away from heavy traffic and  I now have a nice list of hills to ride on as soon as the weather picks up.

The first run was  taking things easy just to make sure the trike held together, when I pulled the brake lever at the bottom I got hit in the face by a cloud of smoke from the unused brake pads and had to put my feet down to get stopped before I ran out onto the other road.

On the second run with the brakes tightened up a bit more I was able to get a bit of a slide going, not fully figured that out yet, I managed to  clock up 28 mph and was confident enough to try a brake turn at the end of the road.

I am now working on a Drift trike transportation solution so I can carry the trike on the back of my car so I can get out to the bigger hills of the area and to the Mourne Mountains that are about 15 mins away from where I live.

If you visit my You-tube page and subscribe I will be posting more videos of the trike in action as they happen.

Thanks for looking.