Delta Trike With Front Wheel Drive




This trike is a long wheelbase, semi-recumbent, rear steering delta. I have built five delta trikes so far. This one was number three and it is still my favorite one to ride.

There are three main parts to the trike: the front power wheel (Steps 1-4), the main frame with seat (Steps 5-6), the rear steering wheels (Steps 7-11), rigging (12) and the optional cargo rack (13). The trike is built from parts from three donor bikes I got at a bike coop as I described in this "Ible": A parts list is on its way (14).

Welding is required and the cost for purchased parts was roughly $100.

Some specs:

Front wheel 24"
Rear wheels 20"
Width of track 31"
Wheelbase 54"
Length overall 78"
Weight 56#

Step 1: Front Wheel Drive

Front wheel drive has some advantages and some disadvantages. I like it because it is simpler than a rear wheel drive delta trike (no differential is required) and there is not a long chain run.

The two main disadvantages are that it loses traction going up hills because most of your weight is to the rear of the trike and that you probably will want to steer with the rear wheels.

Step 2: Harvest a Rear Fork With Pedals

Choose a rear fork that has a derailleur that can be remounted upside down.

Start thinking of the old right side of the rear-facing fork as the new left side of the front-facing fork.

Cut off the top tube and bottom tube right next to the bottom bracket shell.

Step 3: Invert the Derailleur

This takes some getting used to. Your new trike will have a derailleur that faces upward rather than one that hangs down. The bottom loop of the chain is the power side and the top loop of chain (with the derailleur) is the slack side. Photo #2 shows a closeup of the inverted derailleur.

Step 4: Weld Main Frame to Bottom Bracket Shell

The front end of the main frame will be welded to the bottom bracket shell (BBS). It helps if you can "fish mouth" the main frame tubes (curving cuts made so that the tubes wrap around the BBS and give increased surface area for welding). Tack them in place and check the alignment.

Step 5: The Main Frame

Tubing harvested from old bicycle frames is used to build the main trike frame. Two pieces of tubing are welded to the bottom bracket shell (previous step). The top piece still had a head tube attached to it which served as a nice place to link the tubing segments (Photo #1, #2  and #3). The rear part of the main frame is two tubes, one on top of the other.

The completed lower part of the frame is 40" long. At the rear the main tube makes a right angle turn upward (Photo #4) and then is 23" tall. The upright tube is double for about half its height (Photo #5).

Step 6: Seating

I have used two different kinds of fishing boat seats on this trike. The first was a cushioned seat that was nice, but heavy and expensive (Photo #1). The second was a lighter plastic seat that was only about $20 (Photo #2).

Photo #3 shows the location of the seat attachment. Up close (Photo #4) you can see that both seats were attached to 1" angle iron pieces welded to the main frame of the trike. The two pieces of angle iron that are at right angle to the main frame tubes were for the first cushy seat. The two pieces of angle iron that are joined and run along the long axis of the main frame were for the second lighter seat. You don't need both attachments - choose one way or the other.

Photo #5 shows the underside of the new seat. There are two pieces of 1" angle iron welded to half of a rotating seat mount. I drilled out the center rivet of the seat mount and separated the two black metal plates. I spaced the angle iron mounts so they fit along the outside of the angle iron pieces welded to the main frame and welded them to the black metal plate. Then I drilled three 1/4" holes through all four angle iron pieces to hold the seat to the frame (Photo #6 and #7).

Step 7: Harvest Two Matching Front Frames

Harvest two front frames from donor bikes that match each other. You want the two top tubes and the two bottom tubes to line up with each other when the head tubes are parallel. This will give you a symmetrical rear end (Photo #2 and #3). Cut the top and bottom tubes of each front frame so the cut ends are parallel with the head tube and the same lengths on both frames. The easy way to test this is to stand the cut frames on the floor to see if the head tubes are parallel with the floor and identical (Photo #4)

The two front forks need to match too. You can swap matching front forks in place of unmatched ones if needed (Photo #5).

I refer to these two side frames as "wings".

Step 8: Weld Wings to Main Frame

The two front frames prepared in the previous step are welded to the main frame vertical tube. Tack the frames in place and check all your alignments.

The two head tubes should be exactly vertical and thus parallel with each other. The two "wings" (side frames) on each side of the main vertical tube should be in line with each other. When everything is true and square weld it solidly together.

Step 9: Weld Steering Arms to Forks

I used 1" angle iron to make steering arms that projected 6" from the forks. I ended up putting an arm facing forward and back on each of my forks so i could try different rakes by turning the wheels around.

I ended

Step 10: Add Steering Linkage

Photo #1 shows the steering linkage. This is a tube 24" long with a 3/8" nut welded to each end. Photos #2 and #3 show the two ends of the linkage tube with carriage bolts threaded into the nuts.

A 2" long 3/8" hex head bolt is welded at right angles to the carriage bolt and is bolted through a 3/8" hold in the end of the steering arm with two more nuts (Photo #4).

Step 11: Add Tillers

The tillers are 3/4" EMT conduit each 28.5" long. BMX head tube fittings are used to hold the tillers.

The tillers move in tandem because the two forks are linked together by the steering linkage. Moving the tillers to the left turns the trike to the right (and vice versa) just like a tiller on a sailboat. This will seem strange at first but soon becomes second nature.

Step 12: Rigging

The rear derailleur (Well, it is actually the front one now!) cable (Photo #1) loops back to a shifter mounted on the main frame top tube (Photo #2). The other device on the main tube in Photo #2 is a computer to give me speed and mileage readings.

I have brakes only on the front wheel. The cable from the brake (Photo #3) loops back under the seat and up to the right tiller (this should probably be on the left tiller to be standard) (Photo #4). I have an inner tube tie around the brake lever to act as a parking brake in this Photo.

Rear brakes will eventually be added, but they need to be synchronized on both rear wheels or they will pull the bike as it stops.

Step 13: Cargo Carrier

The optional cargo rack is a piece of chipboard that is 20" by 30" (Photo #1).

A piece of 3/4" EMT conduit is welded to the top of another piece of 3/4" EMT which slides down into the seat tube over the front wheel (Photo #2) and is bolted in place. 

A second piece of 3/4" EMT extends is welded to two 1/2" EMT supports that extend down on each side of the front wheel stays. "J" hooks are used to secure these supports to the seat stays and chain stays (Photo #3, #4 and #5).

Please see my "Ible" on some safety tips for welding EMT if you are not familiar with the safety concerns:

Step 14: Parts List

I am compiling this now. I will have it here soon.

Step 15: Video Ridearound

Here is a ridearound video on YouTube

Step 16: Video Walkaround

Here is a walkaround video on YouTube



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    23 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I'm starting to collect bikes for a trike similar to this. I like the idea of front wheel drive, as this method is simpler to build. Losing traction on hills is one of my concerns too. If seat is more forward, making a longer bike, I suppose this would help. I'm doing a build for next years's Obtainium Cup Contraptor's Rally.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Very cool! Question: where did you get your seat? And do you like it? I need a comfortable seat for my trike but am not sure where to look.

    m a r i a n o

    7 years ago on Step 3

    Very nice vehicle, I like the steering.
    Why do you mount the derailleur upside down? I my bicycle the chain jumps eventually away form the chainring when the front wheel hits an obstacle.
    Is that the reason?


    7 years ago on Introduction

    what if you cut the rear triangle above the bottom bracket and the axle, and just flip it over? then you wouldnt have to invert any small parts, and you could make it more streamlined.


    8 years ago on Step 13

    This is a pretty clever cargo carrier you have devised here. I especially like how you have the one pipe feeding down into where the seat usually is. Have you made any improvements on your model since you posted this? Is there a Cargo Carrier 2.0?


    8 years ago on Step 14

    GREAT IDEA! i love this bike and i love the idea, your a good creator of new things, i was thinking about putting an engine on it, but thats just me i want to put an engine on every thing. A+ man

    2 replies

    8 years ago on Step 9

    i like how easy the stearing set up is with the tie-rods really simple, like it

    2 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    those bolts would be able to tighten and loosen the stearing, so if the on tires is skidding around a corner it would be able to help it but, other than doing the math and stuff for the toe you wouldnt be able to completly stop the skidding.


    8 years ago on Step 10

    bolts to tighten/loosen the stearing, good idea its always nice be able to have that little bit of tweaking space.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Looks awesome! I thought of building a trike, but I live in a hilly area and it deters me. What is your opinion about adding a hand rear-wheel drive to assist uphill ride?

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the feedback, kostya. Long wheelbase trikes with front wheel drive are not the best design for hilly areas in my opinion. Since most of the weight sits (literally) over the rear wheels there is not a lot of traction up front.

    The reason I build front wheel drive delta (one wheel in front, two behind) trikes is that they are much less complicated than any sort of drive for the two rear wheels. There is not an extended chain run and no differential is needed at the rear. I don't even try to put brakes on the two rear wheels.

    IMHO all mechanical things are compromises of some sort.

    I don't know how a hand rear-wheel drive might work, but suppose that maybe adding electric drive(s) might be easier to build. You might want to check out the Ibles where Razor scooter motors are used as assist devices. I will keep my eyes open for other ideas, too.

    Good luck...

    The steering feels backward to start with. That quickly goes away and you don't even think about it after a short time.

    Note that this trike does NOT have a center pivot rear axle. The two fixed head tubes and linkage between the forks makes for a much more controlled ride. It is well worth the trouble to build the rear steering this way.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    How's the steering? I was gonna make a recumbent and was figuring out steering methods. I heard that rear wheel steering is unstable at fast speeds, but you would know from experience. I want to make a bike like that if the steering is good.