Recumbent Trike From Old Parts **Now Electric**




About: Check out ThriftStore Hacker on YouTube! Where junk makes neat stuff! Follow me on Twitter @ThriftStoreHack

My YouTube videos don't seem to show up on the mobile version. You can visit my YouTube channel directly to watch the series. Thanks :)

My channel

Thriftstore Hacker on YouTube

Hello fellow makers! I'm back with a new bike build and to tell you i have made a YouTube channel.

This build a recumbent trike i made from some old bike parts and a bit of box steel.

Step 1: Tools and Parts Required.

Two old bicycles. One of them should be a cheap mountain bike with rear suspension. Takes some of the engineering problems out of the build.

4 x 4ft long sticks of 1in X 1in box steel.

1 x 4ft stick of 2in x 2in box steel for the body.

some wood and fabric to make the seat or you can repurpose an old chair.

10ft of plastic coated steel wire.

2 rattle cans of paint.

large sized washers,

1 1/2in bolts with nuts.

2 1/2in bolts with nuts

5/8 in bar of all thread with nuts

2 cheap swiveling caster wheels

2 x cable tensioners


90 amp wire feed welder (or whatever device you wish for welding)

Drill with steel cutting drill bits.

Wrenches, screwdrivers, a basic box of tools.

Step 2: Front Steering Rack.

I used two 2ft lengths of 1x1in steel for the front rack. After drilling the holes in the steel for the bolts i assembled them.

For the spindles i lucked out and had a piece of steel with bearings already welded on.

Check out the video for more info.

Step 3: The Frame. and Mocking Up Parts Before Welding Day.

The back part of the bike is a rear section from a full suspension mountain bike i found cheap. With a little work you can drill and bolt the 2in bit of box steel onto the frame of the old bike.

Now is the time to get the pedals set in place and make sure the sprockets line up before welding.

The pedals on the back of the bike are cut off. make sure you don't cut too much pedal off or you will remove the pin that locks the sprocket to the crank.

Check out the video for more info.

Step 4: Welding Finished! Tie Rods Constructed.

I had to go off site to use my welder (don't trust the electrical in my house) so after carefully mocking up all the bits i wanted to weld i secured everything into position.

I had the motor mounts from an old gas power lawn edger to use as seat brackets.

Removing the wheel out of the caster and welding in a 1x1in bit of box steel made the caster into a good tie rod. Drill your 5/8in holes in the steel before you weld it in. I did not do it that way but it would have been much easier to handle.

Video... more info...

Step 5: Finish the Steering.

The steering was the hardest part of the build for me. Figuring out how to run the cables in a way that i can install an electric motor under the frame at a later time.

Step 6: Small Add-ons. Finished Product and a Very Short Test Ride.

I used one of the gear changers from the parts bike to make a chain guide/tensioner for the front chain. A plastic container i had in my shop room made an excellent side bag to hold my lock and a few emergency tools.

My seat is made of a few old boards and covered by some dollar store rag rugs. I have to add some upholstery foam to the seat for comfort but everything works great!

This bike like many others i have built will become an electric bike. Subscribe to my YouTube channel to keep up on the build.

**edit** The bike has an electric motor now. check out my test ride video on the last page of this build or on my YouTube channel.

Step 7: Electric Motor Add On. the Sprocket

In this video i show you how i constructed the dual sprocket adapter from the original wheelchair hub adapter. I installed a smaller sprocket going to the pedals to get a more comfortable pedaling speed. The 24 volt wheelchair motor and gearbox i am using for the project has a top speed of about 200rpm. Reducing the sprocket going to the pedals makes it a lot easier to ride in bike mode.

In hybrid mode the motor going at top speed is easy to keep up with on the pedals and there are 6 speeds on the rear sprocket to choose from. The 6 speeds you have are very close together but you can tune for the torque you need..

Step 8: Electric Drive Installed and a Live Steering Cable Failure.

In this video i show you how i mounted the motor to the frame. Drilled 2 holes through the box steel and installed 2 long bolts into the threaded holes on the gearbox. The sprocket is held in place by a large machine key and a 19mm nut.

The small sprocket goes up to the middle sized sprocket on the pedals. The large sprocket is connected to the big sprocket on the rear sprocket. Since the bike i started with had rear suspension I was able to take the rear wheel, gears, brake, and pedals (which i cut off) all off in one piece. This REALLY saves you lots of time in the engineering department. With the chain coming from the electric motor/pedals to the big sprocket i have to put the chain going to the final gearing on the smallest sprocket. When you use standard mountain bike sprockets on a project keep in mind you CANNOT use all 3 gears on the sprocket. The chains do not have enough room and will bind.

The steering had some modifications done. My original plan did not have enough mechanical travel to get the wheels turned far enough. It turned like a large car. I moved the connection on the spindle closer to the pivot point so it travels further with the same amount of travel.

The cable tension adjusters i used were made of a very poor quality metal. It is strong enough to do the job but not strong enough to make a threaded hole into. I have fixed it well enough for more testing but i will need to construct a better tension adjuster for the cables.

The seat is very basic. I have been looking for a nice molded plastic chair or office chair i will use replace it. This will work for now.

The battery packs are two 12 volt batteries linked to make 24 volts. I have a group of two 73 amp hour wheelchair batteries running as my primary power pack. I have run and tested it on two lawn tractor batteries and may use them as a reserve pack.

This bike is going to do some range and durability testing soon and i will post more videos.

Step 9: Test Ride on Electric.

First of all sorry for the shaky video. Low budget filming :)

This video should give you a good idea of how the drive system works. Top speed is about 22mph but for the video i kept it in low gear.

I range tested a pair of cheap $20 lawn tractor batteries. Goes about 4 miles on a charge.

The main battery pack will be my two 70 amp hour wheelchair batteries and i have not gone far enough to run them down yet. The range on the big batteries should be about 18 to 20 miles.

In the video the grinding noise you hear is the top drive chain rubbing on the bottom of the seat mounting bracket. That has been fixed since this video.

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    12 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Holy crap, you have any idea how long I've been looking for something like this? Thank you! Fits perfectly with my aim for recumbent trikes and bike-camper vans for the homeless

    1 reply
    ThriftStore HackerDatabanks

    Reply 2 years ago

    Thanks! I am glad the instructable is useful to you! If i had to do it all over again i would scoot the front tires back a foot or two for a more tadpole style design. The wheels do not interfere with my feet too much in its current configuration but the turning radius SUCKS! Very solid bike though


    3 years ago

    Probably a silly question, but I didn't see it addressed anywhere: did you build a guard for the front chain, so clothing and/or leg hair (yes, some of use have monkey legs) doesn't get caught in it?

    1 reply
    ThriftStore Hackertmoore4748

    Reply 3 years ago

    Since i converted it to an electric bike the chain travels in a lower orientation. See the electric conversion videos on my YouTube channel. I am waiting to make a full chain guard and body cover for it because i want to find a better seat for it. When the new seat is found and installed i am planning to use a lightweight plastic to mold a cover for the drive system.

    Check out my channel for further advancements on this project


    3 years ago

    I think if you delete 'my channel:' from in front of the URL it will turn into a link. That or give us the name of the channel, for some reason I can't copy from this app where I swear I could before. . .

    1 reply

    3 years ago

    Thats great, looks like bulk fun!! Thanks!


    3 years ago

    I tried one bike where you rode in this position. It was nice in a way. If I were on Bike only paths maybe okay, but in bike lanes where I have to share with autos I felt apprehensive and the pleasure of riding or getting exercise was taken away. Sorry, I am sure that was just me.

    4 replies
    ThriftStore HackerLovetra

    Reply 3 years ago

    I totally understand what you are getting at. With this bike you sit much lower and it adds to the fear that cars will not see you. I have safety bike flags on almost all my bikes for this reason. As for the width it does make it a little annoying to ride in bike lanes with car traffic but i plan my routes with google maps (bike navigation) and seek out roads with the nicest bike lanes. Also. I really should have made the front wheel base about 4 inches smaller so i can easily fit it through the door. lol

    LovetraThriftStore Hacker

    Reply 3 years ago

    NICE REPLY THANKS! Where I live I have a bike lane on my street but then it ends and it is 6 blocks to another that is horrible. 10 more blocks to a nice one in a shopping district. My brother is looking at the other design and the horizontal problem you faced. He built the cutest two bike-side-by side, or 2 bikes in tandem, motorized with electric and battery set up, small solar panel, and large basket to haul groceries or items, and someone stole it.

    It was a little big though, but it moved along in the car lane operating similar to a golf cart and had to be licensed. Did about 30 mph.