Get Excited About What Our Homebuilder Of The Month Has Just Created!

Here is the long awaited page for those who aspire to greatness, to the degree that might come from being exposed on this page.

Hey, let’s face it. No little 15 seconds, or 15 minutes of glory here. Your goods will be displayed here for all to see for one whole month (maybe longer if each newsletter takes two months to put together).

So not to mention the tens of thousands who come here every month, you can send your friends or anyone else you want to impress to have a look. Sorry…you’ll still have to buy your own coffee!

So here is, our new “Homebuilder Of The Month.”

Tim Karle!

Tim Karle read about the Homebuilder of the Month Club, and submitted his creations for consideration. Not only has Tim done a fine job on a LWB AND a SWB, he has also included some great info on how to build a really good seat!

But let’s let Tim tell his own story.


Recumbent Builder in SC – Tim Karle

I remember seeing my first recumbent bicycle in a do-it-yourself type magazine (maybe it was Mother Earth News) two decades ago. Great idea but just like so many other great ideas it was filed away in memory and forgotten. Then about three years ago while browsing around eBay that idea surfaced.

When the listing of bikes appeared it was unbelievable. All the different types, designs and prices. I’ve always been a DIY’er and researching the subject on the web led me to many great HPV or homebuilder sites and several message boards.

Besides the online research I also purchased 2 books that are very good reads for anyone thinking about building their own bike. First would be “Atomic Zombie’s Bicycle Builders Bonanza”. A great book for beginners as it shows instructions on ways to go about collecting, disassembling and recreating a bike of your own. The book has many plans and some really far out bikes.

The second book, “Bicycle Design”, was written by Mike Burrows, the creator of the Windcheetah trike and bicycle design engineer for Giant. An excellent read on design and building, he makes the technical stuff easy to understand. I highly recommend both books.

FIRST BIKE – My LWB

After several months of reading and researching building commenced. This started with building a frame jig consisting of a 2×4-framed sheet of plywood and 9” long 2×4 pieces made to clamp the metal tubes in place for the frame. A braze welder, tube mitering jig and a set of bi-metal hole saws were purchased for working with the frame tubing. The jig and bike project took seven months to complete as I only worked on these a little at a time not allowing any part of it to frustrate me.

Whenever there was a problem I’d walk away from the project and contact other homebuilders, online, about their experiences. One of my favorite’s sites for this is the message board at www.bentrideronline.com> .

Above is a pic of my first bike and the jig built for it.



I was proud that I had actually followed through and completed this project. The bike rode nice but I was not happy with the LWB format. It was time to research my next build.

BIKEE R/X – modified factory bike

One design that particularly caught my eye incorporated a mid-drive and two chains instead of one long chain. Information had surfaced about the company closing its doors several months earlier and a wide variety of parts started showing up on eBay.

The most interesting piece was the main frame of the bike, a long rectangular aluminum beam, which was acquired for just $30. It was a BikeE RX model and with frame acquired I decided this was my next project although I planned to change their original design slightly.

The bike was engineered to use a fork for a 16” wheel and had a 1-1/4” steering tube and headset. Determined to use a 20” fork I found there were none with that size steering tube. I finally stumbled across a headset reducing shim from Tamer (www.tamerusa.com) and could install a fork with a standard 1-1/8” steering tube.

I wanted to build my fork, as a fork jig had been created on a previous project. I added generous rake to a set of 26″ chromo forks from an old Trek and cut the blades off with a hacksaw. I picked up a 20″, 1-1/8″ threadless fork and cut the blades off just above the brake pivots.

The Trek blades fit snuggly inside and they were MIG welded together. No grinding was done on the weld at all to pretty it up, just cleaned the weld and used a product call FastSteel (sort like JB weld be not as messy) to put a smooth covering over it before painting.

During this time I collected the rear wheel, HB stem, pedals, SRAM 7.0 brake sets, shifters, and derailleurs, all new original parts for this bike, from auction. Also picked up several new and complete tandem crank sets at only $13 a set! I was unable to locate a rear swing arm or its 4-gear mid-drive crank that used a one-sided bottom bracket cartridge.



The mid-drive had an easy solution. Use a standard bottom bracket cartridge, a mountain bike crank for the right side and a piece from a tandem set for the left side. The crank arms were removed from their spiders, cut, ground into a taper and replaced in the spider.

A tandem set, with the chain ring on the left crank was used at the front and Wellgo clipless pedals finished that part of the project. Sounds a little complicated but it took less than an hour to do. The pic below shows the completed bike and how the mid-drive assembly looked when it was completed.



I found a rear swing arm several months after everything else on the bike was completed. A kind person who had replaced it because the shock mounts had broken gave the swing arm to me. Using a MIG welder a new plate and shock, mounts were attached and she was ready for flight. A little over $200 was invested for a model that was selling at that time for about $1200, in pre-owned condition. Many people have commented on how much nicer it must ride with the larger front wheel. Yes, it does, especially on trails.

T-REX – my name’s Tim, hence the T

My latest project came about after reading so many positive comments from SWB owners. One very popular model in particular seem to garner more praise overall and I really liked the design. I have very strong pull toward the triangulated frames. The big mono tube ones just don’t grab my attention. Although commercially the mono tube Ti and carbon frames are the lightest bents available, I’ve seen professional homebuilders who have created triangulated models in high quality steel that match them in quality and weight.

I wanted to get away from using a wood jig and it was taking as much time to accurately create the jig pieces as it was to work on a frame itself. I was looking for something a little more adjustable like the metal version on the WISIL site.www.wisil.recumbents.com

What I ended up with was a metal electronics rack used to hold data equipment that had been tossed in the garbage. It was a right place, right time scenario and knew this would be perfect. It was around a duct-taped version of my next bike that I figured out how to build an adjustable jig that could be used to assemble any type frame.

I’d been collecting several bike frames and had already chosen and cut the pieces that would be fitted together for this project. The head and top tube are from a mountain bike to which was added about another 8” long tube of the same diameter. The down and seat tube with bottom bracket were used to create the front boom.

The rear triangle is from a 24” 10 speed and the long, square ½” tubes running between bottom brackets are from Lowes. After aligning, clamping and checking over and over for straightness the frame was MIG welded. This was a very easy build thanks to the frame jig.

Removing the handle bar clamp portion and grinding the stem smooth makes a cheap ‘quill’ type stem. A 16” long, 1” dia. tube with a slice cut 1-1/2” straight up from one end will create a nice riser tube. Using an old style seat clamp along with a very short quick release will make a great clamp to attach the riser to the stem at the base.

An uncut stem inserted at the top and tightened down holds the rotated downward cruiser handlebars. Four cable stops were arranged in a row under a simple pipe clamp and brazed to the front of the riser on each end for the brake and shifter cables. This reduces cable friction via long runs in cable housing and it looks pretty cool.

The idea in how to construct the seat came to me while looking at an oversized AXION bike seat hanging in my local LBS. The first pic in the panel below shows how the back connects to the bottom of the seat.



The back is ¾” EMT brazed together. Small L-brackets are brazed to the cross tube to connect the seat struts. Top crosstube is ½”. The back connects to the base through ¾” EMT connectors. These connectors attach to 4″ mending straps, which are bolted to the seat base and bent at a slight angle to allow the back to pivot smoothly. The second and third pic shows this in more detail.

Now normally, EMT won’t slide through a connector as it’s made to lock it down but I found that a Dremel cut-off wheel is just a hair larger than the ID of the connector and slides straight through like a hot knife through butter. The tubes welded at the base of the seatback slide through the connectors and pivot with no slop.

The seat struts were made from the seat and chain stays of an old bike. They did not taper at all from one end to the other and the seat stay OD was a micron or two less than the ID of the chain stay, so one slides into the other without binding. When these stays were cut off the original bike I left a small piece of the dropout connected to each one. The pieces of the dropouts were shaped and had holes drilled in them where they now attach to the seat back and dropouts on the new bike. Small clamps set their adjustment.





The seat block, fourth pic above, was a piece from an old exercise machine. I cut a piece of the pipe the block was welded to and brazed a steel tube inside the square block so it would not collapse when the seat was tightened down on it. T-Bolt band clamps hold it to the frame.

I didn’t sew the seat back, just folded over the edges a few times and temporarily taped them down. Using a soldering iron holes were melted every 1-1/2″ up each side and tapped in a grommet. The cord is just regular poly cord from the hardware store.

The chain idlers are completely scratch built from spare parts just hanging around the shed. The cheap skate wheel idlers will be replaced one day for better ones with a deeper channel cut into them but I’m too busy riding the thing right now to worry about it.

After the bike was completed I found a cheap 20” Ballistic shock fork that had been on a BMX but it was obvious the springs weren’t meant for an adult’s weight. Sometime back, though, I read where ACE hardware had springs that would replace these and were much stiffer. It’s true except for being about an inch longer and needed a trim. Once the springs had been replaced and the fork installed on the bike they preformed like a brand new set of shocks, not too stiff or spongy.

Below is a pic of the completed bike and it rides sweet. Components used are Avid SD3 brakes, Shimano 105 front and XT rear derailleurs, Shimano 12-30 cassette and Cannondale 52/42/30 crankset.