In 1987 I spent six months as an engineering intern in Germany with printing machine companies and saw a picture of a home-made recumbent in a local paper. That picture made me resolve to build one myself and started a fascination with recumbents and all sorts of Human Powered Vehicles. It wasn’t till I got back to Australia that I made a rideable recumbent and it took until 1997 for me to make a rear wheel drive machine ridden in Melbourne’s 200k Round the Bay in a Day. Since that time I've been steadily improving the bikes. (Following pics from my Master's Degree Thesis, it can be downloaded here.
I started with rear wheel drive bikes, progressed to front wheel drive bikes with pulleys, and then to front wheel drive bikes without pulleys.
The final drive configuration I've used is direct drive front wheel drive, similar to the Bevo Bike. In 2014, I completed a 1200k Audax ride on one of these bikes with an aluminium frame. The bike depends on the drive configuration to avoid stresses and the main part of the frame is narrow.
Finally, I turned my attention from bikes to leaning trikes. Through OzHpv, I'd seen and ridden Paul Sims and Pete Heal's leaning trikes, and when Vi Vuong's "Ilean" leaning trike mechanisms came along I had a go at adapting that to the style of bike I was already riding. After making a solid wood frame sample I applied for an Industrial Design Master's Degree at Monash University and managed to get in, thanks to some great supervisors, Robbie Napper and Mark Richardson. During my masters I made 6 prototype trikes and logged thousands of km on them in a 30k daily commute. As well, I learnt about personal 3d printing, and wrote for and attended conferences, things I'd never done in my engineering career.
The trikes all share a very simple frame which can consist of a single beam of timber or a single piece of industrial aluminium extrusion. Key developments in the trikes were
- Splittable aluminium frame which does not require welding and included Nylon 3d printed spacers from Shapeways USA .
- Hollow timber frame from CNC routed plywood
- Prototype curving aerodynamic tailbox / seat combination from CNC routed plywood which include 50 litres of storage space.
- Laser cut dropouts for front wheel drive
- Cast aluminium mounting lugs for bottom brackets
Since my masters finished I have kept on with the trike development and now have
- Compact split mechanism for with plastic spacers, all of which were 3d printed at home.
- Front lights mounted in 3d printed frame stopper.
- Refined tailbox with removable panels enabling customisation
- Timber trike was entered in Dangerous Designs Timber Competion and Fringe Furniture 2017
- Scooter handlebars adapted for use on trikes simplifying the steerer and internal cable routing.
- 3d printed parts used to mount lightweight fibreglass seat
- 2020 completion of 4 day, 1200km Audax Murray Tour, the story is here and in following blog posts.
What if I Want One?
Email me, steve(the at symbol)modularbikes.com.au or phone. I usually have a spare trike available, prices will be from $Aud 1000 - 2000. At the moment I want to sell the timber trike. Otherwise make it yourself! Here is the link.
Current Plans for the Trike
As of May 2020, a version of the trike has been available for free download on the thingiverse website. Here is the link. I hope the plans will gradually improve, at least partly with the help of others who have built the trike. At the moment I am trialling a moving bottom bracket version of the trike. I believe schools and universities could use the plans to build trikes and teach students 3d printing, fabrication and woodworking skills. Variations and improvements to the trike could be trialled as well, such as redesigning the tailbox, or trialling bottom bracket castings from 3d printed, fibre infused plastics.
What’s in a name?
I decided to call my bikes (trikes / leaning trikes / whatever) “Freds”. Oh, but why? This quote comes from Jun Nogami's blog, Biking in a Big City where he mentions and links to the cycling term Fred . Now I have never used the cycling term Fred but have felt such it should exist. I have a homemade daggy-looking bike helmet with built in rear view mirror, so completely independent of the bikes I ride I can be identified as some sort of "other cyclist" or "Fred". Here is Jun's definition of Fred from the Bis Key Chronicles Blog:
"a Fred is a cyclist who has a ton of cycling gear, especially of the utilitarian “uncool” kind, like mirrors, powerful lights, fenders, bells/horns, heavy leather seats, racks, reflective gear, bags, baskets, etc. The gear and bike may be put together by kludgey homemade solutions, like duct-taped flashlights to the handlebar. This type of Fred is a bike geek who likes/needs lots of gear (even if it is modified stuff not intended for bikes) that a racer would never use, no matter what roadie cyclists or others think. Sacrificing some, or ignoring completely, concerns of speed or traditional roadie/sport cyclist style, these type of Freds are more concerned with practical concerns like comfort, safety, versatility, maintenance, being able to quickly transition to time and culture on/off the bicycle, etc. Freds of this type can be well aware of their fredness, once they are aware of the concept, and often embrace it wholeheartedly."
steve(the at symbol)modularbikes.com.au
Phone Australia (03) 9481 8290
10 Abbott Grove, Clifton Hill, Vic 3068, Australia