So You Want to Build a Recumbent Tricycle ?

The skills required to build a trike are possessed by many but the design is another story as the choices for alternate configurations are limitless.

Barry’s back ground as an Industrial Designer and his family history of generating solutions of problems gave him the knowledge and capability to build his trikes.

Barry and Jamie saw a trike in CA and got to briefly ride it around a parking lot. They were hooked immediately but with the comment of where do we get one, and they cost how much.?, not sufficiently answered, the trikes were forgotten. Then Barry found that there was a group of recumbent riders that were going to meet at Fort Stevens for a weekend of riding and socializing. So on a Friday evening after work they drove to the nearest camp ground available to Fort Stevens, it was in WA. So on Saturday morning they continued their journey to see the "recumbents." The recumbents and riders were first seen milling around a parking lot getting ready to have pictures taken. Barry and Jamie talked to a few of the riders and took pictures of both the manufactured bents as well as the home built. People were open to discussion and quite optimistic about their rides.

So Barry and Jamie had about an hour exposure to the group and drove home a few hours to Kingston, WA, thinking all the way about how to start the trike project. Jamie was still a hesitant about Barry getting involved in another project since the house needed painting etc..

So the hook was set, and Barry began collecting used parts because the first trike was going to be a trial construction. To build something as close as possible to what he wanted but within a small budget. During the period of gathering parts Barry started sketching designs for the trike. As his sketches and details gelled, more and more of the used parts began making the return trip to the recycler until only the drum brakes were remaining. Everything else was gone. He found that portions of the drum brakes were not up to par so they also went to the scrap metal bin. The remaining were refashioned into usable parts.

Barry’s equipment at that time consisted of a drill press, lathe and an antique (brand new in 1907) Brown & Sharpe milling machine that had been rescued on it’s route to the recycler.

The construction began without any detailed drawings but an understanding of where he wanted the wheels and the steering geometry. He built a fixture from square tubing that held the axles in their proper attitudes and so, as he says, "it was all down hill from there." Using cardboard, a utility knife and a marker the rest was born. He even had a profile of himself that would sit in the trike for fit. Only the details were written on a little paper tablet about 2" x 4".

These were little detailed tolerance studies of dimensional parts that needed to fit together both inside and around each other. He added a slinger labyrinth type seal to the brake backing plate and drum assemblies to try and keep the wet away from the internals of the braking system. The bearing races in the brake drums were removed and pockets were machined for the commercial electric motor bearing that were going to be used. They were on sale for $2.98 each, and as we know now, have worn in nicely and seem to roll freely.

Since the decision was to build this trike from aluminum tubing and to make sure that it wouldn’t fail the wall thickness of the tubing was increased. The machined sockets that connect the tubes together are also probably twice as thick as necessary. The trikes were to be made of heat treated material (heat treating generally is done to increase the strength of materials). Welding it would destroy the heat treat in local areas and weaken the tubing. Then to replicate the original supplied material’s strength the whole frame would have had to be heat treated. That was an additional expense that Barry wanted to avoid. So the frame has machined sockets that accept the tubing to be plugged into them. Research found that the joints could be easily glued with a commercial product from the Loctite Corporation. The adhesive goes together as easily as assembling PVC plumbing pipe if the clearances between the parts are correct. If the clearances are too large the adhesive will not cure and will slowly and simply runs out of the joint. Too little clearance either pushes the adhesive out of the joint or freezes the parts together before the tube can be fully seated.

Barry’s first test ride was without functioning brakes or derailleur as the latter was wired to function in only one gear. Barry went up the gravel road in front of his house and turned around to come back. Immediately he knew he was going too fast so he started dragging his feet and was flat footed on the packed dirt, gravel topped, road. He continued at about the same speed, not slowing at all, and was heading toward his driveway, also gravel, and he hoped that he could get around the corner, into the driveway, without hitting a tree or ending up in the blackberries but he managed that corner only to be faced with the driveway which was also down hill, still accelerating, heading toward the grassy yard that separated him from the 30 foot drop to the rocks below and Puget sound. He got to within 20 feet of the cliff and stopped. What a relief to be stopped as he thought he was going to go over the cliff. He kept telling himself that all he had to do was roll off the trike but he didn’t.

After telling that story to his son on the phone it was quiet for a short time and then his son said said, " that sounds like a Tri Makazi to me." The name stuck and the trike was born. Now referred to as the Tri Makazi when ever there is some sort of discussion.

So Jamie isn’t at all surprised when Barry says, " if you angle over toward that side of the road and then back over there you can go 5 MPH faster."

Jamie and Barry spent a couple hours one day, while riding near MT Baker,. riding a slow slog up the the same hill that they just coasted down over Andover again. Each time finding a faster route.

As Barry keeps making changes to his Tri Makazi the population of non functional holes in his trike become more apparent and Jamie can be heard, "don’t touch my trike." After two years of Barry making changes first to his Tri Makzi and then Jamie’s he’s learned what works, what is possible and what needs to remain the same.

Everywhere we ride people want to know where they can buy a Tri Makazi. So Barry has finally made some detailed drawings.

He and his son used them to build a Tri Makazi with hydraulic disk brakes in CT in the summer of 2005. The drawings have Barry’s latest improvements but without the population of extra unnecessary holes.

To introduce his son to the Tri Makazi Barry took his trike to CT in a large standard suitcase. They took turns riding it while taking breaks from the building of the one from the "new drawings."

Being able to transport the Tri Makazi in a suitcase makes riding away from home viable, such as the whole family riding the Banks of the Erie Canal.