2×4 Low Racer

If you started on the homepage you’ll have read that the idea for this came about because i wanted to build a recumbent on a serious budget. I’m pleased to say that it came in significantly cheaper than i had imagined and also (i think) significantly better than i had thought a wooden home build would turn out.

The design came from plans sent to me by James Robinson after i found a link to his website http://mysite.verizon.net/res88kr1/ in a Google search on wooden bikes. He also had a link to another 2×4 Low Racer by John at XnTrick Cycles http://homepages.nildram.co.uk/~talizmar/xntrick/2×4.htm. John made a few modifications to the design which i thought improved it and also made it easier to build with fewer workshop tools.

Unfortunately i didn’t take any photos during the build so you’ll just have to use your imagination! Although there are plenty of good photos on the XnTrick Cycles link above

What went into the build?
– Plans from James Robinson: It says $25 on the website now but i don’t remember paying that much!
– 2×4 softwood from B&Q – £20
– Left over 1/4″ plywood after i made a couple of wooden kiteboards (another story) – £0
– 1 discarded mountain bike salvaged from the tip (used for the bottom bracket, cranks, gears, back wheel and rear brakes) – £0
– 1 dented BMX off Ebay (for forks, front wheel, headset stem and handlebars) – £5
– 1/4″ brass plate that used to be on the doorstep of my parents house (for wood-metal fittings) – £0
– 3 old chains – £0
– New tyres – £25 (I can’t believe that was the most expensive part of the build!!!)
– Old camping mat for the seat – £0 (i guess it really cost £6 to replace when i next wanted to go camping and realised i’d cut up my mat for the bike)
– 1 tin of ‘Antique Mahogany’ wood stain and varnish – £8
– I later covered the tatty camping mat with stylish ‘faux leather’ material to finish the antique look – £5

Total build cost was about £70

Electric jigsaw, electric drill, wood saw, hack saw for brass components, metal files, plenty of sand paper

The Build
I have built a few bits and pieces in the past but am by no means an adept woodworker. This is well within the grasps of anyone capable of cutting a piece of wood neatly to the right length. It is glued using a combination of standard wood glue and epoxy resin with the epoxy used for the primary plywood/2×4 joints. I added some dowels to the design at the connections for the rear arms and also cut large holes in the spacer pieces of wood to save a bit of weight. It was all cut and shaped by hand as 2×4 was too deep for my jigsaw. I also glued the whole bottom bracket shell from the donor mountain bike into a hole in the wooden frame. I thought this was easier than James’s proposed method of BB installation.

The brass fittings look fantastic when polished up but i am under no illusions that they are the strongest or even safest way of doing it. The brass is used for the drop outs and as a plate to mount the top and bottom headset bearing cups. I am not worried about the headset mounts but do check the drop outs from time to time.

The antique pine stain and varnish, in combination with the brass fittings give the bike a family heirloom look which i didn’t originally plan for (it was meant to be a sleek, modern racing machine) but as i was working on it i felt like it had more in common with an old broomstick or piece of furniture so the design changed. The rear mudguard is purely aesthetic inspired by the XnTrick Cycles design and just adds weight to an already heavy bike, but i love the profile it creates so it stayed. The ‘leather’ seat came as a later addition to finish the bike caricature.

The Ride
I have to confess it was quite tricky to learn to ride. I’ve never ridden another recumbent so i don’t know whether this is a feature of recumbent bikes or THIS recumbent bike. I’ve ridden it all over the place including all the way through central London. It gets a huge response wherever i go. Drivers and pedestrians stop to talk at traffic lights and other cyclists always have plenty of questions:

– Is it strong enough? I haven’t had any issues so far and have been through a few spine crunching pot holes on the way
– Is it heavy? In a word yes. But i have used very heavy (free) components. The 3 old chains on their own weigh as much as some bike frames
– Was it hard to make? No, suprisingly easy. James’s plans and description were very easy to follow

What would I do differently?
I’d spend more money! Now i know the concept works and that i’m capable of building something ridable i’d use better, stronger, lighter wood (spruce pine). I’d also put a decent set of wheels, lighter forks and a lighter chain. My build is heavy but I believe one of these can be built to a much more sensible weight using the right components and wood selection.

If i really wanted to do it properly i’d get some quality sheet hardwood (or possibly hardwood marine ply. Something like this http://www.robbins.co.uk/marine/sheet_materials.asp) and build a hollow section frame with some internal stiffeners. I think this could be done significantly stronger and lighter than the 2×4….. it all comes at a price though.


8 thoughts on “2×4 Low Racer

  1. Hey guys! I;m building one of those 2×4 low racer right now. James’ plans are easy to follow except I’ve run into the problem of none of his dimensions and angle degrees match. I’ve been cutting all the parts by his measurements and disregarding the angle degrees….so far so good. Also I’ve been using construction grade 2×4’s which are douglas fir (I’m across the pond)…they are light and fairly straight but all of them are rounded over which makes lining them up to glue a challenge. I’ve discovered wood glue and screws & dowels on all joined parts should keep things together. I like you finished produect.

  2. Hi Nick,

    I would love to build a bike like this myself! The problem is that the site with the plans seems to be down. Do you know how I could still get my hands on them?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s