General help needed, diy wood recumbent bike - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 03-01-2013, 11:27 AM Thread Starter
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Question General help needed, diy wood recumbent bike


Hi everybody!

First post here so let me start with a brief presentation!
For as long as i can remember i have been sketching on wild projects.
This has been in the range of personal submarines to single-seated aircrafts and many sizes and models inbetween.
My main problem isnt the creative side, but that finishing 20%, or even getting a project of the sketching stage and onto a build stage.

But resently ive been bitten by the bike bug, i just gotta get my hands on a recumbent swb bike!
And to make a long story short, since i cant afford to buy one, its time to build one!

I know that two guys can spot twice the amount of stupidity in a project, so im hoping to get this darn close to perfect with some input from all you guys and gals!

And as i should have mentioned, im from sweden so please apologize any language errors on my behalf :P

Now to the project!
Short description:
A short wheel base recumbent bike built out of plywood, sheets are cut to shape and then glued together to form a 3 or 4 sheets thick laminate that is the main frame.
Donor bike (26"fullsusp mountainbike) provides rear fork, front fork and stearing tube aswell as bottom bracket with pedal assembly.
Rear fork is bolted directly onto the wood frame, stearing tube is glued into the laminate with a added weight distributing plate under the frame.

If you would google "recumbent plywood mistress" ( you will find a guy that built pretty much exactly what im after.
Some differences do exist, he´s using carbonfibre as outer layer, witch i will not, and i will be using equally large wheels (his front wheel is smaller).

Now, the thing is that my experience with wood is very limited so i do need some guidance on material selection and suggestions on bonding agents.
I dont know the english terms for the types of plywood they have at my local lumberyard but i figure i shouldnt use any of that waterproofed (painted) plywood?
There are two other types, a general construction plywood for walls and stuff, or marine plywood (same dimensions, twice the price).
Do i need marine grade or can i save a buck?
Im planning on preparing the finished frame surface with paint or similar (suggestions??), but probably wont use any type of fibers on the initial build.

The current sketch dimensions are pretty rough, but frame cross section would be about 60mm width and 100mm height, tapering to about 70mm at bottom bracket and 170 around rear fork fix point.

Cross section is square with about R10mm rounded edges.
Pockets are parallel with outer contour, about 50-100mm in length and about 20mm corner radius.)

How thick would the sides/corners around the cross section be over the weight reducing pockets?

im also planning on purchasing a router, the handheld powertool, to cut out weight saving pockets from the center layers aswell as fillet the external corners on the finished frame.
Is this possible with any generic router or do i need to buy something specific for the job?
Suggestions on mill-bit types and sizes would also be appreciated!

So in short:
I need help selecting correct plywood, glue and material thickness on the construction.
I also need more info about routers in general and more specifics for these type of applications.
Hints, ideas, suggestions or just thumbs up are always apreciated!

I want to post this project build blog somewhere i can stuff it with photos and stuff, is that possible here? :)
..unfortunately i cannot show you anything yet, the current sketch, pencil on cardboard, doesnt show on any photos...

I belive in sharing of knowledge so the plans for this project will be freely available when its deemed safe (enough ).

Thank you for your patience!
Live long and proper!
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post #2 of 6 Old 03-01-2013, 12:05 PM
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Someone who might be perfect to communicate with for your project is David Moore. Besides being an accomplished woodworker, he seems to have an adventurer's soul. I don't know if you saw this video but this will give you an idea of what he's about.

Here's his wood website:

Last edited by Julie Mor; 03-01-2013 at 12:08 PM.
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post #3 of 6 Old 04-04-2013, 05:11 PM
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Hi Xarvox and Everyone!

My first post here so: hello from Sweden!
I found this Forum while googling for plywood-recumbent bike construction and I'm happy to see someone from Sweden asking the same questions I am dealing with right now.

Mate, if you still plan to build wooden bent - maybe we could join our efforts?
I am starting building plywood-polyfoam longwheelbase lowracer, on 28" wheels.
I will be buying materials in a week time, in a country with more affordable prices than in Sweden
Let me know if you are interested to participate.

Anyhow - bike building is not the main merit for this Forum so we could discuss it OT or via mail.

BTW Are you anywhere close to Stockholm?

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post #4 of 6 Old 04-04-2013, 08:24 PM
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First of all, welcome. I believe we have another member from Sweden who has been with us for a rather long time. Maybe he can give you better advice, but the main difference between construction and marine grade plywood (other than cost) is that the marine stuff isn't supposed to have any voids (or openings) inside the panel between the layers. Also its supposed to be treated so it can withstand the abuse of being in the water all day, every day, for years at a time without coming apart.

So unless you're planning to do any underwater cycling, construction grade should work out. You can always fill any exposed voids with a putty. As for what glue to use, I'd suggest Titebond III, as it is more resistant to water and has a longer drying time. That will give you extra time to get a good coat of the glue on the wood and get the wood into position before it sets up.

If Woodworking is so much fun why isn't it called WoodFUNNING?

I've made a few videos
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post #5 of 6 Old 04-08-2013, 05:35 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks all for the warm welcome and encouragements!

I havent started yet, having problems getting the sheet of plywood into my car (about 12cm to wide), so im waiting for a friend to help me with the transport.
Hopefully i will get the sheets into the workshop early this week :)

I have located what i think is a decent type of plywood, 5 layers and 15mm thickness, construction plywood P30 (what does that P30 mean??).
But i havent found the glue Titebond 3 in any stores in town.. i will have a phone-day and call around and ask for laminate glue.
Anything exept long curing time and water-resistance that i should concider?

Since plywood fibres are in 0/90° angles (one layer in lenghtwise direction, the next in a widthwise direction and so on), im planning of cutting some of the profiles in a 45° angle on the sheet, that way i should achieve higher structural stability since i have more fibre directions.
Does this seem logical to you guys?

Kuman; hör av dig per epost till mig, jag har gmail och har samma användarnamn där som här!
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post #6 of 6 Old 04-12-2013, 01:34 PM Thread Starter
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A "small" update!

Here´s the rear fork im working with, its in better shape than it looked pre-disassembly and cleanup.

Frame sheets being cut out, 15mm P30 construction plywood

5 sheets (75mm) screwed together (used scrap pieces and 5mm woodscrews thru a 6mm guide hole.
This way im not damaging the plywood im going to use, not that it matters since all the holes are going to get bigger. :)

Im thinking this is WAY too thick for my needs and desires, so im considering going from 5 to 4 sheets, giving a total of 60mm frame widht.
its a bit on the short end, especially around the head tube, but i think its strong enough.

Wall thickness will be 15mm around the air pockets that will be cut out only from the center sheets.
The assembly steeringpin-holes (the two back holes on my pictures) will be cut off on the external layers, the front hole is measured center for my bottom bracket.

Next step is to locate and cut out the pockets and wire canals. And yes, i will have internal gear/brake cables :)

Still not sure if you guys are interested in a bike build, im starting a build-thread on a swedish bike-forum for those wishing for more info.
Unfortunately its in swedish.. :)

As my friend taught me, dont think, just do and dont over-do things. Then things get done!


Im planning on screwing on the seat onto the frame, but that means the screws will penetrate paralell of the laminate aswell as (to some extent) fiber-direction. Is this a very stupid idea or are there any specific screws to use?

Last edited by xarvox; 04-12-2013 at 03:50 PM.
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bicycle, laminate, plywood, recumbent, swb

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