Readers & Their Rides: Allen Armstrong’s Recumbent Trike


Allen aboard his handmade trike that he built 26 years ago and recently electrified.


Allen Armstrong is a mechanical engineer living in Portland, Maine. Back in 1994, he built his own recumbent trike, a tadpole-style three-wheeler that took him a year to design and build. It’s unique in design in that the rear wheel is bolted on to the frame on one side. He also knew that the back wheel of a tadpole will sometimes come up off the ground under hard braking, so he set the wheels further forward for better stability.

Not the mounting of the big battery in the back and the position of the display on a bracket.


Since there weren’t many good options for disc brakes back then, he opted for some Sachs VT7000 ATB drum brakes. Setting those up on a one-sided kingpin mount took some serious design work. He even wrote up this build for the journal Human Power in 1997. 


In later years, Allen found a good deal on a Catrike on eBay for his wife so they could ride together. After watching her sometimes struggled on the hills, he bolted on a BionX hub motor system, and she was off and running! She had so much fun with it that Allen decided to find a system for his own trike. The single-sided rear end on Allen’s bike won’t work with a BionX hub motor, so he had to do a little research.


“She had so much fun with it that Allen decided to find a system for his own trike.”


He decided on a Bafang system from Luna Cycle. He went with a BB02 motor, a rack-mount battery that he bolted instead to the aft part of the frame, and a controller and display that he had to sort out how to mount it where he can see it, as his handlebars are underneath him. He chose the BB02, because it is still a fully legal, really powerful, 750-watt mid-drive motor. Luna Cycle also sells mid-drive motors with far more power, like the BBSHD, which starts at 1000 watts and can be tuned up to at least 1600 watts.

A top-down view.



When asked how hard it was to add the motor to his trike, it turns out that it was not as difficult as it would appear. It literally bolts on to the bottom bracket, just like any other bike. The kit came with a brake lever with a cutoff switch, which cuts the power to the motor. It’s a great safety feature, as many motors, Bafang included, can run on for up to 1 second after you stop pedaling. If you’re forced to brake hard, if the power doesn’t cut, you’re fighting against that. 

Elissa and her BionX-powered Catrike.


When you look at the construction of his home-built bike, it doesn’t look the least bit “homemade,” as it is very clean, and even the bolted-on parts that hold the battery and display are milled from aluminum and look like they’re made to be there, just like Allen and wife Elissa look out on the road—made to be there.

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