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My recumbent cargo bike


100 kW
Oct 5, 2010
For the last several years I have been slowly selling off my fleet of bicycles, in preparation for being old. :( I came to the realization that selling a 20 year old tandem, especially a recumbent tandem, was not going to be easy. There was no hope of selling it locally, and shipping it would mean boxing it up in several oversized boxes, and shipping it by freight. I have been interested in the used Nissan Leaf modules for some time. It occurred to me that I could "recycle" both our tandem, and some Leaf modules, by turning our RANS Screamer into a recumbent cargo bike.

Twenty years ago it looked like this.


Back in July, I collected all the parts I would need and and hung them on the bike to test out the idea.


I put 670 miles on it before pulling it apart for frame mods. It sat in the corner of the room for six months while "stuff" happened. A couple weeks ago it started coming back together.


After a few more rides, I'm up to 835 miles now. This was the other day.


Very cool. I converted my old Double Vision recumbent tandem into a half-and-half upright/recumbent like a Bilenky Viewpoint, and I've always planned to make a cargo platform that I can swap out with the front seat. Recently, someone gave me a slightly damaged RANS Screamer, so I have one of these to turn into something fun now, too. :D

"Recently, someone gave me a slightly damaged RANS Screamer, so I have one of these to turn into something fun now, too."

Sweet deal! Yeah this thing rides like it is on rails. Back in the day, my wife made me put a speedo in back for her too. She had told me to let her know when we got over 30 mph on descents, so she could put on the drag brake. Somehow, I was forgetting to mention it. :)

Man! I just checked out your Vision thread. You have a shop to die for!
RANS aero division makes the kitplane I fly, and they used lots of misc. bike hardware on them. Nothing flight critical of course, but there is a very long history, as long as powered flight, between planes and bikes! I believe they fairly recently sold off the bike division, too bad if so, I would think putting together a better then average E bike design would be right up Randy's (company owner) alley. They've always been a real good company in anything they do.

Back in the 70's and 80's we used to go to the EAA fly-ins in Oshkosh. Saw a few RANS ultralights there.

Randy did sell the bike division to a guy down the road from them recently. Recumbents were really a baby boomer phenomena, in the US. Back when we were going to change the world. Didn't happen. We got old and tired instead. In 2011 he was planning to enter an electric streamliner in the Vetter Challenge. Don't know why he bailed.

Warren said:

Recumbents were really a baby boomer phenomena, in the US. Back when we were going to change the world. Didn't happen. We got old and tired instead.

Say it isn't so! I have high hopes that as their design and technology matures, electric velomobiles will grow to fill the gap between cars and bicycles.

Don't hold your breathe. The US isn't northern Europe. There are no technological hurdles stopping us from having 55 mph electric velomobiles for the price of a Harley. The problem is there is no market, no vision, and no political will.
That looks pretty cool, Warren.


I probably would have mounted the battery behind the seat, but putting the xtracycle panniers on there should clean up the lines a bit. I have a VLWB recumbent e-bike as well and they are very nice for cruising.


Thanks. Yeah, if you built one from scratch, a 20/26 would allow the seat to be lower, and hide the battery in your torso's draft. As it is now, I wouldn't want to try dealing with 60 pounds up as high as the seat. It would be a real handful at walking speeds.
So yesterday was the perfect day for a long ride. Started out at 10:45 am, total overcast, 54 F, calm, roads still damp from last night's drizzle. All layered up, as it would be clearing up later. I rode to Farmville for lunch. I have been fantasizing about this since doing two MS charity rides through there 15 years ago. It is a 122 mile round trip, from my place, on back roads. Nice small college town with lots of neat places to eat, pretty scenery all the way. On the way back I realized we had just moved the clocks ahead, so I had an extra hour of daylight. I could take a long way home and do 150 miles. Rode through four more small towns. Got home at 6:55 pm, clear and 65 F. Started with 58.8 volt, 100% balanced charge,and ended with 48.1 volt resting. I have the CA set to 44.4 volt cutback/turtle mode...about three more Ah. Back in July/August, I determined that a full charge was 53 Ah, even though these cells were supposedly over 60 Ah when new. It will be interesting to see how they hold up compared to my Ping LiFePO4. I put the bike back on the charger, and ate dinner, before remembering to get pix of the screen, so the voltage reading shows the result of pumping over 600 Wh back in.

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Great rides Warren, thx for sharing the data. Is the 18ish wh/mi pure electric or did you contribute some pedal power too? I'm always keen to see consumption info comfortable e-recumbents. I wonder how much effect the battery has being such a large odd shaped hole it's punching through the air.

Ranges from 16-23 Wh/mi depending on speed. I pedal all the time, adding 75-150 watts to the rear wheel. This is equivalent to an additional 100-200 battery watts. So without pedaling, it would have been 24-25 Wh/mi. I could do over 100 miles at that pace without pedaling...but the ride would seem a lot longer. I get bored pretty quick sitting around.
Seat smack dab in the center between the wheels. That's got to be a very comfortable ride!
Yeah, the ride is drool inducing. I went for a 98 mile ride, yesterday, that ended up being 118 miles, thanks to Google maps. :)






Lots of these backroads end up being gravel after a few miles, so lots of backtracking. I should have looked at the satellite views...oh well. If you are going to be wandering around, this is nice scenery to do it in. You may notice that the Wh was a few tenths higher, and the average speed was a few tenths lower than my 150 mile ride. Two factors explain that. Lots more starts and stops from backtracking, and honking wind...flags extended, chop on ponds.
Today was a good day. Dear wife made my battery cover stuff sack, and my cargo bags came. Did my first recycling run with the bike. A month's worth of cardboard/paper/plastic/aluminum and steel cans fit! I had to nest the plastic containers to reduce their volume.



Awesome long distance machine there. How does it handle on rough roads? That's my main concern with such a setup, which I've been thinking of building very simular to this. So I was thinking I need full suspension.
I've ridden it on a few gravel roads. The worst was my neighbor's driveway, which is over a mile and a half, round trip. He has much of it covered in fist size rocks. I just kept it in speed position 1, to keep throttle manageable, and rode along at 5-10 mph. Normal gravel roads I ride at 12-14 mph. The control is fine, with the long wheelbase, and fat tires. But if you wanted to ride faster than that, you'd want suspension, to keep your fillings from falling out. :)

To be fair, Virginia paved roads are very smooth. Hardly ever see a pot hole. I always slow to a walk, crossing railroad crossings. In my decades of riding, almost all on 23-32 mm slicks, I have never had a pinch flat or bent a rim. I used to see this all the time, when I worked in bike shops. So, it really depends on your riding style.
Did the monthly trash run today. Bigger and heavier than the recycling run. Worked just fine.

I should mention the most important part of this whole build...the centerstand. I have never liked kickstands. None of my bikes have had one, until now. This bike is huge, and heavy. No way am I going to lay it down. Propping it against stuff is a struggle. And fixing a rear flat would be impossible without this stand.


Did I mention I love this centerstand? :)

I rode to Farmville for lunch at Walker's Diner today.


I ran in 75% throttle position, in cruise control, all the way there and back. I did that last week in calm conditions, and averaged 22.7 mph, 17.8 Wh/mile.

Today I had a howling head, and crosswind all the way there. Note the effects of wind.

Out: 60.10 mi, 2:44.11, 21.9 av, 26.05 Wh/mile
Back: 60.05 mi, 2:40.13, 22.5 av, 14.29 Wh/mile
Total: 120.147 mi, 5:24.24, 22.2 av, 19.2 Wh/mile

Tail wind can't make up for head wind, and crosswind is a loss both ways. A fairing would have reduced the effects of the headwind a lot. I saw 1000 watts in gusts, at 22 mph, on the flat, and was seeing 300 watts down hills that should have been sending that much back to the battery. But the crosswinds would have been terrifying.
Normally, I ride in 75% throttle position, on my three speed throttle switch. I consistently run 22 mph, and change. Watt hours stay between 17 and 19.

Wednesday, I did a short loop in 100% throttle position, backing off only for stop signs, and sharp corners.

24.9 mi, 54.24, 27.4 av, 34.6 max, 25.1 Wh/mile.

Maybe when New York City floods for good, we will lower the speed limit.

This also meant I spent a lot of time in the 11 tooth rear cog...bad for chain life.
Just did my first grocery run on this bike. Saturday is not a great day to be riding into town. Too much traffic. Anyway, lots of attention and questions from other shoppers. On the way out of town I see a line of cars coming up behind me. Stopped at the stop sign, on the street to my right, there is a guy in a pickup pulling a long trailer full of lawn maintenance equipment. I am thinking, "He sees me, but he also sees the long line of cars coming up behind me. If he yields to me, he will have to wait for the cars to pass before he can pull out." You guessed it. He pulls right out in front of me, making me nail the brakes. Hey, how big a scratch could a bicycle make in his old truck? Sometimes, extinction seems like cosmic justice.
A few things I wanted to note from my fast ride above.


I saw 2600 watts at over 25 mph on the steepest part, over 17% grade, going up what locals call "the wall." Twenty years ago, my wife and I used to go up this hill, on this same bike, at 4.5 mph, in the 22T/32T, 18" gear.

The highest motor temperature I saw on this ride was 61.5 C, and regen clearly creates the most heat, the fastest.