Gooseneck Update Part 2

I didn’t have any tubing that was the right size for a gooseneck. The closest is the 3/4″ conduit used for the seat supports. It fits, but it isn’t tight in the grip, so I welded some bead ribs to fatten it up.  Now it feels snug!

I cut slits into the gooseneck pipe so the handlebar mount can fit inside.  Then I welded it all up.

I’m no welding genius, but I love when two pieces look like one after I’m done. This could use some grinding, but it’s good enough for now!

here is a rider’s eye view of the (crooked) gooseneck and handlebar.

Gooseneck Update

I got the headset all installed.  Now it’s time to figure out where the gooseneck goes.

The riding position of a recumbent leaves your arms nowhere near the handlebar.  So the plans call for cutting the piece that attaches the handlebar and attaching a long gooseneck to it.  I started to cut mine, and it made no sparks.  Uh oh!  It’s aluminum!

This changes everything of course, because aluminum cannot be welded to steel, making the planned gooseneck idea impossible.  If you look closely, you’ll notice that the handlebar piece sits perpendicular to the headset.  This means I can’t use it to clamp in a vertical gooseneck piece.  I was a little discouraged because one more thing was going wrong.  But then I thought, “What the heck.  If it isn’t going to work the official way, let’s try something crazy.”  The following pictures explain what I did.

Now the handlebar piece is (approximately!) parallel to the headset.  As a temporary gooseneck, I bent some 3/4″ conduit and clamped it into the bracket.  You can see it in the picture of me below:


Mounting the Seat

I am still waiting on fabric for the seat.  (Heck, the seat frame isn’t even fully welded yet!). But the approximate location of the seat is necessary for the next step, which is figuring out where your handlebars will go.

I used some rope to form a makeshift seat.  I bought a few U-bolts at Lowes and drilled appropriately spaced holes in some bar stock that I’d cut.

This turned out to be a pretty good, simple system for mounting the seat.  I was able to change the angles a few times and test it out.  The rope isn’t a long-term solution obviously, but I was a little surprised how comfortable it was.

You can see the rope seat and the unfinished seat frame in the picture above.

The next step will be installing a gooseneck piece onto the headset and working out the steering!

Seat Construction

Time to take a break from the main bike frame and concentrate on the seat.  It’s made from 1/2″ EMD conduit as per these plans.

Using a pipe bender wedged into my welding table worked pretty well, until I tried to bend some 3/4″ conduit.  That’s when I was reminded – violently – that my old welds might not be super great.  One of the cross pieces separated from the frame of the table and sent me straight down!  Needless to say, that piece is now the strongest part of my table after being completely (and more competently) re-welded.

Speaking of strong, ugly welds, check out this awesome fitup!

You could drive a car through that thing!  Or you could build a bridge:

And another…

And so on, until you’ve filled in that big ugly hole.

Here is the seat skeleton just laid atop the temporary seat (board).  I wanted to get an idea what it would look like when properly mounted.  I think it’s starting to look like a real bike!

Head Tube Part 2

One set of plans calls for the head tube to be installed through a hole in the main boom.  Other plans have you welding the main boom to either side of the head tube.  Because only the latter is possible with this material, I was fretting just how to line everything up straight.

In a small stroke of genius that came to me in the middle of the night, I cut a notch into a scrap board, then drew a straight outline using a piece of square tubing.


Head Tube Weld Finished

It isn’t pretty, but I’m sure it’s strong!  That’s what’s important, right?  As mentioned in the previous post, I had a significant amount of gap to fill:

The 3/32 filler rod came in handy again. I must be improving somewhat because I was able to weld 3/32 onto the 1/16″ square tubing without blowing through it or melting it all to hell.

Anyway, I first laid down a bead of 1/16:

Then it was game on. These are big, ugly welds. But I have to keep reminding myself that they have a few things going for them.  First, they’re solid metal. The tubes should break before they do.  Second, as bad as they look, one thing I know for sure is that that at each end, the metals flowed nicely.  I took my time to make sure that happened. Lastly, I still think they look better than many of the MIG welds I’ve seen on others’ blogs and videos.  These aren’t pretty.  But I’ve seen worse.

In this shot, you can see that the weld was hot enough to melt the inside without punching a hole through. That’s a good thing.

 I’m confident that these will hold, and I plan to grind them later so they’ll be a little prettier.

More Plan Snafus

The paper templates for the fishmouth cuts seemed promising.  Despite my mistakes, I’m still convinced this is a good technique.

Everything seemed okay after I’d finished.

However, this piece is basically impossible to clamp with my current equipment.  A couple tack welds in, I knew I was in a bit of trouble.  Heat distortion is a thing, especially when you’re just holding it by hand trying not to get burned.

I carefully laid multiple layers until I could bridge the gap. Thank goodness for wide filler material.  I’ve been using 1/16 and .045 filler recently, so the 3/32 I grabbed felt super fat. But it works great for filling in spaces!

The ugly weld isn’t the snafu.  It isn’t pretty, but I’m positive that it’s very strong.  The snafu?  That FSA logo is supposed to be right side up.  That’s right – I spent a bunch of time gobbing on tons of metal, only to discover that I’d welded it on upside down.  FML.

After a bit of swearing and talking myself away from the ledge, I grabbed my grinder and started hacking away. It was awful. That weld was thick and strong.  I didn’t want to take the time and energy to grind it completely clean to start over – perhaps I should have – so I did what I needed to make it fit.  Sort of.

In the picture above, you can clearly see two things.  First, you can see the several weld bridges I made between the two pieces.  Not the best design, obviously.  Second, you can see just how much ground I need to cover to make this thing solid.  Here is another shot with my average sized fingers for reference:

I still have a bunch of metal to melt in order to call this step finished.  However, it’s currently strong enough to hold weight, so I gave myself a little morale boost by putting a few pieces together.  Below is the result:

If you only judged based on the picture above, it actually looks like I know what I’m doing.  😆  My wife told me not to be so hard on myself.  “You’re still learning,” she said. “It’s not going to be perfect.”  That’s good advice.  Hopefully I keep improving.

Quick Update on Seat, Transmission, Head Tube

I have brief updates on a few topics, so I’ll put them all into a single post.


My neighbor T10 rides a Bacchetta, which is a nice bike, so I’ve leaned on him for some design advice. The plans call for the return (slack / non-drive) side of the chain to be routed through a piece of hose. This is fairly common on recumbents I’ve seen.

However, the Bacchettas use the idler for both sides of the chain.  I asked T10 which he preferred (he has bikes with either) and he said idler all the way.

So so this is another diversion from the plans. Instead of sourcing an inexpensive idler pulley from a Tractor Supply type store, I ordered one directly from Bacchetta.


Diversions from the plans are okay!  The seat will be another one.

The plans call for cutting some plywood for a seat and back, then upholstering with fabric and covering the staples with plastic from an old storage tote.  (Remember, the plans are for cheap, upcycled bikes.) I’m currently planning to follow Bacchetta’s lead again and make a framed mesh seat.

I found some plans online that look promising.  Future posts will outline the process.

Head Tube

I pushed the cups into the head tube using the homemade tool I mentioned before.  It wasn’t easy, but it worked!

The head tube’s outer diameter is wider than the square tubing, so I cut the main boom at the spot where it’ll be welded on.  Welding a cylinder to a straight edge means making a “fish mouth” cut in the square tubing.  To make things easier, I sketched up some paper templates that I glued onto the metal.

Once the glue dries, it’ll just be a matter of cutting away everything within the grey semi-circle. The templates are glued on the top and bottom faces, hopefully ensuring that the same cut is made on all sides.

Another Minor Setback

The plans call for a washer to be welded on the adjustable bottom bracket and then grinded smooth. That sort of worked for me.

Moments after snapping these cool glowing pictures for Facebook, I got a closer look at the end result.

This is what happens when you grind without being able to see what you’re doing!  The good news is that I have some super thin (.045″) welding rod that will hopefully fill in these spaces. Look closely at the top left, and you’ll see a crack there as well.

I think one mistake I’m making with my welding technique is that I’m hanging out too long in one area. I used to go pedal down (this is TIG) and just start melting away.  As I tried to improve, I backed off and tried to take my time.  This is the right approach, and when the tungsten is clean and sharp, man it works great.

That being said, I’m too slow.  I think that the HAZ (heat affected zone) gets way too hot, causing lots of other issues with flow etc.  So my goal is to get better so that I can get faster.  Fingers crossed!


Adjustable Bottom Bracket PROBLEMS

Some views of the adjustable bottom bracket attached to the boom.

Aaaaand now I’m out of Argon. 😤

Followup edit:  While welding, I must have warped the metal slightly, or the old threads of this recycled bottom bracket were too old.  Either way, I managed to badly strip out the threads on the bottom bracket adapter.  It’s currently holding, but it took a cheater bar to put it on.  That’s a bad, bad sign!

This turned out to be a (relatively) costly mistake that I do not intend to repeat.  After a lot of cursing at myself and at my slippery wrench that bloodied my knuckles more than once, I finally said Screw This.  Instead of cutting off another old shell from another bike of dubious quality, I ordered a brand new shell for $10 from SOLID bikes.  I just couldn’t justify trying to do it myself when these guys make good stuff.  I liked their head tube so much that I ordered 2 of these bottom bracket shells.  One for this bike and one for the next.  I also ordered another bottom bracket adapter, which added approximately $40 to my project costs.  Plus I’ll have to re make and re weld the bolt on brackets. 

I’m not terribly happy about this, but I won’t let this setback discourage me.  It’s actually the most significant setback to date, and in retrospect it isn’t all that terrible.  Hopefully this is the worst of it.