Building a Recumbent Weight Weenie Stick Bike Highracer
Carbon High Racer
Construction and Evolution

By Warren Beauchamp

Now it's 2021. The world has changed, I'm 11 years older. I no longer have bike trails near where I live and don't feel safe out on the country roads due to the increase in distracted drivers. I now live closer to gravel roads so the bike is being reincarnated as a Dual 26" FWD Gravel Bike to be better on gravel and rough chip seal roads. Over the years this bike has morphed from the original Stickbike, to the Z frame highracer, and now to this FWD Z frame CF gravel-ish highracer.

The Z frame highracer has been my main ride for the past 10 years and is still a great bike for paved trail and road riding. My needs have changed over the years though. I'm now looking to trade off some speed for comfort and gravel ability. I'm going to raise the seat 10 degrees, trade in the 700c wheels with narrow tires for some 26" wheels with wide tires, change the bike to front wheel drive (FWD) and convert to disk brakes. I will probably need to change the handlebars and brake mounts as well. Here's a mockup.
The main reason that I'm changing to FWD is because I'll need to use a much wider fork for the wide 26" tires. The chain currently passes next to the fork and has actually worn though some of the carbon fiber over the years. The chain would have needed a bunch of idlers to route it around the fork. I'm pretty happy with my other FWD bikes so it makes sense to convert this one to FWD as well. I have ordered a full carbon MTB fork (pictured) and will cut it, widen it, and add a derailleur hanger to support the MTB rear wheel.
Dennis Grelk, who has had a lot of gravel bike experience, says that a supple 2" tire should have enough passive suspension to negate the need for any suspension for gravel use. This is a good thing. Also he recommended Mavic Crossmax SL as a good lightweight 26" gravel wheelset. Ebay here I come.
I lost some Ebay auctions. The Mavic Crossmax wheels are in demand and are expensive. Decided to buy these CrossRide wheels on AliExpress instead. Are they real or knockoffs?  The stated weight is 1800g and the Crossmax SL wheelsets are 1390g. That's about a pound more but they are almost exactly the same weight as my existing 700C wheels so it's all good!  I guess I'll find out what I have in a month or so when they arrive on the slow boat from China.

While I'm waiting for the parts from China I can work on the raising the seat. Also I need to think about how to fit a 100mm front wheel into the 135mm rear dropouts.

The seat is now remounted. The back portion of the seat was at 25 degrees, now it's at 35 degrees. It looks pretty close to my mockup above. Now I need to rebuild the seat stays as they aren't adjustable.

I found my CF tube stash and it looks like I don't have proper sized tubes for the seat stays. I have 10mm CF arrow shafts which are a bit flexy and some 20mm tubes that look massive. Decided 15mm looked about right and ordered a couple 500mm long tubes from ebay.

I'm looking at tires. My existing Vittoria Corsa tires are 225g.
Here are the ones that I am considering:
- Serfas Drifter 26" Bike Tire - 26" x 2.0". - 830g
- Schwalbe Super Moto-X Tire - 26 x 2.4. - 1095g

The beefy CF disk brake fork arrived. Here's a mockup of how it will look after I widen the dropouts from 100mm to 135mm. I will have to leave plenty of clearance for the disk brake and wide range gear cluster.

The seat stay tubes arrived as well. I checked the x-seam on the seat and needed to move it a bit closer to the BB. Fortunately the seat bracket allowed the movement.

I decided on the Serfas Drifter tires. The brain trust noted that Gravel tires that have small knobs are better for gravel use than the smoother tires I chose but I'm not ready to give up the road performance yet. Maybe later...

I should be able to get a 135mm axle to install into the front wheel so I can mount it into the bike's 135mm rear dropouts. I'll need to see what fits in there after it arrives.

The 15 mm seat stay rods rods arrived and I filled and slotted the ends to fit the seat stay brackets on the seat and rear wheel stays.
Here they are installed on the bike.
I temporarily installed a hub, brake disk, and brake to ensure I have proper clearance. It looks like I can cut the fork right above the disk brake mount.

Garrie Hill is making some carbon plate for me to use in widening the fork and creating a derailleur hanger.

Here's the fork in the jig. This will keep it straight while I cut it and piece it back together.
Cut the forks with the hacksaw, spaced the dropouts to 135mm and centered them. I'm considering whether to remove some length from the fork to bring it back to standard MTB fork length or leave it longer in case I want to use a 29er wheel.
I did some measuring and took 1.5" out of the length of the fork. This new fork and my existing 700c fork seem to have about the same rake but the MTB fork is longer. After removing the 1.5" the axle to bottom headset race distance is 16" vs 15" on the 700c fork so I will have a bit more trail.

I cut two CF extender plates from the ~1/8" CF plate. After measuring every which way to Sunday, I "tack" JB Welded the extender plates into the fork. I had to build a small foam box and use a space heater in the garage to make sure the epoxy cures.
The next step was to test fit a wheel to ensure the fork was straight. First I had to file the dropouts to get the hub to fit as the fork's dropout width was undersized. While doing that I managed to break one of the JB Welded forks loose.

I filed the dropouts, put the fork back into the jig, re-applied epoxy and waited for the epoxy to cure under the space heater. After it cured I test fit the wheel and it looked pretty good. I will have to make a small adjustment to dropout depth on one side.

Next, the excess CF plate was trimmed off and the area was sanded with course sandpaper to give the epoxy and CF a nice rough surface to hold onto.

Scrap CF was cut into small pieces to be used as fillet material on the inside angles. CF cloth was cut into appropriate sized pieces to be used to lay over and reinforce the outside angles. The layup was wound tightly with electrical tape.

There's about 2 layer of CF wrapping the joint. It looks a little weird but it feels very stiff.

I laced the 29er rim back onto the WTB 29er rear wheel I had modified for trainer use on the NoCom. It looks like I can fit a 29er wheelset with fat tires on both the front and rear of this bike so if those wheels from China never show up I'll use this 29er front wheel and will need to source a 29er rear rim. Looks like WTB doesn't make these wheels any more but the DT Swiss 533d 29 rim black - 32h is a good match.

Filed a bit out of one of the dropouts to properly center the wheel. Looks good!

Cut the derailleur hanger out of the 1/8" carbon plate that Garrie made using the existing hanger on the bike as a template. Tapped it 10mm x 1.0 for the derailleur. Tapped a thin nut that was close in size to use as a steel backing nut. I will epoxy the nut onto the CF hanger with some JB Weld and then I will use some carbon and epoxy to firmly attach the hanger to the FWD dropout.
Applied a layer of epoxy to fill in some of the imperfections then sanded it and sprayed it with some clear lacquer. After a finer sanding and another coat of lacquer it should be done.

Attached and filleted the derailleur hanger with chopped CF and epoxy. Wrapped in tape and used some foam rubber to ensure good compression.

Had to space the disk brake out with 3 5mm washers to give proper alignment with the disk brake.

Ordered the rear 29er rim and spokes in case the 26" wheels never show up. I may just end up just using the 29er wheels,

Parts to build up the rear wheel arrived. I built the wheel and installed the tubes and tires. I decided on the 42mm Specialized "Trigger Sport" tires for these wheels because it didn't look like the 2" wide tires would fit in the rear.

This picture shows the 135mm axle I ordered to space the 100mm hub out to 135mm. I installed it in the front hub for use as a rear wheel. I used the extra bearing cones that came with the axle as spacers on the axles and serendipitously the spacing ended up 135mm.

Here's the bike with both new wheels installed. I still need to install the rear brake caliper. The rear dropouts are drilled for disk brakes but I'm sure I'll need to do some custom brackets to work with the narrow hub.  Handlebars will need to be modified or rebuilt as well.

It weighs 24lbs as shown.

This picture shows the clearance between the tire and the frame. Looks good!

I now have no need for the 26" wheelset that is probably still on a container ship in the Pacific ocean.


Here's the rear brake situation. I need to build a CF bracket to bridge between the rear dropouts and the disk brake caliper. I am using CAD (cardboard aided design) to design the template for the bracket.

I ordered a Fenner VA5001 5" pulley for use as the power side idler. I was going to use the TerraCycle 23T idler that was already on the bike but the Fenner idler is so nice and quiet and seems efficient on my three other FWD bikes so I decided to do the same here.

The wheelset arrived from China and I mounted the Serfas Drifter tires. They are Mavic Cross Ride Disk wheels. They look nice and feel light. It does look like it will be a bit more of a project to convert the front wheel to 135mm so I'm going to put these aside until after i get this conversion completed.
Worked on extending the steerer tube clamp to raise the handle bars and improve the clamping ability. Previously I had used a hose clamp and a small screw to help the CF clamps. I used a chunk of steerer tube sized aluminum tubing to mold it over. I had to stick it all in the freezer after it cured to remove the tube. It was really tight! Chopped off the old handlebars and I will rebuild them with some 5/8"-ish CF tubing.

This picture shows the steer tube clamp before any cleanup.

Built the the CF brake bracket and installed the spacer for the brake disk. The spacer also gives me a way to attach a chainring behind the brake disk for potential e-bike use. Next I need to cut out and fasten some tabs to mount the brake caliper.
I cut out the tabs for the rear disk brake caliper bracket and JB Welded it in place. Several hours later I checked it to make sure it was all square and then added 2 layers of CF to each side of the tabs, overlapping the main bracket. I covered the mess with a piece of plastic them used the foam rubber and tape method to compress it all. After several more hours I unwrapped it and peeled off the plastic. Looks good, time to clean it up and drill some holes.
Drilled the holes in the CF bracket tabs and JB welded some lock nuts in place. Test fit shows a bit of adjustment is needed.

Added a CF shim and now it works nicely.

The CF tubing to build the power idler axle stub showed up. These tubes all fit together. Roughed up the tubes and glued them together with JB Weld. The nut fits inside the biggest tube and was also glued in.
Used a holesaw to cut a hole in the side of the frame next to the head tube.
Glued the axle stub into the hole and built up a fillet around it with CF and epoxy.
Test mount of the idler. Next will be adding the chain and the return idler.
Created the chain return idler. The idler is a cut down skate wheel re-used from the previous drivetrain and the bracket is made from flat CF plate that I bonded together using chopped CF on the inside and a few layers of CF fabric wrapped around the outside.
Here's the first pass at an idler mount. The rod end bearing pivots and the idler can pivot but the chain will rub on the tire when low speed maneuvering occurs. This will get the bike on the road but a different mount and/or chain tubes may be needed.
Here's the whole bike before adding handlebars and cables and tweaking. I also need to rebuild the front derailleur bracket.

The contraption weighs 24lbs as shown.

Cut the 5/8" CF tubing for the handlebars. The center section is thick CF. The hand grips are relatively thin because otherwise the bar-end shifters wouldn't fit inside them. I wanted a 55 degree angle but got 45. Dang Math... I'll need to make some different handlebars later because at 45 degrees my hands will want to slide off of these.
Handlebars added. Also attached and connected the "rear" derailleur, and both brakes.

Took it for a test ride around the block, it seems to ride nicely. Now I need to find time for a longer ride!

I rebuilt the CF front derailleur mount and JB-Welded it to the frame. It looks like it's in the right place. I'll try some careful hand operated chain shifting to verify that before I add more CF to fasten it securely.
Wreaked destruction on the handlebars and rebuilt them. I chopped about an inch off the top of the steerer tube clamp so that will look better and also re-cut the handlebar handles so they are flatter and narrower,

Glued the handles back on with JB-Weld and they are curing.


The rebuilt handlebars looked straight so I wrapped the joints in a couple layers of CF.  It looks better now and the handlebars feel more "normal" while sitting on the bike.
Handlebars after cleanup and another layer of epoxy to seal the sanded CF. I am hoping that I'm finally done with the CF/epoxy work on this bike!

After a couple more hours of curing time I'll be able to re-install the shifters and brakes.

Added the shifters and brakes and took the bike for a couple rides. It does have a pedal induced steering pull from the FWD drive when accelerating at lower speeds. Guess I'll be getting used to that. Feels fine otherwise. The chain-line is very smooth. There seems to be plenty of steering movement before the chain hits the tire, probably more than when it was RWD. I though I would be adding short chain tubes to protect the tire but probably not as there doesn't seem to be any chain-tire interaction under normal circumstance. I haven't tried a U-turn on a narrow road yet.

Here's a view of my previous FWD racer, which had no perceptible pedal induced steering, and my new FWD drivertrain. The only things I can see that are different are the BB height and the handlebar height and the seat height. Why does one have a steering pull and not the other?
Interesting, I don't feel any pull in 1st gear (big cog) but feel the pull to the left (bike wants to go to the right) when starting off in about the middle of the range and higher. I had been riding using the smaller front chainring and starting off in 3rd gear but now that I have the front derailleur working and am using the big ring the pull is barely noticeable because I'm using the big cog until I'm up to a good speed, and then the pull isn't as noticeable in the higher gears. I think if I would have had clearance to move the power idler 1/2" or so forward (like it is on the dual 700C lowracer) that the pull would be negated. On this bike the center of the power idler is in the center of the steering tube to clear the fat MTB fork. On the dual 700C lowracer the center of the power idler is lined up with the front edge of the steering tube.

Here's the bike after conversion to FWD, adding disk brakes, raising the seat angle, and modifying the handlebars. Added some fluorescent tape stripes too. It's ready to ride and it only took 5 months to make the changes. Yes that's longer than I thought it would take!

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