Can You Build You Own Human Powered Vehicle Or Is It Just Too Hard?

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Once you have built your first fairing, it’s very easy to get hooked. If there is any artistic or creative talent in your bones, it will never let you rest with just one. That would be me.

My first attempt was so successful that to move forward into something more elaborate, like a Human Powered Vehicle or HPV, just had to happen. The very first streamliner fairing was bulky, shaky, and a real test of courage to ride on the road. Still, the one great test was riding down a steep hill at 50 MPH and everything held together. What a rush!

My first attempt at a streamliner with a Coroplast shell.
Front view of enclosed streamliner in driveway.

A first attempt at a HPV fairing is always that…a first.

But, a Human Powered Vehicle, which is a bike frame fully enclosed by a fairing, primarily for racing purposes, is a whole new level of fairings.

The very first attempt at a fully enclosed fairing was pretty primitive. At least by my standards. Still, it is a perfect example of using what I had on hand. The large holes in the side were for the tiller steering that I had not yet changed, and this was a real challenge to maneuver around the streets and roads. So much so, that it was a very short-lived design.

A first attempt at a HPV fairing is always that…a first. In may not have been a failure, rather an experience to show that I could, and that it was possible to be done better. The next was just around the corner.

Front view of enclosed streamliner in driveway.

Notice in the photo above the fogged up acrylic Windshield? That was one of the issues with this design. Falling over on a main street where two guys sitting on a porch came to my rescue, was another!

There were several other fairings before the next attempt. In fact the HPV 1 didn’t happen until 2001, which was 3 years later. There were at least 5 other fairings that all lent experience in new ways to work with Coroplast, what and how to create a lightweight under frame or skeleton for the fairing, and figuring out the way to keep it all together.

Enter HPV 1. A two piece unit that worked fairly well. With this HPV 1 was able to reach speeds of 36 MPH in an open air velodrome in Cooper City, Florida during a HPV sanctioned event in 2002.

First fully functional HPV (Human Powered Vehicle). Top speed attained 36 MPH.

You can see the line where the top fits into the bottom section. This was an interesting design and worked pretty well, but as always, there was the sensation it could be better.

Road recumbent with rear wheel and seat fairing.
First homebuilt recumbent bike called “Scambent.”
View of the “dashboard.” Shortened remote steering. Rearview mirror, computer, gearshifters, brakes and horn button.
Previous front end before remote steering

Above you may notice remote steering on the top has taken the place of the tiller steering on the bottom. Handlebars have been shortened and curved down to reduce the problem with turns inside a fairing, and still have room for the brakes and gearshifts.

Dashboard/cockpit cluster.

Here’s a good look at my “dashboard.” Rear-view mirror, computer for speed, brake levers and twist-shift gears, and the red button is for the “air horn.” Yup! I had a horn and there were definitely times it came in handy, such as when cars backing out into the street and not paying attention. Or simply when vehicles at intersections wanted to act like they didn’t see me and my bright yellow contraption. Yeah, the horn worked good and it was loud.

Aluminum strapping or flat bar is also being used to support the head area and acrylic for the canopy.

Here is the HPV 1 on the Velodrome track, reaching consistent speeds of 36 MPH.

This gives a good view of the completed bottom section of the HPV 1. Lots of PVC and Zip Ties, plus Velcro to keep things fastened once the top section is added.



Here is the HPV 1 on the Velodrome track, reaching consistent speeds of 36 MPH. What a rush to have this as a first time experience, all happening with human power! Something made with my own hands, from the bike frame to the fairing, and it works!


This is a street fairing, but it shows several changes that had to happen for this to work.


Notice the amount of PVC which is replaced with the Aluminum strapping. Also notice this was a two piece fairing. The tiller steering is still in place, making for some interesting turns, even small ones, around the track.

Here’s how it got started. A base was made for the top to fit into. A channel can be seen all around the top edge of this bottom shell. A lip of the top section will fit into this channel. The remote steering has been added making turns a non-issue.

front-connection rear-connection

Remote steering was accomplished by adding a flange welded on to one side of the front fork, a hole drilled in that flange and then tapped to provide threads for screwing in a bolt. The hollow rod is also threaded and a swivel eyelet (my word) added. A bolt that screws into the flange is then passed through the eyelet leaving enough play to rotate. Two nuts are then threaded onto the end of the bolt and locked by turning them against each other so it does not back out when rotating.

A flange is then added to the bottom of the stem that protrudes from the converted headset supporting the uptake for the handlebars as seen above right. The same process is done with the rod, eyelet, bolt and nuts. Another nut was added to the threaded part of the eyelet in the rod, to avoid the rod turning and creating play or any variance in the steering.

Others have used a double flange and cable to create the same effect. Again, this was what I was able to accomplish and it worked great.

HPV floor ready for install

Here is how the floor section looks after it’s cut for the front wheel radius, rear wheel, and ground access for feet. The line showing around the edge is where this will be bent up to join with the inside of the fairing.

Completed HPV 1 ready for test ride.

Two sheets of 4X8 Coroplast have been fitted, trimmed, and will be sort of sewn together with Zip Ties in the center. This can be seen a little better in the photo on the right. In HPV 1 there was a liberal use of Zip Ties, as I had not yet discovered the “sex bolts. Without question, these Aluminum gizmo’s were an awesome find. They were lightweight, reusable, came in various lengths, didn’t need trimming, held the Coroplast in place, and were just the best!

They go by many names, but “SEX Bolt” is the most well known!

Finished in time to attend the 2002 HPV Event in Cooper City, Florida.

Aluminum was used to create the bend or curve in the Coroplast for the nose, then the Coroplast was heated to reshape and hold the curve. This was held in place by the Zip Ties. The excess of the ties shown was cut with needle nose pliers.

Another view of completed HPV 1.

Ready to roll! Finished in time to attend the 2002 HPV Event in Cooper City, Florida.

On the Velodrome Track, Cooper City, Florida 2002.

On the Velodrome reaching speeds of 36 MPH and over! The most exciting part is knowing that it’s something put together from scratch, and it works as intended. Even more exciting is knowing it didn’t cost a fortune. A new, factory built, Long Wheel Base recumbent bike costs on the average of $2000.

The homemade version of a recumbent bike, with all the modifications for an HPV may have $400 invested. 

You can do this! It is not rocket science. So get excited, find some discarded road bike frames or buy one for $10 at a garage sale. That’s the beginning. Once you ride one of these bikes, a whole new world will open up to you, and you may be the next HPV home builder!