Thursday, October 18, 2012

What every parent should know: How to make adjustable seats for plywood trikes

You might remember, I don't know, maybe not: but almost two years ago, for the twins' 2nd Christmas (they were 1.5 years old), I built them some trike/bike contraptions out of plywood.  If you want to know the whole story, check out this post, and if you really want to get into the details about how I bent the plywood, made the axles and all that stuff, click here.  

They've been cruising around on the bikes ever since, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, depending on how distracted they are by their other hobbies.

Well, one of the things I have been meaning to do with these bikes is to remodel the saddles so that they actually fit the girls, who, as children are wont to, have grown quite a bit in the last 22 months.

They've taken a renewed interest in the bikes since I bought them new helmets that look like kitty cat faces; and I just couldn't stand to see them riding around with their knees bent at unnatural angles anymore.  So last Saturday afternoon, I decided to take care of the problem.  It would only take a couple hours, right?  I mean, we're just talking about little kids' bike seats.

When I first built the bikes, I wanted to keep the saddles as low as possible, because of the dinkiness of my kids.  So I just screwed a little wooden platform onto the frames and upholstered them with pieces of a garment bag I got at a thrift store.  Then I slapped the sissy bars on just for the heck of it.  That system has worked well for a surprisingly long time.

But now that the girls legs are like twice as long as when they first got the bikes, I had to follow through with my plan to figure out how to create some kind of adjustable seatpost situation.

I started the figuring out process by taking the saddles off.  That went pretty well.

Original saddle components: plywood, naugahyde, piece of old dog blanket, screws

But I really didn't know how the hell I was going to make the adjustable seatpost.  Then I noticed a chunk of 1 1/4" dowel in my rack of random lumber.  Looked a lot like a seatpost for a wooden bike.

Using a jigsaw, I cut four bike-saddle-shaped pieces of 3/4" plywood, and drilled 1 1/4" holes into two of those pieces.  I glued and screwed a piece with a hole to a piece without a hole, and repeated the process for the other saddle (gotta do everything twice with twins).

Then I cut a couple smaller square pieces and drilled them out too.

The smaller piece with the hole provides extra support where the post joins the saddle.  I slid the post in there, and glued and screwed the saddle to it.

Looks just like the classic Selle Italia Flite, right?

Now I needed to attach the sweet seatpost to the frame.  But first I had to eat dinner, help bathe the kids, tuck them in, and do the dishes.

I made four little brackets (two for each trike) by drilling holes into bigger pieces of plywood, scribing them, and then cutting them in the shape that would trap the seatpost right in the crotch of the two legs of the frame.  Then I screwed and glued 'em.

I thought about drilling holes through the frames and seatposts and using bolts or cotter pins to hold the seatposts in place.  That way I could adjust them as needed without any tools.  But I didn't have the right hardware on hand, so I just eyeballed the height and screwed the seatpost to the frame.  I'll have to use a drill to adjust the seat in the future.  No big deal.

After that all I had to do was re-upholster the seats.

New, improved trike against the blackness of our alley, because it was 1:00 a.m. when I finished.

Butterbean chilling on her cycle. Note that the seat is able to support her full 27 lbs.

Cobra sez "Live to ride, ride to live."

...and they're off!

The next step is to rearrange the wheels so that they become two-wheeled balance bikes.  I've talked about that with the girls, but they say they're not quite ready.

(Here's the video from when we first unveiled the trikes, way back when the girls were just little munchkins)


  1. Also, how to rock, with help from Kiss,

  2. My style as dad is to play video games, not build stuff for the kids. You rule, dude. Probably would help if we didn't live in a rental, and had a garage, though.

    1. Somebody's got to teach them about the video games.

  3. Show off.
    Also, I can't believe how big the girls are.

    1. I thought if I didn't make the bikes bigger, they would just stay the same. Didn't work.

  4. You lost me at "plywood trikes." But that's only because I'm about as handy as a tornado. What an awesome skill to have man--you're totally outdoing the rest of us :-)

    1. Thanks, dude. I just hope the bikes will someday be a reminder to the kids that I did other things besides yelling at them.

  5. So cute, are you working on their cars yet?

    1. Absolutely. Thankfully I've still got 13 years to figure out how to build them.


Don't hold back.


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