Review of High Performance Ebikes Recumbent Tricycle Conversion


Active Member
I just spent the afternoon with Paul MacDonald of High Performance Ebikes checking out his electric conversion of a KMX Typhoon recumbent tricycle. The quick take is that it made me feel like a 12 year old kid with the coolest go-cart in the neighborhood, and maybe even the entire country!

The name of his company, High Performance Ebikes, says it all, as while he can pretty much convert any bike to any specifications that you prefer, his own bikes are very speedy and powerful. His creations fit right in with the vibrant DIY conversion and high powered ebike scene as explored on this forum and also in depth over at

Paul got into this because he has an ultralight aricraft that he wants to convert to be electric. So in order to learn about electric motors, controllers, batteries, etc., he started creating some electric bikes, first for himself, and now for the occasional customer who finds him through word of mouth at his shop in Cottonwood, Arizona. He wondered how fast an ebike he could make and so he created a recumbent ebike that goes over 80 mph! (More about that later.). Then he wanted to see how quick an acceleration he could accomplish so he put two motors, front and rear, on a mountain bike and has so far managed 0-50 in under 6 seconds!

From there he has branched out into converting all kinds of bikes for family, friends and occasional customers, and as a result, still has not tackled the conversion of his ultralight aircraft. But this review will take a look at his latest creation which is a KMX Typhoon recumbent tadpole tricycle that he has converted to be another very high performing vehicle.

He orders the Typhoon from Utah Trikes because they will customize it to your liking. The main upgrades he goes for are larger wheels increasing the rear wheel from 20 inches to 26 inches and the two front wheels from 16 inches to 20 inches which also increases the ground clearance. KMX tricycles are known for being rugged and a good value for the money. Here are some specs from the Utah Trikes website for the stock tricycle:
Frame Material
TIG Welded High Carbon Steel Box with Aluminium front boom
Trike Weight
41.5lbs (18.9kg)
Total Weight Capacity
210lbs for Off Road use and 300lbs for Road Use
41.5in (105cm)
Wheel Track
30in (76cm)
Total Length
71.5in (182cm)
Total Width
31.75in (81cm)
Total Assembled Height
23.25in (59cm)
Ground Clearance
3.25 to frame ( Higher with larger wheels)
Bottom Bracket Height
14in (36cm)
X-Seam Range
Min 35 ½” (90cm), Max 44” (112)
Steering Type
Direct Steer with Ackerman and Centre point
Seat Height
6.75in (17cm) (Again higher with larger wheels)
Seat Angle
Adjustable between 39 and 45 degrees
Here is the stock tricycle (in the front of the picture) before any conversion:

Starting with this platform, he then adds a 1500 watt rear hub direct drive motor from Leaf Motors as described here: (Note that the pictures with this review show a Crystalyte motor with added ventilation holes. He has found the Leaf motors are more efficient and better constructed.)

Then he either puts in a standard 15ah battery, or he can build a massive custom battery using the same battery cells found in the Nissan Leaf automobile that is 40 volts and 30 amp hours! With all of that energy storage in the larger battery, he has ridden his personal tricycle 90 miles on a single charge with only light pedaling, and while averaging 22 mph!
Here is the custom battery being built and on the bike:
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Finally he includes a CycleAnalyst Computer ( that he says will do pretty much anything except cook your breakfast.

There are some additional options incorporated into his own tricycle including a custom built front suspension and steering damper. Before he added the suspension, he once hit a pothole at over 35 miles per hour and bounced right up in the air out of his seat. Fortunately he landed back in the seat and just kept riding. But for anyone who will be riding this tricycle on bumpy roads at higher speeds, the added front suspension sounds like an almost necessary upgrade. The suspension also smoothes out the handling and makes the steering less twitchy.
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An optional Zipper brand fairing on the front increases both speed and range and also keeps bugs and cold air somewhat at bay.

Controls include a twist throttle with a little green regen button that you can press to turn on regenerative braking, optional 5 magnet pedal assist, and the aforementioned CycleAnalyst computer which can be programmed to set maximum wattage (good for those wanting to keep it under 750 watts on public roads), maximum speed and even the maximum acceleration. Here is the throttle with the green regen button (the velcro strap is an improvised parking brake):

Put all of it together and again you have a very cool go-cart that will hit 20-33 mph on flat ground under throttle power only, depending on the settings on the computer. It is a bit tricky getting in and out of that low seat, which is true of any low recumbent trike like the Typhoon. But once I maneuvered my body into position and tweaked the throttle, the bike leapt forward with exhilarating quickness. Adding to the actual speediness of the trike is the increased illusion of speed from being that low to the ground, but regardless of any illusion, this trike would effortlessly hit 30+ mph in very short order, again with or without pedaling. This top speed is especially remarkable considering the entire bike as pictured weighs about 110 pounds. The added weight of all of the added components (about 40- 65 pounds depending on options) must be subtracted from the stock bikes maximum rider weight which is listed as 300 pounds for on road use and 220 pounds for off road use.

Going that fast took a little getting used to. Like a lot of direct steering tadpole recumbents, the steering is very responsive. The tendency at first is to tightly grip the steering handles and over correct for every little twitch. I quickly learned to relax and mentally let the bike steer itself, and pretty soon I was able to actually go in a nice straight line down the road at 30 mph. The turning radius is workable, but not super tight as the steering bars do tend to hit your knees when at maximum turning angle. The dual front disc brakes which were both hooked up to one brake lever on the right will literally stand the bike up on its front wheels, so I also had to learn to temper my enthusiasm when stopping. The regenerative braking button gives you another option for slowing the bike, which is handy on downhills.

Another adjustment for those not familiar with tadpole recumbent trikes is how it feels like you are invisible to cars, just because you are so low to the ground. A tall flag is a good idea as well as flashing lights. Surprisingly, cars do notice you more than you might expect, just because you are something that they do not see every day. There are taller recumbent trikes with higher seats, but in general the lower center of gravity makes for a better handling trike. This might be especially important when using such a powerful electric assist. If you are willing to take it a little slower in general, a different model of trike as a base for the electric conversion might suit some riders better.

The stock Typhoon comes with a single front chainring and 8 gears, although different gearing setups are available with triple chainrings or Schlumpf drives from Utah Trikes. I found that I never even shifted the bike out of its top gear as the motor is so powerful, and we were riding on mostly flat roads or slight hills. I think that 8 gears would be plenty even for longer and more varied riding. I did not get the chance to test it out, but Paul reported that the bike easily climbs long and steep hills. I would tend to believe it given the performance on the gentler terrain I rode on.

As for comfort, recumbent bikes have a huge advantage over traditional diamond frame bikes, and this trike was no different in that regard. It is quite a treat to be reclining as you pedal your way down the road. Paul rode this tricycle for 18 days from Seattle to San Diego and was not sore at all at the end of 100 mile days, unlike his riding buddy who was on a diamond frame bike and had the usual aches and pains. You do feel the imperfections in the road as you cannot stand up on the pedals as you do on a diamond frame to let your knees take the impact, which again is a good argument for the optional front suspension.

In summary, the converted Typhoon from High Performance Ebikes is a startlingly fast and yet remarkably comfortable ebike with the potential for incredible range with the upgraded battery. If you wish you could do a custom conversion yourself, but do not have the skills or patience to tackle a project of this nature, you can let Paul create the go-cart of your dreams. After all, it is never too late to have a happy childhood!

Pricing for the bike breaks down as follows:
KMX Typhoon with larger wheels and tires: Approx. $1300 depending on options from Utah Trikes
Basic e-trike conversion installed with 1500 watt direct drive hub motor, 15 Ah battery,regenerative braking, 12 FETcontroller, cycle analyst display and keyed switch box: $1500
Optional equipment:
Upgraded 30ah custom battery: additional $400
Front suspension and steering damper: $1000 installed
Zipper Fairing: $600 installed

For more info, contact Paul by email at silvamac (the usual symbol)

Both Utah Trikes and High Performance Ebikes will pretty much customize the finished trike in any way possible and to your specifications. If you want a smaller motor or different battery, different tires, more gears than the stock 8 gears, upgraded components or whatever, it can be done. KMX also offers other models that can be used as a starting point for your own custom trike. And Paul is willing and able to convert just about any bicycle to an electric. Here are some examples of his more exotic projects including this 125 volt, 10,000 watt recumbent ebike which he has clocked at over 80mph:
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Here is a youtube video of that ebike going 80 mph on a closed airport runway:

Here is his dual motor ebike that will hit 50 mph in under 6 seconds:

If you do get in touch with him, tell him you heard about him on the forum at
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Recumbent bike have been a hard sell. If you use a fairing, the efficiency gain must be enormous. I'm not sure where you put them, especially powerful versions. How well do they work with legal power levels. I see them on the bike paths I ride, though not powered. I would worry a bit on the street, visibility.

The electric Ultralight seems to be biding time, waiting for low cost batteries. The costs that Tesla and GM throw out for their cars would move things ahead very quickly, but no one pretends anyone can get those price levels for smaller scale projects. It's just a matter of time.

The beauty of it would be the silence. Most UL's are ridiculously noisy. But the whole cost structure would be tremendously efficient with electric. But only with a battery pack that cost maybe $2000 for 2 hours of flying time.

There were problems with the UL regs and they never really got fixed. There was never a training requirement, for example, and that created real problems. I think of this often in terms of ebikes. If people just ignore the regs, it makes it hard for people to make the products. There is too much liability. It's better to fight for good regs. Right now there are just a lot of unhappy people. But their strategy is just to do what they want.

It's hard to fit these trikes into the regs. What do these manufacturers think? Can they just do what they want? Do they really think they can outlast the lawyers, the bureaucrats, and the regulators? Isn't this a Butch and Sundance thing? Maybe they can go to Bolivia.
I hear you about the whole legality question. I talked to the owner, Paul, at length about this. He had some interesting anecdotes. He took his 10,000 watt ebike that will hit 50 mph in less than six seconds to the DMV here in Arizona asking if he could register it and get a license plate. They looked at it and said, no it is a bicycle and you do not need a license plate. Of course they were wrong, but he did not press them on it. I do wonder what would happen if he caused an accident or hit a pedestrian. It could give the attorneys a lot to work with if his ebike was not legal. Some manufacturers state that their ebikes are intended just for off road use. Others, including his company, allow you to program the computer to limit top speed and power. His is a very small operation with just a handful of customers over the years, but it only takes one million dollar lawsuit to ruin your entire day :)

Personally, I do not feel the need for that much speed or power, so if I had him convert a bike for me, I would keep the motor under 750 watts and the top speed set at 20 mph. To me, the most interesting feature he offers is that massive battery that gives him over 90 miles of range averaging 22 mph on a 110 pound trike. That much range on a lighter and slower bike would be a treat, although I also might prefer having two batteries that I could swap in and out. That way, if I only was going a short ways, I could carry less weight and just one battery.

For riding on the road with cars, I also prefer a recumbent with a much higher seat for visibility like this one I picked up on Craigslist to use my incoming ShareRoller with:
Because it is a bike and not a trike, it will lean into corners. A trike with a high center of gravity is bound to be more tippy in corners, and so should probably only be used at lower speeds. But as in most of life, everyone's approach is so different. To each their own.

I could see the appeal of a fat tire trike for off road or jeep road riding. With three fat and heavy wheels, a motor would seem to be a great boon and make it much more doable. Even a two wheel fat bike would seem to need some assist for the average rider due to the added weight. My current dream bike would be this fat tire delta recumbent (Greenspeed Anura) which has a higher seat:
With an electric assist, it would be super comfortable and usable on all of the roads and jeep trails around me here in Sedona. The long wheelbase gives it better handling and stability than a more upright trike, but the seat is also much higher than one of the very low tadpole trikes like the one I reviewed, so your head is about level with the drivers in cars. The long wheelbase soaks up a lot of bumps and the fat tires would add even more cushioning without the complexity of a suspension system. I am not that interested in single track off roading, and besides, most of the single track mountain biking trails here in Sedona do not allow a motor of any kind as they are on national forest land, so I do not want or need the ultimate in off-road handling. If my ShareRoller works well on the recumbent I got on Craigslist, then I might start saving up for one of these as my next bike.

As for ultralights, I am not sure that an electric ultralight would actually be silent. Much of the noise in a small aircraft is due to the propeller, not the motor. But we will all definitely benefit as battery prices keep dropping.

Big prop, slow turn, mounted behind cockpit. Pretty decent. At cruise might be very pleasant.

Someone needs to get access to the new cells, but it's only a matter of time

Several people building giga factory type facilities.
And for something completely different, here is a propeller you can put on your bike:

They stopped making them....too noisy and not nearly as efficient as a hub motor.
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AWESOME review @Nirmala! Thanks for sharing about the bike and your recent review on one of my recumbent reviews. Great pictures too, you rock :D