Pedal power: Trailcart ATV and Rail Runner

As much as I love riding a two-stroke carbon-spewer around the woods, tearing up the turf and frightening the wildlife, it's not really a very conscientious way to travel. And while electric ATVs are a step in the right direction, just one more step would get you pedal power. That's the idea behind the "Trailcart," a human-powered four-wheeler with permanent four-wheel drive. And while it might not have as much torque as an ATV powered by an engine, it does have one clear advantage: the inventors are trying to keep the weight under 50 kilograms, making it much easier to lift a Trailcart over obstacles that it might not otherwise clear.
The Trailcart isn't on sale yet, so in the meantime you can pick up a nice "Rail Runner" for just $2,000 or so. The Rail Runner is pedal-powered as well, but travels along abandoned railway lines. [via Coolest-Gadgets and Treehugger] Update: Reader "welmoed" writes in the comments:
My husband built a pedal/electric hybrid 4-wheeler last summer. With the current gas prices, it's now our "errand car" -- we use it for one-person errands within a 10 mile radius. It gets a lot of interesting looks! Here's a link to a YouTube video showing the car in action:
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16 Responses to Pedal power: Trailcart ATV and Rail Runner

  1. ben says:

    Nice #4. Any more info on the car itself like speed, efficiency, etc. would be appreciated. Seems to be sub-25mph assuming the other cars are doing at least that. Thanks for sharing.

  2. welmoed says:

    Maximum speed is over 30mph but when you get it that high it tends to be a little “squirrely”; it’s happy cruising along at 25 (it even has cruise control!). The motor is 80+% efficient; because it’s a hub motor, it’s direct drive, so you don’t lose anything to a gear. It is designed to seat two but only has one seat at the moment. It can be pedaled, so it qualifies as a bicycle for road rules and can be ridden anywhere a bike is allowed.
    He built it from plans he got at

  3. TwoShort says:

    Trying to keep the weight under 50 Kilograms?!? Please tell me that’s a misprint. That’s like, 5 mountain bikes. Mountain bikes that will have big wheels that can go over more stuff anyway.

    I’m not seeing much market there.

  4. aj says:

    The Rail Runner looks cool, but someone has to say it: NEVER use this on an active railroad! No train will be able to stop in time, if the engineer even sees you.

  5. welmoed says:

    George, that is indeed the area; mostly in the Kentlands vicinity. The only drawback to this is that it is not waterproof; the electronics aren’t protected from the elements.
    My husband is currently in the process of designing and building Version 2; its frame will be welded steel or, maybe, aluminum. Yes, it creaks horribly, but it’s a sturdy little beast!
    Here’s a second video, showing the side view:

  6. Fnarf says:

    Most abandoned rail lines have had their immensely valuable track taken up by now. If there’s track down, there’s a good chance trains still run on it, if perhaps not very often.

    Also, track owners get really cranky when people trespass on their lines, and you could find yourself arrested. There are groups of rail aficionados who run odd vehicles on seldom-used tracks, but always by advance permission.

  7. noen says:

    Everything doesn’t always have to about “marketability”. It’s cool. Don’t be a sourpuss.

  8. themindfantastic says:

    The Railcar as long as you can find the rails to ride is awesome, its not like you get many people using a good portion of the rails these days. I love the pedaled Errand car as well, me smells an instructable.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I think what a lot of folks are missing is the ramifications this could have for people normally confined to a wheelchair, who want to get out in the backcountry. Of course you would have to put in handcranks, but that has been done before.

  10. clueless in brooklyn says:

    What a wonderful way to die.. sitting in an elementary school chair, trying to outrun an Amtrak train driven by a guy on crystal meth.

  11. Rickinnocal says:

    What State are you in, Welmoed?

    This looks fun and economic, but would unfortunately be completely illegal in CA.

  12. Enochrewt says:

    My parents have 4 ATVs, a side-by-side Polaris and an assorted collection of dirt bikes to tear around their own land (they’re part-time cattle ranchers). The trouble is they live in the black hills, and while they’re not the Rocky Mountains, using this thing would SUCK. How can you peddle something with 4 wheel drive at any respectable speed? It seems that any land that is flat enough to use this thing on would be too boring for a four wheeling excursion.

  13. Honad says:

    The rail runner makes me have flash backs of the Temple of Doom. I wonder if there is a listing somewhere of all the abandoned railways where something like this might be used.

  14. welmoed says:

    My husband built a pedal/electric hybrid 4-wheeler last summer. With the current gas prices, it’s now our “errand car” — we use it for one-person errands within a 10 mile radius. It gets a lot of interesting looks! Here’s a link to a YouTube video showing the car in action:

  15. georgelazenby says:

    I swear to god I’ve seen this thing near potomac. I remember thinking: “That pvc must creak terribly.”

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