2 minute read

So I though I’d get nice lateral lighting on my bike at night…. err not really, I’d just think lights would look cool.

I saw a few bikes with LEDs around the wheel’s rim and that looks kinda cool, but it’s also kinda dodgy. The sort of things that break over time, that you can’t really get wet, that you’ve to care for, that use a lot of power.

So, I hacked up this thing instead:

How it works

It turns out this works better than I expected:

  • The phosphorescent tape does not fall off and keep the light for quite a few seconds after being exposed.
  • Can go off-road (you’ll notice this is a cyclocross bike), it doesn’t care, break, or what not.
  • The LEDs are every bit as powerful as advertised. Very bright.
  • It lasts forever, looks cool, easy to see, light…
  • Cheap and easy to install.
  • Very discrete when turned off.
  • Can change wheels just as before, and super easy to tape a new wheel.
  • The whole rig costs a few dollars

How to make it

So, how does that work? This very setup is made with:

  • Military phosphorescent tape (ebay). It has strong glue and a metallic reinforcement band. I cut small slices so that its easy to apply, but ultimately, its up to you. When going at > 20km/h it’ll become a straight line. Costs about $10 a roll.
  • “Powerful” “Bright” blue LED. The blue is purpleish. It’s the best ratio of illumination/power usage I could find (ebay). Cost about $2 for 10. Usually is rated 20mA consumption @3V.
  • Some resistors, depending on the LED. Most work with 470 ohms, my setup works with 56 ohms, mostly because it’s what I had anyway.
  • A battery of some kind. I’m using 4.2V 1S lipo 160mah from hobby king.
  • Some light wires. 24AWG is fine. (black&red, usually).
  • Some plugs that work with the battery (duh:).
  • Some shrinktube or electrical tape to isolate stuff.
  • Zip ties or tape to fix things to the bike.
  • A soldering iron.

Build steps

  • Solder the resistor to one leg of the LED.
  • Solder wires to the legs (shrinkwarp the whole thing).
  • Repeat for as many LEDs as you want (but really, 1 per side of the wheel is enough).
  • Make sure you got enough wire to go around the bike’s fork.
  • Repeat for the other wheel.
  • If you want, connect all 4 (or more) LEDs together, you’ll have to go on the tube for that (long wire). I suggest twisting the wire for ease.
  • Solder a couple of wires in parallel and put the battery plug on it, to power the whole thing.
  • Fix on bike via zip ties and/or tape at your convenience. Make sure the leds are facing the wheel’s rim, and that there is enough clearance so that the led doesn’t get smashed. I have like 1.5 centimeter clearance.
  • Cut the phosphorescent tape however you like it and apply on the rim.
  • Power the whole thing, see if it works out :P.
  • Go ride and look like a pimp.

Bonus points

  • Use a variable resistor so you can change intensity and save power or look cooler, at your convenience, while using the LEDs in serie instead of parallel.
  • Use a AA battery case so that you can use regular AA batteries (I suggest to have it rain-proof) and a on/off switch.
  • Integrate the whole thing to your front/read light system so that you can use a single battery.