Instructables
4171744141_7d76941ab3.jpg
4171744139_6a138b7202.jpg
Let's face it. Taillights are boring.

At best they go 'blink blink - look at me! I'm blinking - woohoo' all the time. And they're always red. Very creative. We can do better than that, maybe not much, but still better than just 'blink blink'. I was riding my bike during new year celebrations and people liked it, and not all of them were drunk ;-)

The rest is pretty straight forward: 2x AA cells, boost converter for 5V, some RGB LEDs, the obligatory micro controller, custom printed circuit boards from BatchPCB, perfboard and the usual soldering gear.

 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Main schematic

Picture of Main schematic
2.jpeg
3.jpeg
4.jpeg
Really nothing special. If you know how to wire up an AVR chip on a breadboard or an Arduino on a breadboard, if you like that better, you won't have any problems with this one. I used KICAD for designing the schematic and the printed circuit boards. KICAD is open source and as opposed to eagle, which has a free (as in free of charge) version as well, there are absolutely no limitations in the size of boards you can make. You too get gerber files that work with any fab house you want. E.g. BatchPCB had no problems with them.

In the schematic you'll just find the cpu, the LEDs, a few resistors and capacitors. That's all. There's a few headers too. The boards have an ICSP header for flashing a bootloader and a 6pin header for convenient serial upload. The last 2 headers are mirrored and contain power, I2C and two more GPIO/ADC pins.

3 GPIO pins with 3 current limiting resistors are used to supply current to all 8 anodes of a single color. Individual LEDs are turned on or off using 8 GPIO pins to drive the cathodes. Depending on the type of operation the LEDs are either multiplexed (PWM for more colors) or fully on (higher brightness).

Some info on the packages I used for this board:

- ATmega168-20AU: TQFP32 SMD
- LED: PLCC6 5050 SMD
- Resistors: 0805 SMD
- Capacitors: 0805 SMD, 1206 SMD
1-40 of 42Next »

This is a great design! I've been looking for a good design for bicycle tail, brake and turn lights. I may borrow your idea if it's cool with you. Thanks for posting this great work!

madworm (author)  RehabIsForQuitters23 days ago
You have my blessings.
jexter4 years ago

Great 'structable - thanks!

Regarding the Legal vs. Illegal debate: Car versus Car is a fair fight. Car versus Bike is not. Without drinking a drop, a large percentage of drivers currently drive "impaired" - texting, talking on cell phones, Googling movie start times on their iPhones, trying to fish a Big Mac out of a bag on the passenger seat, etc.

When I questioned a Belgian friend of mine living in New York about the massive dual headlight setup on his bike, he said "Drivers don't think about bikes, and consequently end up hitting bicyclists, because they're not perceived as dangerous. When they see me coming, I want them to believe they're looking at the landing lights of a Boeing 747.  I want them to FEAR me."

When sharing the road with cars, bicyclists NEED to be noticed to stay alive.  If the choice comes down to "living within the law" and "staying alive", I'll always choose the latter.  And if the law is forcing you to make that choice, the law needs to be changed.

Cheers.

madworm (author)  jexter4 years ago
Yes, I know exactly the type of drivers you're talking about. Sometimes I can literally feel their evil stare at my neck because I dare cycle as fast as them and they can't overtake me easily (speed limit) ;-) At the next best opportunity I can hear them rev up the engine and 'restore' the 'proper world order' by letting me inhale the fumes while admiring their taillights.

The more light the better... maybe not blindingly bright, but quite intense nevertheless.
AnalogMan4 years ago
>> BTW, it's the same thing as staring into rear fog lights. You get blinded as well.

Like driving with rear fog lights on isn't illegal too in every civilized country. :^)

Anyway, since you haven't updated this in ~7mo, you're either dead (bummer!) or distracted, hopefully with interesting things. But if you do get around to that next prototype, just wanted to say, we're still tagged up and lurking.

Who knows? Maybe take a pin off an AVR and interface that mag sensor from your cyclocomputer so that when the bike is moving, it makes all LEDs a boring, ISO-certified vehicle tail light red? Then instead of getting schooled on worldwide laws regarding bike lights the comments would be just about praising your geekness. (shh! keep the secret override switch wiring off the instructable.)
madworm (author)  AnalogMan4 years ago
Civilized... hrmmm... doesn't exist ;-)

And yes, I'm forced to devote most of my time to other unpleasant things.
WKD_Side4 years ago
dude i've been staring at the third video for so long now i'm so mesmerized lol 
madworm (author)  WKD_Side4 years ago
Don't watch and drive ;-)
kee gee madworm4 years ago
you crazy and thats stupid hard men..........
madworm (author)  kee gee4 years ago
...don't watch (stare) at the taillights...

BTW, it's the same thing as staring into rear fog lights. You get blinded as well.
JohnMichael4 years ago
Tail lights are red for a variety of reasons.  one of which is the red indicates that they are tail lights.  Headlights are white.  With white tail lights  you are going to have confused drivers thinking you going opposite directions.  It will also make it difficult for drivers to see other things around you (not behind you.)  In most places white headlights and red tail lights are required by law.   If there is ever an incident between your bicycle and a car  you will probably be found at fault for having misleading lights.
Tail lights are not meant to be exiting, they are meant to be safe.  For that matter, the same could be said for anything related to driving or riding in traffic.
You have a nice set up with the lights, but you need to take legal codes into consideration.
I am also wondering how well that rides in the snow?  Have you found a way to keep it from slipping?
madworm (author)  JohnMichael4 years ago
First, just let me say that this taillight is not necessarily white. It just so happens to be white in this picture. I can't say how often I've been told that "You can't have a white..." already :-)

If you want, just pretend you're looking at the front of the bike. But please don't now tell me that it can't be red. As this thing can display many colors, people can choose any permissible color they like.

Not slipping in the snow is tricky. The best thing I know of is using off-road tires with metal spikes. But that's only worth it if you've got snow all year I guess. It also doesn't help if thick layers of snow are covered with a thin sheet of ice. As I hate changing tires, I stick with semi off-road tires all year and switch to biped mode if it gets too dangerous.
ricky97red4 years ago
hey whats up im really intrested in science and building stuff but i don't have access to all of the right materials cause im just a child and i spent all my money on christmas stuff but i really like your creation and would like on ... do you know of any where i can get it with alll the settings and stuff ordered to me on the cheap?
madworm (author)  ricky97red4 years ago
Hmmm. Fully assembled, small quantity and cheap. That's a tricky one. Unless you have these things made in quantities (100s and up), there's no way I know of to make it any cheaper. You could have the prototype if you want it badly, but you're not going to like the price tag on that one. It might not even fit your bike.

I'm thinking of having a small series of the circuit boards made, but that will take some more time. The next prototype is still a several weeks away.


Alpvax4 years ago
nice. just got a new bike for xmas as well :P
dchall84 years ago
The color issues seems to be well covered in the comments so I'll pass on that specifically. 

THIS IS GREAT!  Good job!!  I like the rotating ZOWIE look as an attention grabber.  I was sort of yawning until that came on.  Could make those counter rotating and then reversing?  Are there other patterns available? 

If you did away with the multi colors, would that simplify the electronics? 
madworm (author)  dchall84 years ago
Here's just one more.


YEAH! This is a good regular back-light! :D I want one for my jackets and two for the shoes!!! Stunning! :D
madworm (author)  nybras664 years ago
I'm working on a new prototype right now. It will have a voltage regulator built in, so it can run with anything in the range of about 3V to 14V. That should make it a bit easier to use it.
madworm (author)  dchall84 years ago
Oh, and I forgot: both LED rings could be driven by just a single micro in single color mode. That makes about -3$ in part cost. But you'd need 8 more wires on the perfboard... I'm not sure if I'd be willing to spend more time with soldering just to save 3 bucks. I like my boards neat and clean and having to many wires mushroom on there gives me a headache. YMMV.

In terms of programming using just a single micro would make things easier. No worries about drifting clock frequencies and the patterns going out of sync. The drifting is due to the fact that I didn't use a crystal (yes, I was lazy and didn't want to route a complex board), but the internal RC oscillators. They are only good to within 10% or so without recalibrating them. And that needs more gear, frequency counter or even better a scope.
madworm (author)  dchall84 years ago
Going for just a single color could still give some more brightness, if needed. You could just wire the LEDs to +5V and the cathodes to a resistor and that to a free pin on the chip. The part count would go up by 5, but you'd save quite a bit money by not using RGB LEDs. Currently the chip also feeds the anodes due to color selection, and that limits the current to about 35mA combined. In single color mode you could supply up to 20mA per LED and still stay below the chip's max. total current.

The complexity of the electronics stays the same, but it's pretty low anyway. On the programming side it would get easier. Just turn 8 LEDs on or off. Can't be much simpler than that. Creating patterns is just using a bunch of for loops and a bit of thinking. The human eye is slow enough, so you can get away with a lot of tricks to make things look right ;-)

You could even use a smaller micro, but when looking at the price difference between say the ATmega168 and e.g. an ATtiny2313, you may save _one_ € in part cost. If I wanted to sell thousands of these I'd consider it, but that's not the case. Also I'd lose the convenience of using the Arduino IDE for programming it. I could use AVRStudio or a makefile, but the Arduino way is so d**n easy. Never change a running system!
nybras664 years ago
Here in Italy (but I thik all over Europe, whit few excetions, like France and Britain - and only God Know why...) is the same of Canada. The standard communication signals must be observed. Red is "no, stop, don't go, stay away, danger" in every corner of the world. "Hey! I'm here! Pay attention, Don't pass over this poor biker!" is a good message to be send to cars. Red color is the appropriate choice for this.
White on the front is (obviousy) to give you a better view light. Yellow color is for lateral side and direction segnalations. This color code must be respected, imho, so you can know what is the direction/condition of a far veicle, even in bad view situation. Maybe It's boring, but it's safer.
After this, every idea to catch more attention from drivers maybe a good upgrade. Blinking is a first simple step: here we have the so-called "third eye", a blink red (led) super light in the top central rear glass of the car, that pulse directly in driver's eyes on brake use.
Your light show is a wonderful work, but what if anyone do the same? The road is not a dancehall. Oh... well, ok... new year celebrations excluded. :)
madworm (author)  nybras664 years ago
Hmm, so maybe I should stick them to my ears instead ;-)

That would be a good "lateral indicator".
Hmmm... this could be regular, if yellow! :D
Same in the uk .

I got pulled over by the police the other week for having blue leds on my bike their reserved for goverment vehicles apparently!
Rob K4 years ago
With this how could others not notice you.
Leaving aside local laws, red light does less damage to the eye's ability to see in low light situations due to afterimages.  Red lights on the rear allow for visibility to other drivers without making it harder to see when they look away.  White/blue light is very powerful and is used in headlights and reverse lights so that the vehicle operator can see well.  You'll be extra visible but the driver in the car behind you will have a harder time seeing anything else until about a minute after you two part ways.
madworm (author)  Count Drunkula4 years ago
That's a good point you have there.

Then all the traffic on the other side of the road had better have red head lights ;-)

So far I've only been temporarily blinded by excessively bright taillights of cars and xenon head lights. The former were so bright that my eyes hurt. All of these are perfectly legal. Compared to them this little LED toy is harmless.
and-reas4 years ago
Same here, only red at the back.
However, I do know I got a lot of attention with my christmas lights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LazEwufvX4
They were shining downwards so no blinding other people. They got really distracted by it instead =p
sml1564 years ago
I looked up the law for bycyle lights in canada and here is what I found
62(17) - Lights
a bike must have a white front light and a red rear light or reflector if you ride between 1/2 hour before sunset and 1/2 hour after sunrise and white reflective tape on the front forks and red reflective tape on rear forks.
madworm (author)  sml1564 years ago
Hm. The "front = white / back = red" ideology seems familiar. Never heard of additional reflective tape though. Different countries have somewhat different regulations I suppose. In general I think that more light and or reflective surface is better, no matter what the color is (in case of bikes, not motor cycles or cars).

Personally I think having reflective tires should be mandatory. As most of the lights/reflectors are  mounted pointing along the bike and _not_ sideways, they're pretty useless in a 90° situation. Also reflective inlays in tires don't have the habit of falling off, like all the other spoke attached contraptions do.
in my country there's no law for bicycles a bike with no lights are ok the police won't care
 
sml156 madworm4 years ago
the way I read it I think the law states you have to have either or both. On my bike I have whats called tire fyls they are led's that screw onto my tire valve stem and blinks when there is movement of the tire. they also fit on motorcycles and cars
wupme4 years ago
A friend of mine had his whole bike (custom build for him) painted in special a light reflection paint.
The wheels are also reflective, there's just no way for any vehicle with lights to oversee him.

But besides that, it just looks awesome by night :)
I never asked him how much that bike was tho... i dont think i want to know that anyway.
Kiteman4 years ago
That's probably illegal in the UK, but very cool.

Nice job.
wupme Kiteman4 years ago
 In germany they are illegal too.

You'r supposed to have a white frontlight and a red backlight. And if the backlight aint always turned on (if you got a dynamo and no "standing light") you need a backreflector too.
Oh and your suposed to have 2 reflectors in each wheel or an equal alternative (like reflecting wheels).
Battery powered light are ok, as long as they battery has enough power ;)

Only situation this would be legal is if you drive backwards but uhm.. yeah i guess its illegal to drive backwards all the time, not to mention pretty hard to do too lol
lemonie4 years ago
On public roads these are probably illegal most places. However, you'll have the red-only option? Nice device.

L
madworm (author)  lemonie4 years ago
Yes, you can have any color you like. Just change the code and/or add a switch.
madworm (author) 4 years ago
Of course it is illegal, but what isn't these days ?

Strictly speaking even my head lights are illegal. Battery powered lights are only permitted here, if you ride a racing bike weighing not more than 11kg. But on the other hand, from my experience police officers are quite happy, as long as you have working lights on your bike. Or they just don't care. Who knows.
lemonie madworm4 years ago
The cops might "have a word with you", but if you can flip them to red I'd think you'd be OK.

L
1-40 of 42Next »