Introduction: Bright Bike

Picture of Bright Bike


Bright Bike is a project we've been researching at Eyebeam for a while now. Why?

1. Biking can be dangerous.
2. Biking at night, in a city, can be even more dangerous.
3. Increased visibility is the best and easiest way to make these things safer.
4. There are some remarkable materials that can make bicycles much more visible to cars. These materials are called RETROREFLECTIVE.

Retroreflective materials have tiny glass beads suspended on their surface that reflect light back to the source. What this means is that a retroreflective material normally appears as a solid color but shines bright white to any direct light - like a car headlight.

The question is, "How do I make my bike Retroreflective?"

The answer is five easy steps.

After that, you've got a beautiful, solid-colored bike, that makes you more visible to cars than ever before.

Step 1: Material Acquisition

Picture of Material Acquisition

There are many different retroreflective materials: threads, inks, vinyls. We found the most useful material for applying to a bicycle is 3M's Scotchlite Plus Reflective 680 Series Engineering Grade Vinyl. This sort of vinyl is sold by sign supply distributors.

An average bike will take at most 6' x 15 to fully wrap. It can be hard to find a sign shop willing to sell that little. We got our vinyl from Beacon Graphics in New Jersey ( They were so excited about what we were doing with it, they agreed to sell smaller, DIY quantities of the material. Information about these kits should be on their website soon, but you can call them at 1 800 762 9205 to get your own DIY kit.

However you get it, it's probably a good idea to take accurate measure of your bike first (see step 3), so that you get the right amount.

You will also need:
Some sponges and soapy water.
Paper towels.
General bike tools (wrenches, etc.).
A cloth measuring tape.
An exacto/utility knife.
A straight edge.

Step 2: Bike Prep./Washing

Picture of Bike Prep./Washing

It's much easier to work with your your bike if it's mostly disassembled, wheels off, any additional attachments removed. Make sure you save any screws you remove. It will be difficult to put your bike back together without them. If the bike is at all dirty (most bikes are) then the grit and dirt will keep the vinyl from sticking.

With everything removed, make some soapy water, grab a sponge, and scrub. No big secrets here, only that you may be surprised but how much dirt can be on one bike.

It's also useful to have a chain washer on hand. Washing your chain isn't completely necessary, but if you don't do it, you'll want to be extra careful. A bike chain can very quickly spread oil and grease over everything. So you should either clean it, or try and bundle it up in a bunch of paper towels.

Step 3: Measuring

Picture of Measuring

Taking your time and measuring accurately is important. The bike that we wrapped first could be divided into 11 main sections. For each section, we measured the length, and the circumference (or thickness). That's why it's useful to have a cloth measuring tape like they use in tailoring. A metal tape measure, like they use for wood-work won't bend around the circumference of the bike parts.

The notes we took, and the measurements we ended up using are below.

For the wheels, there are a number of options. We made small strips (2cm x 4cm) to place on the wheel rim, in-between all the spokes. This way, with the bikes wheels moving, the persistence of vision will hopefully make the reflection appear solid.

The vinyl won't wrap very well across and around larger curves, so if you have a bike with lots of serious bends, you might need to plan on using more, smaller sections of vinyl. It's most likely far better to have two well-applied sections with a seam of non-reflection between them, than one continuous piece that ripples and bends around a curve.

Step 4: Cutting

Picture of Cutting

Once you have the measurements of your particular bike, you need to plan out how you're going to cut each piece. By careful planning, you can ensure that you don't waste any of the great retroreflective vinyl you've acquired. We were working with a section of vinyl 15" by 6', and we required the measurements we listed in the last step, so below is the plan we came up with for cutting the individual pieces. Some pieces we cut to exact measurements, some we gave a fair amount of extra area.

Do all of your work with the reflective side down. You can make any marks you want on the backing without ruining your vinyl, and it will be easier to cut. You should also number, and clearly label each piece that you cut, as you will end up with a number of them that are very similar, and you want to avoid confusion.

When actually cutting, always follow a few guidelines:
1. Make each measurement twice. You can measure as many times as you want, but you can only cut once.
2. Make one measurement, then one cut, then the next measurement, then the next cut. Doing all measurements and then all cuts can leave you with inaccurate pieces.
3. Make sure to really press firmly on you straight-edge, holding the vinyl in place. It's more important to keep the vinyl in place than to press down crazy-hard with the knife.

Step 5: Wrapping

Picture of Wrapping

With all the pieces cut and ready to go, you can start applying the vinyl to your bike. It doesn't matter what order you go in, but it might be best to start with the straighter, simpler bits so that you can get the hang of it.

Doing a final wipe-down with a dry paper towel before beginning each piece isn't a bad idea. Go slow. Apply each piece from one end to the other. Press firmly. The biggest problem you'll run into are irregular bubbles and creases. Some of these will be unavoidable, but do your best to minimize them.

Going around curves is tough, and may require you to make small incisions with an utility knife to get the vinyl to fold and lay properly. Also, a lot of bikes have numerous screw holes and other features that will make it impossible for the vinyl to lay flat. You can either wrap right over them, doing your best to flatten the vinyl out, or you can make small incisions, and have the vinyl adhere around the feature.

Step 6: Riding

Picture of Riding
You're all done!

The only thing left to do is take the bike out with some friends and get them to verify that it shines in the light. Also, if you have any vinyl left over, you can add it to whatever you want: helmet, bag, shoes - anything.

Your mileage may vary depending on how often and rigorously you ride your bike. Most engineer grade vinyl is "rated" for 7 years, but probably isn't intended as a bicycle covering. If anyone develops any tips for upping the life-expectancy of the bicycle-vinyl, post a comment, or get in touch with us.

We've got a Bright Bike site at:

Also, if you wrap your bike, or want to see the bikes of others please visit our Flickr group to browse or upload your own:


CsoszM (author)2016-09-20

check this out.

it's modular, easy and cheap.


BicycleBlueBook (author)2016-09-12

When you're bicycling, safety is the number one concern! This is a great bicycle accessory for every single bike! Guess, we will be adding this to our list of necessities for new or used bicycles.

pstaples2 (author)2015-09-21

I have just ordered some of this but don't seem to be able to get in contact and after 2 weeks I have still heard nothing from you.
Can you get in touch please?

AndelDOA made it! (author)2015-07-12

I just made mine, thanks for the great idea! I have some tape left, so I probably gonna add some features to the mudguards and the chain case

DiJohnMustard (author)2015-06-10

Anyone have experience removing this tape? I would love to wrap my bike, then later down the road be able to remove it in case I want to sell it. The frame is carbon fiber with a million ugly labels. I'm thinking the tape would be great for more visibility, covering ugly logos, and also slight protection from small chipping/ minor scrapes and such. Thanks!

uersel made it! (author)2015-04-07

Just finished mine. Thank you for the inspiration!

DFDuran (author)2015-03-21

This is cool. I had thought of this a bit back, but had no money for tape. I am going to be doing it this summer! thanks!

Laguiole_Aline (author)2013-08-02

Nice idea I like it and it looks very cheap to make :)

softenersreviews (author)2013-03-02

I will try and comment after. Thanks !

vincygoyo (author)2012-06-17

Thank you for the inspiration. I did this on my last 2 bikes here in Mexico City and it works pretty well. I did not disassemble 1st so it was a bit more difficult. I especially like the flat black in the day (doesnt attract as much attention). It tends to be very effective on moving parts such as crank arms.

leed71 (author)2012-01-28

Just like to say a big thanks for this idea, its taken a while to sort out (I'm in the UK) but I've just finished wrapping my bike, and stuck a pair of velocity halo rims on for good measure.

Just uploaded a couple of pictures to the flicker group.

thepelton (author)2011-04-21

I was just saying that if you need safety equipment. If you were to get run over, maybe I could have your job. (Just joking, but I need full time employment.)

lwp1200 (author)2011-01-02

A heat gun set to low will help the vinyl lay better and conform around irregular surfaces. I pre-heat the vinyl first then have an assistant fan the area I am currently working with.

Cautions: too much heat will deform the strip. There will be a tendency for the plastic to return to it's original shape.

911Dude (author)2008-12-19

Right off the bat. Instead of making the skinny frame work of the bike reflective, just buy a reflective jacket or vest. Everyone riding is dressed in black. DUH!!

cfpalmguy (author)911Dude2010-12-12

That requires you to wear the same jacket every time you ride - inconvenient. Bike jackets, right off the bat - are expensive. Making your bike luminescent - Awesome. It's also permanent unlike your jackets, which you can forget to wear.

bwool1 (author)911Dude2010-08-22

A reflective bike looks cooler.

thepelton (author)911Dude2009-02-20

Mother worried about me riding my bike around Colorado Springs, and bought me an orange hunter's vest.

xenobiologista (author)thepelton2010-05-24

You can also get thin mesh construction worker's/signalman's vests that have reflective strips on them in hardware shops.

If I did this project it would be to make my bike look cool, not for safety. I already have blinky lights plus reflective tape on my helmet.

thepelton (author)xenobiologista2010-05-24

There's a shop of safety equipment in Colorado Springs off South Circle near Janitell where such vests are available.

Kanhef (author)2010-10-21

The main flaw with this (and relevant to BigShotUK's comment) is that when not under intense light (camera flash/headlights), the bike is completely black. Using red, yellow, or another bright color would be much more visible under all conditions.

Longer, narrower rolls in several colors can be ordered directly from 3M (; searching the web may find better prices, comparable to the kit from Beacon Graphics (currently $55).

theredproject (author)Kanhef2010-10-22

Kanhef, depending on your tastes, that is or is not a flaw. If you check out the second version of the project, you will see that color is a big part of it:

evandunn01 (author)2010-07-11

How much did all of the tape cost?

theredproject (author)evandunn012010-07-12

A full roll of vinyl is about $150 +tax/shipping here. You can get a Bright Bike DIY Kit that is less expensive ($20) and *much* easier to install (in about 5 to 15 minutes) here. The Instructable for that is here.

evandunn01 (author)theredproject2010-07-12

Yea, I saw the kit, but prefer the look of the complete bike being reflective, rather then just the pinstripes or catepillar stripes

theredproject (author)evandunn012010-07-13

I think they are still selling the original uncut version for $35-$40.

BigShotUK (author)2010-05-24

This may come across as a bit critical, but please read it in the spirit it is written by a cyclist who has had close shaves and appreciates the importance of making yourself visible.

Firstly, I think the tape has a really nice effect on the bike. Seeing it lit up kinda reminds me of the cycle lane logos painted on the road.

I do wonder how effective it would be for safety purposes though. I was with you up until seeing you ride around in the car headlights. In short, that's the test that led to mandating pedal, wheel, front and rear reflectors. The theory being that you can be seen from all angles. Of course, that only works when directly in front of a car. Not in itself a problem, but of *very* limited use.

There are two times I really want a car driver to see me when I'm riding.

1> When they are on the same road as me - coming from the front or behind. In that case front and rear lights are the way forwards (I don't even HAVE front and rear reflectors on my bike - I think they are useless when compared to a bright flashing light) along with pedal reflectors which really stand out a lot. It's possible that the seat stay reflectors in the instructable (and seat post as you added later) would help with visibility from behind but I can't see any of the others helping from that angle.

2> When they are on a road perpendicular to me. In this scenario the most likely problem is a car pulling out in front of you leaving you no room to stop or hitting you in the side. In both these cases reflectors of any kind will be no use as you're not in the car's headlight beam when they need to see you. The only thing that will help there is a headlight.
The one semi-related scenario is a car pulling away while you're directly in front of them. I still ride with the spoke mounted wheel reflectors that came with my bike as the way they bounce up and down really grabs attention. I have a feeling that if a driver missed something as obvious as the bouncing reflector all the retroreflective tape in the world wouldn't help as they are most likely messing with their stereo or doing their makeup!

The video at 0:40 and 0:41 really illustrates this point. At 0:40 the red rims are more visible than any of the tape, which has yet to light up. At 0:41 the frame snaps into being reflective and then out again just a few yards later.

Of course, a bit more reflection can't hurt, but I can't help thinking the practical benefit of using a system of reflection like this is far less than first impressions might suggest.

If you've got any thoughts on this I really would be interested to hear (read) them.

Oh - thanks also for the link you posted to your test of retro-reflective materials - I was shocked at how useless the paint was (I've been thinking about buying some for a project I've got in mind).

From one cyclist to another,

Stay safe. :)

All the best!

Hubiewan (author)2010-05-15

Doesn't rustoleum make a clear coat that reflects light?  Can't get much easier/cheaper/quicker than that.

STOOEE21 (author)2010-04-27

Anyone got any off cuts of this stuff left at all?

Just started riding in London and shocked at how little attention drivers seem to pay to me. Don't want to cover my bike entirely but a few choice bits in strategic places would hopefully catch the eye! Any bits at all would be helpful... :-)

theredproject (author)STOOEE212010-04-27


you can get kits here


Booyaka3 (author)2010-01-15

 I bought some reflective tape... and the guy screwed me! it doesn't reflect anything! it just stays the same color... :'(

imrobot (author)2009-10-30

update it a bit an put it in the light up the night contest!

galenorama (author)2009-10-16

I am buiding a pair of wheels, for my homemade road bike, and was wondering about how this works with rim brakes. Would I just stop at the braking surface, and only do the "top" of the rim?

theredproject (author)galenorama2009-10-19

do the inside of the rim. the side with the nipples and spokes. DO NOT put the vinyl on the braking surface.  that would be bad news. depending on you rims you will have more or less surface space to work with.  If your rims are still un mounted, you can try running a band parallel to the rim, and folding it over onto the sidewalls. more challenging, but offers a full look.

Luuke (author)2008-12-18

amazing. how much does this stuff cost? where can i get it?

theredproject (author)Luuke2008-12-19

about $5 per foot (x 15 inches). takes 6 feet to cover a bike. Beacon Graphics in NJ is selling DIY kits. Ask for Dave Lynn.

galenorama (author)theredproject2009-10-16

Or go here:

Function0 (author)2009-08-19

Here is a good and cheap alternative. Instead of paying $100 for yards of this vinyl you can get a jar of glass beads for around $8 and achieve the same effect.

sharlston (author)2009-08-08

cool ible im getting a bmx in a couple of days! :)

fin saunders (author)2009-03-05

I would add that the human eye can detect lines at a distance better than other objects. You can see high power lines but not the bolt heads on the towers holding the lines up. Keep this in mind when making things to alert someone's eye.

Calorie (author)2009-02-20

It's really not important that they see if your wheels are in motion. The critical part is that they see you and focus on you. The less cognition (hey, what is that?) the better. We move way to slow to relay this information by spinning wheels. Heck, even cars don't tell you that they are moving by wheel markers. You just need to know that they are there and to pay attention.

PKM (author)Calorie2009-02-24

I guess it's not that important as an indicator of whether you are in motion or not, but visibly moving reflectors will be much more attention-grabbing than static ones. If I'm on a road at night and can see 30 sets of car taillights and one cyclist with a flashing light, the flashing light jumps out at me because it's much more noticeable, and I'm sure big rotating wheel reflectors would as well.

As a cyclist I don't think it's possible to draw too much attention to yourself short of draping yourself in multi-coloured christmas lights and blasting out uptempo wartime swing music wherever you go. Recently I was almost hit by a car going the opposite direction to me, that turned into a side road right across my path, the driver hardly even looked at me despite my having a flashing headlight on and being on a nearly empty road. She noticed me when I shouted loud obscenities at her back window but that's not the most workable of strategies :P

Calorie (author)PKM2009-02-24

That's not what I was saying. I took the author's instructable to say that the knowledge of our wheels in motion (or not) will aid a driver in their decision as to our intentions. I throw down the cash when it comes to safety. I was wearing helmets 20 years ago (was it that long!) and have managed to split three of them. Thankfully it was never the fault of a car. Parking lots are very slick in the rain. And you have to go into corners CAREFULLY at high speeds. I actually like the standard OEM wheel reflectors. One honking big reflector moving at different velocities relative to the ground (but not the wheel) makes the motion appear lopsided and catches your attention. It is cheap and comes with all bikes when new. It is passive. As far as orange vests, etc I'm not a big believer. I do know that they work. However, people don't wear them because they are particularly hip, an extra garment to wear and cart around. I do have a high vis yellow jacket that I bought in the UK. Works great but in the US you are treated like a freak. I use it when commuting in cold weather. But for the average person they need something that is wearable off the bike. I've found that I always make eye contact with drivers to be helpful. I always signal.I take my 3 feet buffer off of the white line (that's a HUGE help). I never yell, always thank when able (waive of hand if safe) and generally stay off high speed roads. I always find the biggest, baddest lights that I will purchase and leave on a bike without fear of being stolen (this usually involves the mounting options.) My lights must have a long life time per battery used. Be sure that both lights disperse light sideways from the main beam as well. While commuting/riding at night I wear ankle reflectors (the comfortable kind) and I also wear reflectors on my wrists. Remember: If a car driver has the expectation that they will drive fast they will resent having to slow down. Just think of the last time you were in a traffic jam.

PKM (author)2008-12-16

"This way, with the bikes wheels moving, the persistence of vision will hopefully make the reflection appear solid."

I'd be tempted to use a few large sections precisely so drivers can see at a glance whether the wheels are turning or not- if a car driver just glances in your direction and can see you are definitely moving they might be more cautious than if they just see a cyclist. I'd probably do three 60° sections like a radioactivity symbol to really emphasize the rotation, but ultimately it's up to you.

Kudos for the most reflective bike I think I've ever seen though- recently I find myself swerving around kids on black BMXs wearing all black clothes, where the only vaguely visible bit is their pedal reflectors (thankfully mandatory on new bikes in the UK and most people don't bother taking them off).

dchall8 (author)PKM2008-12-17

I agree about the moving wheel visibility. I would use only one 60 degree arc.

theredproject (author)dchall82008-12-17

the tricky thing is that it is *very hard* to apply an arc like that to a wheel that has already been built up. if you were starting from a raw wheel, that would defintely be a cool idea. anyone building up a wheel and want to try it? i'll send you some vinyl to test with.

dchall8 (author)theredproject2008-12-17

Could you use the little tabs like you used but only on one 60 degrees portion of the arc of the wheel?

el eliel (author)dchall82008-12-17

yeah, i agree. i'd go with industry on this on. big industrial rotating things have ~60* stripe on them or real spirals. if you can't see the rotation of the spiral, you've got bigger problems.

theredproject (author)el eliel2008-12-18

can you direct me to info about this 60 degree principle, and i'll see if i can work something out with the tabs.?

PKM (author)theredproject2008-12-18

The specific 60 degrees isn't anything special- my point was that if the rim of the wheel isn't all lit up the same but broken up into much larger sections, the rotation will be much more obvious at a glance, so motorists will be able to judge whether you are moving more easily. I arbitrarily said three 60 degree sections (ie three sixths) because it would look cool, but really any large subdivision would work, or as el eliel points out a spiral, though that would involve the spokes. You could just do one half, or two opposing quarters just as easily. The easiest way to implement it with your small tabs would be divide the wheel into roughly equal sixths and remove the tabs from three of those slices (or only put them on in three if you were starting out). Actually, sod it- have a diagram.

thepelton (author)PKM2009-02-24

A sixty degree partition on a wheel would be easy to make, since the radius of the wheel is equal to the chord along the edge. You can see what I mean with a compass and paper. Draw a circle, and without changing the compass, you can mark the circle off in six sixty degree sections.

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