Introduction: DIY Glow: Ground Effects Lights for Your Bike!

Picture of DIY Glow: Ground Effects Lights for Your Bike!

An easy DIY project to add ground effects lights to your bicycle or other means of conveyance, utilizing inexpensive and commonly available cold-cathode lights. They look cool, and really do increase your visibility at night. Since putting them on my tallbike everone is asking to take my picture.

Step 1: Prototype

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I tried this first on my tall bike, I just bought some CCFL's at Fry's and zip-tied them on, powered by a lead acid battery i had laying around. It was pretty cool, but i broke a tube a few days later, Simply zip-tying the tubes on caused them to flex, and any further pressure would cause the glass inide to flex, not something glass should do!

I decided to add a strip of polished aluminum behind the tubes to act as a reflector, directing more light downward, and to help reinforce the acrylic tubes. In addition it would mean the straps would not go over the tubes but under, alleviating the source of bending, and not obscuring the light.I'd also want a better battery pack, as six pounds of lead is hardly noticed on already heavy tallbike, but not really welcome on nice lightweight bikes.

Step 2: Materials

Picture of Materials

1. A dual tube Cold Cathode Flourescent Light kit, commonly available at computer stores, cheaper on the internet, i got mine at Fry's for $15.

2. 12v Battery, i improvised a AA holder out of sprinkler pipe, and used NiMH cells. Any old 12 or 14 volt battery pack will do, the tubes draw about 0.6 amps, so 2 amp-hour should be plenty. you should be able to put something together for $20

3. Aluminum bar, 5/8"x1/8"x2', To reflect more light downward, as well as reinforce the tubes, i had this already, but it's only about $3 at home depot

4. Foam, to pad the back of the tubes

5. Velcro straps, I used RipWrap cable straps i found at Fry's

I utilized some things i had laying around, and spent about $20 but even if you bought everything in the store, it should be about $45. It's not as slick and bombproof As the Fossil Fool'sDown Low Glow, but it's cheap and effective.

Step 3: Reflectors

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First I cut the aluminum bar into two 12" lengths. Then I sanded one side fairly smooth with some 400 grit emery paper, and buffed it to a mirror polish with some tripoli compound. Next i sanded the last inch on each end to a rough finish, as well as a spot in the center, to give a good bond for epoxy.

On the tubes, which have square end caps, i touched one face of each end with a drum sander, leaving the acrylic very rough, and taking the material down almost flush with the tube.

Then I just glued the tubes to the reflectors with some thirty minute epoxy, putting a dab in the center to back up the tube.

Step 4: Padding

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While the epoxy set, i cut some small blocks of minicell foam to glue to the backs, and attached it with contact cement.

Step 5: Velcro

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After wiring my battery up to a molex connector, the epoxy was kicked, so time to velcro everything on.
I used thins RipWrap stuff i found at Fry's, $6 for 45 straps, comes on a roll, just tear them off as needed. any old velcro straps will do, or zip ties.

Step 6: More Velcro

Picture of More Velcro

I decided to try it on my track bike, as it's tight clearances are unforgiving. If it fit on the fixie, it'll fit any bike. I know for sure that while more durable, the tubes of the Down Low Glow, that Paul Freedman sells are too fat for this bike. One small reason i went the DIY route.

Took about five minutes to velcro everything on, now to test it.

Step 7: Galvanick Lucipher

Picture of Galvanick Lucipher

Let there be light! The pictures really don't do it justice, it is a ridiculously bright thing to be putting on a bicycle, but won't blind anyone.

I think the blue is the coolest color, but i think green is the brightest cold cathode. White may be bighter, but wouldn't be as eye-catching. Whatever color you use it looks awesome. Combined with a mutant bicycle it makes for a street level UFO.

I took the fixie for a ride, and while the reaction wasn't as strong as with the tallbike, it definitely turns heads. The feeling of ridng on a carpet of light is pretty cool too.

Step 8: Further Thoughts

So, after breaking one of the unreinforced blue lights, and tearing a cable off one of the green lights, I've got some ideas for the next one.

1) put the CCFL tubes in bigger acrylic tubes like these

2) resolder up the tubes to some wire

3) put the battery and inverter in the peanut butter jar bottle pack like fungus amungus did.

I'm ordering the acrylic tubing, when i rebuild it, i'll post up a new instructable.


dremeldude (author)2012-08-13

Is that a fixie bike?

canucksgirl (author)2011-12-17

I'm sure you already know, but this is just sic!

"Crazy Kid from the beach, I seek to advance the level of freakbike technology..." - Hilarious, and makes perfect sense. 

Keep up the awesomeness. ;)

unaffiliatedperson (author)2011-08-06

i want these

Doodls-Stuff (author)2011-07-28

Hey, I really like this idea as i was going to buy some Fibre Flare lights. From looking at photos and what I've heard these lights appear too bright too function as a rear light. Is it possible to run it at 9V using a 9V battery? Thanks for this instructable.

pixil (author)2009-04-16

sorry if this is a stupid question, but i'm not sure what sort of inverter i need to connect the molex connecter to the battery? where could i find something like this?

charlieb000 (author)pixil2009-07-03

i am guessing you mean computer molex, yellow wire is 12v, red is 5v, it is most likely to run on only 12v

xana (author)charlieb0002011-03-27

yes and agreed in most of my experiments Ive only run the 12 volt side, but you still need a 5 volt source to get the device to run. but in this case you only need the 12 volt source.

zachht111 (author)charlieb0002010-03-30

Yeah, I would recommend 12v.

xana (author)pixil2010-08-10

you don't need one because the current in side of you computer (that is where the mole x connector comes from) is dc not ac. batteries are also dc so an inverter would be useless.

santoolangeles (author)2010-06-20

I am unclear about the battery situation. I love this mod. But when I looked up what a 12v battery was, it looks like a car battery. What exactly do I need to power these things? Thanks.

xana (author)santoolangeles2010-08-10

8 times 1.5 = you need 8 1.5 volt batteries non chargeable batteries like AAA, AA, D, and C cell batteries are all 1.5 volts. there many other batteries types out there other than car batteries that will work. i use this one its a hobby one like you would put in your rc car.

UgniusR (author)xana2011-01-19

I think it would be easier to use two 9V batteries and hook up a 12V Regulator...

grayseep189 (author)2011-01-10

What if you made it so it didn't take batteries and instead was powered by you peddling?

nikhil_karkhanis (author)2010-10-11

The bike looks awesome

its2l8men (author)2010-07-24

that bike looks dangerous

jokerlz (author)2009-01-12

Great instructable. I combined some of your ideas (velcro) with some from another instructable which is similar (position of tubes) to come up with mine (one tube is UV)

jokerlz (author)jokerlz2009-01-12

(I love brackets) ("()")

zachht111 (author)jokerlz2010-03-30

Me too! ( . )( . ) lol bewbs

QuackMasterDan (author)2010-02-04

Hi there, your instructable was one of the first I ever followed about two and a half years ago. Thank you for your guide that helped get me started on my passion for lights and electricity. I've been riding my mountain bike around town like this for nearly two years now, and have received everything from shock, to dumbfounded onlookers, and even an offer to buy my bike while in the street riding it. Originally I modified upon your design for riding actual mountain-bike trails up in the Sierra Nevada mounta range, and figured you might enjoy seeing how I've expanded a bit on your design, with a custom-made four 5 Watt Luxeon LED headlamp, dual green EL wire accent lighting, and boosted capacity easy-connect rechargable kits (no removing batteries, ever, and it's all waterproof). Through some knowledge on bikes and lights, I've also expanded into lighting wheel hubs. Thanks for your efforts, for it helped me to develop immensely, and in turn has helped many others.

diode_tensegrity (author)2009-11-23

As a way to protect the tubes, you can mount the tubes inside square acrylic tube. I did this once with square tube I got from Tap Plastics. I think it was 1" stock. The square bits on the ends of the cold cathode tube fit almost perfectly into the ends of the stock. Just seal it up and you have a fairly rigid protective clear case.

ka1axy (author)2009-11-15

To keep the tubes from breaking against the acrylic, thry wrapping the ends in foam.  Its springiness should push the CCFL towards the centerline of the acrylic tube and also provide some isolation from the bike frame.

hanz12 (author)2009-10-20

this isn't waterproof is it?
the problem is when i am cycling it is light or it is bad weather
(only in winter  its dark enough )
greetz from holland

(seabear) (author)2009-08-26

that bike is AWESOME!!!

darrenlatson (author)2009-08-18


darrenlatson (author)2009-08-18


Tommyhzy (author)2009-08-06

Man I already modded 2 of my wheels before even seeing your Instructable!

Oh I used 3 RGB LEDs for the first wheel, then 9 Ultra Bright LEDs for the second wheel. Now with my new bike I am totally going to use Cold Cathodes. Too bad the shipping for these things costs exactly 7 times as much as the product itself :P

I'm thinking of attaching one of these to the Inside of a tire, it that possible?

PyroMonger (author)2009-05-21

I feel left out so I'm going to add my bike pics here tonight...its still just a prototype but i want to show it off and get some feedback for improvements

Numpad (author)2008-11-28

I thought of this idea a couple weeks ago, then as i was halfway through making mine i came accross yours! i only have 2x 4" blue neons, but they are pretty bright. I also had an old cordless drill battery (which is 9.6V) i dont know if the lower voltage means they are dimmer, but it works perfectly! i had modified my bikes water bottle to hold the battery so its nice and waterproof! i took mine out for its first test run today, and litterally after 2mins i had someone shout out "i love your bike" :D very chuffed with results... will go for 12" neons next time, and track down a proper 12v battery from somewhere!

TheDeviant13 (author)Numpad2009-04-14

Instead of a 12 volt battery I just used an 8 AA holder from Radio Shack The wire with the grey dashes is Positive and the solid black one is Negative and so far it works for me.

mspark400 (author)2008-12-05

hello! Great project! I seem to be having some mystery problems though. I have a battery pack of 8 aa and some ccfls from a lighting kit for computers. It runs fine when connected to the computer power supply but fails to illuminate when connected to my battery pack. To add some details the lights are two uv ccfl a and all of my parts came from radioshack this is a huge mystery to me and any ideas would be super helpful Thanks in advance! Mspark400

mspark400 (author)mspark4002008-12-05

nevermind just a bad driver circuit

totoroben (author)2008-11-28

Im doing this project with LED strips. I wonder how much of a brightness difference there is between LED and CCFL. LED are easier to install, more durable, waterproof, and at this point only cost a few extra bucks. The only question that remains is light output. I will post some pics when Im done.

private eye (author)2007-11-21

I don't get the battery is it a big old 12v or could i use a couple of 9v or something more compact. can any bodey help me!

E.B. (author)private eye2007-11-23

8 x 1.5V = 12V, so you can use 8 AAs, for example. I used a part like this (

stevevance (author)E.B.2008-09-14

I was reading that rechargeable AA batteries only provide 1.2v and this is a problem for "high draw" devices. If I were to use rechargeable AA batteries, would I need 10 of them, instead of 8?

totoroben (author)stevevance2008-11-28

you can order a 10 AAA battery pack or 10AA battery pack at and the appropriate charger.

E.B. (author)stevevance2008-09-14

I don't know offhand if that's true; I don't have rechargable AAs on me to check that. If you used 1.2V batteries, 10 would probably be good since you're supposed to input 12V as I understand it, and my version of this ran fine off 12V from disposable AAs. But it's not my instructable so I don't know for sure.

private eye (author)E.B.2007-11-26


Amberwolf (author)2008-11-07

For those simply looking for cheap CCFLs to do this kind of thing with, you can get "free" ones out of old flatbed scanners and multifunction printer/copiers, frequently available on places like your local groups for the cost of going and picking them up. They'll all be white, but you can use party wrap or actual colored stage light gels to filter that to the color you wish. Since the CCFLs in the scanners will usually just be a bare bulb fixed to the bulky scanner mechanisms, you will also need to find some clear tubing of relatively stiff make to shield it in, but even that can be found for cheap or nothing if you rethink how you are looking at items and their packaging, as I've seen some thermometers come stored in hard plastic clear tubes, and also certain drill bits and other semi-cylindrical tools may sometimes come in this kind of protective tubing. Most of the scanner inverters I've seen run off 12VDC, but you do need to check (preferably before you disassemble the scanner completely) what voltage is actually being applied to the inverter's input before you just wire up a battery to it. :) Some have been 9VDC, and more than a few multifunctions ran off 24VDC for lighting, motors, etc. ReThink, RePurpose, ReUse. :-)

some of the new ones are green :)

For a color scanner, they must be white. There *are* units that use LEDs instead, like the CanoScan LiDE series (the scanner I actually use is one such), and those sequence the green, blue, and red LEDs on and off as it increments down the scanning tray to get a scan.

On monochrome copiers, rows of green neon bulbs were not uncommon. Sometimes green fluorescents would also be used. Some fax machines I've deconstructed have had rows of green LEDs.

But you shouldn't find any color scanners that have only one color of light, or else they won't be able to scan the colors in. Possibly three separate lights, red, green, and blue, but unless using LEDs that is highly unlikely due to cost and space.

Which brand and model is the new one you have seen with only green? I'm curious and would like to find out how it works.

mine is a Brother MFC 420CN. I took another look at it and I think it might the LED. It use green for black copies and then when doing color it flashed green, red, blue, and then white and scanned with the white. So its white might me the blend of the green red and blue.

Most likely. That's basically how the CanoScan I have works (except it's always used as RGB in sequence per scanned line, rather than all at once).

The LED bars in these are not as useful for you to use as bike lighting, though, as while they're nice and visible, they're nowhere near as overall bright as CCFLs. Lower power usage, usually, though. The ones I have taken apart also don't simply run as a nice easy "apply power and light up", as many have either control signals or actual data lines (often some type of serial interface) to tell them what brightness to use, etc. The control electronics are usually not separate from the main logic board(s) for the whole scanner/copier, and thus not practical to put on the bike with the light to control it, even if you could fake it into forcing the right output from the light. Creating your own control may be relatively easy, but it's a lot less work to just find a scanner that uses white CCFLs, as almost all of the ones I've ever seen do. :)

The LED bars do have the distinct advantage that they are not as easily broken as CCFLs, of course. And since they are often multiplexed in some way, as opposed to being just all wired up to turn on with power applied, it can be possible to turn them into message bars on your wheels (like the SpokePOV from adafruit), but would probably require more than a little work to wire up to a controller board to do it, including modification of the LED PCB.

That's why I really only ever tried the CCFLs as my headlights and stuff on the bike, as I was looking for *simple* recycled lighting. :-)

private eye (author)2008-10-02

got all my under glow and sound sensitive add on from under computer lighting (super cheap)!

private eye (author)2008-10-02

i hooked up my under glow it works great, i also put a sound sensitive deal on them and it pulses to music that comes from folding speakers under the seat that are on my mp3. It rocks!!!

prototype27 (author)2008-09-29

Put the batteries and inverter in one of those cheap REI seat packs. Works great. Also the neon tubes at your neighborhood auto parts store are way more sturdy and come in a bunch of sizes. Bike lighting rocks!

stevevance (author)2008-09-21

I just made this over the weekend.
Parts I used:

RadioShack 8 AA battery holder - $1.89
RadioShack switch - $3.99 (just realized I could have bought the switch directly from Oznium)
Oznium Blue 12" CCFL light tube kit
12" 18 gauge wire
RadioShack Spade terminals
RadioShack female connectors

Photos of finished project:

madimedja (author)2006-01-15

I think the time and effort required would justify buying the original... and I agree that building a kit can be fun. But if fun and creativity are what you're good at, why not put your energy into something original, instead of a knockoff?

fungus amungus (author)madimedja2006-02-07

Didn't you just answer your own question? Looking at something and then figuring out how to make it is fun. Typically, my first projects are quite similar to existing works. With that out of the way I can go on to make some adjustments. I doubt that I'm too out there with that approach. I recently finished this project and have been riding around quite visibly. After dealing with the annoyance of unhooking the battery pack all the time I've decided to pack that and the inverter into a water bottle and slide that into the bottle holder.

maxwell (author)fungus amungus2006-02-08

Ah, good idea!

About This Instructable




Bio: Crazy Kid from the beach, I seek to advance the level of freakbike technology, Throw nice pottery, race bicycles, become a cyborg,
More by maxwell:DIY Glow: Ground Effects Lights For Your Bike!Building a better Tall Bike
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