Introduction: RGB LED Safety (Party) Bike Light ($35)

We wanted to add some safety to bike commuting as the days keep getting shorter. Here is our $35 solution.

My wife tries to commute three times a week and the current bike lights were not cutting it. Reflective tape and a brighter head lamp did not seem like it would solve the visibility issue. We had seen her cousin make a sweet bike with some LED strip lights a few months earlier so we built on the idea of using strip lights to make a very visible bike with multicolored lights.

Parts:

5M (16.4ft) RGB LED Light Strip (5050) $12

Lithium-Polymer Battery 2200mAh $10.43 (or any other 12v battery if you are unfamiliar with Li-Po)

Voltage Monitor $2.77 (Optional, to make sure the battery stays happy)

Li-Po Battery Charger $7.45

Wire (1M) $0.99 (or any stranded small gauge wire you have on hand)

Quick Connect $3 (Optional)

Total: $35

Step 1: Measure and Cut LED's

    Cut the strips of LED's to length to fit the places on the bike you would like lights. Make sure to cut them between the coper on the black line. We used 10 feet of the 16.4 feet that comes in most LED strips.

    Step 2: Clean the Bike

    Clean the bike tubes with some sort of alcohol based cleaner to prepare the surface. This is important otherwise the 3M strips will not adhere to the tubes and you may need to use lots of zip-ties to attach the lights thereafter making the whole project more cluttered.

    Step 3: LED Preperation

    Trim back the waterproofing to make room for soldering or quick connects on the ends you need to connect. It works well to use your fingernail to pry back a small piece of the clear weatherproofing. Then cut the small piece of weatherproofing off with a scissors. Be careful not to damage the copper tabs.

    Step 4: Attach Strips

    Attach the LED strips to the tubes of the bike. We found it helpful to attach one end and pivot the strip on the far end to line it up correctly. Then slowly start on the attached side pressing the strip to the tube firmly. It is helpful to have an extra hand here.

    Step 5: Solder

    Solder wires to connect the strips together. Be sure to connect on the same R G B and + terminals. They are labeled at each junction so just look at it before you connect them.

    Step 6: Controller

    Connect the strips to the controller board with wire. Our circuit board did not have the correct labels on the so check the lights at this point to be sure the right colors are being displayed using the remote. We removed the board from the white box it came in to make it smaller and lighter.

    Step 7: Battery

    Attach your battery to the bike somehow, we have a pouch to put it in but you could velcro or zip-tie it anywhere that works for you.

    It is helpful to have a quick connector $3 so you can charge the battery somewhere safe and not accidentally discharge your battery.

    If you are not familiar with LI-PO batteries do not use them. They are light weight and high capacity but take some extra care not to cause problems. Here is a great overview of them (a little technical for our purposes but helpful to understand the technology)

    • Do not over discharge them. When the lights start to get dim or you think it is getting close turn them off or use a voltage alarm. $2
    • Do not charge them on anything but a charger designed for LI-PO battery chemistry. If you do not they will end up in flames and potentially explode
    • Watch the batteries charge. Do not leave them unattended somewhere or they may cause a problem.

    Step 8: Adjust Lights & Ride

    If you live in an area with strict bike light rules then go with Orange.

    If you regularly see low riders or giant trucks that light up like mars then give them a show.

    Have fun!

    Comments

    author
    streaming_porno (author)2015-04-28

    great!

    author
    jorgen.fogelberg (author)2014-11-25

    A way to protect the ledstrips is to buy a clear plastic tube or pipe and split this open and pry it over the bike frame incl led strips.

    author

    When I was mocking some of my LED builds up I used spiral cable tidy: translucent plastic. This nicely spreads out the glow as well and makes it easier to muck about with the wiring loom if you're also running other lines (5v, EL power, 12v for power taker-off, 12v power for heated grips, etc) over the frame.

    author
    tgvoss (author)jorgen.fogelberg2014-11-25

    These LED strips are already encapsulated in resin so they are smooth and easy to bike with.

    author
    jumpfroggy (author)2014-11-25

    Minor point; the $12 in the title is a bit misleading. The budget for parts from your description is $30. You could have any of these things lying around, which would make the project "free". Just a bit confusing.

    Kudos on the project. Looks good, and in the pic it looks pretty bright. Plus, RGB is a neat trick.

    It looks like the soldered wires are exposed, as well as the control board. You could use some silicone sealant to seal those. I'd put a piece of tape behind each joint (so it doesn't adhere to the bike frame), then glob a little bit on each joint (smooth before it dries). That might make it a bit more long-lasting due to rain, mechanical joint failure, etc.

    Good job. I bought some EL wire a ways back, never installed it; I'd consider doing this instead, since it would be so much brighter and color-selectable. I bet your controller has a fade mode too, right? How cool would that look riding down the street :)

    author
    Chris__W (author)jumpfroggy2015-03-07

    I've done a few things with EL wire but I keep burning out the inverters. I think that prolonged bike use doesn't agree with them. This is a shame because it looks good - you can write the name of your bicycle in EL wire threaded through a bit of 5mm foamboard for extra cool.

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    author
    tgvoss (author)jumpfroggy2014-11-25

    Just updated the title, the description changed a few times while receiving feedback and questions.

    We are planning on hot gluing the joints once we like how it has ended up.

    Thanks for the tips on silicone.

    Yes there is a fade button, probably our favorite mode.

    author
    ElectroFrank (author)tgvoss2014-11-25

    Rather than seal the PCB in silicone, I would recommend a "project box" (from electronics suppliers) to protect the
    circuit board from rain (maintenance and repair is then possible). The
    holes for the wires can be put at the bottom to keep water out (or
    easily sealed with rubber solution or any waterproof glue).

    author
    tgvoss (author)ElectroFrank2014-11-26

    You are welcomed to leave the controller in the box it came in. I wanted a thinner profile to get it out of the way. We live in a desert and don't worry about rain all that often. Just unhook the battery if it is going to be wet.

    author
    jumpfroggy (author)tgvoss2014-11-26

    Hah, good point. It's hard to imagine a place where rain/snow doesn't ruin everything electronic if left outside :)

    author
    MatthewTaylor (author)2014-12-20

    Awesome idea, thanks for sharing! I saw your instructable and decided to do it. I found a 12v rechargeable battery designed for it, also on Amazon, for $24. I also used 22 gage RGB wire and 1/2 inch adhesive lined heat shrink tubing to seal and strain relieve the ends. You can find those on Amazon or at a local electronics shop if you're lucky. It worked great. Double stick adhesive on the strips doesn't hold great but zip ties at the start and end of each strip helps.

    14, 9:19 PM.jpg14, 9:19 PM.jpg14, 9:19 PM.jpg14, 9:19 PM.jpg
    author
    Chris__W (author)MatthewTaylor2015-03-07

    Nice build. I have done a few similar set ups and I use self-fusing silicone tape - sold as 'kraken tape' here in the UK - over the LEDs to make sure they stay on. This works well. I use NiMH rather than LiPo because I'm still not 100% sure I understand lithium batteries. I've tried experimenting with using lots of electroluminescent wire as well, but it keeps burning out the 12v inverters I am running it from.

    author
    sinzu (author)2015-02-02

    As already said, please protect your electronic (board and soldering wires) from short circuit (contact with water or metallic part of the bike).

    This is not so much to keep your electronic safe, but mainly to avoid your LiPo battery to burn or even explode. Lithium batteries are becoming more and more common, but they are not less dangerous. The minimum precaution is to always use an anti-fire bag when charging AND using. It is not an expensive accessory and it can save your life !

    author
    tgvoss (author)sinzu2015-02-02

    What bag would you recommend?

    author
    audreyobscura (author)2014-12-14

    Amazing!

    author
    J-Ri (author)2014-12-11

    Excellent way to make a ride safer! One word of caution, depending on where you live - In most parts of the USA, you'll get detained and robbed for using blue lights on a public road, or for red lights if they aren't on the rear of the vehicle. Ironically, the guy who robs you will have flashing red and blue lights on the front his car.

    author
    tgvoss (author)J-Ri2014-12-12

    Yes, we have had a few comments on this intractable already. We live in an area where golf carts roam the streets at night every day of the week acting as mini free taxies working for tips. They dress them up with lights without issue.

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    author
    maxman (author)2014-11-26

    Good idea and I drool over those lights when I see them in the auto parts stores. However, I am very sensitive to lights shining up into my eyes when I'm riding. Even a headlight reflecting off a brake/shifter cable bothers me.

    Is the glow from these a problem?

    author
    tgvoss (author)maxman2014-11-30

    You can control the brightness to your liking. If you are sensitive to your headlight light reflecting off of metal then this project is probably not for you.

    author
    Greasetattoo (author)2014-11-28

    GREAT instructable!
    Hope it don't rain on your electonics!
    Have you ever looked at:
    http://www.adafruit.com/category/168

    These are some great progammable lights! The Neopixels!

    author
    tgvoss (author)Greasetattoo2014-11-30

    I love Adafruit but have never considered their LED's. Have you programed them for any special uses?

    author
    cbaines1 (author)2014-11-30

    I am definitely fitting these to my van.

    author
    redrooster (author)2014-11-27

    I tried to order the connectors but I was told I had to change my address? I live in Western Australia (This has never happened before?) The seller said I may ask for an exception but there is no way to ask because the seller has closed all questions????

    author
    davidfe (author)2014-11-25

    Very Nice idea and execution. 3M makes a tape that I think is better than zip ties. It is from the auto parts stores for applying trim to cars. It is double sided and perfectly holds the LED strips. I have used it with great success. You must remove the thin plastic film protecting the factory tape. The 3M adheres to the strip with out any problems.

    Love the battery power. Any idea how long it would last with continuous use?

    I live full time in a motor home and plan to do this on the awning.

    Great job.

    author
    tgvoss (author)davidfe2014-11-25

    The LED strip has double sided tape already on it. Not sure how long it lasts yet, it has not died and we have used if for over a half hour.

    author
    davidfe (author)tgvoss2014-11-26

    My strip is single color 5050 like yours except not RGB. I have a roll on order. My lights are in a 'rope' track that allows them to be place facing down in a valance that is above the 9 feet of windows in the living area. After approx. 50 hours, the factory tape failed. I have several hundred hours with the 3M tape. One of the most interesting projects I have seen so far. Thanks.

    author
    tgvoss (author)davidfe2014-11-26

    The strips linked in this tutorial have 3M branded tape, I double checked.

    author
    tgvoss (author)davidfe2014-11-26

    The strips linked in this tutorial have 3M branded tape, I double checked.

    author
    filthyPhil (author)2014-11-25

    How long does the 2200mAh battery run those LEDs for?

    author
    tgvoss (author)filthyPhil2014-11-26

    We ran it for 45minutes but will do a full update on the length after we have used it for a week.

    author
    frankie2234. (author)2014-11-25

    GREAT project. Does the led strip light come in different brightness levels, I would have liked to see the controller and battery source hooked up also. Thanks again.

    author
    tgvoss (author)frankie2234.2014-11-26

    Yes, you can decrease the brightness to your liking using the remote. Are you looking for an image of the connection to the battery?

    author
    Erchan (author)2014-11-25

    must protect from rain circuit and LEDs

    author
    Boogity (author)2014-11-25

    If I missed this I apologize . . . but are the light strips applied to the left side of the bike only? Great 'ible - thanks

    author
    tgvoss (author)Boogity2014-11-25

    There is a jumper connecting both sides of the bike.

    author
    ardrhi (author)2014-11-25

    I'd be careful with the flashing/strobing lights and legality in your area. In some jurisdictions, flashing lights indicate an emergency vehicle, and certain colors, like blue and red, indicate law enforcement. It may sound odd to worry about that, but two things make it sticky -- a bike is considered a VEHICLE, subject to the rules of the road every bit as much as a car, and there ARE bicycle police in some areas. You don't want to be accused/ticketed/arrested for "impersonating law enforcement" on the road.

    Some areas also may regulate what lights you can have on a vehicle. It's fairly common in cities to have "anti-neon" laws, to regulate the use of undercarriage lights on motor vehicles. They may not have been written with bicycles in mind, but still may apply since a bike is a vehicle on the public roads.

    I am not a lawyer, I'm just paranoid.

    author
    tgvoss (author)ardrhi2014-11-25

    Understood and point well taken, this is why we will probably only use the "7 color fade" button on the remote. It slowly cycles through in-between interesting colors and not just red-blue. That would be confusing and not right, this function is visible but not distracting. But as for "neon lights" I personally feel bicycle safety trumps some law written for annoying car lights.

    author
    ardrhi (author)tgvoss2014-11-25

    I understand your point of view, but please keep in mind that what you "feel" does not necessarily translate into what is legal. You may "feel" that safety due to being better illuminated "trumps" the law, but the cop writing you a ticket isn't interested in your feelings.

    author
    tgvoss (author)ardrhi2014-11-25

    Agreed, and I would be willing to take that risk to keep my wife safer on the road.

    author
    ajovaag (author)ardrhi2014-11-25

    I love how polite people are here if this were youtube it would be all check yo dam SH!+ before I cap you lol jk. I'm glad to be part of a online community that doesn't give each other shit just constructive criticism

    author
    AskWit (author)2014-11-25

    Awesome!!!

    author
    karlpinturr (author)2014-11-25

    How much of the strip did you end up using?

    author
    tgvoss (author)karlpinturr2014-11-25

    10ft, so we may add more in the future.

    author
    karlpinturr (author)tgvoss2014-11-25

    Thanks.

    author
    nivekmai (author)2014-11-25

    Neat, now you need to wire the remote up to the brakes so the light automatically turns red when you put on your brakes.

    author
    BradleyD1 (author)2014-11-24

    Do you have any problems with water and the controller?

    author
    tgvoss (author)BradleyD12014-11-25

    No, but we live in a desert and plan on not using the lights if it is raining. You certainly could leave the controller in the box and seal the joints with hot glue or silicone to waterproof it.

    author
    Conquest102 (author)2014-11-25

    GREAT IDEA. They do make a quick connector for the wire so no soldering needed. Does she get all the way home on one charge?

    author
    tgvoss (author)Conquest1022014-11-25

    Yes, Just adds a decent amount of clutter and cost to the project. http://amzn.com/B00977FHG4

    author
    fixfireleo (author)2014-11-25

    LMAO....it took me several minutes to realize "LGB" (in the thumbnail email from instructibles) was a mistype and didnt mean lesbian gay bisexual! great idea! now can you work on solving the problem of the idiots that wear dark clothing and walk in the street at night?

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