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

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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!

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      user

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      62 Comments

      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.

      2 replies

      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.

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

      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 :)

      5 replies

      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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      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.

      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).

      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.

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

      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
      1 reply

      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.

      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 !

      1 reply

      What bag would you recommend?

      user

      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.

      1 reply

      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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      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?

      1 reply

      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.