Introduction: Simple POV Wheel Lights

Picture of Simple POV Wheel Lights

This Instructable will show you how to make POV lights for bike wheels that generate random colors and patterns and doesn't require any electronic circuit boards or special skills. When I first saw a monkey light I thought that is cool can I make one? Then I saw the electronics and thought probably not. After a bit more thinking maybe I don't need the electronics just to make random patterns. So I built it, not knowing what i would get in the end but it works pretty good. You don't need much to make them and should only take a couple of hours. Other road user certainly notice you at night and children point and say "look mummy his bikes on fire"

Step 1: Getting Started

Picture of Getting Started
The way the circuit  works is very simple. If a flashing LED is wired in series with a number of normal non flashing LED they will all flash. As flashing LEDs flash at slightly different rates it only take a few seconds before you start to get some interesting patterns and colors. The parts you will need can be bought quite cheaply from an electronics hobbies shop or if you don't have one near by, from the internet. I chose red blue and green LED ribbons and red 1 HZ flashing LEDs, and you will also need two 9vot batteries.
Parts List
  •     3 LED ribbons (red blue green)
  •     3 flashing LEDs
  •     2 Nine volt batterys
  •     2 Battery snaps
  •     Cable ties
  •     Clear plastic or acrylic
  •      Switch
  • Soldering iron
  • Hot glue
  • Insulation tape
  • Wire cutter/ stripper

Step 2: Making the Strips

Picture of Making the Strips

First thing to do is to make three strips for the LED strips to stick to. I first made a paper template to get the right shape and get an idea of how to attach the strips to the spokes. I decided to use 2mm clear acrylic plastic and simply cable tie it to the spokes. Once the paper template was correct (it took a few tries to get it right) I then cut out 3 triangle shaped strips and drilled hole for the cable ties. You will need to take care when drilling the holes as acrylic tends to grab the drill and split so use light pressure and put the plastic on a block of wood.

Step 3: Wiring It Up

Picture of Wiring It Up
Once the plastic is cut the LED ribbons can be attached, using the self adhesive backing. It not clear from the photos but the ribbon is folder over the top and  runs across the back of the plastic  so that both sides of the the wheel are lit. Next the flashing LED can be hot glued into place, remembering both the ribbons and the flashing LED are polarity sensitive which means it will not work if wired around the wrong way around. The circuit also uses two 9 volt batteries joined in series to give a total of 18 volts and again they need to be wired the correct way around or the circuit wont work.
  • The red wire from the ribbon need to go to the short lead of the flashing LED and all three ribbons need to be wire like this.
  • Next all the flashing LEDs long leads can be wired together with a red wire and all the black leads from the ribbons can be joined together
  • The 2 battery snaps can be wire together in series and the then the red and black wires soldered together.
  • Once all three ribbons are wired together the red and black wires can be joined to the battery pack and some insulation tape can be used to tidy up the wiring.
  • Fit the batteries and you should have a flashing light show.
  • A switch can also be fitted if you wish

Step 4: Attaching the Lights to the Wheel

Picture of Attaching the Lights to the Wheel

Once everything is working, It just a case of using cable ties to attach the the plastic strips at regular spaces around the wheel, and cable tie the two 9 volt batteries to the center hub. I could could probably come up with a better way to attach the batteries, but the cable ties seem to work quite well. Its also worth the effort to put a switch in the circuit at the battery snaps are difficult to remove one the batteries are fitted to the wheel.
Ive also tried to take a video of the wheel in action but haven't had much success, Its a bit like filming a spinning propeller I keep getting some strange looking results that don't look like anything that you can see with the naked eye, and dont do the project justice. The finished lights It looks a lot like the photos anyway.
Its very hard to even take photographs of the bike in motion with low light so Ive include a few failed attempts before I just gave up and "faked it" Pretend to ride the bike and Ill spin the wheel photos


actuonix (author)2017-01-04

I've thought of trying something like this on my motorcycle, but I'm nervous to throw the wheels out of balance.

secuest (author)2016-03-27

looks a bit complicated.

neklausk (author)2014-04-06

thats too much wires ma dude

Ravirar (author)2013-11-19

It would be cool if this was pedal powered. :)

stevecinstrfme (author)2013-11-05

Wouldn't this circuit more accurately be described as Series/ Parallel since part of it is in series and part of it is in parallel?

Homee2010 (author)2013-10-31

Nicely done. Since I am a cycling commuter, I shall build this, especially with these shorter days and I'm often riding 13 miles in the dark. Have the front and rear lights already, but this will be cool.

liquidhandwash (author)Homee20102013-10-31

thanks homee

johnbee70 (author)2013-10-31

Great start man ! You know, if you make a plan of a snap-on housing for the batteries, and simplify the contacts (like maybe a rotating "switch" that goes on and off as the wheel and its lights go around and contact is "intermittent", eliminating the need for a flasher.) Then of course you have the light generators that were popular (and much more effective) before these goofy flashing lights came on the market, I mean like doing 60 miles an hour down a dark mountain road surrounded by trees, so you don't even get moonlight nor light from neighborhoods a half mile away, right? So you need a constant source of light on a bicycle or motorcycle, or you're gonna hit something you didn't see because of the shadow patterns from the Flasher! Anyway, got on a tangent there! ha,ha! (The reason I mention that stuff is that I lost my lights in a similar way, because I was going so fast down a windy hillside, it burned out my generator! Fortunately the guy behind me (a pickup truck) had his lights on, and I used those to make it down! When he passed me at the bottom, he hollered out the window that I was really going fast, hollered back that I'd just bought it and was testing it out! We laffed and went on! Oh well, just another moment in our own little twilight zones! Good thinking Man! Have fun! Happy Halloweeeen ! ha,ha! (Oh, by the way, that rotating switch wouldn't be cheap, but you could sell a Kit (Shark Tank Moment?) and it would sell ! Free Country ! Good Luck !

nfaction (author)2013-10-29

I learned a trick back in my electronic assembly days with hot glue that a compressed air can is your friend. If you turn the can up-side-down when you spray, freezing cold air comes out and can instantly cure your hot glue. This also has the nice advantage of keeping your glue clear and cloud-less. Plus the added advantage of setting quickly.

liquidhandwash (author)nfaction2013-10-29

thanks thats good to know

carrbuck12 (author)2013-10-28

There from Argos

morgoth_lord (author)2013-10-27

Maybe setting the leds in clear plastic tubing and fastening it to the spokes will make for a cleaner setup and will give better light for both sides... I see Burning Man builds with these setups coming up!!!

Thanks I hadn't thought about putting the ribbons in tube

imatoymaker (author)2013-10-27

Nice project. Was looking for information for a DIY IR flood light recently and this guy had a circuit you might find useful.


bettbee (author)2013-10-25

I wonder whether you could rig something up with capacitors so the pedaling of the bike would be the power supply and the capacitors would let it out at the right voltage/current? (I can't but I thought someone here might know how.) No batteries to replace then.

Dream Dragon (author)bettbee2013-10-25

Magnet on the forks and a Coil on the spokes would do that, certainly enough to be able to run one of the smaller systems, not sure about this one since it needs 9v.

audreyobscura (author)2013-10-22


Thanks Audrey, I was going for fabulous, but awesome is even better.

sbackhove (author)liquidhandwash2013-10-25

double awesome!

imalan54 (author)2013-10-24

With it working better when the battery voltage drops, I would try hooking the 2 9v batteries up in parallel. Positive to positive, negative to negative. This will give you 9v at double the capacity which will make the batteries last longer.

agulesin (author)imalan542013-10-25

LED strips (ribbons) work at 12v so 9v batteries in parallel won't be enough, even if you connect ten of them in parallel.

liquidhandwash (author)imalan542013-10-24

It needs around 16 volts to work correctly, as below that voltage the brightness drops dramatically. It more when you first turn it on with new batteries the flash rate it a bit off with the Led ribbons staying on too long, after about 10 minutes or so it starts to look really good. It just that first time you turn it on with new batteries, the voltage is close to 20 volts, but they then settle down to 18 volts, which works much better.

depotdevoid (author)2013-10-24

Very cool! Any chance of some video?

thank you, I tried to take a video of the wheel in action but haven't had much success, Its a bit like filming a spinning propeller I keep getting some strange looking results that don't look like anything that you can see with the naked eye, and dont do the project justice.

I had difficulty getting decent video of my CCFL wheel lights too.  I'm not sure what a good solution would be, but it would still be nice to see it in action.

sekitori (author)2013-10-24

Nice !
Elegant and simple - the best ones...
You got my vote.
Any ideas on wheatherproofing this ?

liquidhandwash (author)sekitori2013-10-24

thankyou. you can get water proof LED ribbon, plus heat shrink and a battery box, and it would be water tight. The sun is pretty harsh here so Im not sure what you can do about that.

Jedrokivich (author)2013-10-24

Great project! Voted :) Try using some heat shrink tubing instead of electrical tape to tidy up those wire connections.

audioadvisory38 (author)2013-10-23

Random has it on lock. My idea was wedging a 3LED bicycle tail light integrated circuit after selecting what color LED to flash. This idea purpose is much more appealing. Nice Work. Any fried "bulbs" yet?

No "fried bulbs" But I have noticed the patterns change and look better as the batteries run down. 18 volts is probably a little too high but I haven't had any fail.

Basement Engineering (author)2013-10-23

That's a great project. It's such a smart idea to use the flashing LED's circuit instead of building something complicated. I really like your way of thinking.:)

Thanks led

bakunin (author)2013-10-23

Very cool! And well documented.
Don't fret about the photos! It is notoriously hard to take snaps of blinkenspokes in motion.
In fact, I really like your creative solution to the problem: stop the bike and spin the wheels!

liquidhandwash (author)bakunin2013-10-23

Thanks, i thought it was just my crappy camera

About This Instructable




Bio: Fixer, Finder, Fabricator.
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