Tron bike: it's a 100% clear plastic bike frame with LED edge lighting. The entire frame starts from a single flat sheet of clear polycarbonate (lexan) plastic which is cut into pieces and assembled. LED edge lighting is added to provide great night-time special effects. The bike falls a bit more on the "art" side than the "practical" side as it is heavy and wobbly, but it is rideable and great for cruising town around at night.

The original (un-lit) clear plastic frame concept & design is by saul, who led an intersession class at the MIT Media Lab in 2003 (?) where about 10 students each designed and built a clear plastic bicycle frame. Some of the students modified the frame styling a bit, one of the other frames with a more curvy style is shown below.

After seeing one of the frames around MIT in 2004, I had the idea for customized edge lighting so I built up a frame and added the lighting effects.

The full project here is quite a lot of work unless you have a high-end machine shop at your disposal, but there should be several ideas for you along the way. I've included the CAD files for the plastic frame and the C code for the microcontroller. This is an "after the fact" documentation, i built this about 3 years ago.

As seen in the Wired Blog.  

This article is brought to you by MonkeyLectric and the Monkey Light bike light

Step 1: Tools & Parts you need

plastic frame:

- a 4' x 8' sheet of 3/8" thick clear polycarbonate
- a 2' x 4' sheet of 1/8" thick clear polycarbonate
- a 2' long, 1" diameter clear polycarbonate rod (handlebar)
- acrylic solvent cement

bike build:

- standard bottom bracket
- standard seatpost & seat
- 26" rear wheel with coaster brake
- 26" front wheel
- threadless headset
- 12" long aluminum fork tube (sized for your headset diameter)
- standard stem
- standard crank arms & pedals

LED edge lighting:

- as many LEDs as you desire (this one has about 200 x 5mm leds, but you probably want to use high-power leds)
- 22 guage wire in 4 colors
- three copies of my simple constant-current led driver circuit, one for each bank of LEDs
- simple Atmel AVR controller circuit which drives three FET's, each fet turns on/off one of the LED banks.


You need to be able to cleanly cut out the plastic frame parts from the sheet of plastic. You might be able to do this with a jigsaw, a dremel tool and a lot of patience, otherwise you'll need a CNC mill or a CNC waterjet cutter.

You will need a bottom bracket tap to cut the threads into the plastic to screw in the bottom bracket, most bike shops probably don't have one of these and you'll have to try a custom frame builder.

A dremel tool to polish any of the plastic edges that don't quite fit.

standard bike tools

soldering iron & pcb assembly gear
I've heard of a bike done like this by some university students. ....Brock University (Canada). <br> <br>It be nice to see a video of the steps done to produce a bike like this.
I am not entirely sure i would ride it as Acrylic is very brittle.
all this needs is an LED outlining for the wheels
awesome bike! i want one! but i imagine you cant keep it in the sun for too long...
actually polycarbonate/ is resistant to yellowing from the sun...it's 1 reason why they make R/C car bodies out of it.
i was thinking more about the frame drying out and cracking.
ah I see...it should last a couple years
Very cool build !!!&nbsp;&nbsp; I'd&nbsp; love to see some video .<br />
where would we get these materials, and how much is this gunna cost? This looks really cool, I'd love to build one.....
You know how much it weighs?
around 30 lb
lol the bike is a pimpmobile
if i built this i would have done some things differently ,starting with the lighting. i would have used rope light [http://www.ultraleds.co.uk/images/neonblue.jpg] or sand the frame to make it look &quot;cloudy&quot;.<br/>
Thank you for the ideas!!! I'm working on tricking out a trike with LEDs for a Halloween parade, and your frame took me in a whole new direction! Great job!
TOTALLY SICK RIDE! all you need to do now is add some led "hokeyspokes" to it and maybe some EL wire for the handlebars. i bet that bike turns heads at night.
Anyone else noticed that there are no breaks? Great job!
breaks? you mean cracks? actually there are some small ones :( but its still in one piece and ridable. as noted in the project the bottom bracket area cracked to failure, but this was more a design problem of not putting thick enough plastic there in the first place.
I think he meant to say <em>brakes</em>. Does this bike have any <em>brakes</em>?<br/>
Correct. That is what I meant
yes it has brakes. the secret to easy custom bike building is to use a rear wheel with a coaster brake. no cables needed!
OK, That's pretty AWESOME!
Very cool. The lighting is great. You did the hard parts, but here are a few easy additions that would complement the assembly. How about: 1. Acrylic rod for the handlebars and seat post 2. Mylar aero wheel covers. Use r/c aircraft mylar to create cheap disc wheels over the spokes. Superglu to rim and washer at hub. Heat a little with hair dryer or heat gun to stretch. Hmmm. maybe I need to do an Instructable for that one. 3. Peel off the saddle pad and replace with transparent gel pads Thanks for posting!
thanks! actually it does have a clear handlebar added after some of the photos were done - see the daylight photos - but no leds in the handlebar yet.
I see the handlebar now. Excellent.
you know there's a company who make car rims out of 2" thick clear lexan if you can manage something like that it would be pretty cool
i wouldn't want to be the guy riding it when it collapses from weather and sun deterioration, but a very cool idea none the less.
This was at the maker faire 2007 wasn't it?
of course!
I have a suggestion for a future upgrade to this, you could fit in a few speakers and a psp sized compartment to put an mp3 player in to make it a DUB bike.
i get the feeling this is gonna be the start of a new sub group of instructibles for instance a clear lexan skate boar w lighting would look like a hover board at night
heh that would be cool
lol yea you could hve the tusks flash
tusks? Do you have a prehistoric board or something? Or did you mean trucks?
my first post i said clear skate BOAR instead of BOARD
is it safe to ride? that stuff cracks and splits into pointy shards. great idea, but let's test a rejected one to distruction before riding it. I put led's on electric r/c planes too!
acrylic makes shards, not polycarbonate
oh, didn't know. I used plexi on some projects. It sucks. If lexan is that good, I will keep it in mind for the next 1. thanks
Awesome. Inspiring for both the LED aspects but mostly for the bike design.
this is really nice. i think ive found a good project for my schools cnc machine. oh and for those handlebar wires you might consider having contacts like in an electric motor. that way no matter how far you turn the handlebars the wires dont break.
yes! a commutator would be a good way to do the handlebar wires so they couldn't break.
It'd be really neat to run this off of a dynamo attached to the wheel. You could easily enough just use a small PMDC motor as a generator. Set the gear ratio right to get it to the voltage you want- however your voltage will be all over the place, so it would be better to use it in alternator fashion- the dynamo charges a battery that powers the lights when you're not moving. I imagine that this would end up just augmenting how long the battery lasts rather than generating enough power for the LEDs continuously. Lets see- 200 LED, say 30ma/5v each = 0.15W each x 200 = 30W, call the generator efficiency 70%, get around 43W. Lance Armstrong can put out 300W continuously, and a reasonably fit person can expect 75-110w over 4 hours, so a 43W on a bicycle is not insignificant!<br/><br/>Any one of these motors would work: <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.robotmarketplace.com/marketplace_motorsmisc.html">http://www.robotmarketplace.com/marketplace_motorsmisc.html</a><br/>The HTI one has 70% efficiency and a Kv of 1260, so it would need to turn at least 18000RPM to get 14v, charging voltage for a 12v lead acid. A bike going 10MPH with 26&quot; wheels will have wheels turning at 130rpm. 18000/120=147:1 gear ratio! Assume friction drive, the roller would have to be 147 times smaller than the wheel, or 0.177&quot; - just undr 3/16 of an inch. Not feasible- I'd feel comfortable with a minimum roller diameter of 3/4&quot;- a 35:1 ratio, giving 4550rpm at the motor. So to get 14v we'd need a motor with kV of 325. That's in the realm of very large motors! A popular 1.1kW PMDC motor that I know has a kV of 186, and that's quite a big motor. <br/><br/>So to conclude: using a dynamo is not really a good solution unless you can find a motor with a low kV.<br/>
yeah, i think this is why i opted for 4 x AA rechargeable batteries. it runs about 2 hours on a charge because the average power draw is about 8W. the LED's are never all on at the same time, we're always blinking them or fading them.
Love it!!
How durable is the frame? Also, do you have any video footage of this during the night time? I would enjoy seeing it lit up while being ridden.
it is not as strong or durable as a metal frame, but good enough for frequent "cruising around town" use. you just have to be a bit gentle and avoid slamming curbs at high speed. i know at least a couple people from MIT that rode theirs to campus daily for quite some time, i've probably put 50 1-mile trips on mine. as noted, i did break & repair my bottom bracket but this is correctable by tweaking the cad files for the frame.
Very good work.
Great Job!
Work in a flash system for the LED's and you could probably market this to the Police and Emergency Services communities. Nice job... that is freaking kewl!!! ~C

About This Instructable


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Bio: Dan Goldwater is a co-founder of Instructables. Currently he operates MonkeyLectric where he develops revolutionary bike lighting products. He also writes a DIY column for ... More »
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