Introduction: Electroluminescent Mountain Bike
This guide offers you the chance to implement electroluminescent wire (EL Wire) and LED strings to light up the night while riding safe, shiny, and highly stylish.
Electroluminescent Wire, also called EL Wire, is a copper cable coated in a reactive paint. By forcing electricity to jump through the paint to conduct, the paint emits light and the wire glows. There are two factors in how bright the wire shines: frequency, and paint concentration. The more paint there is, often called a hi-brightness wire, the longer it lasts and brighter it can glow. The higher the frequency, the paint is activated more thoroughly and emits more brightly, at the cost of its lifespan.
EL Wires are powered by an inverter or driver, that supplies AC current to jump through the paint. They take a specific source voltage (generally 9v or 12v DC), and are designed for a certain length of wire. They are very delicate, and can easily break if given power without wire to light up.
This instructable will also be installing LED light strips on the underside of the bike chassis. Through a mix of green and blue LEDs and EL Wire, this mountain bike is going to look incredible. On my previous installs with EL Wire, I have received very positive reactions to the bike, including people asking for photos, and a $500 offer in the middle of the street to purchase my bike (Though it's worth more than that ;-D). This guide gets fairly complex, involving making a battery pack, soldering your EL Wires, creating a switchbox to control the lights, and mounting everything to your bike. I hope you have as much fun following this guide as I do riding my bike.
All of the parts cost me about $130, and putting everything together took three days of work. The project is semi-complicated though very time consuming, but is suitable for those with even minor soldering experience.
Step 1: Parts
EL Wire projects can become expensive very quickly. This guide solely makes use of hi-brightness wire, which generally runs about $1.50 per foot. Add on inverters, a battery pack, LED strips, switches, and connecting materials, the cost for this whole project including shipping, not including tools, ended up around $130. Here is the entire parts list, it's a big one, but you likely have most of the gear already, and it's simple stuff.
Soldering Iron ($12): A 15 Watt iron from Radioshack.
0.022" Silver Rosin Core Solder ($4): Lead-based solder with embedded flux, makes quick, solid connections and melts rapidly, Radioshack.
Needle-Nose Pliers ($6): One of your most important tools.
Knife/X-Acto Knife ($4): Needed for stripping wires and cutting connections.
Power Drill (~$80 w/ Cord): We only need to drill a few holes through plastic, it doesn't need to be powerful.
Drill Bits ($20 for 20 bits @ Lowes): I have a Black & Decker Drill Bit set of various sizes from 1/32" to 1/2".
Ruler/Level ($10): Needed for measuring off parts. I use both standard (imperial) and metric units in this guide as needed.
Hacksaw ($15): For cutting PVC pipe. You could also use a PVC pipe cutter if you have one.
Hot Glue Gun ($5-15): I use a "Professional" heavy duty super-glue gun, since I use a ton of the stuff. You can also use a hobby gun.
Hot Glue Sticks (Bag for $4)
Multi-Meter ($10-50): This lets me test the voltages of connections, along with measuring conductivity between wires, an extremely helpful and sanity-saving tool.
12 feet Blue and 16 feet Green EL Wire ($42 @ $1.50/foot): 2.5mm, Hi-Bright Long-Life Standard wire.
Fish Driver+ 1 (#DF1) ($8.00): Measured for 2-35 feet of EL Wire running at 12 volts.
1x Quad Connectors ($2.25): Allows four lengths of EL wire to connect to the driver.
Copper Foil Tape ($0.00 for 3 feet): Free, Coolneon.com offers free copper tape to customers (Be reasonable, three feet is a ton). If you don't want to buy through coolneon.com, on eBay it is cheap, and it is also available in craft and gardening stores (apparently it keeps snails from climbing over the rim of pots).
8x Connectors Driver Side ($4.00): Similar to a quick disconnect, it allows you to easily connect EL wires to the inverter.
8x Connectors Wire Side ($4.00)
Wire ($0-20): We're going to need a lot of raw wire to complete this mod. If you've got a spool that's great, another good substitute is speaker wire, and one of my favorites is ethernet cable, since one cable has eight different-colored wires inside of good strength.
From eBay (Seller WinterLamLam)
1x PVC 120cm Green LED Strip ($8.97 inc. shipping): One LED per cm, this has 120 green 5mm LEDs covered in a flexible PVC rubber coating.
1x PVC 72cm Blue LED Strip ($5.58 inc. shipping)
Battery Pack Parts
4x 3/4" PVC Plugs ($2): These are made for PVC Plumbing pipe, but we are going to use them in a pipe they are not made for, a 1" Electrical Conduit pipe. As a result, we must file them down. They will hold the springs for containing the batteries, along with being a waterproof seal.
1x 1" Electrical Conduit PVC Pipe (Grey, $2): This is sturdier than standard white PVC, along with being higher quality materials and less scruffed up than most PVC in stores. It looks nicer as well, along with fitting our C batteries almost perfectly due to it's thicker walls.
Scrap Wire ($0-20): I already had some leftover 16AWG speaker cable (I used about 6 feet for this guide) from installing my home theater. Any large amount of flexible wire will do, another good option is computer cables with a ton of pins (like SCSI/Parallel), since they have very large, fluffy, electrical shielding.
Zip-Ties ($5): A small bag (20x) of 11" Zip-Ties to hold the battery pack to the bicycle's Seat Tube.
4x Battery Pack Springs ($4): Ripped out of a 4 C Battery Pack. Four medium-sized, fairly weak springs. If you can find stronger springs (Mag-Lite D Battery style), do so.
9v Snap on Connectors (Bag for $4): For our major connection points.
12x C 9000mAh NiMH Rechargeable Batteries ($20): Ultra-high capacity C batteries. Each battery is 1.2 volts, we need 10 to reach 12v. Many different sellers on eBay, just search "C battery 9000mAh".
Universal Smart Charger 7.2-12v NiMH ($28): A very good automatic battery charger, works with any capacity up to 12 volts. From seller DahanBay.
Carlon PVC Type C 1/2" Electrical Conduit Box ($3): This is the body of the switchbox.
1/2" PVC Plug ($0.40): Holds the 9v Snap-On connector.
1/2" PVC Electrical Conduit Adapter ($0.40): A nice port to feed wires into the box.
3x On/Off Toggle Switches ($4.50): They turn things on, then off, then possibly on again.
Heat-Shrinking (Optional) (Huge box for $20 on eBay (115pcs 5 Size Kit From eBay's Tubing-Express)
Though it's optional, I strongly recommend this process if you have the available heat shrink. Since I like my wiring to look nice, and not have the bike be covered in copper, silver, green, blue, red, and black wires, I'm covering every inch of wire on the bike in heat-shrink tubing. This not only protects it, but it looks nicer and increases resistance to the elements. I made use of the sizes 1/8", 3/32", 1/4", and 1/2". Upon finishing the bike, I have used an enormous amount of heat-shrink in the wiring for this project. I find the cost and effort to be worth it, though it is not mandatory.
Step 2: Building the Battery Pack - Plugs and Springs
We have 10 C batteries, each running at 1.2v for a total of 12v. Each battery is approximately 1" in diameter. We will use a 1" PVC Electrical Conduit pipe to make two pipes of five batteries each. Note that while a C battery is outer diameter 1", a 1" PVC pipe has "give room", making it slightly larger than 1" inner diameter. White plumbing PVC pipe has even more give room (thinner walls).
A plug will be inserted on each end, containing a spring which will push into the batteries on both ends and terminals protrude out of back of each plug. Clumps of copper wire will go between each spring and it's battery terminal, since springs get crushed and bend with repeating impact (riding). The two pipes will be hot-glued together for strength and minimal space, and connected in series with a short, 1" wire. The full 12v will be accessed by soldering a 9v Snap-On Connector to the protruding terminals on the opposite pipes. Hot glue will hold everything together, along with sealing the pipes to be waterproof. As much tension as possible on the batteries is preferred, since mountain bikes take a lot of shock force than can cause batteries to bounce, and lights to annoyingly blink in the short gap of electricity.
The 3/4" PVC Plugs do not fit into the 1" PVC Electrical Conduit Pipe. They are about 1/16" too wide, which is essentially nothing. Because of this small size, we will use a file to grind the entire side of the plug until it does fit. It took me about 90 seconds of filing per plug to make it fit. A vice would be preferable to hold the plug, I don't have one, so I used a pair of pliers. I suggest holding your file with a cloth.
There are four large springs inside the Radioshack battery pack. Try to take as much wire off as you can get, if you don't, you can always stretch the spring for more distance. For the springs without excess wire to clip, I simply destroyed the case with scissors to remove as much metal as possible.
Mounting Springs in Plugs
With your needle-nose pliers, stretch out the back end of the spring through the hole in the plug. With about 1/8" protruding, grab and twist it with the needle-nose pliers to keep it from falling out, along with making a terminal to solder to.
Distance past the plugs is very important. We want as much tension on the batteries as possible, so the farther out the spring protrudes, the more force it will hold on the batteries for our limited distance of pipe.
With your hot-glue gun, fill the plug with hot glue, and allow it to dry. Try to have the spring as centered as possible.
In an ideal world, cheapy springs would withstand the weight of repeatedly being smashed by the 5x C batteries indefinitely. Sadly however, the springs become crunched and bend due to the forces of riding. As a result, we are going to perform a dirty, but very effective hack to always maintain a connection between our springs and the battery terminals.
I took a 1 1/2 foot piece of 16 AWG speaker wire to make each wire cushion. It doesn't have to be that specific thickness of wire, but we need a fairly thick blob of squishy metal (1/2" tall, 1" wide) to act as a conducting cushion. I use an X-Acto knife razor blade to cut down the length of the wire, and pull out the speaker wire, which is much easier and faster than how wires are normally stripped by cutting around the sheathing and sliding it off. Another good source of raw metal wire is old computer cables with a ton of pins in them, like the metal shielding in SCSI cables, I'm sure you can find something. I have pictures illustrating how I did it.
Step 3: Building the Battery Pack - Assembling and Soldering Pipes
Cutting the Pipes
Line up your batteries and two plugs to find the length of pipe you will need. Measure from underneath the nipple of each plug, we want very little extra space so that the springs will compact with great tension. For my batteries and plugs, the perfect size was 295mm (11.6").
Mark your pipe with a sharpie, and use your hacksaw or pipe cutter to section the pipe. You should be able to insert all five C batteries and both plug springs, and with some tapping force on the plugs, it should be a perfect fit.
The pieces of spring that emerge out the back of the plugs are our electrical terminals.I suggest you test the electrical connectivity with a multi-meter. With five batteries, I should get 1.2v * 5 batteries=6 volts. If you don't have a volt meter, you could solder on some wires and apply them to destroy one LED in desperation, if it lights up, it works.
Soldering Pipes in Series
You should be able to identify the positive and negative ends of your pipe. The dot on the C battery is the positive side, the flat disc side is negative. It helps to mark your plugs with polarity symbols (+ or -). All the batteries should be facing the same direction within their respective pipes. We will solder a very short wire from the negative of one pipe to the positive of the other. Since series adds voltages, we are now adding all 10 batteries voltages together. You can test the voltage again to see if you get 12volts (*Note*, make sure the batteries are charged before worrying about too low of voltage ;-D)
Sealing the Pipes
Once you are confident the connection within the pipe is correct in polarity and voltage, it's time to waterproof and seal our pipes very tightly. For the first side of plugs, simply insert the plug and glue them down to being flush with the pipe.
For the second pair, drop down your first two wire cushions, then add the batteries on top of them. Then add the other wire cushions on the exposed side, and stick in the two plugs. They should have a great deal of spring, floating maybe 1" or more above the pipe due to the copper cushions being in the way. This is good, as we want as much tension as possible on these batteries.
Apply hot-glue around the edge of the pipe, and hold down the plug extremely tightly until the hot glue dries to hold it in place. When your pipes are fully glued, there should be no sound coming from the batteries clanking when you shake the pipe vigorously. Batteries going *clink* means there will be a gap in the connection when they are impacted by a jump, and your lights will annoyingly blink and flicker while riding.
Attaching the Pipes Together
With the pipes soldered in series and their caps attached, line up the pipes together, and apply a thick line of hot-glue down the channel between them. Hold them together, and let it dry. Then flip the pipes over and glue the other side.
Attaching a 9v Snap-On Connector
Pretty simple, solder the black wire of the 9v Snap-On Connector to the positive terminal of the pipe, and red to the negative terminal. [*Note* Normally in wire color-coding, red is positive and black is negative. These snap on connectors have their colors reversed, since they are made for tapping power from a single 9v battery. Switching colors this one time will make red be positive for the rest of the wiring chain] Cover all four terminals in hot glue. This protects them from corrosion to water, along with minimizing wear and tear. I ran the 9v Snap-On connector up the channel, and glued the connector itself slightly off-side, which makes it easier to access on the bike.
***Optional*** - Removing Lettering with Acetone
I like all my gear to look as nice as possible, removing labels and text from everything from steel hiking bottles to PVC pipe battery packs. I don't like the ugly-looking ink running down the pipes, so I applied some acetone to a cloth and rubbed out the text in circles. It looks much more professional without the text.
If you've never used acetone, it's an incredibly safe (except if you drink it or get it in your eyes) chemical. It's great to wash your hands in it to remove grease or any glue stuck to your fingers (even two-part epoxy!). It will feel extremely cold when it touches your skin, that is because it is evaporating all of your sweat, which is not dangerous.
Final Pipe Test
I attached the wires of my 120cm Green LED light strip to the battery pack terminals, it looks great.
Step 4: The Switchbox & Battery-Pack Charger
It's time to create the switchbox, which will enable us to easily turn on or off the different components of the bike. The wiring is going to be very compact, but the finished product works very well and is highly durable. To begin with, we'll need to make three evenly spaced holes along the inside base of the Conduit Fitting, leaving some room for each switch. You can start by smashing in the PVC adapter to one side, this is where the power wires will exit.
Start off with a small bit, around 1/8", and move your way up to 3/4". If you don't have a 3/4" bit, you can grind away for awhile with a 1/2" bit and a lot of chattering teeth. Moving from small to large bits gives you the chance to fix shoddy holes before they become misaligned, along with making it easier to drill through the material.
Normally a toggle switch like this is attached to a surface via a hex-nut that screws onto the underside of the switch. Our conduit is too small for this however, so the button must be held in place with some hot glue. One switch at a time, pretty easy stuff.
Take your 1/2" PVC plug, and drill a hole (minimum 1/16" bit) on the outer edge of the plug. Thread the 9v Snap-On Connector wires through the hole This lets it turn and be positioned in the center of the plug. A picture below provides a visual aid to how it will turn out. Hot glue will once again hold down the 9v Snap-On Connector.
I used a very unorthodox method of wiring a common positive wire to the switches, but it is extremely effective and compact. I threaded the red wire through the hole of each terminal pin, once all three were in, I pulled back some of the wire, and with my X-Acto knife removed some sheathing, and then applied a great deal of solder to the joint. Any excess can be trimmed off or pushed to the side.
To make sure my wiring was successful, I use the continuity tester from the plug 9v connector to the opposite end of the switches. They all turned out great.
Universal Battery Charger
These are designed to recharge the batteries of hobby RC cars and planes, and it takes a range from 7.2-12v. Snip off the end of their "normal" connector, which would go to a RC battery pack, and solder on a 9v Snap-On connector backwards (red->black, black->red). This can now attach to the battery pack to charge it.
Step 5: How to Solder EL Wire
If you're not familiar with how EL wire works, it's actually pretty simple to wire the stuff, though it is tedious. The EL Wire has four layers:
1) Copper core, coated in phosphorescent paint, the positive
2) Corona (Angel) Wires, the negative
3) Thin Vinyl Sheath
4) Thick Vinyl Sheath
Cutting to the Core
We need to remove the vinyl sheaths and expose the painted core and corona wires. The problem is, the corona wires are extremely thin and fragile, so great care is needed to expose everything without breaking them. The best solution I've found is to take an X-Acto knife, strip off the thick vinyl, look through the transparent thin vinyl, and cut along the wire wherever the corona wires are absent (spiraled on the other side), then carefully tear/cut off the thin sheath.
Copper Tape to the Max
Cut off a small piece of copper tape, maybe 1/3", enough to wrap around the thick vinyl once or twice. Since the corona wires are exposed, bend them backwards over the copper tape. Pull out your soldering iron, and solder the corona wires to the copper tape.
Stripping the Core
This part is simple, just scrape off the paint on the tip of the core wire, I use a razor blade or X-Acto knife scraping sideways across the wire. It should appear silver (rather than dull-white) all around, ready to be soldered.
Attaching Wire-Side Connectors
Most EL Wire shops sell their connectors with offset wires, meaning one of the two wires is longer by about an inch. This prevents any chance of the two wires bumping into each other causing a short circuit, it also makes your wiring more compact. The shorter end gets soldered to the core, the longer end on top of the solder blob on the copper tape. Cover the connections in heat-shrink, and either use a heat-gun or lighter on it.
Step 6: Testing the Wires
EL Wire for the most part is pretty durable stuff. You can twist it, flex it (within reason), and it always stays lit. The inverters however, are not durable, and are easy to break, especially if you get a cheap one (Below $6). The simple rule is to never give power to the inverter without it having some wire to light up. If it is given power without a load placed on it, it will very rapidly overvolt itself, and become toast (unresponsive). You can tell if an inverter is on by the annoying high-pitched buzzing sound it makes, this is from the conversion from DC to AC, higher frequencies are more noisy (but brighter too).
I have a picture attached showing my inverter. Though it runs on 12v, it receiving it's electricity through a 9v battery connector. Just think of how that connector would access electricity from a 9v battery, on which the small circle is the positive (+), and the square or hexagon is negative (-). Reverse it for 9v connectors. For the connector on my inverter, it is expecting "its" small circle to be taking negative and "its" hexagon to be receiving positive, don't get the power backwards on them, as the inverter can break. I've attached two pictures showing how this backwards polarity problem works.
Straight from the Power Pack
Attach your quad connector to the inverter, and plug in some EL-Wire. Try to power more than the minimum amount, just to be safe to test it (it's meant to always have load). Simply attach the 9v connector to your battery pack, just make sure the positive is definitely going into positive (it's your wiring, you can adjust it to your setup, and use a multi-meter to double-check voltage).
Step 7: Front Suspension (Forks)
For starters, we are going to attach the blue EL Wire to the front forks. It's simpler, there are no gears, pedals, or cables around them, and they are easy to work around to start with.
Install First, Cut Later
With EL Wire, only cut once you're sure you have enough. This doesn't mean measure twice, cut once, this means make absolutely sure you have the amount of EL wire you need before cutting by attaching the entire length to take into account twists, spiraling, knots, and other unexpected lengths. EL wire is very difficult to splice together, and this not only gets you the results you want, but also minimizes wasted wire. Also try to minimize the use of zip-ties if possible, as they must be very tight to hold the wire (crushing it), block the wire's light, and tend to look messy. Sometimes however, they are necessary for a weird wrap or termination.
Since this bicycle is going to be taking mountain trails, jumps, hills, and other unknown obstacles, the wire needs to be attached very tightly and not have any opportunities to get rubbed against a tire or severed by a spoke or brake disc. Though you shouldn't tie full-on knots with EL Wire, you can use same-direction overlaps that allow you to use EL Wire to hold itself down. You'll need to be creative in applying your wire tightly, and take into account how wire will shift with movement, rather than what path you would "like" it to take. Figure out what works, and try to keep everything tight and compact.
A note for when you jump from one fork to the other, I have a cross-bar that connects my two forks together, and is fairly common on newer mountain bikes. If you don't have a cross bar, and each fork stands by itself, you can simply create a high-arching upside down "U" shape. If that doesn't work, you can wrap it once around your actual shock with some slack, and hop directly over to the opposite shock (since shocks move in parallel).
My wire begins on the bottom of the left shock, and ends at the bottom of the right shock, this keeps everything clean and simple.
I've attached a picture showing some common tying methods I use.
Step 8: Chain Stays
I found the rear to be far easier than the forks, since the brake disc is attached behind the area the EL Wire is being placed, the chain-stay bar is much smaller, and there are loops to be used.
I did use a different process for starting the wire on my rear. Since the inverter itself will be in the middle of the bike (Attached to the Seat Tube), I didn't want to have to run extra wire out to the rear of my bike so there is a double wrap on one side. The connector starts in the middle, runs very lightly down the left side, alternating back up the left side, hops over to the right, and then wraps tightly down the right side. To terminate the EL wire, I folded the end underneath itself twice.
Note on EL Wire Placement
My bicycle has low, compound chain-stays, since the suspension design is rather unorthodox. This lets the frame be very low and my suspension very reactive (meaning power is constantly transmitted without bouncing). My chain-stays are very narrow compared to the standard "full triangle" shape, but as a result my upper and lower bars pivot a great deal. Hopping wire between both of them could be a very bad idea, since one hard jump might snap them in the gap. For this reason, I only put my EL wire on the lower chain-stay. Your bike will undoubtedly be designed differently, so use whatever suits your suspension design.
If your bicycle has rear suspension that doesn't move so drastically, you could apply wire on both your upper and lower chain-stays (though you would need to buy more wire).
Step 9: Center-Frame
This is the most complex install for the EL Wire. You will have to navigate around gears, suspension, water bottle holders, welds, and cables. Once again, you'll need to accommodate however your bike is designed, and take advantage of cracks, crevices, cables, and holds that you can use to wrap your wire around. In some ways, all of the obstacles can be beneficial by keeping the wire from sliding around the tube if you take advantage of them properly.
There are two strips of EL Wire I am using for the center frame. A single strip for the Top Tube, and a second strip that runs down the Seat Tube and up the Down Tube. I began both strips at the 90 degree junction where the Seat Tube and Top Tube meet, since I have a little triangle there which I can feed all my wiring through, along with it being close to the inverters final location in the middle of the Seat Tube.
Be sure to thread your EL wire for the Top Tube under the gear-shift cable, and around the headstock as a solid mounting point. Once they're wrapped, plug them into the inverter, attach the inverter to the battery pack, and light them up.
Step 10: Routing Power to EL Wires
We have the quad-connector that will power all four of our EL Wire Strips: Rear, Top Tube, Seat/Down Tube, and Forks. Since it is only so long, we need all of our power wires to come to the same point, where the Top Tube meets the Seat Tube. we're going to do some down-and-dirty soldering to create extensions that will traverse the bike to connect the inverter to the EL Wire strips.
By wire pair, I only mean a wire that has two cables running down it, very commonly connected with a glue between them. My favorite cheap source of this is 18AWG (Gauge) speaker wire. You'll need to have an Driver-Side Connector on one end, and a Wire-Side Connector on the other. You'll need to guesstimate the distance from The Triangle to where the EL Wire strip begins, cut it, solder it, and connect it.
Since the Top Tube and Seat Tube EL Wires already begin at The Triangle, you'll need to make these two extensions to the Rear and Front EL Wire strips. Once everything has reached the inverter, you can plug it into the power pack and see if they all turn on. If so, time to prepare the switchbox.
Step 11: The Switchbox - Part 2 & Mounting the Battery Pack
The switchbox was built awhile back, now it is time to finally connect some power and EL Wire to it.
I have three switches for my bike. One for the EL Wire, the second for the front-headlamp, and the third for the LED strips, which we will get to later. All three will connect to the switchbox via 9v Snap-On connectors, and can be inter-changeable as far as flipping the switches goes.
The switchbox already has the red wire supplying positive electricity to each switch. All of the components will use the same negative (black wire) that goes to the 9v Snap-On connector on the white plug. I cut open an ethernet cord to get three different colored wires, orange, blue, and green, to help make wiring easier. The orange, blue, and green wires will be soldered to the second terminal of each respective toggle switch. At the bottom I have a picture showing how polarity reverses with each connection between the 9v connectors, just something to be aware of when planning your wiring.
Switchbox - > Battery Pack Extension
This is the simple part, we need an extension wire to connect the battery pack to switchbox's plug. The colors will need to be alternated once (red->black, black->red) for this extension. I have the switchbox sitting inside my seat, and the battery pack on the side of the Seat Tube. Guesstimate, cut, solder, and heat-shrink the extension for your bike.
Three Component 9v-Connectors
Each component (headlamp, EL wire, and LED strips) will have their own 9v-Connector that leads to the switchbox. The three connectors coming from the switchbox should all be wired with the same polarity, just as each of the components. This way, the 9v-Connectors are interchangeable with one another, and there is no chance for accidentally frying a component due to the wrong polarity. For connecting the switchbox wires (orange, green, blue) to my 9v connectors, the black wires (round circle on the connector) went to each of my colored wires. The red wires (hexagon) from all three connectors were soldered into a bundle and attached to a common negative (ground) coming from the battery pack. See the below picture to better visualize it.
Connect your extension wire from the battery pack to the switchbox, and the Inverter's 9v connector to one of the component connectors and flip the switches, one of them should turn it off or on. Test it across all three switches, to make sure they all work.
Mounting the Switchbox
All the soldering work is done, the hardest part of this install was getting the Switchbox mounted inside of my seat. Since I want it to be accessible at any point during a ride, having it in my seat I can at any point reach down and flick a switch. You don't have to use your seat if you don't want to, but it still needs to be mounted somewhere, and I used Zip-Ties.
I have the 9v plug of my Switchbox facing behind me, and the component wires emerging at the seat pole, wrapping around the seat tube to The Triangle where it will power everything. I placed two zip ties under the switchbox plate (but trapped by the screws), tightened the screws, put the zip-ties around the metal bars of my seat, and tightened them until it held solid.
Mounting the Battery Pack
I originally attached it directly behind the Seat Tube. However whenever I land a hard jump and max out my rear suspension, it would bump into my rear tire. I ended up having to place it entirely on the right side (since my primary gear cable is on the left). Make sure it is mounted high enough that when your suspension activates it won't slam into the battery pack. For me, it had to go above the Top Tube.
You'll need a ton of tension on the Zip-Ties to hold the battery pack strongly. So tight in-fact, that as it slides around, it may scrape the paint off your bike. For this reason, I suggest wrapping a bit of electrical tape around your frame where the zip-ties will attach. Since electrical tape over time becomes gooey, two alternate methods are: Handlebar Tape, and hard putty.
Test Switches and EL Wire, Show Off the Bike
I have some pictures below showing the bike after completing this step of the instructable.
Step 12: Mounting LED Strips
We're finally going to be mounting the LED strips on the bike, and after they are wired up, finish this bike. I am using two different strips, a 120cm green strip, and a 72cm blue strip. The green will run up the Down Tube, around the Headstock, and back down the Down Tube. The blue LED strip will run along the chain-stays.
Since I prefer to use as little extra mounting as possible (zip-ties), I used the EL wire itself to hold on the entire green LED strip. The blue LED strip is more vulnerable in its proximity to the derailleur, rear wheel, and primary gears. I had to use multiple zip-ties to prevent the strip from bumping into the gears (not extremely tight, but snug, the zip-ties can go inbetween LEDs and hold them in the gap). You will need to figure out the optimal mounting method for your bike.
While the LED Strips are not excessively fragile, they are limited in how much abuse they can take. Inside the strip is a flexible piece of copper tape that the LEDs are soldered onto. The weak points are where each 24cm piece is joined to another, and the copper tape cracking from being excessively flexed repeatedly. If you're unlucky and get a bad strip (I have before), or you break a connection from too much flexing (the 24cm sections from one point turn off), you'll need to buy a new strip from eBay, since I've never been able to repair one by cutting away and re-soldering the break.
To put it simply, don't crush the strip with a zip-tie, and don't repeatedly flex it back and forth in a tight bend (stress cracking).
***End Important Note***
Testing the LED Strips
Take your power wires, and touch the ends to your battery pack. Copper/Red-Line should be positive, and silver should be negative.
Green LED Strip (Down Tube)
Hold out the 120cm strip by hanging the halfway point around the headstock to guesstimate how your wiring will be done. The LED strip will be on the sides of the Down Tube, and held in place by the green EL Wire wrapping around it tightly. Run your 120cm power wire up the Seat Tube and hold it in place with other wiring and the green EL wire going down the Seat Tube. I tied a knot in the power wire around any piece of suspension that doesn't flex much.
Blue LED Strip (Chain Stays)
This is the hard one, simply because you have to work in a smaller space. The LED strip will be facing directly downwards on the underside of the bottom chain-stay. Once again, wrap the EL wire tightly around the LED Strip to hold it in place. Near the Seat Tube and primary gears, I had to use multiple zip-ties to keep it from moving. You can take up any excess strip by making the halfway bend extend beyond the Down-Tube.
Since the power wire begins only at the end of the LED strip, it will need to also be held in place by the EL wire on its return trip back to the Seat Tube.
Once again, just tap your power wires to the battery supply, and see if everything turns on correctly.
Fairly simple. The LED strips have two wires, copper/red-line(positive) and silver(negative). Solder on a 9v Snap-On connector to each one, and connect it to one of the Switchbox 9v connectors. It's semi annoying since the strips are still on the bike, but it's important to minimize excess wiring. Once again, the wiring might have to be backwards for you since the polarity switches between 9v Snap-On connectors.
Step 13: High-Five Time
Congrats, everything should have turned out nicely. Your switchbox correctly turns on your LED Strips, EL Wire, and possibly a headlamp with the flick of a button. With your re-soldered connector for the Universal Smart Charger, you can easily charge the 10-C batteries to power your lights throughout the night. Not only does your bike look unbelievably shiny and is bathed in an aura of awesome, no car will ever miss seeing you as you ride safely down trails and streets.
Go explore, share knowledge, have a great ride.
If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, feel free to post in the instructable or send me a message, I'd love to hear your input.
Runner Up in the
EL wire contest
3 years ago
Great, I'll try to do the same with my cheap mountain bike. You can absolutely buy a mountain bike and then act as the topic owner. I will learn more about your way. What a crazy idea
7 years ago on Introduction
Hi, I've added your project to the "Top 5 Incredible Bike Projects"
This is the link If you are interested:
10 years ago on Introduction
How does mines look? I kinda combined the lighting with the scraper wheels along with the larson scanner on the front. What do you guys think? Mongoose XR200
Reply 10 years ago on Introduction
NICE! - I like the way the blue, in particular, actually looks like electricity.
Nice wheels, too - what's the tape you used?
Reply 10 years ago on Introduction
I actually used heavy duty aluminum foil instead of the tape only because I always have a spoke or something break on the back rim so it's easier to re-do it after taking the rim to get trued and such. I never really knew about that shiny tape until I seen some at the place I work lol
Reply 10 years ago on Introduction
Ain't it always the way..;-)
Still, the foil's probably cheaper than the tape, as well as easier to re-do.
I'm just pleasantly (or jealously?) surprised how smooth you kept it!
Reply 10 years ago on Introduction
Thanks! Yea the easy thing about the heavy duty grade foil is that when I curl it around to tape it to the other side of the spoke, I can stretch it out until it is somewhat smooth and then tape it in place. if you tried that with regular foil, it would rip, and trust Me, nothing is more annoying then having it rip and then start all over again!
10 years ago on Introduction
So cool! I will definitely be doing this soon!
11 years ago on Step 13
12 years ago on Introduction
okay folks, you really need to check in your jurisdiction if putting these lights on are legal, even for non-motorized bikes. i just got off the phone with a traffic Sargent in the state of michigan office and she said blue lights are prohibited on any vehicle with a motor that is not the law, and a possible violation for pedal only bikes, its in that twilight zone range where you might get a citation or you might not, and the judge might enforce it or might not. neon type lights and under vehicle lighting are prohibited on any type of vehicle, motorized or pedal or something to that effect. for example, i wanted blue brake lights, i know motor vehicles excempt couldnt have them, but bicycles i wasnt sure of, so i called i was planning rather elaborate lighting system, but thats gone except for a strip of leds around my seat, i am risking that and i will fight to keep it. but no EL wire, unfortunately. so check your local laws before you spend money.
Reply 12 years ago on Introduction
You're very correct that almost everywhere this mod is illegal to ride your bike on a public road. Bicycles are considered motor vehicles, since they can use the roads in the same manner as cars (but not highways). The fear is that the wrong colors may confuse drivers (let's be honest, they won't), and it's illegality is for that "safety" reason, and also as a blanket law for a number of reasons, including street racing, motorcycle gangs, or simply annoyance.
Whether or not you get a citation is dependent on the police in your city. Do they have bigger problems than giving a ticket to a bicycle with pretty lights? Or are the police bored and are willing to cite you. In my town (Fresno, CA), there are severe problems with crime and drugs, thus I have had multiple cop cars drive past me without incident, and even had one policeman give a friendly wave.
As far as color coding confusion, here are motor vehicle colors: red = warning (brakes), yellow = caution (changing lanes, turning), white = illumination, green = military outpost/headquarters, blue = emergency.
Reply 12 years ago on Introduction
In my town the cops have no bigger problems than a bike with pretty lights other than maybe a kid loitering around the park(is that even loitering?) and yet my moped (more correctly motor scooter) has bright blue LED underlights and I ride it around most nights through town and have passed many cops and I have never been noticed by the cops in regards to the illegality of it. In fact, one night I stopped by several cops in cop cars that were off the side of the street and asked them if i could use their radio to talk to another cop that i know and they let me.
So, personally, I dont think anyone would care if you have some pretty lights on your bicycle, but don't quote me on that.
12 years ago on Introduction
I really want to do this, but I'm pretty sure that I'd smash it up on the singletrack.
12 years ago on Introduction
This is AWESOME!!! I really like how bright and pretty it is!
12 years ago on Introduction
Lovely lovely idea. You've made me really want one!! :0}
12 years ago on Introduction
12 years ago on Introduction
sweet i did this a while a go on my bike only i made all of the LED strips myself it was time consuming but looked cool good job!
Reply 12 years ago on Introduction
Your bike looks great. It's pretty neat how different people can independently discover the same process of inventing. I suppose that means we made a very effective lighting design. Out of curiosity, what is your power supply on the bike?
Reply 12 years ago on Introduction
i just used 3 , 9volt batteries and i really never had to change them.
12 years ago on Step 10
YELLOW LIGHTERS ARE BAD LUCK!!!