Introduction: Night Bike!

Gas is too expensive and not ecofriendly, so I like to bike wherever I can... unfortunately that means a lot of biking back from work at night.  This always makes me a little nervous, how much can you trust drivers going 45 miles per hour right past you?  I mean, a little dinky bike light can only do so much.

After too many close calls to count, and a lot of weekend tv watching I was inspired by the Blackberry commercial,  As you can see, they had much more than a small flashing bike light to keep them safe, and those bikes certainly had some flair!  

After doing a little bit of research, I found that there were some super glow in the dark paint, better than your typical craft store stuff.  In fact it's called phosphorescent paint which can glow for up to 12 hours, is substantially brighter than simple glow in the dark paint, and only takes 10 minutes to charge up!  

I must say, after creating this bike I feel much safer riding in the dark, cars are able to spot me from quite a far distance.  I've even gotten a few compliments on the cool style of the bike! Safety and style... it's a win win!

So thus begins my instructable - a glowing bike that will not only amaze friends and onlookers, but be extremely safe for riding in the dark.    

- I bought my paint at glonation and it worked fairly well.  A better choice (for brighter glow) may be gloinc as they advertise their paint is 3x brighter than their competitors.  However, it is pricier than glonation.  You could also do a little google search on super phosphorescent paint and you will find a few other places to purchase the paint.  You can't buy it in a typical craft store (at least to my knowledge).

-The paint is NOT radioactive... so you don't have to worry about that

-We used 8 ounces total, 4 for the frame and 4 for the wheels.  We had to put on many layers since it is hard to get even coverage with a paintbrush.  There is not a spray glow phosphorescent paint on the market yet, it is being developed soon hopefully.  The paint is creamy, so doesn't really work for an airbrush.  

-Be careful when you purchase the paint and READ the advertising.  For instance from glonation it states that orange only glows for 15minutes while is says that green (though dims) glows for 12 hours.  Gloinc states that their green glows for 24hours, gloinc also has some information on the brightness on each glow.

-See last page of this instructable for some really cool black light LED's that would fit on the bike inconspicuously and give it an even brighter and longer glow!

Step 1: Phosphorescent Paint

Now I want you to know that when I say this bike glows... it REALLY glows.  Back when I was a youngster and was fascinated by glow in the dark paint, I was always disappointed by how dull and short lived the glow was.  The typical craft store glow paint is zinc-sulfide based in an acrylic medium, if it is colored pigments are used.  The problem with using pigments is that these colors absorb most of the light, and thus the glow isn't as bright.

Instead, phosphorescent paint (used for this bike) is strontium based and glows 10 times longer and brighter. Impressive!  

The paint works only after it is exposed to an energy source, like the sun or black lights (these work really well) or regular lights.  The paint absorbs the light energy and the little electrons get excited and jump up a few energy levels, sort of like climbing a few steps on a ladder.  This is not a stable state for the electron  (eventually you have to come down the ladder) and once it falls back down to its "ground state" it emits light, in the color of your paint.  It turns out that strontium aluminate is more efficient and better at this than craft store glow paint.  

You can find more information here and here

Step 2: Time to Start!

What you need:

Bike (preferably a fixie bike because it is much easier to paint, with fewer parts to keep track of!)
Bike assembly/disassembly tools
Y Allen Wrench (If you ever need just one tool to disassemble a bike, this is it! It was really useful)
Nylon String
Masking Tape
Paint Brush
Spray Paint Primer (at least 2 bottles)
Spray Paint White Flat (at least 3 bottles)
Phosphorescent Paint (at least 8 ounces total for the bike, but you can choose more than one color if you'd like-for example I used 4 ounces of green for the frame and 4 ounces of blue for the tires)
Spray Paint High Gloss Clear Overcoat (Gotta protect what you already painted! You don't want your hard work to go to waste.)
Helmet (ALWAYS wear a helmet when riding a bike, this is about safety after all)

Step 3: Disassembly of Bike

Essentially, take everything off of the bike that you can.  I recommend first sitting on the bike and adjusting the seat and handlebars to your desired height.  Place some tape there (with the top edge of the tape at the desired height), that way when you paint, you will only paint the exposed metal and leave the rest free so it will more easily be put together ( you won't have like 8 layers of paint to try to deal with!)

Then just start the disassembly, and take pictures along the way so you know how to put the bike back together!  Trust me, those pictures were life savers!  


When you take off the seat for instance, place all the nuts and bolts in a ziploc baggy labeled "SEAT".  You don't want to have spent forever painting your bike only to be frustrated that you lost that one little screw you needed.

Unless you have a special tool called a crank puller you won't be able to take off the crankshaft.  It doesn't really matter though, it is just as easy to paint the frame with it on.

Unless you have a special tool called a chain tool (real creative name there...) you won't be able to take off the chain. But this is easily solved by taping the chain.

Step 4: Preparing for Primer and Paint

First tape up all of the parts you don't want painted.  I wanted to keep all the silver parts silver.  Also ensure you tape the threaded parts of any screws or other parts you want painted.  If you paint the threads... good luck reassembling!  

Tape the chain if you didn't take it off.  

Now tie string onto every piece you want to paint.  This is to hang it wherever you will be painting (I hung it from the garage rafters since it is coooold outside) BUT make sure wherever you paint there is some good ventilation.  If you do it in your garage as well, keep the garage door wide open.

When you tie string onto the bike parts ensure that you make a large enough loop around the part so you can maneuver it well while painting.  Then make the rest of the string rather long so you won't have to use a ladder to reach it to paint..  Also, try not to go all gung ho with the string tying, minimize it it one or two strands per piece.  This way the string isn't covering too much of the bike resulting in more unpainted sections of the bike, and also, more string = more rubbing = more headaches for you.  

That was rather convoluted... take a look at the pictures to get a better idea.  And I will respond to any questions promptly! 

Step 5: Prime and Paint

Once you have hung up all your bike parts you are ready to prime and paint your bike!  After you prime the bike, let it dry for 24 hours and then spray paint it white.

Ensure that you put enough coats of white paint on your bike to REALLY make it white.  The phosphorescent paint dries clear, and glows better on a very white background.  So basically, the whiter and neater the better, because that is what your bike will look like.


Primer isn't meant to cover extremely well.  It is merely a first layer, so don't get discouraged when you've run through two cans and still see that firetruck red peeking through -  this is what you want!  The white spray paint will then cover up everything.

Shake the cans really well before you begin.

Ventilation, ventilation, ventilation!

Don't put on too heavy of coats, and keep that can 6-12 inches away... read your paint instructions.  You don't want drip marks, so many lighter coats are preferred.  

Your patience will be rewarded!

-----------------------------------------------------------------------24 hours later-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

After the white spray paint has had adequate time to dry you are ready for phosphorescent paint!

Using a paint brush, apply the phosphorescent paint in very EVEN coats.  Please, Please be patient, this will take many many coats to ensure an even, bright shine.  I didn't realize that uneven painting resulted in uneven glowing, so I had to put on more coats. 

After you let the phosphorescent paint dry for 72 hours after the last coat, apply your clear protecting coat.


Lay it on thickly for the spokes, imperfections won't be seen while riding.  The thickness on the spokes make the bike look even cooler while glowing.

If painting in the garage, it can be hard to see the phosphorescent paint on white, since it paints on clear.  So you can turn off the lights to double check to see if you missed any glaring sections. 

Allow plenty of time for the phosphorescent paint to dry between coats, this takes much longer then the normal coats.

Step 6: Assembly/Finish

Using your pictures you took as an aid reassemble your bike!

Be sure to add a front and rear light... the bike can't be too bright after all.

Charge it up and then.....

You're ready for a Night Ride!

If you want to make the bike even brighter, and last even longer... you can invest in black light LED strips to place on the frame of the bike.  Now that would be really cool, and you wouldn't have to worry about the glow fading!  Here is an example of some convenient LED black light strips that you could use.

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