Bright Bike





Bright Bike is a project we've been researching at Eyebeam for a while now. Why?

1. Biking can be dangerous.
2. Biking at night, in a city, can be even more dangerous.
3. Increased visibility is the best and easiest way to make these things safer.
4. There are some remarkable materials that can make bicycles much more visible to cars. These materials are called RETROREFLECTIVE.

Retroreflective materials have tiny glass beads suspended on their surface that reflect light back to the source. What this means is that a retroreflective material normally appears as a solid color but shines bright white to any direct light - like a car headlight.

The question is, "How do I make my bike Retroreflective?"

The answer is five easy steps.

After that, you've got a beautiful, solid-colored bike, that makes you more visible to cars than ever before.

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Step 1: Material Acquisition

There are many different retroreflective materials: threads, inks, vinyls. We found the most useful material for applying to a bicycle is 3M's Scotchlite Plus Reflective 680 Series Engineering Grade Vinyl. This sort of vinyl is sold by sign supply distributors.

An average bike will take at most 6' x 15 to fully wrap. It can be hard to find a sign shop willing to sell that little. We got our vinyl from Beacon Graphics in New Jersey ( They were so excited about what we were doing with it, they agreed to sell smaller, DIY quantities of the material. Information about these kits should be on their website soon, but you can call them at 1 800 762 9205 to get your own DIY kit.

However you get it, it's probably a good idea to take accurate measure of your bike first (see step 3), so that you get the right amount.

You will also need:
Some sponges and soapy water.
Paper towels.
General bike tools (wrenches, etc.).
A cloth measuring tape.
An exacto/utility knife.
A straight edge.

Step 2: Bike Prep./Washing

It's much easier to work with your your bike if it's mostly disassembled, wheels off, any additional attachments removed. Make sure you save any screws you remove. It will be difficult to put your bike back together without them. If the bike is at all dirty (most bikes are) then the grit and dirt will keep the vinyl from sticking.

With everything removed, make some soapy water, grab a sponge, and scrub. No big secrets here, only that you may be surprised but how much dirt can be on one bike.

It's also useful to have a chain washer on hand. Washing your chain isn't completely necessary, but if you don't do it, you'll want to be extra careful. A bike chain can very quickly spread oil and grease over everything. So you should either clean it, or try and bundle it up in a bunch of paper towels.

Step 3: Measuring

Taking your time and measuring accurately is important. The bike that we wrapped first could be divided into 11 main sections. For each section, we measured the length, and the circumference (or thickness). That's why it's useful to have a cloth measuring tape like they use in tailoring. A metal tape measure, like they use for wood-work won't bend around the circumference of the bike parts.

The notes we took, and the measurements we ended up using are below.

For the wheels, there are a number of options. We made small strips (2cm x 4cm) to place on the wheel rim, in-between all the spokes. This way, with the bikes wheels moving, the persistence of vision will hopefully make the reflection appear solid.

The vinyl won't wrap very well across and around larger curves, so if you have a bike with lots of serious bends, you might need to plan on using more, smaller sections of vinyl. It's most likely far better to have two well-applied sections with a seam of non-reflection between them, than one continuous piece that ripples and bends around a curve.

Step 4: Cutting

Once you have the measurements of your particular bike, you need to plan out how you're going to cut each piece. By careful planning, you can ensure that you don't waste any of the great retroreflective vinyl you've acquired. We were working with a section of vinyl 15" by 6', and we required the measurements we listed in the last step, so below is the plan we came up with for cutting the individual pieces. Some pieces we cut to exact measurements, some we gave a fair amount of extra area.

Do all of your work with the reflective side down. You can make any marks you want on the backing without ruining your vinyl, and it will be easier to cut. You should also number, and clearly label each piece that you cut, as you will end up with a number of them that are very similar, and you want to avoid confusion.

When actually cutting, always follow a few guidelines:
1. Make each measurement twice. You can measure as many times as you want, but you can only cut once.
2. Make one measurement, then one cut, then the next measurement, then the next cut. Doing all measurements and then all cuts can leave you with inaccurate pieces.
3. Make sure to really press firmly on you straight-edge, holding the vinyl in place. It's more important to keep the vinyl in place than to press down crazy-hard with the knife.

Step 5: Wrapping

With all the pieces cut and ready to go, you can start applying the vinyl to your bike. It doesn't matter what order you go in, but it might be best to start with the straighter, simpler bits so that you can get the hang of it.

Doing a final wipe-down with a dry paper towel before beginning each piece isn't a bad idea. Go slow. Apply each piece from one end to the other. Press firmly. The biggest problem you'll run into are irregular bubbles and creases. Some of these will be unavoidable, but do your best to minimize them.

Going around curves is tough, and may require you to make small incisions with an utility knife to get the vinyl to fold and lay properly. Also, a lot of bikes have numerous screw holes and other features that will make it impossible for the vinyl to lay flat. You can either wrap right over them, doing your best to flatten the vinyl out, or you can make small incisions, and have the vinyl adhere around the feature.

Step 6: Riding

You're all done!

The only thing left to do is take the bike out with some friends and get them to verify that it shines in the light. Also, if you have any vinyl left over, you can add it to whatever you want: helmet, bag, shoes - anything.

Your mileage may vary depending on how often and rigorously you ride your bike. Most engineer grade vinyl is "rated" for 7 years, but probably isn't intended as a bicycle covering. If anyone develops any tips for upping the life-expectancy of the bicycle-vinyl, post a comment, or get in touch with us.

We've got a Bright Bike site at:

Also, if you wrap your bike, or want to see the bikes of others please visit our Flickr group to browse or upload your own:

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72 Discussions


3 years ago

When you're bicycling, safety is the number one concern! This is a great bicycle accessory for every single bike! Guess, we will be adding this to our list of necessities for new or used bicycles.


4 years ago

I have just ordered some of this but don't seem to be able to get in contact and after 2 weeks I have still heard nothing from you.
Can you get in touch please?

Anyone have experience removing this tape? I would love to wrap my bike, then later down the road be able to remove it in case I want to sell it. The frame is carbon fiber with a million ugly labels. I'm thinking the tape would be great for more visibility, covering ugly logos, and also slight protection from small chipping/ minor scrapes and such. Thanks!


4 years ago on Step 6

This is cool. I had thought of this a bit back, but had no money for tape. I am going to be doing it this summer! thanks!


7 years ago on Introduction

Thank you for the inspiration. I did this on my last 2 bikes here in Mexico City and it works pretty well. I did not disassemble 1st so it was a bit more difficult. I especially like the flat black in the day (doesnt attract as much attention). It tends to be very effective on moving parts such as crank arms.


7 years ago on Introduction

Just like to say a big thanks for this idea, its taken a while to sort out (I'm in the UK) but I've just finished wrapping my bike, and stuck a pair of velocity halo rims on for good measure.

Just uploaded a couple of pictures to the flicker group.


8 years ago on Introduction

I was just saying that if you need safety equipment. If you were to get run over, maybe I could have your job. (Just joking, but I need full time employment.)


8 years ago on Step 5

A heat gun set to low will help the vinyl lay better and conform around irregular surfaces. I pre-heat the vinyl first then have an assistant fan the area I am currently working with.

Cautions: too much heat will deform the strip. There will be a tendency for the plastic to return to it's original shape.


10 years ago on Introduction

Right off the bat. Instead of making the skinny frame work of the bike reflective, just buy a reflective jacket or vest. Everyone riding is dressed in black. DUH!!

5 replies

Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

That requires you to wear the same jacket every time you ride - inconvenient. Bike jackets, right off the bat - are expensive. Making your bike luminescent - Awesome. It's also permanent unlike your jackets, which you can forget to wear.


Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

Mother worried about me riding my bike around Colorado Springs, and bought me an orange hunter's vest.

You can also get thin mesh construction worker's/signalman's vests that have reflective strips on them in hardware shops.

If I did this project it would be to make my bike look cool, not for safety. I already have blinky lights plus reflective tape on my helmet.

There's a shop of safety equipment in Colorado Springs off South Circle near Janitell where such vests are available.


9 years ago on Introduction

The main flaw with this (and relevant to BigShotUK's comment) is that when not under intense light (camera flash/headlights), the bike is completely black. Using red, yellow, or another bright color would be much more visible under all conditions.

Longer, narrower rolls in several colors can be ordered directly from 3M (; searching the web may find better prices, comparable to the kit from Beacon Graphics (currently $55).

1 reply

Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

Kanhef, depending on your tastes, that is or is not a flaw. If you check out the second version of the project, you will see that color is a big part of it: