Bullnose LED Bike Light and Dynamo USB Charger





Introduction: Bullnose LED Bike Light and Dynamo USB Charger

About: just have to figure out how all these things go together....

 This bike has a dynamo front hub that is wired to LED lights.  In addition there is a power output via a female USB plug.  You can charge your phone, ipod, GPS or any USB powered device.  

In this design, the USB charging station can be unplugged when not in use. When charging the devices can be kept in your pocket or backpack.

The charging station has four AAA rechargeable batteries wired parallel to the female USB that provide a secondary energy storage and once charged can power a USB device independent from the bike. 

You can use the dynamo to power the lights or the USB but not simultaneously.  A toggle switch on the bullnose handlebars turns the front lights off.

Step 1: Circuits

 There are quite a few circuits and great LED tutorials on Instructables. Just check out some resources to get your bearings.

LED for beginners: www.instructables.com/id/LEDs-for-Beginners/
try out different circuits... blinking, back light, combinations =>
As the front wheel turns it creates alternating current (AC) power.  The 'bridge' is a rectifier that converts the AC dynamo power to DC power. The bridge is made up of qty(4) 1N5818 diodes.

Bike Light Encapsulated in Epoxy

The battery pack absorbs any power not consumed by the USB device.

qty(4) 1N5818 Diodes
qty(8) White LEDs
qty(1) Battery Pack

Step 2: USB Charging Station

 I purchased the 4-AAA batter pack and female 1/8" phone jack from radio shack for $3.  I cut the female USB jacks out of an old computer.  

First I wired the battery pack and USB devices in parallel.

Next I partially disassembled the battery pack and wired the phone jack.  I arbitrarily used the Left channel of the phone jack as DC positive. You just have to be consistent when you work on the handlebar connection.

I drilled a 1/4" hole in the lid for the 1/8" jack to stick through.

Step 3: LEDs

I started with two identical cateye lights I had laying around but you can use almost any LED with the right circuit protection.  There is plenty of help on Instructables depending on what you have.

I assumed these LEDs used normal voltage (~3 volts) and this was confirmed by looking at the Cateye circuit that has 2 type N 1.5 volt batteries in series powering qty(3) LED lights in parallel. 

I have a 6 volt dynamo so I just wired both sets of 3-volt cateye's in series to equal 6-volt.  Typically it is recommended to use resistors if you have more voltage than allowed by the LED.  They work great so far in series so I'll let everyone know if the LEDs fail seemingly premature. 

12/1/09 update => So the LEDs burnt out... :(. ... so  I bought qty(8) LEDs and used a similar parallel configuration.  This time I used ONE 40ohm resistor.

Why did the original cateye's burnout?  I found the dynamo was creating a lot more than 6 volts.  For instance, the new circuit achieved a total voltage drop of 14 volts!  

A bench test shows the NEW voltage drop across each bank or LEDs is ~3.4 volts (within specs) and the voltage across the resistor is 7.5 volts.  

Another layer of circuit protection would be a dedicated resistor for each LED so I'll let you'all know if this circuit fails or lasts.....

2/09/10 Update: Sooooo the problem with only using qty(1) resistor is you are dissipating a lot of wattage through this 1 resistor; that is,

7.5 volts / 40 ohms = 187 mA. (through the resistor)
VxA=watts so 7.5 x 0.187amps=1.4 watts.

You are not going to find a 40 ohm resistor rated at 1.4 watts. So in lieu of this (and after burning out a lot of resistors) I used a 100 OHM 1/2watt 5% carbon Film resistor.

This should bring the amperage through the LEDs down to the 20mA specs for normal LEDs.  You can certainly buy LEDs that allow higher currents (80mA, 90mA, 250mA, 300mA, and up) but these require a little bit more care (heat sinks!) to dissipate the heat.   Pilom uses a 5mm thick piece of aluminum to transfer heat away from the LEDs.... check it out.

11/30/2010 Worked great for over a year! check this next iteration out==> shortly.

Step 4: Handlebar Work

Wiring the handlebars was pretty straight forward. The dynamo is grounded through the AC frame.  All the DC parts therefore have to be protected from the bare metal.

11/30/2010 - yea that dinky switch worked for about ~2 months of oregon rain... (piece of !>#()
any ideas for a good waterproof switch?

I got the little PCB kit from Radio Shack for ~$2.  It's similar to the one listed below.  I had to cut the board down to size to fit it into the handlebars. I used hot glue to protect the PCB and diodes. (thank Jay for the idea). http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3173937

The qty(4) diodes 1N5818 can be found here for $0.38 each:

All the parts 'n pieces get inserted into the handlebars. Wrapped some of the wires under the handlebar tape (see pic).

Filled up the holes with a glue gun for weather protection.

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    19 Discussions

    I have 2 questions....

    1) will this work if the dynamo is turned the opposite way?

    2)Do you know any sites that i can order form(preferably amazon) that i can find usb receptacles?


    pls reply fast

    Dear hydronics,

    at first I want to congratulate you for this very usable instructable.
    Because I want to built it I have some questions.
    I don't know much about electronics but I've searched a lot until I found your instructable and I've seen lots of designs.

    I am looking for ways to improve your circuit so here are my questions:

    1) Why do you have the second pair of LEDs in series and not in parallel?
    2) Why do you use a resistor ?
    3) Why don't you use a capacitor (I 've read here http://www.pilom.com/BicycleElectronics/DynamoCircuits.htm) that using a capacitor improves the lighting and decreases flickering
    4) Is it possible to have the batteries connected always with the LEDs so even if the dynamo isn't working the LEDs would remain ON.

    I would be glad if you (or someone) could answer my questions.

    Thank you in advance :)

    Exelent stuff.
    Does this react/protect against overcharging? I'm a little worried about excess power frying whatever device I'm charging.

    1 reply

     the battery pack absorbs excess energy while peddling... I suppose it does the same thing once the device is charged... start cheap, go big, good luck. -tom

    IPod and iPhone need a "signal" so they know it is OK to charge, they need about 2.7 Volts on D- and 2 Volts on D+
    You could modify the charger to make it work with iPod/iPhone by following this schematic:
    That should make it work with your iPhone/iPod.

    this isn't wanting to charge my iphone 3gs, any ideas? I've taken a photo of my breadboad setup.

    I'm powering this using a 6V DC adapter for testing purposes.

    3 replies

    I've been researching this more and it appears iPhones require reference charges on pins 2 & 3.
    On pin 2 it requires 2.5v and 3 requires 1.8v - It appears these reference voltages are only required to tell the phone to start charging, once the phone has started charging these voltages can be removed.

    I'm going to sort out my setup first and will post a more detailed instructable.

     yea... it should work...your board looks good. 

    couple things to check of course.
    -the led should be unplugged for usb charging
    -maybe check you got the voltage at the USB pins
    -finally the diodes are supposed to convert from AC to DC (the dynamo produced AC current)  you indicated you have a DC source and the DC should pass through the diodes. It obviously passes through to light the LED, eh?

    let me know when you figure it out.

    a better quality image can be found at http://oc22.co.uk/DSC_0010.jpg

    Sorry to drag up the past however I'm looking at a possible solution to charge my iphone while out on long hauls. I assume it's possible to simply drop the LEDs from the circuit diagram and go forward with just the USB section?

    1 reply

    let me know if you have any questions. look at the circuit diagrams, follow the links, etc... as we say in Portland, "do it better"

    Have fun.

    Hi there, great idea! how long does it take you to charge your 4 AA batteries while riding at a normal pace?

    1 reply

     i'v no idea. The battery pack is used as a buffer when running my ipod. It absorbs the excess electricity generated by the hub but not used by the ipod.  I don't use the battery pack as a standalone device... although you could!

    yea, as soon as I finished I wanted rear lights too.  I'll have to hack those in shortly. The nights are getting longer.

     What a super cool idea! I thought of it too, except for the fact that I have a ramshorn steer

    Thats a pretty cool idea.  I might try that except for rear lights.