Helmet Mounted Bicycle Light on the Quick and Cheap!




About: Just another tinkerer.

This is a quick and easy one.

A front bike light for your helmet, it goes where you go and shines where you look! No more multiple handlebar mounts on different bikes, broken handlebar mounts, cumbersome external batteries, etc.

After breaking several cheap plastic mounts I'd had enough of bike mounted lights. Enough I say! Why can't mfg's make fiber reinforced mounts!

Having used headlamps extensively for camping and hiking I decided it was time for a helmet mounted light that I could point where I wanted, especially in driver's eyes to alert them of my presence.

Let's begin...

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Step 1: Acquire LED Flashlight

Update 11/05/2012. I now use LED flashlights that are rechargeable and much brighter that what I originally mentioned in this instructable (a 3 AAA LED light from Sams Club). Amazon is a great source for these types of lights and batteries. There are plenty of resources for LED flashlights of all sizes, prices and brightnesses. Google is your friend. Most of these lights use a Lithium Ion battery that is commonly called an 18650 battery. LED technology has also come a long way, Cree and SSC have LED's that are capable of upwards of 900 lumen. If you want to go smaller and lighter there's also a battery called a 123 size. They're half as long as the 18650 batteries and allow for smaller lights that are still amazingly bright.

Step 2: Materials List

1) Helmet
2) Some sort of thick plastic bendable packaging material (~1mm thickness)
3) Snip pliers or wire cutters (for cutting zip ties)
4) Lighter (bic preferred)
5) Sharpie (never leave home without it!)
6) Four zip ties (may need more or less depending on size)
7) Four rubber o-rings sized for the flashlight barrel (again, may need more or less)
8) Led flashlight
9 ) Scissors (not pictured)

Step 3: Protecting Styrofoam Ribs in the Helmet

Zip ties are an amazing invention.

However, zip ties putting pressure on the Styrofoam underside of the helmet when tightened was a problem. It caused deformation of the Styrofoam even without being fully tightened.

See photo for detail.

Step 4: Distributing the Load

To solve the deformation problem I used a ~1mm thick piece of plastic (from the flash light packaging) cut and bent to fit over one of the Styrofoam rails of the helmet. This plastic spread the normally concentrated load from the zip tie over a larger area of the Styrofoam rail to where it would not deform.

Find some sort of plastic packaging that is fairly sturdy, here I show the use of a cookie container. Using the sharpie mark an oval appropriately sized to the area of the styrofoam you wish to protect. Then using some scissors, cut the oval out (see 2nd photo).

The third photo shows the load distributor in place. You will see how this works with the zip ties in a later step.

Step 5: Securely Mounting Metal to Plastic?

This may seem a bit daunting and it is, so I didn't even consider it. The flashlights I bought conveniently had some ridges machined into the body. Ridges which I realized would easily keep rubber o-rings in place. I actually used o-ring shaped garden hose washers but any local hardware store will have a large variety of sizes to fit whichever flashlight you decide upon.

Two fore and aft ensured a nice interface between the light and the plastic helmet skin. See photo for before/after.

Step 6: Begin Assembly

See the photo montage below. As every bicycle helmet is different you will need to play around a bit with placement of the light and zip ties. I used an offset position for two reasons.

1) I found it allowed me the best alignment of the light so the spot was shining where my eyes looked when they were straight ahead and relaxed.

2) I may add another light to the other side that has a strobe/blink feature for even greater visibility.

Please note in photo 3 the zip ties are not fully snugged up. I left them a little loose so that I could reposition the light and get the alignment of the beam spot just right before cinching up the zip ties.

To get the proper alignment, put the helmet on as you normally would, turn the light on, and then use a dark wall that is at least 15' away from you. Adjust the light so that it shines where your eyes normally look when relaxed and looking straight ahead.

Photo 4 shows the piece of plastic we're using to distribute the load across the styrofoam rail.

Step 7: Finalize Assembly

Once the alignment is set and the zip ties fully cinched, cut the zip ties flush on one side and leave about 1/2 an inch on the other. I cut them flush on the side of the helmet and left them 1/2 inch long above the center air vent.

I found that the zip ties, when encountering sharp bends eventually set into their final position and loosen up a bit. leaving the 1/2 inch of zip tie allows you to use a pair of pliers to grip onto them and tighten up if they loosen.

For safety's sake, use a lighter to melt the ends of the zip ties so they're not sharp and you don't cut yourself on them. Believe it or not industries that work with zip ties a lot actually have "Zip Tie Safety" classes. A sharp zip tie at eye level can do some serious damage.

Step 8: Wrapup and Future Ideas

See more photos below. This helmet light has worked AWESOME, I've been using it for over 6 months now. My only concerns are that it's a bit heavy due to 3 AAA's (at first I felt a bit bobbleheadish) and it is unfortunately a single mode flashlight (it doesn't have high/medium/low or strobe/flash).

I am considering switching to smaller/lighter LED flashlights that use a single rechargeable 18650 cell battery and also mounting two lights to the helmet. One to run for illumination and the other to run in strobe mode, both pointed forward.

Hope you enjoyed and be safe out there!

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    24 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Don't do it! There is a reason that bike and motorcycle helmets are round and smooth. In an accident, if your head hits the ground, you want your helmet to keep sliding, not snag on the ground. Snagging could make your neck snap, resulting in death or paralysis. In an accident, you are likely to leave the bike headfirst. While it is preferable not to attach things at all, anything attached to a helmet should have a breakaway feature so it minimizes any snagging.

    Don't think of a bike helmet like a military helmet with attachments. They are entirely different use cases.

    If you need a light, I recommend attaching it to your handlebars, frame, backpack strap, shoulder, forearm or anything else that won't endanger your life.

    I've done this, too. If you don't want to use zip-ties, you can make big "o-rings"/rubber bands from dead road bike tubes, buy large o-rings at a pool supply or automotive parts store, or make a velcro and elastic sleeve for it (that's on instructables too, looks pretty good!)

    2 replies
    jimsinflaYard Sale Dale

    Reply 3 years ago

    I like the velcro idea. That stuff would be perfect: secure but likely to be knocked-off without contributing much to the g-forces on my widdle brain.


    5 years ago on Step 7

    Haha, now I'm curious. It's amazing what you can learn about something when you're forced to work with it hundreds of times a day. I now know how to troubleshoot QC issues with locking lug nuts and can deal with clamshells like a champ. -_- THOSE skills should come in handy....
    ANYWAY, any other zip tie safety tips? That sounds like an interesting instructable too. o_O


    10 years ago on Introduction

    not to be mean or anything but i just like to take the simple way out. i just ware a headlamp under may helmet with the light pokin out on my forehead. sorry to rain on your ... er ... bikearade ... parade on bikes ... ?

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    is a brilliant idea. I never thought to try that! I wonder if my headlamp is bright enough to do any good as a bike light....
    It WOULD interfere with my winter hat, though, I think.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    First of all...DUDE! This is a great idea and a great Instructable!! Secondly, I'm not sure about the safety of this thing. Although the flashlight is less than a half pound, it still throws off your head balance just a little. Sure you will develop the neck muscles to compensate so I'm less concerned about that than this...The real problem is you've added a big metal thing to the outside of the helmet. If you happen to need the helmet to protect your brains, I'm thinking the flashlight will survive intact while the helmet will break open instantly right where the light is mounted. If only the flashlight was made from soft plastic I would be still more excited about the idea. Maybe you could disassemble the flashlight and mount, say, the bulb in front, batteries on the side, and switch somewhere convenient. Just an idea. I still like the idea of mounting the light to the handlebars. Check out any of the many Instructables on that topic and see if you can come up with something that won't break under rough conditions. And lastly, I really like that little Sam's Club flashlight. I have five and counting. All of my friends are getting a Sam's Club LED flashlight for Christmas. They are extremely bright, sturdy, and use cheap batteries. They are easily the best lights on the market anywhere near $14. The gearhead flashlight-a-holics don't like them because there's no electronics to control the bulb, but that always raises the price by $50 to $100. What's interesting is that for a $200 light with the same performance, they love them, but this one they don't.

    6 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    mag lites own. i have a... 3d cell blue and 2 cell AA blue and they have both worked, surprisingly, well. the only lights i have seen firsthand to beat them are my friends. but they dont count causehe makes them himself. theyre like those lights on helicoptors in the movies that go a mile in fog (im not joking whatsoever) only his are in a convenient (not really) falshlight. me and most of my troop (boy scouts) have magltes and have had for multiple years and they survive the rigors of camping and do not die oftem even under avuse. (i threw up on my friends one time) the only downside is they are like 80% machined aluminum or something and the large ones are a bit heavy. i am totally gonna do this. but not soon cause i dont think itll hold a 3dcell maglite ountain biking, which i am next weekend. i am mountain biking, not a 3d cell maglite. lol


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I second that Maglites are awesome. I lost one in my yard at the beginning of winter and found it when the snow melted the next year. It probably sat there three or four months. When I found it I twisted the head and it turned right on. Also, the aluminum isn't what makes the larger ones heavy, its the batteries. Aluminum is a little heavier than plastic though...


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Wow! I had no idea they'd be that waterproof. But I guess if they have a couple O-rings in there.... And +1 on the batteries.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    You need to look into modern LED lights. Or maybe you're talking about the LED maglites, which I have no experience with...maybe they don't burn out and run out of batteries as often as the old incandescent ones. Or...I guess they definitely don't, but I've had enough mini maglites to know they're not nearly as good as a modern "tactical" LED flashlight.

    Yard Sale Daledchall8

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    There are a bunch of plastic bodied diving lights on the market, you can get them from China for $15 on Alibaba. Coast and Dorcy make them too,


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    First off, I appreciate you reminding me of the possible safety concerns and thank you for the compliments on my first Instructable.

    To be honest I had intended to include safety concerns but after reviewing mass marketed helmet light systems, including this one (NiteRider MiNewt Mini-USB) which is is mounted through the air vents and is exactly the same weight (6.1 ounces), I decided it was not pertinent to the Instructable.

    As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If this light helps me avoid an incident through increased visibility I will take the tradeoff of it possibly becoming a safety concern in the event of a wreck.


    Not my quote, but something to think about.

    "The first and most important rule for mounting a light on your helmet is that it must break away readily when you crash or catch an overhanging obstacle. If it does not, you risk having your neck jerked when it snags on the pavement or tree. Besides jerking your neck, that can add to the g's of the shock to your brain when you hit pavement. "

    2 replies

    I have ridden with flashlights ziptied to a walmart helmet before, and one snagged on a branch. It broke the zipties, and nothing happened to me. It works.

    mysssYard Sale Dale

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Nice! I get the feeling that zip ties vary in quality, though.... I wonder if anyone has similar experience with ranger bands (inner tube rubber bands of some sort).


    6 years ago on Introduction

    new steps for those who want to mountain bike at night.
    #1: google Magicshine lights.
    #2: drop the $80 bucks
    #3: ride SAFELY and enjoy
    --i spent hours and hours trying to cheapskate and instructable my way out of buying a real light suitable for night time fast mountain biking. just drop the 80 bucks on something that is darn near as bright as car headlights, firmly mounts to helmets or bars and is not very heavy at all.

    These are $2.50 on various china-direct sites, and can work on some helmets.

    v2 led flashlight mount 1.jpgv2 led flashlight mount 1.jpg