Intro: LED Bike Lighting
If you're looking for maximum brightness, simplicity, & DIY in lighting your bike, consider using a programmed mini controller. Yea, sure, remote controls are the cool thing right now, but what happens when you misplace your remote control or the battery dies. What about that clunky connector that you have to use, too?
If you aren't familiar, non-programmable LEDs like 5050 SMD strip lights, you've probably seen them in anything and everything. Each LED on the strip is actually comprised of three LEDs: one red, one green, & one blue. With non-programmable strip lights, all of the colors are exactly the same at any given point in time. The color & brightness is either dependent on where the power is being delivered or what a controller is telling it to do. These lights run on 12V of power, like 8 AA batteries.
We were gifted a roll of non-programmable RGB LEDs last year & I found these inexpensive controllers and battery packs. Given how inexpensive the materials are, it's easy to keep your whole family lit well at night!
While we took care to waterproof our lights to protect them from being exposed to the elements, this project is not entirely waterproof.
Step 1: Gather Materials
Here's what we used:
- Non-programmable RGB LED strip (12v)
- Soldering iron, solder, ventilated workstation, etc.
- Mini LED Controller 3 Key Dimmer for 5050 SMD RGB LED light strips with DC Female Plug
- 4 Pin Male Connector DIY Cable for 5050 SMD RGB LED light strips
- Battery Holder Case for 8xAA batteries w/ On/Off Switch with DC Male Plug
- AA batteries
- Hot glue
- Clear Gorilla Tape - Packing tape has no flex and breaks easily; this stuff is pretty expensive but worth it.
- Zip ties
- Bungee cord or zip ties to secure battery pack)
Note: the links I'm providing are for reference. I'm not affiliated or benefiting from any of them.
Step 2: Create a Strip
- Determine the approximate length of the strip needed for your project. While you can always connect additional lights to make them last longer, it's much easier to trim them down.
- Solder the connector to the LED strip. For my lights and connectors, I did the following:
- Black wire to +V
- Green wire to G
- Red wire to R
- Blue wire to B
Step 3: Protect the Strip
- Use a glob of hot glue to insulate your connections and let cool.
- Begin using a smaller (~1ft strip) of Clear Gorilla Tape and work your way up to a longer (4-5ft) piece.
- Lay the tape sticky side up and place the end of your strip 1/4" from the edge.
- Fold one side over and then the next to waterproof the strip.
- Continue along your strip, overlapping each new piece of tape over the last.
- Cover the connection to your controller.
- Plug everything back together.
Step 4: Attach to Bike
If you haven't already decided how you will attach your lights to your bike (or whatever), come up with your plan. Since the lights can be bright, you may want to have them point away from your eyes or use white fur to diffuse the brightness. Pick an accessible spot for your controller and battery pack. Depending on the settings you choose, your run time will vary.
- Beginning on one end, use zip ties every 6" or so to secure lights.
- Strap in your battery pack and controller using zip ties and/or bungee cords.
- Test your ride to make sure there aren't any loose pieces interfering with your ride.
- Go on and GLOW