DIY Bike Wheel Lights, Pt. II

So in the previous post on bike lights I alluded to having a few new sets of lights on order from Amazon.com, and I can now say with 100% certainty that they are superior in every single way…  particularly in that whole “reduced risk of the bulb getting caught between your brake calipers and rim and sending you to the hospital” thing.  The biggest problem with the Christmas lights was that the “bulbs” stuck out from the rest of the wire, meaning there was far too much of a chance of them sticking out and hitting the frame/fork on a typical road-bike setup such as the Sasha due to the narrow wheel and frame.  If you have a Pugsley, on the other hand, I’m pretty sure they’d work fine.

So for my second attempt I purchased these LED light strings off of Amazon.com.  20 LED lights on a 7′ wire strand, powered by 3 AA batteries, all for ~$4.50 each.  The main reason I was so excited about these was that the LED “bulbs” are actually in-line along the thin-gauge wire.  You can see exactly how small they are in this picture:

That is all there is to the “bulb” in the middle of my hand.  So the installation process was identical to the previous attempt, with the battery pack / controller ziptied to the spokes towards the center of the wheel, with the wire held in place along the rim with color-matched electrical tape.  When viewed closely the blue tape and rim doesn’t match 100%, but it’s close enough that when it’s seen at a distance it’s not that bad.

And from a distance:

Obviously if you have a black rim it’ll be *far* easier to color-match, as well as if you have a green Sasha with white rims.  The thin wire running along the rim is almost invisible from 5-10′ away as well.  The result:

And yes, that is one of my photography assistants helping out as usual.

Total cost:
$9 for 2 strands of blue LED lights
$2 for 6 AA batteries (about, they came in a pack of 20)
$2 for blue electrical tape
Few random zipties

And the output is 40 LED lights positioned where they move the most (in the dark our eyes often go first to *moving* lights as opposed to stationary), and are bright enough that they blow away any of the small rear blinky lights that we have at our disposal to test against.

A couple things to note:

1)  While the wire strand is waterproof, the battery pack / controller is *not*.  If you’re going to use this in all types of weather, you might want to wrap the controller in a plastic bag to keep the moisture out of it.

2)  We haven’t noticed the battery pack throwing off the balance of the wheel, but we’re primarily using this for short commuting trips.  YMMV, especially if you’re going faster/farther/etc.

3)  As always, use at your own risk.  The thin wire has far less of a chance of “falling off the rim” and getting caught in your brake pads than our previous attempt, but as always, anything is possible and play around with these at your own risk.

Stay safe, and enjoy the night!

edit:  By the way, these LEDs are about as bright as the Christmas lights we tried out earlier.  In the pictures they don’t look as bright since for the original post we set up the camera with a long (5+ second) exposure and had 100% of the light coming from the LEDs.  In these pics we had a back light on for some ambient lighting, and kept it to a more reasonable exposure time.

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5 Responses to DIY Bike Wheel Lights, Pt. II

  1. Deanna says:

    Love this idea – and so much cheaper than the commercial kind.

  2. Jason says:

    You are my holiday hero!

  3. Peter says:

    Love this!

  4. Kristin says:

    Nice hack.

  5. Pingback: Bike lights megapost. | Stray Cat Bicycles

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