We wanted to add some safety to bike commuting as the days keep getting shorter. Here is our $35 solution.
My wife tries to commute three times a week and the current bike lights were not cutting it. Reflective tape and a brighter head lamp did not seem like it would solve the visibility issue. We had seen her cousin make a sweet bike with some LED strip lights a few months earlier so we built on the idea of using strip lights to make a very visible bike with multicolored lights.
Lithium-Polymer Battery 2200mAh $10.43 (or any other 12v battery if you are unfamiliar with Li-Po)
Voltage Monitor $2.77 (Optional, to make sure the battery stays happy)
Wire (1M) $0.99 (or any stranded small gauge wire you have on hand)
Quick Connect $3 (Optional)
Step 1: Measure and Cut LED's
Cut the strips of LED's to length to fit the places on the bike you would like lights. Make sure to cut them between the coper on the black line. We used 10 feet of the 16.4 feet that comes in most LED strips.
Step 2: Clean the Bike
Clean the bike tubes with some sort of alcohol based cleaner to prepare the surface. This is important otherwise the 3M strips will not adhere to the tubes and you may need to use lots of zip-ties to attach the lights thereafter making the whole project more cluttered.
Step 3: LED Preperation
Trim back the waterproofing to make room for soldering or quick connects on the ends you need to connect. It works well to use your fingernail to pry back a small piece of the clear weatherproofing. Then cut the small piece of weatherproofing off with a scissors. Be careful not to damage the copper tabs.
Step 4: Attach Strips
Attach the LED strips to the tubes of the bike. We found it helpful to attach one end and pivot the strip on the far end to line it up correctly. Then slowly start on the attached side pressing the strip to the tube firmly. It is helpful to have an extra hand here.
Step 5: Solder
Solder wires to connect the strips together. Be sure to connect on the same R G B and + terminals. They are labeled at each junction so just look at it before you connect them.
Step 6: Controller
Connect the strips to the controller board with wire. Our circuit board did not have the correct labels on the so check the lights at this point to be sure the right colors are being displayed using the remote. We removed the board from the white box it came in to make it smaller and lighter.
Step 7: Battery
Attach your battery to the bike somehow, we have a pouch to put it in but you could velcro or zip-tie it anywhere that works for you.
It is helpful to have a quick connector $3 so you can charge the battery somewhere safe and not accidentally discharge your battery.
If you are not familiar with LI-PO batteries do not use them. They are light weight and high capacity but take some extra care not to cause problems. Here is a great overview of them (a little technical for our purposes but helpful to understand the technology)
- Do not over discharge them. When the lights start to get dim or you think it is getting close turn them off or use a voltage alarm. $2
- Do not charge them on anything but a charger designed for LI-PO battery chemistry. If you do not they will end up in flames and potentially explode
- Watch the batteries charge. Do not leave them unattended somewhere or they may cause a problem.
Step 8: Adjust Lights & Ride
If you live in an area with strict bike light rules then go with Orange.
If you regularly see low riders or giant trucks that light up like mars then give them a show.