How did you get started in DIY lights
Perhaps the better question is "is there a cure?"
I was an early adopter in the early 90s of a cygolight Rover - 2 x 6 watt 6 volt halogen powered by a sealed lead acid battery. Paid what seemed like a fortune for it at the time. As you would expect the battery died after a while.& I thought I was pretty clever running it on 6 AA NiMH batteries. 7.2 volts gave a birighter light but was flogging those AAs hard. I had a laugh when I saw an optomist selling one on ebay.
But I digress.
The reason for my question is that all I wanted to do was find a better battery pack for the halogen light, next thing you know I have bought a cheap chinese LED to tide me over till I figure what lights I am going to build. Beside if you like fixing things, starting with something likely to break is good.
I know I am not doing this for the money - I am self employed & if I charged at my usual rates, just the time spent reading so far would make for very expensive lights - especially since I haven't made any yet.
My likely steps are
- Build a better battery pack
- assemble a kit - there are plenty of good ones to choose from here
- design a better rear light
I am unlikely to get into making my own housing - a man's got to know his limitations.
So how did you get started - did you ease a toe into the water or leap in with both feet.
I think modding flashlights is the way to go. You get a housing, led, driver.. enough to work straight out of the box. From there its pretty easy to change components. Pretty generic, but it gets you a great light out of the box.
I started with Vistalite "periscope" 3W halogens that ran off 4 AAs, which I then upgraded to 10W (!) with a lead acid battery. That was still pants, so I built a 20W halogen with a Lightbrain and a 13.2V NiMh battery pack (output of ~35W with fancy build).
When I got back into nightriding after moving to the States I realised things had moved on over the past 7 years and set about building myself an LED light with advice on here. The rest, as they say, is history
It's the free sample XM-L that Cree sent my roommate.
I hooked it up to some AAA's for a few seconds and it illuminated the hillside (I've since learned it's not the best idea to send 6V through it…).
Now I've gathered most of the parts I'll need for HCTS (Here Comes The Sun), my 4 klm light:
4 XM-L T6 (I bought 10 from DHGate for $73 shipped)
3/8" Aluminum baseplate / heat sink with 2-inch deep fins, six per inch. It's 7" by 3", so I can make a few lights with it.
Lidel square 22mm lenses
XPal 18Ah (70WH) Li-Poly battery pack (already had two of these for laptop / monitor)
Now it's just down to switches, cables, and some square tubing.
I have few additional cheap drivers that I'll play around with for some helmet lights.
In late 80s I used to use a car headlight and a lead acid battery bungeed to MTB to round up cows for night milking- wasn't bad for the 25mins burn time. (it also used to attract owls!)
I caught the night riding/ light modding bug when I purchased a 4D Mag light in the mid 90's. I originally duct taped it to my top tube and let it protrude past the head tube. It was hard to aim and didn't follow my line, so that didn't last long. I then cut the battery section off and moulted the head to the bar with a Cateye mount, and strapped the capped and wired battery section to the frame. Also capped both sections with steel caps and RCA connectors and used over-driven zeon bulbs for more power.
It was heavy even for my tastes and the bulbs burned out after a few hours of run-time. Still it made night riding possible and I'll never forget those fun times.
I wouldn't go the Mag light route these days; they are too heavy and too low of light output.
I think there are plenty of resources on qualifying a bike light setup on here, so I wont go into too much detail on what you should get. Just know your limitations as far as how much light you need to see the trail safely, and how much time and money you can spend. Ive gone broke in both departments I guess the final product was worth it for me.
My first light was an old Union Pro dual beam that was suprisingly tough. I got into making halogen MR-11 lights back in the day, My first one was in a in a housing made from plastic plumbing fittings with inadequate heat sinking. That gave new meaning to candlepower as it went up in smoke!
I have just made a couple of LED lights( my first attempts on these). I would recommend starting with something straightforward first. Mine was a dual Xpg with a simple 1000mA lux driver (copied off this very forum!). I ordered pretty much everything from Digikey. Most of my problems involved the case or just bad planning. When I saw what worked for me I made another with a Task driver (awesome product and service) and have been pleased with the results. It's pretty easy to see some unbelievable lights on this forum. The craftmanship is unreal and way above what I am capable of. You just need to see what works for you!
First light was a tyre driven dynamo. You know the one, the faster you go the brighter the output. Then I moved up to a 21st century rim driven dynamo. Then i started the diy route starting with MR16 bulbs, plumbing fittings to make a housing and a dirty great big SLA battery weighing some ridiculous amount.
ah, those were the days!
Originally Posted by brad72
Crap lights (I'm looking at you, Vistalite 3W) made me a better rider though - if I couldn't keep up with the people who had proper lights, seeing where they were going, I crashed. Now I unwittingly annoy people with my excessively bright lights
I got "real" lights in the 90s, when a decent setup involved a 6W bar mount with a big SLA taking up precious waterbottle space. I used that system for years, added a 10W helmet mount and eventually picked up a TrailTech HID a few years back. When the TTHID died, I stumbled across the Achesalot DIY light. It was all downhill from there...
I needed a decent light for but could not afford to buy factory built units so after scouring the net for a home made solution came across mtbr and at the time mind blowing diy forum.
Discovered that Chris aka Troutie lives about 12 miles away and got in touch with him,Chris being the gent that he is invited me across and gave me a 3 hour tutorial on light building plus coffee and encouragement.
Chris supplied me with the components required to build 2 pepper pot style lights and i went away to machine the housings etc.
Well 2 years on both lights are still going strong and still outshine most other lights in our club.
Chris if you read this, cheers mate
This is sort of embarassing to admit.
OK. First bike light circa 1968 was a 6 volt incandescent dyno light with high/low (two bulbs) rear tailight and bottle generator. Not even a good 'be seen' light. Lucky for me I never gave it any road night duty.
Mostly avoided night riding or rode very well illuminated streets. Incandescent flashlight Wald mount and reflector only in back.
Fast forward about 35 years to 2008 and wanting to ride cooler nights than roast in nearly 100 F and high humidity days. Bought a NOS 2006 14 Watt HID Cygolite for what the battery cost new. Princeton Tech Swerve, then PBSF in back. The head unit bought it in 2010, so I found the PondScum thread and made my own MR16 Luxeon/Outdoor fixture but 90 lumens was a far cry from circa 5-600 though 11 hours runtime was nice, and my night vision is not what it was, so the die was cast.
Currently running an array of XP-G, XM-L, and Luxeon 1 Watt Red-orange lights using EL34's Marwi housings. It has been a nice hobby. I don't get the "I didn't see you" stuff anymore. Its, "You're the guy with the bike lights!" now.