I have been browsing this DIY forum for a day and a half now.
Very, very good stuff you guys are doing here.
1995 (or so) Cannondale MTB. Primary use is as a very durable and reliable Utility bike on rural roads with mostly light but sometimes moderate (and faster) traffic. For now, enough light to run 15 mph with or without a white line would be fine. I plan to start (get back into) some longer rides, to include some camping. Utility, reliability, and repair-ability far outweigh performance and weight for me.
I have mounted a pair of Plano "Sportsman" type toolboxes as rear panniers. They are not hanging on the rack. They are bolted to it with an inside/out frame idea I came up with. If I trusted the bolts at the dropouts I wouldn't hesitate to stand on the boxes, they're that solid and they do not shake. I want to mount lights to the bottom of the boxes just far enough in to protect them if I fall. These boxes are fairly big/wide. There's plenty of room for the beam to clear my lower legs, even with a larger light mounted closer to center.
In other words, I have plenty of room, plenty of mounting options (for both lights and power) and I am not concerned about weight, as long as it's reasonable. I have already mounted a box for a 5Ah SLA (trailer breakaway battery) to the rack and will eventually add/carry a folding 5W solar panel. The bike "lives" outside so I will have unlimited ability to maintain the SLA.
Edit: Removed questions about using 12V, fundamental components and circuits... I was stuck on one thing and it was in fact simple. Search BuckPuck if you need to see what a driver/controller can do including what voltages you can use. Probably what I'll use and the manual gives an excellent explanation of circuits you can set up.
Edit: Removing questions about how much light I should need for my riding plans. I had assumed that HP LED's were more or less fixed output and people were "tweaking" a little more out of them. I didn't realize that they could be varied infinitely up to 2-3 times their "rated" output. I'll probably use XP-G or K2 LED's.
For anyone else trying to figure out the basics, it's all about current. Voltage is nearly irrelevant. The "drivers" you read about in here are nothing more than current regulating power supplies with some nifty integrated control features. Most of them can be supplied with a wide range of voltage and still do exactly the same thing. I was stuck on some old-school assumptions about LED's. It really is pretty simple and I have a lot more options than I thought.
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