Making a Light Vs. Buying- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Making a Light Vs. Buying

    The price of lights is so high, it has deterred me from riding at night. Many of my pals night ride and praise it to know end. They says how much I will love it, but I cannot risk $300.00 on the chance (my wife may go crazy if I do).

    My question, how much would it cost to build a light set?
    How difficult is it?

    I have patience. I have basic knowledge and can usually figure things out and follow instructions. I would need a light set that would pretty much burn for 1 1/2 hours I would like something for the bar and 1 for the helmet.

  2. #2
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    I think mine are going to run about $160 including tax and shipping and all parts including a battery charger. I won't know for sure until I get everything nailed down and I'm very close. Mine should last ~4 hours on a charge.

    My reasoning was similar to yours, I want to night ride, do a 24 hour race, and don't want to spend $1000 on lights to make that happen. Anytime I'd priced commercial versions + extra batteries so I could do 24 hours (I figured 8 hours of darkness, plus 8 hours for a teammate as worst case) they came out to damn near $1000.

    I think I will be able to get my 8 hours of run time and a helmet + bar light for less than $500.

  3. #3
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    to answer your questions...
    cost:
    cost is really a function of your target light design (housing material, necessary tools, emmitter type/specification, power supply) in theory i could bang out a very simple single led light for a little under 40$ battery pack included using 1" square aluminum stock. i have a number of different set ups kicking around that i have built. some cheaper than others depending on; number of leds, driver used, extra hardware incorporated (switches, pots, resistors etc). which further illustrates cost is basically a function of design.

    difficulty:
    this depends on you, available materials, design (again), and tools you possess. i have built every one of my lights using hand tools and a nice bench vise. if you have never worked with metal or soldered before you might find it "easier" to just pick up a couple flashlights from DX (they are pretty cheap too).

    but if your anything like me or half the other people on this forum, you are a die hard tinker/amateur fabricator (admittedly some folks on here are not amateurs, far from it) and enjoy more the process of creating than the end result, regardless of cost or savings.

  4. #4
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    I should add to my info that I'm trying to go for the best I can make and I got my housing and trimpot for free as scrap parts from work. Also, I'm buying built up battery packs from batteryspace.com rather than making my own and the $160 is for the light, charger, and 1 battery pack. For 24 hour racing, I will need to add a pack for each light, so + $90 or so. Still though, the under $500 should happen.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Twenty Times
    The price of lights is so high, it has deterred me from riding at night. Many of my pals night ride and praise it to know end. They says how much I will love it, but I cannot risk $300.00 on the chance (my wife may go crazy if I do).

    My question, how much would it cost to build a light set?
    How difficult is it?

    I have patience. I have basic knowledge and can usually figure things out and follow instructions. I would need a light set that would pretty much burn for 1 1/2 hours I would like something for the bar and 1 for the helmet.
    Twenty Times, could you give some examples of lights that you have looked at and would buy if you had the spare cash, also some features that you want/don't want eg. low battery warning, choice of light output levels etc.

    It will help to determine the DIY cost and the savings(if any) over a ready version.

    The largest outlay will usaully be battery and charger so I would pick that first than design a light around the chosen battery. No point designing and building a great light only to find that it requires a battery that costs the earth.

  6. #6
    Randomhead
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    my thought with DIY is that it rarely saves money. At least not the first light.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by unterhausen
    my thought with DIY is that it rarely saves money. At least not the first light.
    Can I get an AMEN!
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  8. #8
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    I wasn't committed to night riding either, so went the inexpensive flashlight route. Best decision ever. I got hooked, spent very little (about $50 initially), was able to easily improve on the lights with little money (adding a $20 torch for example) and now find myself obsessed with building my own. Sure, part of that is for the light, but a bigger part now is the intrinsic reward to be gained when something you've made yourself does what you want/need.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by unterhausen
    my thought with DIY is that it rarely saves money. At least not the first light.

    Fair comment and I would aggree

    but with carefull choices it is possible and also he can buy the bits needed slowly as cash is available , which you cant do with an off the shelf light system .

    A couple of battery packs
    1 charger
    2 leds
    2 cheap drivers
    square or round ali tube depending on optic choices

    then the costs start to go up as you need a soldering iron
    thermal paste
    solder
    wire
    switchs
    connectors
    some mounting method
    beg steal or borrow tools

    then the rot sets in after you have made the first single led light and gone for a trial ride
    you are amazed at how good it is .
    so number 2 light you say to your self is going to be a better one than this .
    and suddenly you have gone over budget , but it has snook up on you so you dont mind

    Then there is the sheer pleasure of riding with your own creation. priceless.

  10. #10
    MTBiker
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    Definitely build one, it is time consuming and involves lots of research but totally worth it. My dual XR-E cost me $41 with everything but AA batteries, and XR-E/MC-E/5mm hybrid cost $62. Comparing the relative light output to purchased lights (400lm and 700lm) I saved a TON.
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  11. #11
    Spanish biker
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    Hi, I assure that is very rewarding ride with a DIY light moreover you lear lots of led, drivers, cases, optics...etc..

    Greetings - Saludos

    msxtr
    Warning!!! my english is very very bad, sorry.

    Easy DIY led light1
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  12. #12
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    My quad R2 cost me about 150$ and MCE about 100$ without battery and charger. It is lot but I used the best material that can be find. It have much space to go lower with lost of some features that are not so important.

  13. #13
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    Thanks for all the replies.

    I guess I am partially curious and fascinated to see if I can make a light on my own.

    What I would need...

    I want something that I can use on rides. I do not do 24 hour races so I will only need up to 2 hours, maybe 2 1/2 hours of good, bright run time.

    My season is drastically cut short when in November the clock changes. After work rides are gone and later afternoons are also cut on weekends.

    Am I handy? Kinda-sorta.

    What type of light...

    I want something as basic and easy (well as easy as it can be). I also want something BRIGHT! I have never been on the trails at night and would like the transition to be somewhat easy.

    I would look for a diagram or some blue prints then begin the build.

  14. #14
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    Out of curiosity, does anybody here sell their designs on eBay or whatnot?

  15. #15
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    Since you asked....

    Check the links in my signature

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Twenty Times
    I guess I am partially curious and fascinated to see if I can make a light on my own.
    This is the reason to build a light. It's just that it can be frustrating, and I suspect if you use the right search terms you can find a number of threads that have a subject something like this: "I blew all my leds and my wife is going to kill me if I spend any more money on lights."

    My approach to projects where I need the final product is to buy something that will get me through until the project is done. Maybe that's why I have so many unfinished projects, but at least I'm riding.

    That being said, building lights is fun and you can learn a lot. So it's worth doing.

  17. #17
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    Unterhausen, it is interesting to hear your perspective.

    My reason for starting this project was simply that for years I have thought the commercial versions of lights for bikes are just too damned expensive. I found this forum and I have some time before I get my new bike, so why not spend that time learning how to make a light and saving some $ over buying one.

    I'm likely to end up spending around half of what I would for a commercial version. I could go a lot cheaper than I am, but I want the perfect one the first time out and want it to look nice and be waterproof as well.

    The overall point being I'm doing this specifically to save money (and I like to tinker/fabricate stuff).

  18. #18
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    I have been able to build 8 lights of various designs and power supplies on just a few month. The initial ones cost a mint with wasted parts, fried parts, and wrong optics. My latest is for night trail running. It fits on a used headlamp strap and uses two Cree XR-E R2s with Carclo optics and a 1A Buckpuck. Cost is about $40 (plus batteries) and is pulling around 500 lumens (I think. I leave Salty to all of the math). It runs off of a block of 8 AA rechargable energizers for 4-5 hours at least or even a 9v for emergencies. Holder is $2 at Radio Shack. It could easily be used on a helmet. I took it kayaking last week and could illuminate reflective bouys a 1/4 mile away. One on a helmet and one on the handlebars gives more than enough light on a single track.
    I have learned alot and would be willing to share the experience, tools, spare parts etc. This brings up a idea that may have been addressed earlier in this forum. Would folks in a particular area be interested in getting together for a group build, beers, and a ride? I am willing to host in the Philly area.
    Last edited by Southern Adventurer; 05-10-2009 at 06:27 PM.

  19. #19
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    Would folks in a particular area be interested in getting together for a group build, beers, and a ride? I am willing to host in the Philly area.
    If I didn't live in London UK I would be in.

    Beers & soldering irons could get messy though

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by yetibetty
    If I didn't live in London UK I would be in.

    Beers & soldering irons could get messy though

    Good point. Maybe soldering.... then beers... wait.... soldering, ride, then beers. Yes that's it!

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Twenty Times
    The price of lights is so high, it has deterred me from riding at night. Many of my pals night ride and praise it to know end. They says how much I will love it, but I cannot risk $300.00 on the chance (my wife may go crazy if I do).

    My question, how much would it cost to build a light set?
    How difficult is it? ....
    This statement ( highlighted ) tells me you have never ridden at night before. I think you need to establish whither or not you are going to night ride and whither or not you are going to like it before deciding if you might like to build a DIY bike light. As has been pointed out by the others, it will not be cheap either way. That being the case I think it would be in your best interest to purchase some nice torches from D/X if just to see if you are going to like riding at night ( not to mention if the wife is going to let you.. ) . A nice MTE 2-mode P-7 torch ( 500-600lm) for the bars will run about an hour before it begins to dim, then another 30min at lower levels of light. A TR-801 2-mode Q-5 torch should work great on the helmet. With the mount, charger and extra batteries you should be able to get all for a little over $100 USD. After a season of riding you should know by that time if riding at night is going to be one of those activities that demand more of your time and resources. If that turns out to be the case than you just might want to try building your own better, brighter LED lights. Note: nothing will piss Wifey off more than you spending Bling ($$$) for some expensive lights ( or parts ) that turned out didn't get used more than a couple times.
    Last edited by Cat-man-do; 04-12-2009 at 07:57 PM.

  22. #22
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    The above info about whether or not you will night ride is very true.

    While I say I'm going to get away for less than retail, I am still talking $400 or so for bar light, helmet light, extra battery pack for both, and a charger (plus tax & shipping for all).

    I've done night rides before and had a great time, but alway while borrowing a light, using the full moon and going slow-ish, or riding close enough to someone with a bright light to leech off of them. The bottom line being I know I will use it.

  23. #23
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    Borrow a light. IF you post up your general location on here someone may be able to lend one out. Otherwise most areas have group rides or organizations and you can bum andolder light off of someone for a few trial runs. Check with your local LBS to see if they have any organized rides.That way you are out nothing until you can decide if you like it or not.

    You will of course, but that is besides the point

  24. #24
    Lets RIDE!
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    Quote Originally Posted by kuksul08
    My dual XR-E cost me $41 with everything but AA batteries,
    My 2 x XR-E helmet light was about the same cost. Plus 4 x AA rechargables and a charger which was ~$30.

    edit: I actually had more into it because some of the parts were purchased in quantities larger than I needed.....Al tubing is sold in 4' lengths, DX sells a lot of their parts in multiples, etc. But I had enough leftovers to make lights for some friends :-)

    I started with the flashlight option. Search this forum for "Trustfire TR-801" Even if you don't stick with night riding, you'll have a couple nice flashlights.

    JZ
    Last edited by Jim Z in VT; 04-13-2009 at 05:12 PM.
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  25. #25
    Just a flesh wound
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    Build one

    Then you are personally invested in the conquest of darkness. Bring on the night! Great fun!

  26. #26
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    hi
    if you have the toola at hand its nice to make your own lights
    i made these about a year ago cost me about 80 to make all in they are about 800 lumens


    simon

  27. #27
    Spanish biker
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    Quote Originally Posted by thwang-01
    hi
    if you have the toola at hand its nice to make your own lights
    i made these about a year ago cost me about 80 to make all in they are about 800 lumens


    simon
    Nice, what handlebar holders and spacers are you used??

    Greetings - Saludos

    msxtr
    Warning!!! my english is very very bad, sorry.

    Easy DIY led light1
    Easy DIY led light2

    The Beast!!!

  28. #28
    Its got what plants crave
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    It's not a popular choice, but have you considered a cheap halogen? I have a 15 or 20 watt and it's super bright. You can find old Niterider 12v halogen setups for a song on Ebay.

  29. #29
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    I learned something important last week.

    If you are planning to make more than 1 light (such as a helmet and a bar light), take notes on the first one such as the order of the steps you take and any specifics of the build.

    Then, use those notes on subsequent ones so you repeat things/steps that worked well and improve ones that didn't go as well.

    I forgot to use my notes and did a step or 3 out of sequence and caused myself a few added headaches (nothing major, just things like trying to feed tiny wires around blind corners and through holes). Live and learn!

    Oh, and I guess by extension, build 1 light to completion and use what you learn on it to make the next one. If I'd done 2 or 3 at once, I may have had a lot more headaches.

  30. #30
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    Yup, the stuff required to mountainbike is expensive especially if you need quality stuff to race. I too had a nag that thought diamonds were more practical than good lights. I had to make a choice over what I loved more. I got rid of the nag. This is a true story. Now I have more stuff than I really need. And, I found another nag but she likes to bike and night ride too so it works for me.

  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Southern Adventurer
    and would be willing to share the experience, tools, spare parts etc. This brings up a idea that may have been addressed earlier in this forum. .
    I would be interested in how you waterproofed the light

  32. #32
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    Have you ever used silicone gasket maker (RTV Sealant) from Permatex, available at any auto parts store?

  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by yakernz
    I would be interested in how you waterproofed the light
    I use a generous amount of JB Weld along the seams and silicone for the lexan lense cover. I have been using the dimmer switch that comes as an option on the BUCKPUCKs in most applications. I doubt it is waterproof but I have yet to fully immerse it or even ride in a heavy rainstorm. That is the beauty of using a MAXFLEX or similar driver as waterproof/ water resistant momentary switches are readily available. I would live to find something in the micro size that is waterproof. Most of the stuff for marine applications are too large.

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