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Old 12-21-03, 09:08 PM   #1
LittleBigMan
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Total Geekiness

Moderator Note: This thread helps you build bicycle lights that meet your own needs. You can use the search option on this thread to find the details you need. Still need help? Go ahead and post your questions, comments, and brag-shots

My wife phoned me at work. "Pete, I pulled up this website, www.klorg.com. It has something you might be interested in: the Geek Light Project." Since my old lighting system was whacked, I was all ears (being a total geek myself.) I knew a new lighting system, however Fantasmic, was somewhere out near Disneyland for me, until I scraped together a couple-two-three hundred American dineros.

So when we were out at Home Depot getting a Christmas tree, I asked an orange lady, "Where is the outdoor lighting?" I ventured over to the place she pointed. It wasn't long before I nailed the 20-watt, 12-volt yard light the Geek Doctor recommended. Still short of a power source (they didn't have anything at Home Depot versatile enough,) I ferried the family home. Total expenditure on Geeky Light Project so far: $12.

On the way home, I stopped at Batteries Plus for advice, not that I expected any Real Geeks to be there to help me find something tailor-made to fit my Geek Light Project specifications; but I was waaay wrong! The Head Geek Battery Expert knew more about what I was wanting than I knew how to ask. He calculated the amp-hours needed to build a custom NiCd battery pack for my needs (ball-park) on the spot for my 12v, 20w Malibu yard light. Turns out I'm not the only cyclist who's dropped by Batteries Plus for help (thanks, dude!)

But the H.G.B.E. had bad news: I needed ten NiCd batteries for my 12v setup to get the run-time I needed for my 20w bulb. This would cost me about one hundred and fifty American pesos. Eeek, geek! This is not geeky at all! But the H.G.B.E. was not worried. "Then again, a lead-acid setup will run you about $25."



Now I knew what I had to do.

Well, another Project, the Make the Old Car Pass Emission Inspection Project, took precedence. I found myself changing the oil and shopping at Pep Boys. Lo, and behold, what did I find? a Vector Pocket Power 12V portable power source, complete with plug receptacle for charging/power, water-resistant padded case, 12-volt DC charging adapter to recharge from a car's cigarette lighter (if necessary,) 110-volt AC charging adapter for home use, and even a built-in 10-amp fuse for safety. (I forgot to mention it had a shoulder-strap, too.) Total geek-cost: $20 (which, by the way, I had saved by changing my own oil and not going to Jiffy Lube. This was still half of the price Batteries Plus would have cost me for a battery and charger, not including the totally non-geeky water-resistant padded case, and 12-volt DC charging adapter for recharging from a car's cigarette lighter (which is beyond geeky, it's in the realm of handy-man geekiness.)

Total geek cost so far: $32 Americana. Muy bien!

Lemme tell ya, folks, when I attached that Malibu light to the Pocket Power source, I got serious beamage. Like, the whole road lit up! And, if I want, for $7 more, I can upgrade to 35 watts (but that will affect run-time, and I'm not sure I really need it, after seeing what a 12-volt, 20-watt beam does.)

Next: find a good on/off switch...

...I am going to thank Doctor Geek from www.klorg.com for the ideas. I didn't follow everything he said, and I will be e-mailing him about some no-no's I discovered (don't charge your battery directly from your car battery without the engine running,) but Dr. G. will be getting my thanks.

(Don't worry, folks--if this is a failure, I will let y'all know. But what's $32, after all?)


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Old 12-21-03, 09:21 PM   #2
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Old 12-22-03, 01:02 AM   #3
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Cheap/Geek/Lights

Both Home Depot & Harbor Freight sell 12 Volt rechargeable hand lights in the 500,000-1,000,000 candlepower range for $10 to $29. I have a 500,000 one I use when I take my dogs out at night. Throws a beam like a car high beam & run time is about 2 1/2 hours. Down side is they are heavy & a little bulky but not impossible to mount on a bike. Check them out. Don
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Old 12-22-03, 07:23 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ollo_ollo
Both Home Depot & Harbor Freight sell 12 Volt rechargeable hand lights in the 500,000-1,000,000 candlepower range for $10 to $29. I have a 500,000 one I use when I take my dogs out at night. Throws a beam like a car high beam & run time is about 2 1/2 hours. Down side is they are heavy & a little bulky but not impossible to mount on a bike. Check them out. Don
Thanks, Don! I've seen those, too, great price! Yes, a bit heavy, but...
I didn't know they had a 2 1/2 hour run-time, though. He, he...

I stood in front of my bike while my wife connected the light, just so's I could see what it looked like from the front. My wife's concerns were correct: it better be pointing downward, 'cuz that sucker's bright! I don't want to blind motorists. The rear light is supposed to be a 12-v truck marker light (LED for less battery drain.) Serious geekage...

I kept bugging my wife last night. "The way to a man's heart is through his bicycle!" I told her. After repeating my thank-you's 100 times, I guess she gets it...

The difference in weight between my old NiCd system and the new Geek System
is about the weight of my U-lock.
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Old 12-22-03, 12:02 PM   #5
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LittleBigMan,

We are SO PROUD! Welcome to the Geek club.

Between RainmanP, you and me we could create a festival of lights just by lining up our bikes!
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Old 12-22-03, 01:08 PM   #6
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I don't understand home built lights

Quote:
Originally Posted by LittleBigMan
It wasn't long before I nailed the 20-watt, 12-volt yard light the Geek Doctor recommended. Still short of a power source (they didn't have anything at Home Depot versatile enough,) I ferried the family home. Total expenditure on Geeky Light Project so far: $12.

I stopped at Batteries Plus for advice, I needed ten NiCd batteries for my 12v setup to get the run-time I needed for my 20w bulb. This would cost me about one hundred and fifty American pesos.
But what's $32, after all?)
First let me clarify, my job is an electronic technician so I am very comfortable around electronics, lamps, and batteries. But a quick search of Performance bikes comes up with a find of a 10w Nite Rider system for $55 bucks http://www.performancebike.com/shop/....cfm?SKU=15884 . The cool thing is that this little gem comes with battery, lamp, charger and and a clean mounting system. Sure, I understand the sense of accomplishment of building your own system but why bother when you can get a much better system that is easy to mount and reliable for nearly the same price or in some cases less.

Granted this isn't a hefty 20w but I use a 10w system for daily commuting and it is fine. I have used a 12w + 20w commuter system for many years and I find the 20w or 32w more than necessary and undue added weight.

Just curious about opinions of home built lights when there are so many affordable light systems available as a complete kit.
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Old 12-22-03, 01:22 PM   #7
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How quickly we forget that that same 10W lamp set-up was over $100 not that many years ago. At the present prices for good 10W halogens home-built doesn't make as much economic sense as it did 5 or 6 yrs ago, but it does leave you with more versatility in making repairs than a package system where you void all warrenties if you use a different battery or charger.
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Old 12-22-03, 03:21 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dorf411
...a quick search of Performance bikes comes up with a find of a 10w Nite Rider system for $55... The cool thing is that this little gem comes with battery, lamp, charger and and a clean mounting system. Sure, I understand the sense of accomplishment of building your own system but why bother when you can get a much better system that is easy to mount and reliable for nearly the same price or in some cases less?

Just curious about opinions of home built lights when there are so many affordable light systems available as a complete kit.
Hey, I guess I'm just excited about my home-built light! But it's a little too early for me to have an opinion on home-built lights in general, since this will be my first. But I'll let y'all know how it goes.

Necessity is the mother of invention, here. I needed to see the road, something my old 10w light did not do well enough for me; then the batteries gave out on the old light, so it was time for a new one. The lighting systems my local bike shops carry range in price from $100 to $400. I just couldn't pass up the chance for a 20w light system for as low as $32. It's that simple!

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Old 12-22-03, 05:17 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Dorf411
Sure, I understand the sense of accomplishment of building your own system but why bother when you can get a much better system that is easy to mount and reliable for nearly the same price or in some cases less.
Getting there is half the fun. I spent a lot more than $32 on my homemade light, but I also got exactly the light I wanted. I've been using it for two years now, and have no desire to change it (although I am considering building a second light unit - not so much for the extra light, more for the geek value )
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Old 12-22-03, 11:02 PM   #10
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Ok. I mounted the light to the handlebars using two hose clamps. The light has it's own built-in adjustable angle. The battery pack is stashed neatly upside-down under the seat. The wire connecting the battery to the light came with the battery. It was the charging wire for connecting to car cigarette lighters. I snipped off one end and attached it to the light. The other end plugs nicely into the battery. No need for a switch; to turn it off, I simply pull the cigarette-lighter-plug out from the battery a fraction of an inch. Safe and effective.

Total cost: $32.

Time spent: Now that I've done it, I could do it again in a shake (chocolate.)

Materials:

Battery pack - $20. Auto parts supply (Pep Boys,) used as portable alternate power source for powering tools, boosting weak batteries, etc. Sealed non-spillable lead-acid 12v, 5 amp/hr rechargeable battery in padded, water-resistant case, with 110v charger, car battery charger for on the road.

Malibu outdoor yard light - $12. Home improvement/hardware store (Home Depot,) 12 volt, 20 watt halogen light, black aluminum housing, adjustable verticle beam angle, glass cover. Can be upgraded to a higher-watt bulb.

Cable ties ("zip-ties.") - "in the house." (1 penny?) Any hardware store. Used to tie the wire to the bike frame.

Hose clamps - "in the house." ($1?) Any hardware store. Used to attach light to handlebar.

Wire connectors, electrician's tape - "in the house." ($1?) Any hardware store. Used to connect light wires to battery wires.

All I have left to do is the challenging part: hacksaw the aluminum spike from the yard light, and file/sandpaper the cut smooth. I'll probably tweek it a bit here and there for finishing touches.
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Old 12-23-03, 11:07 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LittleBigMan
Battery pack - $20. Auto parts supply (Pep Boys,) used as portable alternate power source for powering tools, boosting weak batteries, etc. Sealed non-spillable lead-acid 12v, 5 amp/hr rechargeable battery in padded, water-resistant case, with 110v charger, car battery charger for on the road.
Does your battery pack look like this one? Was it on sale when you bought it?
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Old 12-23-03, 11:23 AM   #12
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Quote:
Materials:

Battery pack - $20. Auto parts supply (Pep Boys,) used as portable alternate power source for powering tools, boosting weak batteries, etc. Sealed non-spillable lead-acid 12v, 5 amp/hr rechargeable battery in padded, water-resistant case, with 110v charger, car battery charger for on the road.

Malibu outdoor yard light - $12. Home improvement/hardware store (Home Depot,) 12 volt, 20 watt halogen light, black aluminum housing, adjustable verticle beam angle, glass cover. Can be upgraded to a higher-watt bulb.

Cable ties ("zip-ties.") - "in the house." (1 penny?) Any hardware store. Used to tie the wire to the bike frame.

Hose clamps - "in the house." ($1?) Any hardware store. Used to attach light to handlebar.

Wire connectors, electrician's tape - "in the house." ($1?) Any hardware store. Used to connect light wires to battery wires.
Putting it all together and seeing it work ($ Priceless)
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Old 12-23-03, 11:25 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BlastRadius
Does your battery pack look like this one? Was it on sale when you bought it?
That's her! Kinda purty, I thought. (It never ceases to amaze me how you guys come up with these pics.)

I don't remember it being on sale, but it might have been. Does it cost more than $20 where you are? (It did seem very reasonable.)

Notice the 12V plug receptacle on the side? I've got mine mounted upside-down in case it rains. I might add some additional waterproofing in the future to cover the plug receptacle.
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Old 12-23-03, 11:29 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LittleBigMan
I don't remember it being on sale, but it might have been. Does it cost more than $20 where you are? (It did seem very reasonable.)
I found it online for $50. There isn't a Pep Boys close to here (San Bruno, CA) and Pepboys' website didn't list it. I could check Kragen or Grand.
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Old 12-24-03, 10:36 AM   #15
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Quote:
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I found it online for $50. There isn't a Pep Boys close to here (San Bruno, CA) and Pepboys' website didn't list it. I could check Kragen or Grand.
Keep looking. They will go fast.

Here's a link if you want to build your own. You need a trickle-charger and a sealed lead-acid battery. The battery is $17 or $18, and the charger is about the same. The rest can be improvised. But keep looking for that Vector battery, it's got all you need in one package.

http://www.action-electronics.com/chargers.htm#Chargers

http://www.action-electronics.com/sla.htm#12

And here's the same thing as the Vector, different company, $30 (with coupon.)
Supposedly, you can save 5% ordering online. It doesn't mention amps/hrs, but
it looks exactly the same as the Vector 12V.

http://store.yahoo.com/igadget/rpsl600.html
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Old 12-24-03, 08:57 PM   #16
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Very cool! I need to look for a battery that's about 1/2 the weight.
Wonder if a 12V Camera battery would work.
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Old 12-24-03, 09:17 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BlastRadius
I found it online for $50. There isn't a Pep Boys close to here (San Bruno, CA) and Pepboys' website didn't list it. I could check Kragen or Grand.

They closed the one in Fremont on Stevenson, near I-880. The only other one I go to is in Union City, across I-880 from the big Union Landing shopping center. There's a Home Depot there. If you cross the San Mateo Bridge, go south on 880 and exit at Industrial in Union City. Cross back under the freeway to the east side, and turn left at the light. Turn into the Home Depot parking lot and look around for Pep Boys.
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Old 12-26-03, 08:30 PM   #18
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Very cool! I need to look for a battery that's about 1/2 the weight.
Wonder if a 12V Camera battery would work.
Might. Or, use NiCd's or NiMH's, but unless you find a bargain on the net (there are some,) you'll pay BIG bucks.

To get 1/2 the weight with sealed lead-acid batteries, you could cut one of these factors in half: watts or amp/hrs (run-time.) For example:

1) Buy a 12V sealed lead-acid battery that has only about an hour's run time, somewhere around 2 amp/hrs, with the 20W light.

2) Use a smaller lead acid battery (about 2 amp/hrs) with a 10W light (instead of 20W) from the hardware store, which will allow a longer run-time.

Check around, ask questions, surf the net. Just remember to compare the price between home-built and those you can buy ready-made.
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Old 12-27-03, 08:34 AM   #19
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In my previous post, I might have incorrectly stated that reducing the voltage from 12 volts to 6 volts would allow you to reduce battery size/weight. To reduce battery size/weight, you must reduce either the wattage of your light (brightness) or the amps of your battery (run-time).

I edited my post accordingly.
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Old 01-02-04, 09:19 AM   #20
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Ok, I finally got off my lazy holiday-butt and rode my bike to work, using my new homemade light. The design is currently a 4.5 amp, 12V battery attached to a 20 watt, 12v halogen light ("MR11" narrow flood beam.) I replaced the 20 watt "pin bulb" that came with the light and put in the MR11, giving it a more focused beam.

I was very happy with the brightness of the beam. But in order to replace the pin bulb with the MR11 bulb/reflector, I had to remove the pin bulb reflector from the light housing. This made room for the MR11, but it lacks support and shakes a bit over the bumps, so I'll have to fasten it down more securely inside
the housing. I don't forsee a problem.

Also, last night I purchased a 50 watt MR16 light at an after-Christmas sale for about 75 cents (normally, these go for about $5.) I tested it in my light housing for fit, and to check the run-time with my battery. It would not fit unless I removed the glass shield/cover from the light housing (meaning the MR16 is too large and that I'll have to use only MR11 lights.) But I was able to test the 50 watt's run-time using my 4.5 amp battery.

I was very impressed with the output of the 50 watt bulb. But at that wattage, the drain on my battery was excessive. Where my 20 watt light maintained full brightness for about 2 hours 15 minutes, the 50 watt stayed bright only about 45 minutes. Next, I'll test a 35 watt MR11. Since I recharge at work, I only need about an hour's run-time.

My commute lasts about one hour, but only about 40 minutes is in the dark. I could go with the 50 watt and use a small headlight for backup, or use a 35 watt and cover the whole distance. I think the 35 watt is my best bet, but I'm tempted to use a 50 watt MR11 (if I can find one!) Of course, I could get another light housing complete with a 50 watt bulb for only $16, but I'll look for a bulb, first.

Not bad for under $40!

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Old 01-05-04, 11:34 AM   #21
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Alphageek has done me great honor by mentioning me in connection with the great LittleBigMan! Unfortunately, I recently spent big bucks on a new HID system, or I would be all over this project. I may have to set one up anyway just because I can't resist! That way I won't have to move lights when I ride my alternate commuter. I am DEFINITELY going to look at some LED truck tail lights for a rear light. Hmm. How about using a Malibu light with a 35 watt bulb and a red lens for a rear light? Think drivers would be able to see it?

Some have questioned why assemble a light setup like this when perhaps you can buy one for not a whole lot more. I find the idea attractive because of the ease of repair later. By assembling a system using easily available standard components you can always pick up replacements at AutoZone, Pep Boys, etc. It really irritates me to have a proprietary part like a battery go bad and have to spend a lot for it AND have to wait for it because it is a special order item.
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Old 01-05-04, 02:40 PM   #22
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Quote:
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I am DEFINITELY going to look at some LED truck tail lights for a rear light. Hmm. How about using a Malibu light with a 35 watt bulb and a red lens for a rear light? Think drivers would be able to see it?
I promised updates, mostly because this is a new project for me. Therefore, as promised, I give the following status report:

Rather than experimenting with other wattage bulbs (35W, 50W) I think my best option is to use a dual-light configuration. That's the simplest way to go. (properly sized 35W lights were darn near impossible to find, and 50W shorten run-time too much.) I'll add switches to allow using one or both lights, as needed. I already have a 20W, so I'll probably add another one. That way, I could use both lights in the darkest part of my commute and switch one off when I need only to be seen. Much depends on the run-time of my 4.5 amp battery. I think I'll be fine, but if not, I'll try a 10W in the second light to extend my run-time.

I'm experimenting with ways to focus my beam a bit better, as it is designed as a wide flood pattern. I've had good success so far by extending the reflector a bit more forward from the bulb.

(This is a really fun project. I have to be careful that I don't spend unnecessary money on gagets I see, thinking I might want to try them. Shopping around and discovering new possibilities is, like, so far out. One of the neatest by-products of this project is the discovery of how many gadgets run on 12V systems at the car shoppe. Can you see me with a 7 amp battery and a 55W halogen car light? Just kidding...I think...hm.........)
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Old 01-05-04, 08:58 PM   #23
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...I think my best option is to use a dual-light configuration. That's the simplest way to go. (properly sized 35W lights were darn near impossible to find, and 50W shorten run-time too much.) I'll add switches to allow using one or both lights, as needed.
Done. Two 20W lights connected to a single three-way switch. First click--light #1, second click--light #2, third click--both lights together. Impressive brightness. Next, I'll test run-time using both lights, 40W combined.

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Old 01-05-04, 10:07 PM   #24
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Verl cool indeed. Any pics of the setup?
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Old 01-06-04, 12:44 AM   #25
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Verl cool indeed. Any pics of the setup?
Not yet, but I'll see what I can do.
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