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I am a design student and avid cyclist and am currently working on a design project for school. I had an idea for locking handlebar grips that have LED lights built into them. If you can picture MTB grips or even BMX grips for that matter, essentially there would be an extra 2 maybe 3 or so inches towards the inside of the grip where the inner "ring" on a BMX grip would be (side of the grip closest to the stem). This would give enough extra space to house a few LED's and batteries as well and would be operated by the thumbs of the rider. The intent of this grip is to not only provide safety and visibility for the rider (as you would have 2 "headlights") but to also deter theft as grips are a complete pain in the ass to take off.

Anyway, my question for all of you is do you see any value in this concept? I know there are other options out there for theft proof lights but I feel like a seamless integration would make it less of a "target" if even at all. Honestly if any of you have suggestions or things you think would enhance this idea any feedback would be much appreciated. Thanks for your time. And remember this project is conceptual...there are no wrong answers.

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    so basically you would encase the headlights in a ring of rubber that you pass around the handlebar somewhere in the middle? Close to the actual grip, that's where the brakes are on lots of bikes. And that would mean a lot of work for installation. Between that and a model that I have to take off everytime, but that I can install in 2 seconds, I would probably not hesitate much. – njzk2 Sep 25 '16 at 3:02
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    (maybe an illustration would help picture exactly what you are trying to do?) – njzk2 Sep 25 '16 at 3:03
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    You might want to look at reviews of the Trek Lync. – Batman Sep 25 '16 at 3:21
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    Explore the concept of cognitive overload for drivers and other road users. I remember seeing an american-format brake light indicator that was using a repeated sideways blink pattern to indicate a turn. I was so distracted by this new weird-looking thing that I almost ran into his rear. Basically my attention bucket was starved by this new blinky thing and my functional level dropped. This is a significant factor in why bicycle indicators are a bad idea, unless all bikes have to have them, all together. – Criggie Sep 25 '16 at 6:14
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    I made it hard for my front light to be stolen (just anti-tamper torx screws). So someone stole half of it, the bit you'd remove to change the batteries, which also had the LEDs in. – Chris H Sep 26 '16 at 15:37
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You would be entering in a very busy market with no obvious advantages. Let's look at the two types of LEDs that you might use:

  • If you're using inexpensive and low-power 5050 LEDs (15 lumens@350mW; usually ganged in groups), then you could power the lights off button cells (two CR2032s would power one 5050 LED for about 3 hours; 3 x 5050s for one hour) but even ganged you really don't have enough lumens to be compelling against $5-10 strap on lights.

  • If you're using high power Cree type LEDs (300 lumens@3.2 watts), you can charge more but you are going to run into problems with battery life, installation, charging, and optics with your design.

Analysis

I don't see sufficient depth/space in the design for sufficient optics. Again, not a problem for 5050s since they are so weak and diffuse. But for high-power Cree-types, you need beam forming reflectors and optics. The consumer won't be able to aim the light laterally with Crees (unless you have movable optics inside). The angle at which handlebars are bent viz a viz the stem is variable -- from straight-straight to a small bend to a severe bend. Not a problem for 5050s with diffuse lighting, but people at the higher price points of a Cree want a sharply focused light that goes in front of them.

Second, assuming you use Crees and 18650s, how are you going to charge them? For removable lights, you can just take them off and bring them in the house to charge. Many bikes are stored in sheds without power. Having to string a charger and micro-USB cable all the way to handlebars is going to be undoable for many.

Finally, regardless of Crees or 5050s, the positional relationship of the lights to the brake/shift levers is unclear and installation may be difficult. BMX trick bikes might not have brakes but most consumers will want lights on a street-legal bicycle. If your lights are in the grips, they'll be obscured by the brakes -- and your design is incompatible with grip shifters. If your lights are located further inward, inside of the brakes/shifters, then the consumer has to take the grips, brakes, and shifters off to install -- and you'd have to find a way to get your power (if using Crees) from the battery inside the bar to the lights. Installation would involve drilling the bar or tucking the wiring under the grip and past the brake/shifters. Not something that your average parent could do, so you'd have to add the cost of shop labor.

So because of these issues (optics, charging, battery life or installation difficulties) I don't see how you're going to be able to do it with Crees. You might be able to do it with 5050s but with the amount of diffuse light you're going to get out of it, I think your price point for 5050s is < $50 for a pair, which is going to be tough to make any profit for you.


Additional back of napkin calculations for those who wanted to know if it's possible with 18650s:

Using a single Cree XP-G driven at 1000 mA (250% luminous flux; about 300 raw lumens), you are burning 3.2 volts × 1 A = 3.2 watts. A high quality 18650 is 3.6 Ah × 3.7 v = 13.3 watt-hours. Boost driver efficiency at 85% gives you 11.3 watt-hours, so you have just under 4 hours of time with an 18650 at full (250%) power.

Mountain bikes have a handlebar diameter of 22mm. 18650s have a nominal diameter of 18mm (i.e., 18-650) but are often closer to 19mm actual because of the insulation and power protection circuitry). It's a tight squeeze. It won't work with many drops.

14500 lithiums would fit for sure as they're the same dimension as AAs (14mm D x 50mm L). However, they only have 900 mAh (fake ones will advertise more but are fake) which is 3.2 watt-hours or about 3 watt-hours after booster. So just about one hour of full (250%) power with one 14500, but you can serially gang the 14500 into two or three, depending on the curve of your handlebar (which would limit which bars it could fit into).

  • Thanks RoboKaren, would the fact that they are theft resistant and ideally theft "proof" be an advantage in itself? The goal again is not to reinvent the wheel and create just another bike light but to create an integrated theft proof solution. Also keep in mind that my drawing is not final concept at all. This was my idea on paper to start grasping what this thing can possibly become. Sizing of the housing for lights and batteries can and definitely will change. – bzink88 Sep 25 '16 at 20:17
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    If you designed the grips right, you could slot a 14500 Li-ion cell inside the bar by removing an end-cap. Maybe even an 18650 (though you might have to design the whole handlebar for that). A single 14500 would give decent runtimes on a decent urban light (e.g. a 200 lumen LED with a good reflector/lens like many German lights) but not for trail-riding lights. – Chris H Sep 26 '16 at 15:34
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    @bzink88 would depend on the pricing level. For $20 lights which might replace clipon lights on a beater commuter, that'd be nice to have theft proof. For $100+ lights, they'd go on my expensive road bike that literally never leaves my sight when riding, so being theft proof isn't as important (especially given the bike computer). I personally resolved it by getting a $150 headlight which is on my helmet. What's your pricing level? – RoboKaren Sep 26 '16 at 17:05
  • @ChrisH - yes, that's all in my answer above. Note that this would only work for straight bars, not drops; which reduces the market further. – RoboKaren Sep 26 '16 at 17:06
  • I think my comment crossed in the post with your edit - the conclusions are similar. It's not unknown for me to start loading a page and come back to comment later - on the mobile website you don't get the "an edit has been made..." message, or at least not anywhere obvious. – Chris H Sep 26 '16 at 20:46
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Almost all lights nowadays are USB rechargeable and as such need to be easily fitted and removed. As such they come with rubber straps for ease and convenience. The ease of removal is better theft prevention than making them hard to remove.

Lights do exist that cannot be removed and these are usually built into the bike frame. For practical reasons these are best powered by a dynamo hub and not batteries; you can't recharge something that you can't take off the bike. Examples are Boris Bikes and Vanmoof.

In summary your design doesn't really solve any problems or add anything new, in fact retrofitting an existing bike with a non-removable light will probably cause convenience problems.

  • The higher-end lights tend to be USB chargeable, because lithium batteries hold more energy per gram than disposable batteries. All low-end lights use disposable batteries because its cheap. There's a lot of crossover in the middle. – Criggie Oct 5 '16 at 23:15
  • @Criggie wiggle.co.uk/cycle/front-lights/?o=2 says different, 3rd cheapest out of 49 is USB chargable. – Qwerky Oct 6 '16 at 9:51
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    Good work - you found exactly one exception, which therefore supports the idea that cheaper lights aren't generally rechargeable. Now find an expensive light that uses disposable batteries. Also, that's a "mid range" light not a low-end one. – Criggie Oct 6 '16 at 10:50
  • You misunderstand, take a look at the page. You'll see that almost all of the lights are USB chargeable, as I said, not just the 3rd cheapest. – Qwerky Oct 6 '16 at 12:26
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    @qwerty We're at cross-purposes. Those are mid-range lights. Cheap ones are plasticky and mostly under $10, Looks like wiggle don't stock any cheap ones. – Criggie Oct 6 '16 at 19:20
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I found this topic by searching for this as a product to buy. It could certainly work as a design - I think with the addition of red rear facing LED and a relatively large rechargeable battery located within the handle bar. This way they could last a month of normal use and either be removed (allen bolts) or charged in situ (with a USB power pack if required). The ends of the grips would need to be tough and rubberised to protect the leds from knocks.
This would be great for safety and convenience. Probably still used with a more powerful central light. I'd love to buy a pair!

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    Rear-facing LEDs would be a bad idea: they'd give the cyclist the illusion that they had rear lights but would mostly be obscured by their body. – David Richerby Feb 28 '17 at 16:53
  • Welcome to Bicycles @Ben. Thanks for answering one of our questions. I suggest you add some text to explicity respond to the question; How to Answer will help. Also, we recommend that new members take the tour to make best use of the site. – andy256 Feb 28 '17 at 20:01

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