Bike EL-Wire Bling

I love the idea of wrapping a bike in EL wire. It really does give an amazing look at night, not to mention the extra side-on visibility it provides for anyone thinking about pulling into the side of you from a junction.

I’d originally wrapped my old day-to-day riding racer in green EL wire months ago, but then left it alone as I pondered how best to power it.

I wanted a power supply that would be

  • easily re-chargeable
  • low weight and small size (to fit on a pannier rack)
  • provide 12V for the EL wire inverter
  • provide 5V for any microcontrollers or other electronics I might want to attach

Recently I pulled my finger out and built the thing. The primary power supply is a 6xAA 2600mAH NiMH battery pack sold for RC use. This feeds two AnyVolt regulators from Dimension Engineering. This is a American company who make really neat little power modules, again aimed at the RC market, but with a clear nod to other electronics hobbyists. The AnyVolt is a switching regulator with a SEPIC topology, meaning that it can step voltage down or up. Strictly speaking I could have used one step-up and one step-down convertor, but the cost and simplicity of the AnyVolt means it was just as easy to just buy two. One steps the 7.2V battery down to 5V, and the other steps it up to 12V.

Bike Power Supply

The unit in its waterproof wallet enclosure

The regulators and on/off switch are built into a leftover case I had from an abandoned project. The batteries, fuseholder and connectors (12V, 5V, charge) feed into the case. The whole lot sits neatly inside a waterproof wallet (off eBay), which is velcroed under my panniers. There’s enough space between the top of the rack and the bottom of the panniers for it to fit nicely.

EL wire on the bike

My newly lit-up bike!

Putting EL wire on an ancient racer like this is probably like putting chav underlighting on a rusting P-reg Citroen Saxo. Still, I like it. Next up for the bike: brake lights and indicators! Truly, done is the engine of more.

More detailed write-up on my website to follow.

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