Bicycles

Two groups of entrepreneurs want to light up your bike's wheels

Two groups of entrepreneurs wa...
Two groups of entrepreneurs are currently developing separate products (one of which is the Aura system, above), both of which are intended to let bicycle wheels serve as running lights
Two groups of entrepreneurs are currently developing separate products (one of which is the Aura system, above), both of which are intended to let bicycle wheels serve as running lights
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The Revolights system illuminates the front of the front wheel and the back of the rear wheel, as the wheels are spinning
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The Revolights system illuminates the front of the front wheel and the back of the rear wheel, as the wheels are spinning
Two groups of entrepreneurs are currently developing separate products (one of which is the Aura system, above), both of which are intended to let bicycle wheels serve as running lights
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Two groups of entrepreneurs are currently developing separate products (one of which is the Aura system, above), both of which are intended to let bicycle wheels serve as running lights
A diagram showing the components of the Aura system
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A diagram showing the components of the Aura system
The Aura system uses embedded LEDs to turn a bike's rims into running lights
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The Aura system uses embedded LEDs to turn a bike's rims into running lights
The Aura system uses embedded LEDs to turn a bike's rims into running lights
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The Aura system uses embedded LEDs to turn a bike's rims into running lights
Power for the Aura system is provided by a dynamo incorporated into the front hub
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Power for the Aura system is provided by a dynamo incorporated into the front hub
The wiring for the Aura system's wheel rim-embedded LEDs
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The wiring for the Aura system's wheel rim-embedded LEDs
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Riding a bicycle on busy streets full of motorized vehicles can be risky enough in the daytime, but it potentially becomes even more dangerous at night, when motorists are less likely to see cyclists. Much of that risk can be minimized by using a bright headlight and strobing taillight, although those don't do much to increase a cyclist's visibility when seen from the side - and even if they did, there's no such thing as being too bright. Two separate projects, however, are aimed at developing systems that would allow a bicycle's wheel rims to act as running lights that would be hard not to notice.

Carnegie Mellon University industrial design sophomores Jonathan Ota and Ethan Frier are currently using a research grant to develop their Aura system. It incorporates six groups of three tri-color LEDs embedded into both rims, that are powered by a dynamo generator built into the front hub. The rims start out appearing as two red circles when the bicycle is moving slowly, but transition through to white as it gathers speed. A handlebar-mounted power switch allows riders to turn the system off when riding in the daytime.

The two students are presently working towards commercializing Aura. "We wanted to make a cool product that people will want to use, and in the process of using it, will make them safer," said Ota.

Below is a video that shows their invention in motion.

Project Aura: Bicycle Safety Lighting System

Over in California's Bay Area, meanwhile, inventor Kent Frankovich and partners Adam Pettler and Jim Houk are refining their Revolights system. It consists of two hoop-like assemblies each containing eight LEDs, that clip onto a bicycle's existing rims. Powered by hub-mounted lithium-ion battery packs, the lights blink on and off at a rate set by the speed at which the wheels are turning - this blinking pattern, in turn, results in the front half of the front wheel and the rear half of the rear wheel being illuminated. This means that a bike running Revolights looks rather like a pair of bright parentheses, traveling down the street.

Unlike Aura, which is meant to be used in conjunction with regular head- and taillights, Revolights is intended to serve as such lights. The system is designed not only to provide side illumination, but also to project light in front of and behind the bicycle. The front set of white LEDs produces a combined output of 134 lumens.

The Revolights system illuminates the front of the front wheel and the back of the rear wheel, as the wheels are spinning
The Revolights system illuminates the front of the front wheel and the back of the rear wheel, as the wheels are spinning

Frankovich and company are now in the process of raising funds from prospective customers for commercial development of Revolights. They expect it to be available by the end of the year, for a suggested price of US$220.

Should you want your lit-up rims right now, however, there are already various companies selling LED valve stem caps, along with LEDs that attach to the base of the spokes.

The Revolights pitch video, which includes shots of the system in action, can be seen below.

revolights. join the revolution.

View gallery - 7 images
15 comments
mrhuckfin
I like this very much and would put on my bike in a heart beat but honestly I want this on my motorcycle!
Renārs Grebežs
The revolights look cool but I\'d rather not ruin my bike rims with something like that that could break easily. I\'m @ work, so can\'t listen to the sound of the videos, though - so maybe I missed something?
Ruth Butler
What a great idea!
Gregg Eshelman
For everyone who wishes TRON lightcycles were real. ;)
Nick Herbert
Motorsickle version please...
MrRodgers
Huckfin, I definitely agree with you about installing on a motorcycle. Any extra visibility would be great
alcalde
The valve stem caps have the same effect and are much simpler and cheaper. I had something called Tireflys on my moped. The tire spins and you get the same effect as shown here for only $8. :-) You can see them at http://www.tireflys.com/bicycle.html and they are available for cars and motorcycles as well.

There are other similar products out there - I just searched and found this video on youtube - http://youtu.be/xELnrP9_1Yo - with a custom design that actually makes different patterns appear as you ride! Now THAT\'S nice!

I just don\'t see what commercial merit these other products have. Aura doesn\'t offer any features beyond the LED valve stem caps, and Revolights offers more features but at a much higher price. As DIY products or niche custom mods they are quite attractive, though.

Carlos Grados
I can\'t wait for all of this to become available here in Minneapolis. Products that are beautiful and promote safety are going to improve our lives.
sutski123
I Have Monkeylectric LED\'d on my e-bike.....they are amazing!! I regularly get applause!!
jjle
My friends kids all had a cheap clip on lights on their wheels 5 years ago, that filled their wheels with a rainbow of colours. Remarkable for a cheap toy.
I found a demo video here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LEmYsziM1k8