Thursday, 19 August 2010

How to make a retro LED bike light

It's quite easy to come across very nice looking vintage bicycle lights. They usually are a part of an old dynamo system, which if working properly is a great addition to a bike, but often are completely non-functional. This is a step-by-step guide of how to convert these old dynamo lamps into modern LED battery powered lights for next to nothing. The conversion below cost me only £4 (€5) as I already had the old lamp from an even older bike I used to own.

Here's my chosen lamp. It's a sleek little streamlined thing! Originally this was made for a little 3w lamp bulb, but now it's getting something a little better installed.

The old bolt for attaching the dynamo wire will come in handy for placing a new switch on the body.

I'm going to install the innards of this £3 LED battery torch into the lamp.

Then use this little switch as the new controller.

After removing the old bolt that the dynamo wire used to attach to, the small switch fitted surprisingly well into the hole with no adjustments.

The torch has a switch built into the screw on end cap, this is no use for the new light it's going into, so it's going to be wired with the new switch instead. The black part is the battery holder for 3 AAA batteries.

One wire goes on the end of the battery holder.

And then to the switch.

I broke my trusty soldering iron out, and made a bit of a mess of it as I'm not very good at soldering! But it doesn't matter, because this is too easy to go wrong!

A second wire is soldered onto the other end of the battery holder.

I then hacked off the body of the torch to make it fit into the new housing.

Again by some strange luck, the head of the torch fitted perfectly onto the reflector of the vintage bike lamp.

The second wire I soldered onto the battery holder was then soldered onto the spring inside the torch head that the battery holder used to press against.

A third wire goes from the switch...

To the torch head body, which acts as the second connector in this torch's design (your mileage my vary). I drilled a small hole in the torch head to make sure the wire stays in place.


It lives! I was still genuinely happy not to have broken anything.

I covered everything in a bit of hot glue to reinforce it, and make it a little bit water proof.

The torch head got glued in place.

Then everything placed inside the old light body.

The switch installed nicely.

And there we have it, a super simple, crazy cheap vintage LED bike light to go on your ride. Keeps you safe and stylish.

I made a little clamp out of some random connectors I had from an old chain case, to give the light a test fit on my old Raleigh 3 speed. Overall I think it looks pretty great!

I will need to make a better bracket for it later as this didn't hold it very tightly, I'll probably also make it with quick release too so I don't get super sad if someone steals it sometime on the street. If I was making it again, I'd mount the LEDs further into the reflector to spread the beam out a bit more, but it still provides a very bright light to get you seen.

Good luck with your own light! It is honestly quite hard to get it wrong.


  1. That is awesome!! I love the old "bullet" style headlamps, it's a shame nobody makes a cheap modern version.

    Also, i love the direction this blog is going! Keep up the good work.


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  2. It certainly is a shame! I'm sure someone with the right connections will realise this soon though.

    Thanks a lot!

  3. Thanks for posting this, great idea :)

  4. I've always wanted one like this to mount on my fork that has a lamp mount on it. the bonus over Modern lights too is that its not easily stolen.

  5. Hello,

    I have retrofitted my bike light similarly to yours:

  6. These lights are really good. they provide the rider with a clear visibility during the dark conditions. Such lights are good because they are a forms of reflectors and or a reusable source of light. i like it

  7. I was trying to do the same thing and then researched the net for ideas, yours looks very easy. I will try, thanks for the inspiration.

  8. a easier conversion is to buy Elephant brand 12volt dynamo lightset comes with car size parker headlight globe swap it for 5watt led parker globe need to remove reflector and mount from front if you want steady light you need to fit a bridge rectifier pretty low tech conversionfor someone who can use a soldering iron

  9. cool retro look led light, are you using a double A batter or are you using a jumbo battery for that?

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  10. Thx for the DIY. I've been looking for a vintage, or retro, light for my 1970 Schwinn Suburban and Collegiate (I'm in the US), but all the reviews on the new lights state that the switches are junk. Might have to get one and upgrade following these instructions.

  11. Truly informative post on how to properly install LED Bike Lights. I just bought a pair of bike lights and having a hard time installing... Thanks..

  12. Hi.. I read your article..nice post..

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  13. Brilliant work, the light looks great!

  14. Hi There! Informative post on Bike Lights...Please keep it up updating this blog regularly.

  15. Love it bit one downside.
    I always had issues with shaking batteries and contacts on lights.
    On my bike I have an oldfashioned dynamo powered light and the reflector is replaced with the newfangled LED light/reflector that comes as standard nowadays. (I already had two instances where the latter let me down).
    Now i am going to use this idea to make a second battery powered frontlight for the right side of my front carier) left hand side is dynamo powered.

    But what i realy would like to know is there a way to replace the lightbulbs in both dynamo powered lights by LED's ... Brighter and more durable

  16. Such a wonderful idea! It is quite interesting to convert old dynamo lights into modern ones using LED technology. This might be a trend among cyclists soon.

  17. Great idea that, any ideas on a rear light conversion??

  18. Nice idea! I think that old timers bikes are really cool! I'm thinking to add that kind of light to my new bought bicikli!
    Thanks for tutorial!

  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

  20. Hey I'm a biker from California and I really like this retro looking LED. What I was wondering was does any small flashlight work? And adding onto the quick release idea, have you thought about using a rechargeable flashlight instead of a battery operated one?

    Thanks for the tutorial!

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  24. Me encantó la idea, en mi caso el problema es montar el faro en la bici, porque tiene canasta al frente y no he encontrado uno que pueda fijarse. Me gusta mucho tu blog :)

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  26. This is brilliant, thanks for the post (and the experimenting!)

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  27. I think the things you covered through the post are quiet impressive

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  28. I have done a similar conversion using an An Lun Light. This was less complicated to convert as a I used a single 12V LED with bulb holder which fitted perfectly (the led clusters where too big for this light). The LED was connected to a 9v battery (simple battery pad) via switch. All parts from ebay uk.

  29. Nice blog. Thanks for the nice information; it is really awesome and very useful for the blogger reader those want to know about the led bike light.

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  31. That's a great idea!..I am so impressed… I am not very skilled at this sort of thing, but you make it look so easy! LED Lighting

  32. Thats a great repurposing of an old light. Most light housings these days are plastic. Turning an old incandescent into LED is the way to go!

  33. Great blog post and really helpful and your blog are very interesting midnightinfo

  34. Thanks so much. I recently purchased an old Raleigh twenty fold up bike and found that exact bike lamp on an old bike at the dump, been trying to figure out how to retrofit it and this is exactly what I was looking for!

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