Friday, 11 February 2011

$6 image making POV spoke lights

If you're into bikes, and sometimes read about them on the internet, which you're doing now, you've probably seen spoke lights before. They're the small strips of leds that attach to a spoke on your wheel and when rotated flash at the appropriate speed to make an image or pattern appear on your bicycle wheel using the persistence of vision tricks (POV). You see some pretty impressive examples around, boasting full RGB spectrum, sound reaction even USB compatability! But at the other end of the scale are the cheap POV lights you might spot on online auctions or import sites.

These clearly aren't in the same league as the full blown Monkeylectric or Ladyada versions, but they only cost around the £4 mark including delivery from Hong Kong to the UK, so what could I do but order one, strap it to my hateful Raleigh beater bike, and see how it goes!

First impressions are maybe how big the light itself is. This thing takes three AAA batteries side by side, accessed through a waterproof door on the back, so it's not the deftest of things. This initially made me think that it would create a wobble in the wheel by throwing the weight off centre, but in real life it wasn't perceptible over the usual road surface wobbles.

But practicalities aside, what it does as a POV toy is much more fun. They're capable of 14 patterns, which are pretty eye catching. All quite bold and simplistic in nature they work well on a speedy bicycle.

You'll notice I also run a set of battery powered Christmas lights on my bike as an additional light thrower, but maybe that's a story for another day.

One neat trick that these cheap lights do is project words and numbers. Here it's counting the number of wheel rotations since last power up. Other tricks are telling the time, saying 'hello' and the amusing 'I (HEART) You', but with no option to choose which pattern is shown other than the automatic order it does, you do occasionally find yourself professing your love to a random standing at the bus stop!

For a little toy off Ebay, I've been pretty impressed with this little light. It's been on my bike for about 4 months now and it's still holding up well. The leds aren't ultrabrights by any stretch of the imagination, but they throw out enough light to be very noticeable at night. Day time though... well if you look back at the first image, you'll see it's actually on in that picture too... after you've been told.

But for dropping a small bit of cash and crossing your fingers for a parcel dropping onto your doormat from Hong Kong, these cheap POV wheel spoke lights are a fun addition maybe to your commuter or beater, especially if you're on a budget and just want a cheaper version of the impressive POV light systems available.


  1. Thats cool! I bet it also makes getting up and riding into work before the sun rises, more bearable !

  2. HMMM interesting but for $39 you can order a rgb spok pov from in poland that has a sd card slot and software so you can make your own pics and you choose which one is displayed ... only drawback so far for me is have to stop to change pics and cant make it cycle through them ... just got mine in the mail today