Friday, September 3, 2010

A homemade bicycle headlight mount

Most battery powered bicycle headlights come with mounting hardware that fastens the lights to your handlebars. Most of the time, this works just fine, but sometimes you don't want to clutter up your handlebars with accessories: it can get seriously crowded once you add a bell, computer and headlight; most of all these accessories are made to mount on your handlebars and there aren't a lot of alternative mounting options included "right out of the box". Some people prefer to mount their headlights lower, like at the fork crown or on the fork. Some claim doing so provides better illumination of the road; others feel it makes the bicycle less visible to oncoming traffic. But if your bike has a front mounted basket, it might not make sense to keep a headlight mounted to the handlebars, especially if you carry bulky loads that obscure the headlight. I've had this happen to me when carrying loaded shopping bags. With a front basket, it makes more sense to mount the headlight below the basket, or in front of it. Fortunately, there are some alternative light mounting accessories designed to let you mount your headlight in places other than your handlebars. Cronometro makes a fork mount called the NOB. It's a simple plastic cylinder the same diameter as the handlebars, attached to an adjustable hose clamp that mounts anywhere on your fork. Most headlights (or computers) designed for mounting onto handlebars can mount directly to the NOB. A similar mount is the Minoura Besso. If you have low-rider pannier racks that make the front fork inaccessible, or if you don't like the idea of marring your fork's paint with a clamp-style mount, VO sells two versions of their "Low Down" light mounts, which mount directly to the front axle's quick release skewer.

I wanted something like the Minoura Besso or the Cronometro NOB, but with a direct attachment method similar to the Low Down that would allow me to use the existing 5mm threaded eyelets on my front fork: I happen to have a plethora of unused threaded eyelets: one on the dropout, another midway up the front fork, designed for a low-rider pannier rack, and two on the front rack, designed specifically for mounting lights. I was thinking of buying a Low Down mount, then threading it to some threaded rod, and finally threading that into one of the eyelets, but I didn't feel like paying $25 just to relocate my headlight. Instead, I decided to go the DIY route. I raided my parts bins and found an old flat handlebar from an 80s mountain bike:

Perfect! I figured I could cut off a piece, skewer it with some 5mm threaded rod between a couple of washers. For $1.50 worth of hardware, i could make my own mount. Here's how I did it:

First, I sawed off about 2.5" of handlebar to serve as the main part of the headlight mount. I could have gone shorter, but if I ever decide to upgrade my lighting to something really large and bulky, I may want the extra length:

Next, I soaked it in some paint stripper and scrubbed off the white paint, exposing the bare aluminum. To assemble it all together, I needed to figure out how to keep the long 5mm threaded rod centered inside the aluminum cylinder. I was going to use a wine bottle cork stuffed inside the cylinder, but I couldn't find one narrow enough to fit. I ended up centering the rod inside the cylinder and cementing it in place with hot glue (the kind that come as sticks, and must be dispensed from a hot-glue gun):

Lastly, I fitted galvanized fender washers to both ends, capped off one end of the rod with a 5mm stainless steel dome nut, and fitted a small aluminum spacer to the other end:

I chose to thread the mount to my low-rider threaded boss:

The result is a very sturdy, rustproof headlight mount that utilizes a pre-existing 5mm threaded boss, and that cost me only $1.50. I've never had a headlight mounted so low before, and I haven't ridden it at night yet, so I can't yet comment on whether I like it there. As mentioned above, some people prefer this location since it is supposed to provide better illumination of the road, but if I decide I don't like the headlight mounted so low (for a city bike, I prefer to have illumination that maximizes my visibility to others, as opposed to maximizing my visibility of the road), I can simply relocate it higher up to a threaded eyelet on the front rack (included on the rack for just that purpose), which would place the headlight directly underneath the basket (see above photo, zoomed in below):

If anyone is interested in making one of these, I'd be happy to provide a piece of handlebar stock... I've got plenty! I may even be tempted to make a few of these complete mounts for sale at a modest price.


Jon said...

Well done! Here's a tip on the wine cork: pop a bottle and IMMEDIATELY stuff the cork into the tube/bar/whatever. The cork takes a few minutes to expand once liberated.

Velouria said...

This is a nice mount, though not something I would have the time or skill to make myself.

Lights mounted on the handlebars on a vintage bike are a pet peeve of mine; it almost always destroys the bicycle's elegance. I think it's a great idea to make a bunch of these and put them up for sale; I think you will have many takers.

somervillain said...

velouria, i agree: handlebar-mounted headlights generally don't look good on vintage bikes. the problem with vintage bikes is that many don't have threaded mounts for this type of mount. on those bikes, it makes sense to go with something like the minoura or cronometro, like you did with your DL1. i don't mind using clamp-on methods, except when it's not necessary.

but, any bike with fender eyelets on the front dropouts can use this mount... even if the eyelet is being occupied by a fender stay.

Velouria said...

On the other hand, the Rivendell/ custom build crowd does have the brazed-on mounts, so that could be a good target market.

MDI said...

Very cool. Does it feel light with all that glue inside?

If someone already bought the Minoura-branded light perch and doesn't want to go DUI with the handlebars, they could screw that directly into the eyelet, the inside of the plastic rod is contoured.

I have 3 or 4 of the Minoura light brackets (I like 'em), and use them with the provided metal strap that goes around the fork blade. It's a much less elegant solution for those of us with bikes lacking any eyelets or front racks...

I need to buy a 5mm drill & tap bit and drill into my Pashley's frame. I can just see it--Make eyelets for bottles, lights, what have you! :)

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TCintheTwinCities said...

Yes, well done... I've just stumbled on this nice blog, I just installed a minoura besso lightholder and functionally it is working well.

Before I forget what I was going to say, how about now, a few of the 'Flea' lights I have found can directly install on the fork blades, at least the right one at this writing which is kind of nice though again, not exactly eloquent looking. I found I wanted to use the fork blades for lights because for a good retro look I've installed a water bottle cage on my handlebars and yes, maybe I should have two of them but the other space is taken up by a nice long ringing and loud chrome bell, no little pinger. By the way, if anyone knows where to get a good and dare I say cheap looking vintage looking bottles, I'd like to know.

Excuse my variation on this topic but in the old Tour de Frances, say before World War II, very notably, they rode those stages sometimes starting at 2:00 AM in the morning. Any notable reference will tell you that, Le Tour by Wheatcroft or any number of others. It makes me wonder what kind of lighting they used or maybe it was none at all but that doesn't seem right.

Wanting that vintage look is good but I doubt many of us would quibble about that in regards to rear blinkies in reality if one is riding at night. Okay, I did not mean to write an essay here. Here is a good blog entry talking about biking in the Netherlands. It almost is an embarrassment how we, the USA fair in these stats. It tells me for vintage, I will put safety first. I am just not sure if there is a conscensus that fork mounted lights are not as well seen as one's on the handlebar. Do others think this?? Maybe then, since now cheapie bike lights have come out with velcro straps, the best thing could be what I read in Bicycle Times about a cyclist indeed from Massachussets, he had a Univega was that the more lights, the merrier or safer. Those velcro strap lights won't set one back big financially, though I might see if some of the Far East Asian sellers might sell them for super cheap like $ .99 cents each. Again, sorry for the long rant, thanks for reading.

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