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a true head light - the demento

at last I can truly claim to be a demented lighthead...

I've finally built my first helmet mounted light. The demento is a single switched 20W globe housed in a towball cover (yes, it's a recycled mkIII...). I've mounted it to the helmet in a bracket that allows the housing to pivot for up and down adjustment. The whole arrangement is held on with a velcro strap arrangement. I'm hoping that using velcro will let the light will rip off in a bad crash, rather than go through my head. The velcro also makes it really easy to get the system on and off.

the demento

it's rough, but works well...


I've never been a huge fan of helmet lights - but maybe that's because I didn't have my own - but in combination with my mkV digital lights, I have up to 60W of retina burning power. WOOHOO!!! The penalty (there's always one...) is that I also need to carry another battery if I'm planning on using them all together.

The light shines where my head is pointing, now I just have to practice looking the same way as my head points! In practice it's been great on singletrack, but not as good on fast firetrail, as I tend to point my head further into the corner than I look when I'm going fast. I reckon I can adjust, and this problem may not occur with you. The helmet light's proved a big bonus at breakdowns and flats, because you can light up what you're working on perfectly.


I'm still not an electrician, and still don't offer good advice.  This light works for me.  Riding mountain bikes is dangerous, and even more so at night.  You are responsible for your own workmanship. Remember to ask your mother if you want good, sensible advice...

All I really made this time was the bracket - a simple strip of metal bent in a squared U shape. A hole was drilled in each end of the strip, and through the sides of the towball cover. Bolts go through the holes to form the demento's pivots. Because the metal I used was only thin strip, I also made a short cross piece to stop it rocking back and forth, which I bolted to the main bracket.

Rubber strips (inner tube) are glued under the bracket and brace to protect the helmet. A velcro strap goes through the helmet vents and sticks to each side of the bracket, and another bit of velcro goes under the cross brace, holding it all on solidly. I bought more than enough velcro at one of those liquidation warehouses for $1.50. I had the metal strip already, it didn't cost much when I bought it 20-odd years ago.

You can see how I built my mkIII's here, so I won't go into detail again, except to give a few tips.

One of those little car foglights would probably be an ideal alternative to a mkIII, but of course you don't get the satisfaction of doing it yourself. If you go that route, you'll probably need to fit a lower powered globe - they usually come with 50W as standard.

Try and get black non-flared towball covers - the best towball covers are those that don't flare out at the bottom, because it's easier to make them look good. The flared ones tend to leave an ugly gap around the globe at the front. They still work just as well, just look ugly if you leave the gap.

Since making the mkIII's, I've discovered that the PVC pipe ring doesn't need to be glued into the cover - if you get the right size it will be a tight enough fit to stay in by itself. Glue the globe to the ring, but don't use too much silicon - eventually the globe will wear out (or you'll want to use it in your next model!), and it's a real pain to get it out of the ring if you've been heavy on the sealant. I've managed to crack and chip globes trying to get them out after going silly with the sealant.

Switch - any switch that fits into the cover with the globe mounted can be used - I use a toggle type, but a push button would be just as effective.

Use grommets to neaten up the hole you have drilled for the wires - they'll also help prevent damage to the wire from rubbing on the sharp edges of the hole.

LED's (new) - for fun, I've stuck some 12V red flashing LED's through the rear of the towball cover. I've soldered the LED's to wire which simply connects into the wiring for the globe. These little suckers now flash merrily away whenever the light is on. A bonus is they don't flash in synch with each other, so ever changing patterns result, distracting anybody who gets too close! Not a substitute for a real tail light, but fun nevertheless.

rear view

since the prototype worked, I haven't bothered to refine it

Attach the wiring somewhere to the rear of your helmet - run it through a vent or tape it on. If you don't, the wire well flap around annoyingly.


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Standard disclaimer:
Like all outdoor activities, mountain bike riding can result in serious or fatal injury. Riding at night is more dangerous. These lights work for me - you are responsible for your own workmanship. Track conditions may have changed since these reviews. Don't ride beyond your ability. If you fall off it's your own fault.

Unless otherwise stated, all thoughts, comments, opinions etc expressed herein are mine, and should not be taken to represent anyone else. If you don't like anything I've said, sorry, just change the channel.
Copyright © Tony Fathers, 2000 - 2006