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By Elazerddh

I've been riding since the early '70s and currently ride either a '12 BMW R1200RT or an '09 Kawasaki KLR650.

Getting good lighting on a motorcycle is, and always has been, difficult. Motorcycles are ~1/3 the size of a small car, but we can't get by with any less lighting, though typically we have less than half that of a car. Add to that our conspicuity problems (hold your thumb out at arm's length; you can cover a motorcycle). We have issues with large changes in roll and pitch, too. Brake hard and the forward illumination shrinks from 150 feet to 20 feet; roll through a corner at a 45° and all you can really see is gravel on one side and tree tops on the other.

It was easier in the '70s when motorcycles essentially ran one 'automotive' headlight, as one could fit a decent European headlight and fit some auxiliary lighting to a hoop-style crash bar (the sort that were fitted to the police KZ1000s). I had a 1979 Honda CX500 that I fitted a 7" Cibié to, later followed by a Hella. On the crash bar I had one fog light and one driving light, both SEV Marchal. It had pretty good lighting, for the time.

For many the solution is to simply not ride at night, but that has never been a viable option for me, so I've always been on the hunt for good lighting.

Arguably, automotive lighting has gotten much better over the past 40 years, but motorcycle lighting, not so much. The platform doesn't even lend itself to improving lighting, as the amount of plastic that gets in the way of attach points has increased and, as ever, there simply isn't real estate to do it on. Manufacturers aren't working all that hard on building good lighting for the average bike, though they are starting to introduce some HID.

With my 2000 F-250 I was able to ditch the aero-style headlights and install a complete bucket-style headlight system from the base model, then install good wiring, relays, and a pair of 5X7 Cibiés, then put a pair of Oscars on the bumper (thanks DS, for both). Yay, I could see well in the desert, that vehicle's normal environs.

Today I have a Forester and its lighting is OK and I haven't done anything to it yet, as it's mostly a city car.

The bikes are a different matter. The BMW's lighting ain't too shabby, as it comes with two H7 low beams and one H7 high beam. I've added one each pair of Hella FF50 fog and driving lights. The fogs help with the Tule fog and the driving lights are mounted far lower than optimal and they do help some, but are seldom used. I use the Osram AllSeasons in the low beams, again for the Tule fog. Tule fog is special, there are times when the best option is to stop and get off the road and have a cuppa joe. At its worst, this stuff lives on the I5 where you come down off of the Grapevine at 80mph and BAM!, you hit a wall of fog with visibility in the 3" range. Makes for some spectacular pile-ups.

The KLR is another matter. It has one H7 for low and one H7 for high. It defines poor lighting, but it's better than the earlier ones, which run a poor H4 lamp in the 5X7 size. Mounting options for lights are Slim and None, and Slim just left town... KLRs don't have any electrical power to spare, either.

I wind up trying to educate people in the KLR community, but you have to understand KLR people. They are rather, um, 'frugal'. The best of them will convert everything in the dash to LED to try and eek some spare wattage out so they can mount some aux lights on the lower triple tree and then they go for the best bulb(s) they can in the headlights. There seem to be some issues with installing a decent H4 headlamp, though I don't understand what it is :^/.

Most, though, if they do anything will tend to go for a PnP HID and some LED aux in the $20 range. Bright is good, right? I went out and bought PnP systems for both H7 and H4 and did a comparison of before and after beam patterns for them, made a video of how the H4 capsule shakes like a dog poopin' peach pits due to the solenoid, wrote it up with 8X10 colored glossy photos with circles and arrows and words on the back tellin' everybody what it was all about, just to show them that that option ain't good. Crickets.

For my KLR I'm playing with some different options but I'm a bit of a Luddite and haven't bought in to the LED aux movement yet; I don't think it's quite ready. Of course, it doesn't have the power to run incandescent aux. The equipment that is ready (for headlights) is very expensive and requires ditching the entire front end of the bike and, candidly, I've no idea if it has gone through any sort of 108 acceptance nor what the beam pattern looks like. I mostly take the approach that the KLR is both slow and has bad brakes, so just ride it accordingly. ;^)

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