POTM Winner March 2017: Whiter, Brighter & Safer Headlights For Your R NineT
Hey guys - living here in the Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia when it gets dark, these narrow winding roads can be quite a challenge. I generally take my 25 mile ride to the “2 Wheels” Restaurant in Suches, Ga in the evening and hang out with the guys, so its not unusual for me to come home after dark. After riding my other bikes with the Sylvania HID Attitude - Xenon bulbs, the one feature lacking on my new R NineT was whiter and brighter headlights.
In This Overview - I’ll cover how I achieved this goal and I’ll talk about some basic Pro’s and Con’s of halogen and Lcd’s as a choice. I recently installed this same Xenon bulbs in my two Indians and after I upgraded my 9T I wanted to share it with the BMW group as well.
Headlight Choices - Since the R9T uses a standard H4 headlight bulb, there are hundreds of headlight options, some just a plug and play and others requiring modification. Headlight lamps are basically broke down to three major categories:
Halogen - For economical cost reasons, a basic halogen lamp is what you’ll find in your R Nine T and many other manufactures bikes and vehicles. Standard Halogen lamps are “Just OK” when it come to brightness and distance, they have a fairly long life and are easily found and replaced. The draw back of the “Basic” Halogen lamp is its yellowish color and limited ability to light the roads shoulders and short distance.
Here’s the Sylvania Xenon on the left and the stock R9T bulb on the right.
Sylvania H4 HID Attitude Xenon - This bulb has been my choice for my cars, trucks and a few of my bikes. This Xenon bulb is manufactured by Sylvania which uses proprietary Xenon halogen gas technology to provide the light and performance of a HID lamp (high Intensity discharge) without the normally used high voltage ballast. The ZXE bulbs offer a nice white light and in most cases offer 50%-70% more light than the standard halogen lamp. Because of their easy ability to find, low cost, white light and increased brightness, this lamp has been my choice for most my bikes.
LED - Or “light emitting diodes” lights are very popular since they offer pure white light and longevity, some Led’s are published to last up to 15,000 hours. In the past, LED lights have been reserved for higher bikes like say the Indian Roadmaster comes with led headlights and fog lamps as does my Honda NM4 also has led lighting stock from the factory.
Adaptive Led Headlights - There’s even a so-called “Adaptive Led Headlight” for motorcycles from JW Speaker which retails for over $800. For the most part, adaptive headlights are no all they are cracked up to be. This replacement Adaptive headlight for bikes does not move its beams like some high-end cars do but rather turn on and off different led’s, so as your bike leans over in a turn, a processor detects the angle and turns on different sets of Led’s on either the right or left side of the headlight lamp depending on how far the bike leans to “hopefully” look in the direction of travel. The problem is the headlight assembly is still looking straight ahead so the additional light is just flooding the side of the turn. In retrospect - a good Sylvania H4 Xenon headlight and a bike with fog lamps will accomplish the same thing without this outrageous cost. While its up to each guy to decide his spending, for me they are out of the question and would be painful to pay $500-$800 for a headlight up-grade.
JW Speaker's (Fixed) Adaptive Headlamp
BMW’s Adaptive Headlight - To my knowledge, the only “real” adaptive headlight on a motorcycle is beautiful 6 Cylinder BMW K1600GTL which offers a real working “Adaptive” headlight. Unlike the JW Speaker's fixed Adaptive fixture, the BMW uses a unique mechanical / electrical arrangement where the headlight fixture is stationary however it reflects its beam onto a rotating mirror assembly that is controlled by a processor which measures the bikes lean angle to moves the mirror the correct angle to move light around a curve. What a super headlight system!
Not all Led’s are Equal - While Led’s do last a long time, their associated wiring and circuitry may not! Don’t be fooled with some of the Internet “Life-Time” warranties on Led’s since I found many of these dealers only have a P.O. Box, and they know you’re not going to write a letter!
Keep in mind that some Led upgrades require special adapters, resistors and such. I’ve seen threads where guys actually cut their factory wiring in their bike to install them, don’t alter your wiring since it can lead to problems with the BMW’s Can-bus processor if it detects a different headlight voltage or load it could misinterpret the circuit as open or over-loaded and throw a code.
Halogen Xenon Improved Distance over Led’s - The Sylvania Xenon lamp we’re installing will have improved distance when compared to a Led lamps distance design. Many replacement Led’s have only two elements which radiate light on only two areas of the headlights reflector where a halogen radiates a full 360 degrees, so more light is focused on the reflectors to project further down the road in an even amount of lighting, unlike LED’s which provide unwanted lobs of spilled light commonly seen when using them.
Shown here is a typical Led lamp next to the halogen not how the Led only has elements on two sides unlike the 360 degrees of the halogen.
What I Used - Regretfully these are only sold in pairs, they retail for around $75 for a pair, my local parts dealer charged me $46, so my cost was less than $25 for my upgrade. These lamps can be easily found at your local auto parts outlet, Amazon or at some larger Wal-mart outlets. These bulbs are rated at the same exact wattage of 55/60 watts so your electrical system is happy. These white and bright Xenon lamps are DOT approved and street legal for your bike. In addition, they are warranted for a full year at any parts store.
HID Attitude Performance - As I mentioned, these Xenon Fueled lamps will be around 50% brighter than the standard halogen bulb so there is an amazing difference in what you’ll be able to see after dark. In addition, the lamp is white in color with a 4200K temperature when compared to the 3000K temperature of the stock yellow bulbs.
Changing the Lamp - on your R9T is a breeze, you simply remove the one hex screw on the lower portion of the lamp assembly to remove the assembly. Make sure you place a rag on your front fender to avoid scuffing then pull the lamp forward to revel the power plug. Slide the rubber boot back then gently rock the power plug back and forth to separate it from the lamp. Next, there is a single retaining clip that holds the bulb. Switch out the bulb being careful not to touch the glass surface with your hands since there is some contact grease on the pin connectors.
Once you get this lamp installed on your R9T you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it. The first thing you’ll notice is the light is very white. With high beam, you could easily spot a deer at 200+ yards. I included two images below of my R9T on my driveway. The reason I used this location is because my driveway is jet black, as you know this is the worst situation for lighting since there is no reflected light to take advantage of so this is the worse case situation.
The low beam is virtually flooding both shoulders and the road is saturated in light. The high beams are awesome, in the second image you can see way past the fence and road to the trees across the field in the back ground. The area is actually flooded with light almost as if the bike was down there. Distance is where the Sylvania lamp exceeds an LED because it has the ability to focus light at longer distances sort of like a spot light, something the LED cannot achieve as well. Also keep in mind, this is; “high beam only” since the R9T shuts off the low beam when high is activated, yet the shoulders are still perfectly lit.
The high beam shot below says it all - look at the concentration of light on the fence line and trees and even behind them. This is the area you need to light to spot pedestrians and deer when traveling 50-60 mph.
Conclusion - For the same token this lamp will help you for night driving - so will they help you during daylight hours because you will certainly be more visible to others as well. For the economical price of $25 this lamp makes night driving so much more fun and safer.
Enjoy - Mike Mas
Headlight Bulb: 1-Sylvania H4 HID Attitude - Xenon Fueled XKE 60/55W
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Last edited by BaldyDave; 04-02-2017 at 02:35 PM.
Reason: Creating POTM winning post title and home page display photo