Signalfly Motorcycle Helmet LED Brake Light
Note: Signalfly is apparently no longer in
business; the helmet stop light is sold as the "Excelle
Ray Wirelss 3rd Brake Light" via the link to Challenger
Motors at the bottom of this page.
We receive a lot of email from webBikeWorld
visitors asking for ways
to improve the visibility of motorcycles in traffic.
I believe it was the Hurt
study that first documented that one of the leading causes of accidents
involving motorcycles is because other drivers claim they didn't see the
bike or the rider. There are several technical articles available on
webBikeWorld pages that focus on improving motorcycle visibility from both
the front and the rear (see the Motorcycle
Safety page and the Technical
These articles cover choosing and installing
products like LED brake light bulbs and brake light bars; blinking LED's; running lights;
halogen and other brighter light bulbs, and more. But
visitor emails indicate that there is a fairly significant interest in improving the visibility of
motorcycle brake lights.
There may be a couple of reasons for this -- if motorcycles are hard to
see to begin with, then coming upon the rear end of a bike at a stop
light, where the bike is probably at its narrowest profile (and the
following automobile driver may be on a cell phone, drinking coffee,
yelling at the kids, etc.) surely must
be one of the most dangerous situations a rider can encounter. Also,
since motorcycles have only one small brake/tail light, there just isn't
much candlepower available to attract attention.
I've seen some studies that claim
that human depth perception is affected when a smaller motorcycle is
viewed among bigger cars and trucks, making the motorcycle seem farther
away than it really is.
Motorcycle brake lights are in a central
location, rather than at a left and right end like a car's, and
motorcycles don't have the automobile's "CHMSL", or center
high-mounted stop light that places a brake light pretty much in direct
line of sight to a following vehicle. And finally, with few
exceptions, motorcycle brake lights are pretty wimpy.
They have remained
basically unchanged for the last, let's say, 50 years or so, since the
advent of the 12 volt electrical system. I wonder why, with
few exceptions, motorcycle manufacturers haven't jumped on the LED bandwagon and design
some big, bold, bright brake lights for bikes??
These reasons and more have created a demand among motorcyclists for ways
to improve brake light visibility. And the Signalfly system is one
of the more unique ways to address this issue. It's sort of the
"CHMSL" (Center High-Mounted Stop Light) for motorcycles!
The Signalfly system
consists of an infrared sending unit and a wireless helmet device that
functions as the auxiliary brake light. The infrared
sending unit sits on the tail of the motorcycle, and the wireless LED-equipped unit on the back of the helmet flashes on and off
as long as the brakes are applied.
The helmet unit also has a
continuously burning center LED that acts as a running light for the
system. There are a total of 12 LED's in the helmet unit, covered by
a red reflector that diffuses their glow to make them seem bigger
and brighter than a "naked" LED.
and connecting the Signalfly is very straightforward. There is
one red (power) and one black (ground) wire exiting the Signalfly's controller box (see photo 1,
below). Each wire must be connected to the corresponding ground and power
wires of the motorcycle's brake light.
most motorcycles, this is a simple matter of removing the motorcycle's
red plastic brake light housing and locating the ground wire and the
hot wire to the brake light bulb.
Splice in the Signalfly's
red wire to the motorcycle's hot (power) wire; then splice the black
(ground) wires together, and that's all there is to it. The
controller can be placed anywhere in the motorcycle's tail section
or under the seat.
An easy way to splice wires is by using the Posi-Lock system; this
is a really neat system for connecting wires that avoids soldering,
crimping, male/female electrical connectors or other, less reliable
connecting schemes. See the wBW
of Posi-Lock connectors article for a review on this excellent
Signalfly's sending unit is relatively unobtrusive; it measures
about 1.75" high by 1.75" wide at the base (45mm x
45mm). The sending unit can be located just about anywhere on
the tail of the bike (see photo left).
Both the sending unit and the helmet unit have double-sided tape to
allow near-permanent attachment. But I found that some
alignment is necessary to make everything function optimally, so
don't attach the sending unit just yet.
By the way, although the sending unit's base will remain attached to
the motorcycle via the unit's double-sided tape, for
security reasons the infrared portion of the sending unit can be
popped out and carried a pocket while the bike is parked.
After temporarily locating the infrared sending unit on the tail of the
bike, but before securing it, the next step is to temporarily locate the Signalfly helmet unit on the helmet.
There are a couple of alignment issues that should first be resolved for
best performance. The optimal position for the location of the
Signalfly on the back of the helmet is one that will give following traffic the best view of the Signalfly in action.
Also, take into consideration the position of the infrared sending unit
(on the tail of the bike) relative to the helmet unit's infrared receiver; there should be a
good, clear line of sight between the sender and the receiver. The
yellow arrow in photo 3 (below) indicates the small infrared receiving
port on the bottom of the Signalfly helmet unit.
I found that if these two aren't optimally aligned, there's
a chance that there won't be a powerful enough infrared signal to the
Signalfly helmet unit, which could lead to erratic performance of the
|Photo 3 - Incorrect placement on Lazer Century helmet.
|Photo 4 - Correct placement on Lazer Century helmet.
When I first examined the helmet unit to determine
a good helmet location, I found that my first
inclination was to set the Signalfly up high on the
back of the helmet, at what I thought was a central
location that would be visible to following traffic
(see photo 3, left).
But I'm glad I didn't just "peel and stick" the
Signalfly unit on that spot -- we tested the best
location first by temporarily attaching the unit so
that we could identify the place where it would be
most visible to traffic while also obtaining the best
signal from the infrared sending unit (photo 4, left).
temporarily attach the unit, we first made up a couple of temporary
"double sided" tape stickers by breaking out "Ol'
Standby" -- a roll of duct tape, and tearing off some 2-3"
Fold each strip over on itself to form a tape loop. We
attached the loops to the back of the Signalfly helmet unit, over
the plastic covering (the red area in photo 5, left) that protects
the semi-permanent tape that's attached to the unit itself, then
pressed the Signalfly on to the helmet.
The test rider then sat on the bike in a natural, heads-up riding
position while wearing the helmet with the Signalfly unit
temporarily attached. This makes it easy to find the best
position for optimum visibility to
The rider applied the brakes, and by moving
the sending unit around a bit while the helmet was moved through a
normal range of motion, it was easy to find the spot where the
strongest infrared signal is obtained.
The final position for the helmet unit is much farther down on the back
of the helmet than one might first guess; this is partially due to the fact
that when a rider is sitting on a bike in a riding position, most
helmets will naturally locate in an orientation that slopes
downwards from the back to the front.
The center of
the Signalfly's LED's are about 3.25" above the unit's infrared
receiver (yellow arrow, photo 6, left), and it's the LED's that need
to be aligned correctly for best visibility to following traffic, so take care to properly
locate the unit before permanently attaching it.
Although the alignment procedure may sound complicated, it takes probably less than a
minute or two to identify the optimal positions for both the sending
unit and the helmet unit. Once you've done that, just peel off
the red protective film and attach the units in their respective
There may be a problem with fitting the Signalfly helmet unit to
some helmet shapes; I could not fit the unit to the KBC VR-1 helmet
because of its rear shape and air vents, and the Signalfly would
also not fit the X-lite X-901 due to its narrow profile. The
Signalfly will fit "normal" round helmets best.
It seems that a different shaped
Signalfly might fit more helmet shapes. If the unit was more
rectangular in shape, with the longer sides being vertical (rather like a
tombstone shape), it might have a less critical radius that could possibly
fit a wider variety of helmets.
It's very hard to photograph the differences between motorcycle lights and
bulbs, but the Signalfly's LED's are very bold and bright -- much brighter
than they appear in these photos.
Photo 7 (below) shows the bike from the rear with the rider and no brakes
applied. The single LED "running light" that is always lit
when the Signalfly is on can be seen. Photo 8 (below right) shows
the brakes being applied and the photo is a single shot capture of the
Signalfly unit with all LED's on.
Photo 7 - The Signalfly unit from behind, note the single LED
Photo 8 - The Signalfly unit with all LED's lit while brakes are
The Signalfly isn't very heavy -- one of these
days, I have to get a scale so I can accurately report on weights. We
don't think it adds a significant weight burden on a helmet. The
unit also comes with rechargeable batteries and a charger -- simply plug
the charger into the back of the Signalfly helmet unit; a green LED shines
when the unit's ready to go.
Also, I'd like to see a removable Signalfly that could possibly be
attached with "hook and loop" or some other type of easy-on,
easy-off device. If the infrared sending unit also had this
capability (along with quick-detach wires), the Signalfly could be
transferred from helmet to helmet or bike to bike (provided, of course,
that the other bike had the sending unit's wiring pre-installed).
And finally, the user has to remember to turn the Signalfly unit on or off
(the white arrow in photo 6 above points to the barely discernable on
button). The unit will only work if it's on. It would be nice
if there was some type of automatic timer that turned the Signalfly off
when not in use, because it's kind of hard to remember to shut it off
after a ride.
But I supposed this would be impossible, because if
you were riding long distances without stopping, the unit might turn
itself off unexpectedly. Perhaps there's some way for the infrared
sending unit to send a message to the unit to turn on and/or off?
All things considered, we think this is a unique and interesting product
that has the potential to improve motorcycle visibility from the
rear. We'd like to see some studies conducted that prove whether or
not brake lights should all be clustered around a single location, or if
widely dispersed brake lighting has a better or worse effect on rearward
visibility. But in the absence of such a study (don't hold your
breath!), the Signalfly has the potential of waking up following drivers
and letting them know you're slowing down!
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Motorcycle Helmet LED Brake Light
From: Signalfly no longer in business; the
Excelle Wireless Brake Light is available from from
Challenger Motors in New Zealand
Retail Price: $119.95
Comments: Pros: Unique,
wireless, noticeable. Cons: May
not fit all helmet types; can't be easily transferred to different
helmets or bikes.
Helmet page | Motorcycle
wBW Visitor "R.D.": "Signalfly
has a winner! The flashing type, LED red brake
lights mounted on the rear of my helmet catches
driver's attention ... day and night.
Distracted cage drivers wake up when I hit my
brakes... my helmet lights up! Darndest thing they
ever saw ... never minding the "build board'
of flashing and steady LED lights on the tail of
my Harley Road King ... The "die hards"
who don't like wearing helmets may change their
minds when they see more helmets lighting up. Installation
Tip: It was secured additionally with 3M
yellow contact glue. Plastic body filler caulked
the edges for a stronger and smoother mounting
transition of my full-face helmet. High
gloss, black, pliable, bumper spray paint was used
on the On/Off buttons and high gloss, black, epoxy
spray enamel on both the Signalfly housing and
body of the helmet."
a note from Signalfly owner T.R.: "I
love it, works great, it's durable, looks good, it
is highly visible and it does make me feel like I
have done everything I can to be seen. I had
tried a helmet light made by another company it
broke pretty quickly and burnt batteries way too
I agree with you about the shape and connection
system. I have a X-large helmet and really
couldn't fit it the way it was designed. I
added some double sided tape and then hot glued it
all the way around to be sure it would stay
attached. The other light I tried had an
attachment system where you glued a slide on base
on two helmets so you could swap it around.
I ride every day so it hasn't been sitting in a
closet anywhere and hardly being used, j ust to
tell you that so far no problems with the lights,
material, of functioning of the device.
I also us the 3-M Tailbrites on my 2001 Concours,
extra LEDs from J.C.Whitney, tag light, and
replacement led for the brake lights. Also,
I have a windbreaker from Glowdog made of
Illuminate which glows 100% white when headlights
hits it. I love riding and want to stay