by H.B.C. for webBikeWorld.com
A little sunshine with a little rain (actually a lot) describes my ongoing experience with the Trail Tech Equinox LED 35 mm lights.
This auxiliary lighting kit is simple to install, easy to use and affordable, but the jury is still out on the functionality aspect…
Wet weather took its toll on the lights during a protracted evaluation period and while drying out time seemed to improve their functionality, reliability remains questionable.
I just hope my experience is singular in nature.
I'm optimistic that these compact LED units will be on the job for a long time.
But I can’t help feeling that given the issues encountered, a manufacturing production review is in order, which should expeditiously eliminate the shortfalls.
Good lighting is a critical requirement for motorcyclists that can often be met by replacing some or all of the original equipment components or by taking my favourite approach -- accessory lighting.
Accessory or add-on lighting is typically used to augment stock lighting to provide illumination for specific applications such as spot, side or fog beams.
And, it's also used for true "bling" purposes, where cosmetics, styling and that "just right" visual image is desired.
The lighting market has seen continued evolution over the past few years and consumers can pick from almost any type of lighting possible in almost any form imaginable.
This isn’t a bad thing, but sometimes finding the best solution can be a long and involved process...as is finding the best return on your currency investment.
webBikeWorld has been a constant in lighting the way ahead (!) regarding original equipment replacement and accessory motorcycle lighting solutions, with more and more focus on light emitting diode or LED-based products.
Why is this? Well, it is based on many things -- all pretty positive.
As the Editor stated in the Clearwater "Krista" LED Lights review, the technology is rapidly maturing to the point where it is approaching, matching or overtaking the capabilities of other lighting technologies, such as halogen, HID, etc.
And in looking ahead, I’ve had the chance to see a couple of coming-to-market LED light products that basically eliminate the gap between high-end lighting technologies and LED units.
In this regard, the currently available Clearwater Krista lights are a shining example of where this market segment is headed.
The advantages of LED lighting become apparent once a user gets one or two or more sets and utilizes them on a continuing basis. My concerns over whether this technology and how its subsequent applications would evolve have been put to rest.
A lightweight and ruggedized module? Check. An output-to-power-draw ratio that is hard to beat? Check.
A straightforward installation with minimal additional components to install? Check. A lifetime of ten to fifteen years or more? Check. And so it goes…
LEDs don’t make every other light system on the market obsolete -- thankfully not.
Variety is really the spice of life and real-life requirements will continue to identify the need for different solutions, on different platforms, based on different technologies.
But, LED products in general provide efficient and cost-effective solutions.
Addressing my continuing requirements for a small set of lights, primarily for use as daytime running lights but with the ability to provide augmented illumination -- particularly when running the back roads -- the Trail Tech Equinox LED 35mm Light Set seemed to offer a solution.
Trail Tech is located in the state of Washington in the U.S.A. The company manufactures or sells aftermarket off-road products for power sport users around the globe, through a network of dealers, distributors and OEM manufacturers.
The company offers up a very diverse and interesting product list.
This includes kickstands, flywheels, X-Bars, bar clamps, computers (digital systems, GPS, speedometers and tachometers, etc.), protector/dashboard lights, lights, stators and electrical system kits, electrical accessories, flange protectors and, of course, the personal bling: Trail Tech apparel.
If you are involved in beating yourself up off-road in some form of vehicle, then Trail Tech probably has something for you. In addition to the Equinox lights, I hope to evaluate one of the Trail Tech computer systems…
The Trail Tech Equinox LED 35 mm dual light kit is simpler than many comparative kits...although simpler does not always equal better.
Lighting requirements change (and not just due to the sun going down), with the type of riding, surroundings and weather all key factors. Fixed output auxiliary lighting can be, in some circumstances, a handicap.
This is where variable output lights -- such as the Clearwater Krista lights and the Trail Tech LED units -- provide a solution.
Measuring only 46 mm x 82 mm (1.8 in x 3.2 in) and weighing a svelte 167 grams (5.9 oz.) each, the units can be mounted virtually anywhere on a motorcycle.
And if portability is required, an optional battery pack worn by the rider can supply one or more units with power for an extended period of time.
Three brightness or intensity modes (High, Medium and Low) are set by pushing a small easily accessed blue button on the back of each module. This option is perfect for tailoring lighting requirements to the situation and also for optimizing battery pack life or 12V power draw.
Formally known as the Trail Tech Equinox LED 35mm Dual Light Set kit (Product Number A182-SS, Black), the package I received for this evaluation was made up of the basic kit and a couple of extra items that have proven very useful.
Included in the package were the two black billet aluminum LED light modules and two mounting options (the lightweight handlebar clamps and flat surface mounts that use the 3M VHB adhesive).
Also, a multi-part wire harness for two lights; and two switches (a handlebar rocker switch and a small weatherproof push switch).
A 244 cm (96 in.) multi-lead harness is included with the light set. Included in this length, the battery connection section is 137 cm (54 in.) in length with one end terminating in a pair of battery connection leads with an in-line ATC fuse holder.
At the other end is a junction where the harness splits into three separate leads: a 40 cm (16 in.) lead for the light switch connection and two 66 cm (26 in.) leads, one for each light.
The wiring is covered in flexible plastic tubing for basic protection with a section of heavy duty silicone heat shrink used to seal the junction section. If additional wiring is needed, a 167 cm (66 in.) extension harness is also available.
The Equinox LED lamp housings are sturdy aluminum billet, whereas the mounting components are lightweight plastic, albeit claimed to be "unbreakable".
The mounting assembly is comprised of three pieces: the clip plate or base, secured to the light housing with two small metal screws; a slotted mounting plate; and the mount component itself.
Trail Tech offers four basic mounting options for the Equinox lights: an M10 round post; a flat surface adhesive; or a frame and handlebar clamp mount.
For the frame clamp and handlebar mount assemblies, the mounting plate and mount components are held together with two small machine screws.
The clip plate or base of the lamp housing slides onto the slotted mounting plate with a small pressure release tang on the mounting plate engaging a detent on the lamp housing base to keep the two pieces secured.
Releasing the light from its mount takes only light pressure on the tang.
Along with the aluminum billet housing, a hardened glass lens provides excellent protection up front for all manner of things that tend to become projectiles looking for an object to hit.
Having gone through my share of lenses, plastic or glass over the years, this level of protection is appreciated.
General specifications for the Trail Tech Equinox LED lights include:
I had been meaning to mount a set of auxiliary lights lower down on the F800GS using the very durable GIVI TN690 side engine guards.
But I was also loath to move either of the two Denali LED sets from their current mounts mounted to the left and right of the headlight as they have proven very effective there.
Although the heavier Trail Tech frame mounts would have been preferred, the handlebar mounts included in the kit provided an easy installation solution on the 25 mm (one inch) diameter tubing of the Givi guards.
To protect the Equinox light units while still keeping them fully useable, I mounted the modules in-board rather than out-board on the (relatively) vertical front tube.
This placement tucks them away nicely between the tubing of the guards and reduces their profile to the point where people looking at the motorcycle don’t even notice the small round black modules until they are pointed out or turned on.
With the mounting components separated for installation, it easy to see the curved slot on the mounting plate that the forward screw sits in.
This cutout provides 30 degree of lateral movement -- horizontally or vertically, depending on how the lights are mounted.
For my installation and as shown in the photos, this translates into the vertical (up/down) plane with only slight rotation of the round tube clamp providing horizontal adjustment of the whole assembly for aiming purposes.
To accommodate handlebar or tube diameters ranging from 20 mm to 38 mm (7/8 in. to 1.5 in.), each handlebar clamp mount comes with two small flexible rubber bushings that can be inserted into place as spacers on each half of the clamp mount.
With both bushings fitted into place, the provided M4 x 18 mm bolts with small nuts would hold the clamp together but only by a couple of threads.
They might have held, but for the pounding the lights were likely to take and my piece of mind, a more robust solution was needed.
I used a 5 mm bit to carefully enlarge the holes in the mounts slightly, allowing the use of longer M5 x 30 mm bolts with flat washers and Nylock nuts -- all stainless steel. As always, medium thread-locking compound was used (peace of mind restored).
On to the wiring... Colour-coded wiring harnesses are always appreciated, but in this case, the pieces and colours don’t match between the various lead sections.
But the Equinox wiring for the most part is simple, with bullet connector leads keyed male/female, reducing (possible) confusion in the absence of any included instructions.
As the lights were going to be swapped back and forth on both of our F800GS motorcycles for the evaluation, harness portability was a factor.
Accordingly, the harnesses were for the most part nestled in front of the Famsa 260 tank bag (review) or hidden underneath the tank bag panniers. That left only a source for power to be addressed.
Two expedient options came to mind: power the lights from one of the BMW (DIN 4165) accessory outlets, or use the 3BR Power Port (review) coaxial power port mounted on the handlebars.
Both the 15A Powerlet accessory port and coaxial ports are powered by the Dispatch One power management system (review).
As either option required fitment of a BMW plug or coaxial plug and not needing the in-line fuse, the battery leads were cut off just before the ATC fuse holder.
Two red 18-24 gauge Posi-Lock connectors (wBW Store) mated the harness leads and the plug kit leads together in short order.
In the end, I opted to draw power from either of the two BMW power ports, leaving the coaxial outlet available to power other peripherals, like the StarCom1 Digital intercom system (review) or the newest version of the BikerCom intercom (Version 1 review) communications system (evaluation in process).
Two control switches were included in the Trail Tech Equinox kit -- a small rubber-housed pressure switch and a larger handlebar clamp piece with a red two-way sliding switch.
For expediency (real estate concerns), I opted to initially go with the smaller switch.
A small square of 3M VHB adhesive secured the button-sized switch to the left handlebar control just to the left of the "Info" (computer display) button; a spot easily and safely reached with the left thumb.
With power supplied and the switch in place, the ignition was turned on and after waiting for the system check, the light switch activated. There is a ~500 ms delay before both light units come on.
Ouch - bright! They were obviously on the High setting.
I was able to confirm this by stepping each light through the three settings: High, Medium and Low with a positive push on the blue pressure switch, located on the back of the module housing, for each of the three steps or settings.
At 800 lumens maximum output, the Equinox units are rated at a lower output than the 900 lumen Denali D1 LED lights (review), but comparatively the Trail Tech lights are very effective.
Being able to set them to the Low setting for use as running lights and then move them up to Medium or High for auxiliary light use is a great feature.
Despite some concerns, the plastic and rubber spacer clamp mount assemblies have remained trouble-free; two prolonged road trips and some off-road pounding hasn’t disturbed them in any way. Adjusting the lights can be an issue, however.
While the flat adhesive mounts allow relatively easy adjustment vertically and horizontally, the clamp mounts are another matter. Rotating the mounts on the host bar is not an issue, but accessing the front adjustment screw is.
No matter their orientation, when using the clamp mounts the light modules must be snapped out of the mounts and the front adjustment screw accessed to utilize the 30-degree adjustability feature.
And once any adjustment is made, the light must be remounted before another orientation test can be done.
Depending on the circumstances, adjusting the lights can be time consuming; it ends up being more trial and error than a simple positive adjustment.
While all the mounts provide 30 degrees of pivot for adjustment purposes, only the clamp mounts utilize the slotted screw adjuster -- a clever idea, but awkward to use.
I’m still hoping to get the Round Post mount option component mounts so I can use the lights with a set of Techmount light brackets on the Givi engine side-guards. This configuration will provide further mounting flexibility and facilitate adjustments in either plane.
The flat adhesive mounts in the kit do provide mounting alternatives, especially on the BMW R 1200 RT (report) or BMW R 1100 R with their readily accessible expanses of flat plastic real estate.
In using the 3M VHB adhesive for other mounts, including cameras, I have no concerns over its strength or durability.
After using the Trail Tech Equinox LED units on the F800GS for two months, on and off road, including some short and prolonged exposures to rain, a more severe problem manifested itself during a trip to Virginia -- one I attributed directly to moisture.
We endured two hours of heavy torrential downpour just after crossing into New York and another day of on-and-off heavy downpours on the way home a week later.
Limited use of the Equinox lights during the ride revealed some obvious performance degradation. The left side module was hesitant to switch between the three output settings and the right unit would only work on the High setting, and even then it was intermittent.
When we arrived back home, I let the lights sit for two days in a dry and warm environment, but the moisture was still clearly visible inside the module -- time for a closer examination.
I disconnected the leads, removed the lights and brought them inside.
Removing the two small Phillips head screws that secure each plastic mounting base to the module revealed the presence of water, located in between the base and housing and inside the threaded holes of the modules.
I let this moisture drain out of the lights for a day and then I placed the modules under a heat lamp for two days, which served to reduce the moisture visible through the lenses.
A subsequent quick connectivity test revealed that both units seemed to be on their way to recovery, but I gave them another two days of drying out anyway.
After another successful test, it was time to remount the lights.
But before reinstalling the plastic bases, I applied medium thread-locking compound to the small screws and a thin bead of clear silicone seal around the perimeter of the bases, with a sealing dab of silicone added over the top of each screw.
These are preventative steps to seal the inner workings of the modules from the wet stuff.
The Editor contacted Trail Tech about the moisture issue and apparently the company feels the problem was due to an assembly error. "Loctite was not being used on the housing screws as required per the drawing", according to Trail Tech.
In my case, the moisture problem persists, even after sealing the units with thread-locking compound and silicone, so the saga continues.
The units work fine for a few hours, then the right one will go out or cease responding to the Blue button when attempting an intensity change.
A recent night shoot was terminated early when the whole set just quit working; a subsequent check revealed no wiring or power supply issues. The next day they were working again!
So where does this leave me with the Trail Tech Equinox lights? Well, I like their simplicity, light weight and ease of use.
And one of their best features is the ability to switch output -- a capability typically found only on higher-end motorcycle LED light systems.
With the lights on the High setting, the 15-degree beam pattern provides a good swath of light but their effective range is far less, comparatively speaking, than the set of the Denali LED lights (which outperform the stock High and Low beam combination).
For my illumination requirements, the Trail Tech Equinox units are just right for use as auxiliary lights to augment the stock lighting system.
Minor design flaws, which should be easily rectified, diminish the overall value, functionality and reliability of the Trail Tech Equinox LED lights in my opinion.
Also, where the billet aluminum module reflects strength and quality, the lightweight plastic components do not.
Nothing has broken yet though, and some of the flex that is inherent to the plastic does help absorb vibration. I’m just not convinced of their long-term durability yet.
The slotted adjuster on the mounting plate is a good idea, but in real life the module needs to be dismounted and the small sheet screw accessed to utilize this feature and access could be difficult depending on how and where the whole assembly is installed; trial and error personified.
While the cause of the moisture issue has seemingly been explained (see above), the impact of the original moisture intake remains real.
And hopefully my preventative measures will help going forward and I strongly recommend that owners check to see if there is any sealing material applied to the base screws.
Bottom line: I’m disappointed with the situation. Hopefully Trail Tech will address the issues and not leaving me feeling like this evaluation is a bit of "unfinished business".
|wBW Review: Trail Tech Equinox LED Lights|
|Manufacturer: Trail Tech||Suggested Retail Price: $229.95/set|
|Colors: Black or Silver||Made In: Unknown|
|Review Date: September 2011|