Ducati Designs Sport Touring Headlight
lighting is one of the hottest topics on
webBikeWorld. Increasing light output, improving
visibility, LED brake lights, turn signal brightness,
wheel lights and other lighting novelties -- you name it
-- if it has to do with lights and brightness, then
motorcycle owners are interested.
I'd like to think that most
of this interest springs from a sincere desire to take the
study conclusions to heart; i.e., that improvements in
motorcycle visibility will help reduce one of the leading
causes of motorcycle accidents: the "I didn't see
While it's important to
have good frontal visibility to wake up oncoming traffic
during the day, lighting is crucial when the sun goes
down. More is always better when it comes to
nighttime headlight power and quality. If you ride
after dark you know how lame most stock motorcycle
headlights can be just when you need them most.
Wherever you ride, improved lighting is crucial.
City riders can always use more precisely focused beam
patterns to help light the way through all of the
suburban or country road riders need a heavy "throw
weight" and anything that provides advanced deer warning. If light
quality and output can be drastically improved AND the new
lights make the bike look better at the same time, I'm
betting most riders will be interested!
Ducati's ST line of sport-tourers
is a good example. A sleek bike with a look that
will still be contemporary 5 years from now (not
necessarily true for some other Ducati designs!), but its
stock headlight can definitely use some more muscle and
it's probably one of the weaker design elements of the
bike (not improved on the ST3, in my opinion!).
Part of the reason for the
stock Ducati headlight's weak throw is the design of the headlight lens, and
also because the wiring that feeds juice to the lights
is about the thinnest gauge that can be used without
melting the insulation. It always pays for the
electrons to have a direct and beefy path from the power station to
the filament. And the ST also has more than enough
connectors, relays and other assorted bits between the
battery and the bulb to bleed off juice, which doesn't
help things either.
The upgraded Ducati Designs
harness uses a pair of 14 gauge wires for each light that
run directly from the battery (the fuse-holder connection
is 10 gauge). Stock ST's measure about a 1.5V drop
from the battery to the low beam with the original
wiring. The luminous intensity drops considerably
when the operating voltage of headlamps is below 100%
voltage (13.5 volts). 95% voltage (12.8 V) gives 83%
luminous intensity, 90% voltage (12.15 V) gives 67%
luminous intensity, 85% voltage (11.48 V) only gives 53%.
The H9 bulb in the Ducati
Designs upgrade produces approximately 2100 lumens at
13.2V, compared to about 1300 lumens from the H3 and H1
bulbs. Considering the original wiring's typical
voltage drop, that puts the luminous output of the upgrade
at roughly 2.5X the original setup. And the Ducati
plastic reflector and lens designs produce a terrible
pattern to boot.
Paul Geller and Ducati Designs. Some may question
the business model of designing and manufacturing a
headlight replacement for a relatively niche model;
let's face it, Ducati doesn't sell 80,000 ST's per year,
so you're probably not going to retire on the headlight
But Paul decided that he had
a better idea, and unlike most of us, he acted on
it. The result is a beautifully designed and
executed lighting replacement for ST owners that
dramatically improves both the quality and output of the
ST's headlights and makes the bike look better and a bit
meaner and more modern.
The price may be seem a
bit high, but the difference in output and the quality
of the product seems worth it the first time you throw
the switch. You probably spent as much on that
carbon-fiber exhaust, and all that does is make more
The Ducati Designs ST headlight replacement
is available painted in your choice of factory
colors. The paint on our example perfectly matched
the silver metallic color of the test ST2. By the
way, the headlight unit is also available in right hand
drive versions for the U.K. and other
all is said and done, replacing the stock ST headlight
isn't technically difficult. By far the hardest
part is removing and then replacing the tightly fitting
Ducati fairing. It's my understanding that more
than one X-rated invective has been tossed Ducati's way during an ST fairing removal, and I can see why.
The Duc you see in these photos was generously served up
as a test mule by Bob S. of the Mid-Atlantic
Ducati Owners club, and as a first-time ST fairing
stripper, I have to say that if I owned one, I'd be in
the market for a Dzus fastener replacement kit asap.
Ducati Designs works with
several Ducati dealers in the U.S.A. who sell and install the light,
and any Ducati dealer should be able to install one for
you with no problem.
But if you're handy with a
wrench, and you have the patience, Ducati Designs'
website has a downloadable
.pdf file with detailed instructions to step you
through the installation process. The document
includes photos, and Paul is in the process of
developing a DVD-based video to help make the job even
It's a good idea to
carefully read the instructions and walk yourself
through the entire process before starting. I became a
little confused during certain steps and had to re-read
the instructions several times to understand what came
next, but that may be because I'm not that familiar with the
way the ST is put together.
The basic idea is to
remove the upper fairing and the right side fairing;
install a new and high-quality wiring harness that goes
from the battery to power the new light assembly; and
remove the old light and install the new one.
There's a bit of drilling involved to attach the two
relays that power the new light, and a couple of
electrical connections to be made, and that's about
instructions have been developed and improved over time,
and they include several tips from owners. The
only suggestions we could add are that we think it's
easier to loosen all the wiring for the stock headlight
and do everything up to the point of physical removal of
the headlight and the instrument cluster before
disconnecting the headlight wiring from the bulbs and
the speedometer cable.
would also emphasize that the wiring harness should be
fed in from the left side of the bike, behind the
headstock, before it's connected to the battery.
This is mentioned in the instructions, but somehow I
missed it. It's much easier to feed in the battery
end of the wiring harness from the left than it is to
try and push the majority of the harness up through the
frame from the right.
It would be nice to have a few more photos detailing the
exact placement of the harness, because if you haven't
done it before it's a bit of a guessing game to
understand which way to lay it so that it won't
interfere with the forks when the bike is turned.
But this is a minor quibble...
We probably got a bit
carried away by using several more
cable ties than were supplied in the kit
to make sure everything was tied down nice and snug,
although the four that were supplied are enough if used
Other than that, we
removed the upper fairing "ears" and put them
in a vise to drill them for the supplied pair of relays. I used a 3/16" bit
as directed to drill the holes, and then used a
3/8" to just touch the edges of the hole for a
quick deburring. This worked well, and most any
size drill bigger than 3/16" can be used to do this
if you don't have a deburring tool.
four blue Posi-Lock connectors worked great in
this application. The wires are pulled
forward in this photo for identification.
NOTE: This ST has modified wiring to accommodate a
pair of PIAA auxiliary lights, so your wiring will
look different. See the wBW
review of Posi-Lock connectors for more
We also did not use the 3M
Scotchlok (.pdf file) connectors which were supplied in the kit
to connect the original bulb leads to the new relays. I really like using Posi-Lock
connectors for this type of electrical work, because they're easy
to use and provide a very secure connection, and they're
also removable, re-usable, and easy to splice in more
wires if you're adding additional electrical accessories
to the bike, which is a real
This makes it easy to
connect all of the wiring first to
make sure everything works correctly and to rearrange the
wiring if necessary before snugging everything up.
Although the 3M Scotchlok connectors are high quality
devices, as are most of the products that 3M
manufactures, I still like to be able to prototype
everything first and the crimp connectors are
Also, the Posi-Lock connectors make it much easier to
remove and replace the headlight if you decide to sell
your ST. Note
also that each of the 3M Scotchlok connectors can
connect two pairs of wires, so if you use them, you'll
have an extra pair of holes that can be used to tap into
the power and ground in case you're adding another
device to the bike.
Oh, and one more thing:
don't forget to install the 20-amp fuse that's supplied
in the kit before you test your new lights! I wore
some hair out after scratching my head trying to figure
out why nothing worked, until I discovered I had
forgotten to install the fuse!
I only got to do some of the wrenching; Bob gets to ride
the ST! Here are Bob's comments regarding his new
The Ducati ST series has a stock headlight system that
obviously is a descendant of British royalty; that of Sir
Lucas, Prince of Darkness. Comparing the same bulb from
the stock Ducati lens assembly in another motorcycle
revealed that the Ducati lens is part of the problem, even
after the improvement that an internal washing provided.
If you own a Ducati, realize that the stock gauge of the
wires allow virtually no tolerance for replacing the bulbs
with higher wattage bulbs. You may get away with
installing higher-output bulbs for a while, but the higher
amperage can create enough heat to almost certainly melt
the stock reflector, and ultimately destroy the
wire insulation. Replacement of the stock Ducati wiring
with a heavier gauge demonstrated that the thin stock
wires had enough built-in resistance to also reduce the
amount of light produced by the headlights.
The Ducati Designs
headlight assembly consists of a Hella reflector
and lens paired in a custom fiberglass, steel and aluminum shell
that is designed to replace the entire headlight assembly
of a Ducati ST-series motorcycle. The Ducati Designs
headlight uses standard H9 bulbs that are hands-down brighter than
stock, and replacements are relatively easy to obtain.
Ducati Designs assembly came with a
high-quality pre-manufactured wire harness assembly, in a
heat-shrink package that included the relays. It is easy
to appreciate this nicely integrated package for anybody
who has tried to properly put a harness together with the
correct wire sizes, hardware, and relays.
instructions are detailed and the installation is
straightforward. Any problems that arise are
mostly due to the removal of the Ducati's tight fairing.
The Ducati Designs wiring harness is a bit long,
but that could be accommodated. I was impressed by the
paint match and that the Ducati logo is a subtle touch.
This was not planned to be a comparison test, but it
worked out that way (see below for before/after
photos!). The test bike, a '99 ST2 arrived with
replacement wiring of a heavier gauge for the stock lights
and an auxiliary set of first-rate PIAA Model 004XT
"Ultra-White" lamps that were mounted at the
base of each mirror. The ultra-white PIAA lamps blew away the
stock Ducati high-beam.
More importantly, the wide
distance between the extra lights increased conspicuity
for oncoming cars, much like the 3-light set-up on many
Harleys. A flash of the high beam with the extra lights
was enough to get the attention of anybody who was
semi-conscious. In addition to the increased range, extra
lights provided a wider field of light that provided not
only conspicuity for cars, but also illuminated the eyes
of road-side deer. However, the two lights in the
Ducati Designs assembly provided nearly all of this, plus gave
substantial additional distance.
The stock Ducati low-beam, even with heavier wiring,
was no match for the low-beam in the Ducati Designs
headlight assembly. To remain legal, the Ducati Designs
low-beam is still a single bulb that is not too offensive
and it can get lost in day-time reflections and traffic.
However, the light is a crisper white at night than the
stock light, providing better forward illumination and
some improvement to the sides.
The improvement to the low-beam seems insignificant
when you hit the high-beam switch! Your world changes!
Momma-Mia! The Ducati Designs combination of the Hella
assemblies with the intensity of the H9 bulb creates a
tunnel of light on dark country roads. Imagine having
portable streetlights that run in front of the bike and
you'll get the idea. It is
hard to imagine traveling fast enough at any reasonable
speed to go beyond the tunnel of light. Plus, the
high-beam in daylight is intense enough to stand out from
background traffic and grab attention from most, not all,
cage drivers who want to pull into your path.
If you really want to go
all-out, the PIAA and Ducati Designs lights are complimentary.
The PIAAs give better peripheral vision at night and are a
positive addition if deer are a concern or you want max
conspicuity. However, any set of lights beat a single
light for increasing your conspicuity to cars who are in
front of you. What the Ducati Design light assembly gives
is an increase in conspicuity in the day-time and then it
provides a tunnel of light at night that would be hard to
outpace. Isn't that what you want?
Ducati headlight, low beam.
Designs upgrade, low beam.
Ducati headlight, high beam. Pretty lame!
Designs upgrade, high beam.
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Designs Ducati ST2 -ST4 Headlight Upgrade
Retail Price: $550.00
yellow, blue, silver, gray to match colors of Ducati ST2
or ST4 for all models.
in: U.S.A. Also available in right
hand drive version (U.K.)
Comments: High-quality, good-looking
lighting replacement for the Ducati ST2 or ST4.
Provides much better lighting than stock, see
comparison photos below.
Lighting Page | Owner
"C.D." writes: "It was
great to finally read what every Ducati Designs customer
already knows... These lights rock! I wanted to use
aftermarket lights like the PIAA system but hated the
way they looked, hey it's a Ducati. After having my
local shop install the Ducati Designs light system I can
finally see at night. Paul did a super job on the whole
package and should get a standing ovation. They really
do make a significant difference, and the cost isn't
much more than a high quality bolt on package. I'm
always asked about them and gladly refer them to the
website. Oh BTW Paul also offers a nice / clean GPS
mounting system for the ST's." C.D. 2003 ST4s
ABS Thanks for sending your comments,