Motorcycle LED Lights
HeavyCycles LED Brake Light
by Rick K. for webBikeWorld.com
| Owner Comments (Below)
LED lights have improved dramatically
over the last year or so, and LED retrofits are becoming
very popular for motorcycle brake lights, tail lights, turn signals
and courtesy lights.
There are a couple of good
reasons for this: LEDs are unaffected by the
vibrations that are prevalent in a bike's nether regions where
brake lights and tail lights ply their trade.
LEDs also draw much less
current than incandescent bulbs, and high-quality LEDs can
provide light that is both brighter and more
visible than most bulbs.
The stock brake and tail light housing
shown here has been packed with LEDs, and it imparts a
profoundly brighter and "redder" looking
light than the wimpy 1156 bulb, a 25 Watt combination brake/tail light
that lived there for nigh on 20 years.
The current draw of the stock bulbs was
about 600 milliamps for the tail light and 2.7 amps when the brake
was fired up. This LED replacement draws
only 185 milliamps for the tail light (running light) and
1.78 amps when everything is fully ignited. And the
LED does this with almost no measurable heat.
Note that not all LEDs will
perform as well as these. There are still many LED replacement lights
that are poor substitutes for their incandescent cousins,
with wimpy output and a very narrow "cone of
visibility". So don't compare the $4.99
specials in Wal-Mart with these high-quality, next-generation LEDs. Cheap or poorly
designed LEDs may end up giving you much less
light than the stock bulb.
It's important to
choose carefully when selecting an LED light for a
motorcycle application, or you may end up getting what
you pay for (for more information on articles about
motorcycle lighting and LED replacement bulbs, see the wBW
Lighting page). A custom fitted LED replacement,
using top-quality LED lights, can make a big difference in
both functionality and appearance.
You've probably seen some
cool-looking custom lights on a show bike. But there are several benefits
for custom fitting LEDs to a bike's stock reflector housing
rather than using "add-ons" stuck to the back of
the bike. If your motorcycle is a vintage, antique or collectible
model, it may
be important to keep the appearance of the bike as close
as possible to original.
older motorcycles' brake lights, turn signals and tail
lights offer very poor performance in today's mondo
traffic, so LEDs offer a nice way to provide modern lighting capabilities for the road, while
maintaining an original appearance for show.
example, how about a nice LED
replacement brake light for a 1966 R69S, whose stock
bulb is almost invisible in modern traffic? You
probably wouldn't want to stick some
double-sided tape LEDs on such a beautiful classic, but you can greatly improve
its brake light output with custom fitted LEDs, and no one will
notice (except the traffic behind you!).
specializes in designing and manufacturing custom LED motorcycle lights.
HeavyCycles can design and manufacture almost any type of
custom light to your specifications. The HeavyCycles
website has some really neat photos showing examples of their
The standard BMW Airhead housing shown
here is fairly typical of a stock motorcycle tail
light assembly originally designed for incandescent
light bulbs, and it was used to illustrate what can be
done with either a stock or custom housing.
This particular tail light
assembly is divided horizontally
into two sections: the top 2/3 house the brake light, and
the bottom 1/3 houses the tail light (running
light). The stock lighting system on this bike consisted of an 1156
single filament bulb (21W) in the upper portion of the housing
that only came on when the brakes were applied.
The lower 1/3 of the housing was home to a
puny 5W running light that stayed on as long as the bike's
ignition was on. The 5W bulb also served to light
the license plate through a clear opening in the bottom of
the tail light lens.
The R100RS's stock bulbs
didn't offer much visibility, but I didn't want to add my usual
assortment of blinking LED brake lights and other devices
to beef it up, yet I definitely wanted to improve the rear
brake/tail light visibility.
This bike looks like it just
came out of the showroom, and I believe it is definitely a
collectible (supposedly, BMW only brought 250 of the "Last
Edition" R100RS machines to the U.S.A. in 1984), so
I'm not interested in deviating too much from its original look.
filled the lower 1/3 of the housing with LEDs, which
function as the bike's always-on tail light and running light. They
also added an optional pair of LED running lights (one on
each side) to the top section of the brake light
housing. This increases the running light surface
area over the stock setup. They also custom-fit
four separate LEDs to point
downwards, for illumination of the license plate. When
the brakes are applied, all of the running lights are
dual function, so everything becomes brighter and the unlit LEDs fire up as well.
The difference is as
dramatic as it is noticeable (see
comparison photos below). The running lights are
brilliant and have a strong, saturated red color that
can't be captured in the photos on this page. When
the brakes are engaged, watch out behind! The entire
tail light assembly virtually explodes with brightness and
Very impressive! And the fast
engagement time of the LED lights is also noticeable; it
always seemed like it took forever for the stock 1156 bulb
to ramp up to full operating brightness, but the LEDs
simply pop in a matter of milliseconds. LEDs work
very well with brake light flashers or modulators also, as
the fast on/off cycle time really makes them pop.
the customized housing is a piece of cake. Unscrew
the two Phillips head screws that attach the stock tail
light lens, remove the lens and put it somewhere where
it won't get stepped on by accident. Motorcycle
red tail light lenses seem to be very fragile! On
the BMW, there were 3 wires feeding the lights.
The ground (brown on this bike), a hot wire for the
running light (green/red) and a hot wire for the brake
I cut the three wires, leaving about 75mm (1.5") hanging from the back of
the existing bulb sockets so there will be some wire to
use for splicing in case I want to re-install the original
housing. I then stripped a small length of
insulation from the end of each 16 gauge wire.
the wire into the Posi-Lock cap.
the cap onto the body of the Posi-Lock connector.
for the other end of the wire.
I use Posi-Lock
connectors for almost all of my motorcycle electrical
connections, and they work very nicely in this
They're easy to use, they provide a
solid connection, and they're re-usable, which helps if you need to prototype a wiring
harness or if you decide to go back to the stock
In this instance, I can easily unscrew the
connectors to access the tail light wiring if necessary.
To use the Posi-Lock
connectors, cut the wire, slide on a Posi-Lock cap, screw
the cap into the Posi-Lock barrel, repeat with the other
wire and you're done. For more information, see the wBW
of Posi-Lock connectors. The entire job of
installing the replacement light housing took me about 15
I'm really pleased with the
results. I also understand that this is a
significant expense just to customize a stock light
assembly, and I'm sure not everyone will want to do
But price is relative -- if
you're creating a custom bike and you want a really unique
look while also keeping the functionality of the light for
safety's sake, it's going to cost you a few bucks.
What you're getting here is a hand-made, custom fitted
product that's more like a "lighting system"
that's engineered to meet your design specifications.
All LEDs used in HeavyCycles
products meet SAE/ECE/JIS color requirements for
automotive applications. HeavyCycles uses the same
LED technology preferred by the top automobile
manufacturers. HeavyCycles' LEDs are claimed to be up to four times
brighter than off-the-shelf "super bright" LEDs,
and they have far superior viewing angle compared to other
LEDs at that brightness level -- 4 times the brightness at
6 times the viewing angle.
Viewing angle is very
important when using LEDs, and not many LED retailers will
discuss it. Unless the LEDs are top quality and
specially designed for these applications, the viewing
angle can be very limited, resulting in poor
All of the HeavyCycles
designs can be fitted and sealed into OEM or
light housings. They also use OEM connectors whenever
to help eliminate potential splice failures. By the
way, turn signals can also be
integrated into most taillights.
Some other FAQs
about LED lights: The approximate life of LEDs is around 100,000 hours
or about 6,000,000 miles of riding at 60MPH!
Here are some photos of the before/after results.
Note that it's very hard to take photographs of this type
of lighting to have a meaningful comparison. But
everyone who has seen these new lights remark that there is a big difference in the color and brightness of
LED running light
LED brake light
Product Review: Motorcycle LED Brake Light by HeavyCycles
Made in: U.S.A.
|List Price: Custom fit to your
specifications, so prices vary but can run $200-$300.
LED colors including red, yellow.
Note: For informational use only. All material and
photographs are Copyright © webWorld International, LLC - 2000-2011. All
rights reserved. See the webBikeWorld®
page. NOTE: Product specifications, features and details may
change or differ from our descriptions. Always check before purchasing. Read
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