Part 4: The Clearwater LED Brake/Tail Light and Conclusion
This Clearwater LED brake light prototype is the latest LED product that will be added to the CANopener system architecture.
Thus, the CANopener now provides management of front and rear-facing auxiliary lights.
Unless otherwise programmed (see below), the auxiliary LED tail light is always on, with its output adjustable over ten steps.
This is similar to how the CANopener controls the auxiliary lights in the front of the bike.
When either the front or rear brake is activated, the LED brake light goes to 100% light output unless otherwise programmed.
All programmable flashing modes are deactivated below 5 MPH (8 km/h).
Tail and Brake Light Output
The tail and brake outputs can be adjusted individually as described below, but the first step is to initiate programming mode.
Press the turn signal control (TSC) button for one second, apply the front or rear brake and then hold the MFC to the right for two seconds and wait for the confirmation flashes from the LED module. Now either the tail or brake output can be adjusted as described below:
Tail Light Output Programming: With programming mode activated, release the brake lever or foot brake and use the MFC to increase or decrease output over ten steps to the desired setting.
Brake Light Output Programming: with programming mode activated, continue to hold the brake lever or foot brake and use the MFC to increase or decrease output over ten steps to the desired setting.
To initiate programming of the currently available modes, activate the front or rear brake five times in five seconds. The current or active mode is indicated by the appropriate number of flashes of the LED module:
Mode 1 (one flash): module is off, no tail or brake output
Mode 2 (two flashes): functions identically to the stock tail/brake light
Mode 3 (three flashes): California legal strobe with brake activation (4Hz flash), then steady output as long as the brake is held, and
Mode 4 (four flashes): speed sensitive mode with motorcycle speed and braking data used to modulate the flash rate.
For testing the system, both tail and brake output settings were varied to determine output, make comparisons with stock and other auxiliary tail/brake light systems and assess impact to following traffic.
In gathering input from other riders and drivers, it seems a safe and effective combination has tail light output set between one to three and brake output at no more than the median of five; anything more for brake output is excessive and could/would impact following traffic, or get you a ticket.
Everyone said that the maximum setting of 10 was far too bright for the jurisdictions we ride in. The test and road use settings are purely subjective of course, with the bottom line remaining safety and adherence to lighting regulations along with jurisdictional guidelines or laws.
But the value of and potential for this type of auxiliary rear-facing lighting, used safely and where legal, is well demonstrated with the prototype unit. Clearwater is working on more advanced features that should be released in subsequent firmware updates and we will have it all for you so stay tuned.
wBW Opinionator: Clearwater CANopener
Professional-grade components throughout.
Simple interface for monitoring CAN bus data.
Clever and super-effective solution in using the Multi-Function Controller for programming with absolutely no impact to onboard systems.
Lots of flexibility between functions and mode settings.
Logical inputs for programming.
Mind-blowing light output, especially for conspicuity (alert/warning) modes.
Everything needed for installation is supplied.
Excellent instructions and resources available.
Visibility and Conspicuity significantly enhanced yields a safety and investment return.
Only works with Clearwater LED lights.
Programming features are more limited for bikes without the MFC installed.
Some complexity in functions and modes; may want to keep reference sheet handy.
Lens covers for the Erica LEDs are appreciated but quality mesh lens guards would be a better option for the investment.
The current strategy is to ship a model-specific CANopener with the Clearwater Lights LED kit when a customer orders a specific BMW kit. There are currently 38 different kit combinations of Glenda, Darla, Krista and Erica lights for various BMW models.
Light kits usually include bike-specific mounts for the forks, crash bar or other locations. Mounts may include CNC-machined fork clamps or crash bar mounts for bikes with or without the “WonderWheel” and many variations.
Existing Clearwater customers who already own a CAN bus equipped BMW motorcycle and have installed a Clearwater Lights LED set should contact the company for pricing for the CANopener only. Apparently there are something like 425 combinations of bike model and light type, which means that it may take a custom order for each combination.
Generally, the complete kit prices range as follows, depending on the BMW motorcycle model:
Glenda Light Kit $479.00 to $554.00.
Darla Light Kit $599.00 to $739.00.
Krista Light Kit $799.00 to $1,028.00.
Erica Light Kit $989.00 to $1,109.00.
It isn’t every day that one gets the opportunity to delve into what is arguably the most advanced LED auxiliary lighting management system on the market: the Clearwater Lights CANopener for newer BMW motorcycles.
Using the BMW Multi-Function Controller to quickly and efficiently adjust the output of one or two sets of Clearwater LEDs and the Clearwater LED rear brake/tail light module is a great feature. When combined with the ability to program and activate other functional modes using the turn signal control, Flash-to-Pass/High Beam switch; horn and hazard controls, it comes together to form a great system that works superbly.
Adding the Clearwater rear LED for tail and brake light augmentation complements the capabilities of the Clearwater LED lights in the front to form a true front-to-back lighting system for visibility and conspicuity.
Thus the CANopener system has applications across the entire motorcycle riding spectrum to make for effective and dynamic lighting management for all the right reasons.
Not that there wasn’t the odd hiccup during this longer-term evaluation, along with a fair bit of evolution involved in working through four iterative firmware releases. But as with any new product evaluation, being able to assess features and functions and exchange information with the manufacture was and is a positive.
And I will be blunt here: staying alive on the roads is becoming more of a challenge every day and while our requirements are not inclusive, we motorcyclists need every aide and tool we can muster to maintain a safety environment that might need to transition from passive to active in a heartbeat.
In having installed and used the CANopener system with the Clearwater lights on a daily basis to light the way ahead (and behind) and in also having used one or more of its active modes to avoid or reduce numerous road-use related situations, it has more than proven itself.
Last but not least: the jury might still be out regarding the merits of adding a programmable LED brake/tail light in the rear, but I support the move in adding this feature and expanding the capabilities, and potential, of an impressive system. The Clearwater CANopener system costs a lot, but it does a lot and it will do a lot more moving forward.