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Clearwater CANopener Review

The Dispatch 1 on the left required a special access panel for configuration and settings. The Neutrino is much smaller and needs only a smartphone to change and access the settings.

Plug-and-Play Lighting Solution for BMW Motorcycles

Part 1: Introduction and Overview

The Clearwater CAN Opener connects Clearwater lights to the CAN bus system on BMW motorcycles.

This allows owners to control the lights with the bike’s existing switchgear with no additional modifications.

The CAN Opener switchgear monitors onboard signals and does not affect the BMW CAN bus codes.

The CAN Opener system includes a digital handlebar switch that allows the owner to control the function and brightness of the lights.

Instant full brightness is available using the high beam, horn or flash-to-pass buttons, and the half-second delay for horn and light control is eliminated.

MultiController-equipped BMW motorcycles with the GPS Prep Package get more features. The integrated rotary knob on these BMWs includes dimmer functions, while the bike’s light sensor allows automatic day and night brightness memory.

A speed-sensing brake light option is also available from Clearwater.

The Clearwater CAN Opener system is an excellent product combining proven LED light systems and some logical and clever engineering to enhance the BMW CAN bus and related digital harness components.

Despite its relative complexity and long list of features (which can take some time and practise to master and use smoothly), installing and getting the CAN Opener system ready for use is a very positive exercise that doesn’t take long at all, thanks to good documentation and a logical layout.

Full advantage of the CAN Opener system is available if the BMW Multi-Function Controller (aka “Wonder Wheel”) is present, but even without it, there isn’t much missing by using the handlebar rotary dimmer control and programming of other BMW controls.

The Clearwater CAN Opener system is a nice piece of leading-edge technology and when fitted on compatible BMW models, it just seems right, providing enhanced control through advanced accessory management, although it won’t be for everyone.

There are lots of pros and cons for the CAN Opener system and any rational discussion always seems to come back to one particular con; that is, total cost. Also related is the necessity of using the Clearwater LED lights. A careful weighing of all the factors is needed in determining if the CAN Opener system is a total solution worth the investment.

But after installing and using the complete system with the Clearwater Darla lights (review) and Clearwater Erica lights (review) and in weighing all the factors — particularly those related to safety — the pros outweigh the cons and the investment would be justified.

Dispatch 1 (on the left) vs. Neutrino size comparison. Many owners complained about the size of the Dispatch 1 and problems finding a spot under the seat to install it. That problem has been resolved with the Neutrino.


It isn’t every day that one gets the opportunity to delve into what is undoubtedly the most advanced LED auxiliary lighting management system on the market: the Clearwater Lights CAN Opener series (version 3 & 4) for the BMW R 1200 GSW, the R 1200 RTW and (version 4) for the K 1600 GT/GTL.

In developing and offering this obviously evolving product, Clearwater Lights revealed a deep commitment in bringing to market this plug-n-play solution for the new R1200 water-cooled and K1600 models.

The CANopener takes advantage of the CANbus system for efficient and effective management of Clearwater LED light systems. Optimum functionality is provided via the BMW Multi-Controller Wheel although most of its features are still available without the ‘wheel’ by use of the Clearwater dimmer control and programming of other switches. Designed to support two compatible (Clearwater) LED light systems, the products provided for this evaluation comprised a complete installation and functional configuration; a set of the premium and ultra-high-output Erica LEDs, along with what are likely the most versatile lights Clearwater markets – the Darla LEDs. Since the wBW evaluation back in August 2013 the original set of Darla lights have been mounted on a now departed R1200GS Rallye, the 2014 F800GS Adventure and for a short while the 2014 R1200GS LC, providing yeoman service for virtually any lighting task. wBW has covered the Clearwater LED product line extensively over the years but we had not evaluated a new CANopener-based system. I had installed an early version of the harness on the GSW towards the end of 2013 and was quite anxious to see if the potential demonstrated was being realized.

The Rowe Electronics PDM60 module on the left is a popular “hub”. Here it is compared to the Neutrino.

Features and Capabilities

What the Neutrino currently provides and does is impressive to say the least. The following sections detail the design, features and specifications of the system:

  • Configuration and control via smartphone app (iPhone supported, Android pending) 60A total capacity over six configurable circuits.
  • Can handle up to 20A on one circuit (Circuit 2).
  • Direct battery charger input.
  • Programmable self-resetting circuit breakers.
  • Watchdog timer for automatic reboot of the system (if lock-up occurs).
  • Additional advanced circuit-level and system level voltage monitoring (configurable).
  • External thermo-sensor (temperature) lead.
  • Heavy-duty construction using six layer circuit board with heavy copper layers.
  • Waterproof and shock resistant module (not yet IP rated).
  • Accessible and configurable screw terminals for power and ground plane connectivity.
  • USB lead facilitates a wired USB connection or insertion of the Bluetooth radio adapter.
  • USB connection supports power as well as data.
  • Dimensions: 50.80 mm x 76.20 mm x 22.86 mm (2 x 3 x 0.9 in).

Benefits of the “Neutrino Cockpit” Smartphone App

Connecting to the Neutrino hardware module or “hub” can be accomplished using either a direct wired USB connection or wirelessly using the proprietary Bluetooth radio dongle that fits into the Neutrino’s USB port. The Neutrino Cockpit smartphone app provides the user-friendly interface.

Just to be clear, the Neutrino eliminates the need for bulky relays and fuses for your accessories. All of those electrical issues are taken care of inside the Neutrino module. Here are some of the advantages of using the Neutrino and the smartphone app:

  • System and circuit parameters for all of your attached accessories are highly definable; i.e., you can name the individual circuits (e.g. “EXO Heated Vest”).
  • Set individual circuit breaker limits, a “dimmer” or “rheostat” capability by using the system’s Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) variable control or switched modes.
  • Retain settings memory by individual circuit.
  • Set voltage alarms that will stop an accessory from overloading.
  • Configure circuit shut-down (auto, timed, voltage-based) if settings are exceeded.
  • Change units of measurement (temp/distance/speed/time), switchable between English and Metric.
  • Monitor and display speed, time, vehicle-voltage, amperage by circuit and system total, heading, altitude and, temperature.
  • And as identified previously, leveraging of other smartphone features and capabilities provides integration with navigation or map apps, phone, music, texting and email.
The Dispatch 1 on the left required a special access panel for configuration and settings. The Neutrino is much smaller and needs only a smartphone to change and access the settings.

 Next: Part 2 Installation Examples