If you ride a motorcycle, you most likely know that car drivers often don’t notice you and your bike. This is a common occurrence which is hazardous to your safety and could result in very unpleasant situations. Fog lights are a way to make yourself seen when you are on the road. While not being legally required in the UK, they are a useful addition to your motorcycle’s equipment. Here you will find some information regarding the various options that are available for you to choose from.
Yellow or white
You can choose between yellow and white lights. Many vehicle owners, regardless if they have a car or a motorcycle, prefer the yellow (amber) lights. Yellow lights do have their advantages, especially in the winter when fog decreases visibility. Their dark yellow light is less dazzling than the white due to the so-called Rayleigh scattering. Colours such as yellow and red can penetrate the air more easily thanks to their long wavelengths, whereas the short-wave blue light components are more scattered. This is also the reason why the sky appears blue. The exact same effect occurs with the headlights in the fog. Yellow light particles are deflected less strongly and can more easily shine through a wall of fog, which in turn can increase visibility. Not least because of this, yellow headlights were compulsory in France until 1993.
Which motorbike headlight illuminates the road best in the dark? The German ADAC investigated this question in a test with older diffusing lens headlights, current free-form and Xenon headlights, and modern LED systems. The results were clear. According to the testers, the headlight system of the BMW K 1600 GTL represents “the current optimum”.
The combination of Xenon bulbs for the low beam and two H7 free-form headlights for the high beam scored very well in almost all criteria. Especially the ranges and the uniformity of the light beam impressed the experts. A specialty of the sophisticated dipped-beam of the touring machine is the continual focus of the light beam, which balances out the movements of the motorbike.
LED headlamp systems such as those in the BMW R 1200 GS, the Yamaha FJR 1300 AE and the Yamaha MT-09 score particularly well in terms of high beams. Their white, far-reaching light beams make riding at night much safer. The LED low beams of the two bikes create an intensely illuminated area directly in front of the machine. “Among the systems widely available on the market, the four individual free-form headlamps with H7 lamp, as installed on the old Honda VFR 800, prove to be fully competitive,” the testers stated. The ranges of low beam and high beam enabled safe driving in the dark. Only the amber light makes high-contrast vision more difficult compared to the LED system. Therefore, it is highly recommended to convert old models to the new LED headlights.
Installation – use caution
The installation is relatively simple – but you have to be careful because you are handling extremely high voltage. Laymen without electrical knowledge should stay away from such tinkering. The power consumption of Xenon technology is still lower than that of halogen technology; only about five watts for the electronics of control and regulation have to be added to the wattage (25/35 W). However, the luminous efficiency is double to triple that of halogen light (3200 lumens with 35-watt xenon). You can choose the light colour when you pick out the bulb. You have the option of a wide spectrum between cold (blue) light or light similar to daylight (6000 Kelvin).
This is what makes conversion kits, which are available for between £25-£80, so attractive although they usually use 35-watt Xenon bulbs. Note that the lamps and headlights must always be matched to each other. Currently, the Xenon light is available as an optional extra for just two models (BMW only) and even well-positioned outfitters such as Touratech or Wunderlich only offer Xenon lights as high beam headlights. This could change in the near future.
The future is bright
The magic words are: 25-watt Xenon. This technology has only just come onto the market for mid-range cars and recently this Xenon light has also been permitted as a low beam on motorbikes without expensive automatic “levelling”. It produces considerably more lumens than the standard halogen lamp – but a slightly smaller luminous efficacy – than the 35-watt xenon. This opens up new avenues for the product line as well as aftermarket sales.