Author Topic: Lighting Upgrades  (Read 9221 times)

Offline elvin315

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Lighting Upgrades
« on: May 17, 2011, 07:08:37 pm »
Fighter Jets use radar to penetrate rain, fog and the dark. It helps the pilot see his target and gets him and his plane home safe. To give the Concours radar we need superior lighting. It'll extend our field of vision, and expose night hazards. The sooner you see something the sooner you can react to it. Great lighting announces our presence to cars and trucks approaching us and those we overtake.

As she comes from the factory Connie's headlight is adequate but not great. We can change that. First we start with the bulb. Save your money and leave those "Blue Xenon" bulbs on the shelf. They are purely cosmetic and don't offer any improvement over stock halogen bulbs. They are mimicking the blue tinge of High Intensity Discharge lights (HID) and give the illusion of being brighter. In fact they actually produce less usable light for the driver and more glare to oncoming traffic. Read these articles for the straight poop on Blue headlights.

Murph's Kits sells the Phillips V+ bulb as a replacement for the original headlight bulb. These are non-blue bulbs with higher light output for the same power consumption. Brighter for the same power? I have one and it seems to work but don't ask me how. I imagine that using it with one of the headlight harnesses above will increase its performance even further.

Then there are higher wattage bulbs. They draw more current to make more light but at a price. A higher wattage bulb will draw that increased power through the same socket, wires, and relays designed for much less. The way to get the best performance from your headlamp (stock or high watt) is using higher gauge wire to create a separate circuit directly connected to the battery. Murph's has a headlight wiring harness kit made specifically for the Concours. The Electrical Connection harness is a universal kit. If you don't want the new wiring at least install a bakelite socket that will not melt. Even a stock bulb can melt its socket when the contacts are corroded or dirty. One is available from NAPA (LS6235). Use it with dielectric grease to insure a good clean connection. Now having explained the Highrt Wattage Bulb option I don't recomend it. Any headlight bulbs higher than 55 watts will drain your battery at low revs, as in stop & go traffic, or when you add goodies like extra brakelights, electric clothing, radios, hot grips, etc. The alternator's output is about 400 watts. The Connie uses roughly 200 watts to run its systems leaving the rest for your accessories. Get large lights and let the big reflector do the work instead of your alternator. Install two 55 watt aux lights and add a heated jacket liner and you can run your battery down at low RPMs. You can prevent that by replacing the Concours' alternator with one from the ZZR1200 for an extra 200 watts. I also recommend a voltmeter to monitor your battery's charging.

OK, now you have an improved headlight but you still only have one bulb to project that light. It's brighter but your lens and reflector are a limiting factor. The single lens has to produce both low and high beams. Each beam is a compromise. You may have more powerful beams but still concentrated in the same patterns as before. Now there's the Dual Headlight kit from Murph's Kits. Two projector lights each with a specific pattern for high and low beams. Both patterns are much bigger than stock. Two "heads" are better than one. (rimshot)

Well what about specialized auxiliary lighting? They generally come in three flavors: Fog, Driving, and Pencil. A fog light projects a wide oval shaped pattern across the road with a slight extension forward. They should be mounted lower than the headlight, and not parallel with your line of sight, to prevent the light from reflecting off the Fog & Rain. Fog lights are meant for foul weather use only. You can make a nice fog light bar yourself using metal tubing.

I prefer driving lights over fog lights. To me they are more useful. After all, fog and rain are occasional nuisances. It gets dark every night and that's when the critters, big and small, come out. Driving Lights extend the pattern further ahead of the bike as well as widening the beam a little. They should be mounted level with the headlight or higher, and parallel with your line of sight. Driving lights on Murph's mirror mounts are another option. Mini-Projector type lights are aerodynamically superior but the small reflectors limit the beam. The bigger the reflector the more light projected. Think of a flashlight versus a lantern.

The third choice is pencil beams. They can theoretically illuminate objects a mile or so ahead of your vehicle if the road is long and flat enough but the light pattern is very narrow and doesn't extend much beyond the road's shoulders. They're useless in turns, and tend to promote tunnel vision. Besides where, other than the Bonneville Salt Flats can you use them?

Mounting a Driving Light too low, or a Fog Light too high, negates the benefits of those lights. Driving lights have many different cutoff patterns depending on how they're designed to be used. Wide, narrow, projector; no upper cutoff, sharp upper cutoff. Their lenses and reflectors are aren't optimized to operate 12 inches off the road surface and the beams will be blocked by dips and rises in the road surface. Fog lamps are designed to be mounted low, and have a very sharp upper cutoff, so that the beam projects under the fog to illuminate the road. What about the under Headlight installation? At first I had a single fog light under the headlight. I changed it quickly. The light got lost within the headlight's beam and wasn't very useful. Plus there's the chance of the lights hitting the fender. Mine did before I changed the fork springs. I noticed marks on the top of the fender. Off it came. Of course many prefer the under headlight installation. It just didn't work for me. Just my opinion.

Lights mounted on the fairing sides make you more conspicuous to the brain dead left turning cages. Three lights coming at you are kinda hard to miss. Hopefully. I tried Saeng Nightcutters mounted where the side reflectors normally go but the fairing blocks a good portion of the available light and reflects it into the mirrors and out to the sides. Then I tipped the bike over and the right side lamp got rushed. I thought about replacing it but I really needed more light focused straight ahead to spot deer and other roadkill on the hoof before I plow into them.

That's when I upgraded to Larry Buck's light bar and some big ol' PIAA 520 SMR driving lights. The Lightbar places the Driving Lights at the same height and on the same plane as the headlight. No reflections. I recommend lights with 4 to 6 inch reflectors. Better to have the reflectors pump out the light than high watt bulbs that run down the battery. Yes, they look awkward on a faired bike and add aero drag but they do the job better than any auxiliary lights I've ever tried, car or bike. They cut a path through the darkness almost half a mile ahead of me and twenty feet to each side. Once you use big lights you'll never go back to the minnies.

Buck Sport Touring has a product that gives you another lighting option and conserves precious generator output. The Watt Saver Kit shuts off the headlight when the auxiliary lights are used in the daytime, thus saving 55 watts (more, if you have a higher wattage bulb). The use of the Concours' low beam, with properly aimed Hella FF-200 or similar high quality driving lights adds little to the overall lighting of the road or to the sides. These lights are equivalent to the headlights on many automobiles. When you are not using the driving lights, the low beam is available as normal. The use of the high beam circuit is not affected. This kit DOES NOT control the high beam circuit when the driving lights are on or off, only the low beam circuit.

High Intensity Discharge lights (HID) are the next step. I have them on my car and the improvement over Halogen is extraordinary. Bram Frank has them on his bike and swears by them. These are true HID lights not the "blue wannabes." They use 35watts of power but deliver the light of conventional halogen lights consuming 4 times as much. They are appearing on more and more Connies everyday.

While not made specifically for the Concours, LED headlights could be fashioned or LED auxiliary ;ights mounted.

Below are samples of what I've been rambling about:

As far as installation ideas and tips this site may help:

« Last Edit: August 27, 2014, 01:27:56 am by elvin315 »