Not long after purchasing the Honda ST1300 I upgraded the standard halogen H4 and added some cheap LED driving lights mounted under the mirrors. This was better … but not a dramatic improvement. With a couple of big rides coming up including a lot of night riding and road conditions deteriorating with all the rain we’ve had; better lights would be a great investment.
Often people concentrate on high beam, but I really want to also improve the low beam as it’s unsettling not having good light coverage on country roads at night when there is a lot of traffic around and you’re stuck on low beam.
LED Headlight Globes
Previously I upgraded the halogen globes, the next step is to upgrade to LED replacements but there are so many options from cheap knockoffs to expensive. My main concern with this type of an upgrade is how well the standard reflectors would handle the increased amount of light provided by LED globes.
A quick chat to Lex at ProVision directed me to a set of 10,000 lumen Extreme Plus G3 H4 replacement globes. The globes fitted straight in and provided fantastic amount of light straight out of the box and made riding at night so much better. While the globes have an excellent low beam cut-off, they are very bright lights with a noticeable amount of light being reflected above the cut-offs which I am concerned about for other road users, even with the headlights adjusted much lower.
A design feature of many bike’s headlight reflectors is throwing light sideway to improve cornering vision at night, this is a great feature but with all the added brightness of the LED globes I now find I am lighting up cars and trucks as you passed them. While I wasn’t flashed by other motorists, I am conscious that these lights are very bright. My concern is that when riding two-up loaded I generally lower the headlights further to account for the added weight … however I don’t have much further adjustment to lower than any further.
The 10,000 lumen high beam has totally transformed the high beams and provide great shape and coverage. The improvement is to the point that if you didn’t do a lot of night riding you would be happy with just this upgrade.
The quality of these globes are great … and I love the brightness of these globes. However, I think the low beam is too bright for this application. Ideally it would be better to have a globe with a lower output low beam and higher lumens for high beam … much like many H4 globes. At this stage I will see how these go but I may look at going back to a LED globe with lower output as I really don’t like being ‘that guy‘ with obnoxiously bright headlights.
LED Driving Lights
My current driving lights are only a cheap set of 35 watt 5 inch driving lights and provide some extra general lighting and while they were labelled as ‘spot’ pattern they were hardly spots.
I wanted to replace the current driving lights with higher quality driving lights, which have a much better light pattern and a longer throw. But there are so many choices out there from a pair of Stedi C4 for $180 to $1,700 for a pair of Clearwater Dixis and everything in between. I actually had my eye on a set of Denali D4 driving lights as they seemed to have a nice driving pattern with both spot and driving pattern in the one light and all the reviews were very favourable. However, between identifying them and getting my finances organised they jumped in price by over $200 a pair putting them out of reach.
Further discussions with the guys at ProVision I ended up purchasing a set of Black Diamond 5 inch 80 watt driving lights. Initially I was concerned that they would be too heavy for my brackets but they were a bit lighter than the specs suggested which was good. It was such an easy install as it was just a swap over of the existing lights and they plugged straight into the previous driving light’s wiring harness.
First impression was they put out a lot of light … but what are they like out on the road.?
After such a dramatic improvement from upgrading the headlight globes to the LED globes the driving lights don’t provide that same wow factor of lighting the world up, rather they provide more fill down the road to supplement the bike’s high beam. They do a great job for the short and medium distances of lighting up the verges to show up any wildlife. On the recent trip north going across the Waterfall Way at night they very effectively lit up all the Kangaroos off to both sides of the road which wouldn’t have been as visible with only the high beam. My main gripe would be that they don’t have quite the punch that I had hoped for. The lux pattern (see below) suggests a nice amount of light out in front but they felt to drop off quicker than indicated.
While these are not cheap lights (retailing for about $380 pair), they are considerable cheaper than the next bracket of lighting that start at more than double this price. The lights in this higher category have much more refined optics which you are certainly paying for.
For a real word run – here is a ride on a back road out of town … complete with roos. The DJI Osmo doesn’t do a great job at night-time but it gives an idea of the difference.
Conclusion – The overall improvement is great. The upgraded headlight globes are awesome, but I think they are a bit too bright on low beam and I said previously I will see how they go and may look at swapping them out for something not quite as bright down the track. As for the driving lights, while it would have been nice to have more light straight down the road and more distance, the overall package has come up really good and the driving lights complement the upgraded headlights nicely filling in the gaps and providing more coverage on the verges all the way down the road.