If you were a fan of the TV show “The X-Files,” you must have wondered, “Can’t the FBI afford real flashlights?” Every time agents Mulder and Scully entered a dark room where undoubtedly existential terror lurked in a corner, they held lights that cast a laser-like beam, illuminating about a 6-inch circle on the far wall. Hmm, that’s not much different than riding a motorcycle at night.Of course, if the show were still on the air, Mulder would be packing a modern LED flashlight that blasted an 8-foot hole in the dark so that the terrors could be shot dead before they leaped—a big problem for the script writers, but so much more satisfying for the person entering the room. Similarly, Clearwater Lights has harnessed LEDs in its latest motorcycle riding lights to deliver lighting levels that were unimaginable just a few years ago.LEDs—Light Emitting Diodes—are solid-state lighting devices that are quickly taking over from other means of producing light, and for a very simple reason: They’re damned efficient. A conventional halogen incandescent bulb, producing light by heating a filament until it glows, takes about a watt to produce 15 lumens of light. The best production LEDs will take that same watt and produce over 100 lumens—almost seven times more light.
Perhaps the only drawbacks of LEDs compared to incandescents are that they’re still expensive, and that they have almost no infrared component in the light they put out. Unlike our inefficient halogens, which cool themselves by radiating heat out the front (thus serving as heat lamps), LEDs retain their wasted heat in the LED chip itself, which must be well heat-sinked to keep from frying.
Effective heat-sinking with expensive metal-cored circuit boards is one thing that separates Clearwater Lights from some of the Chinese LED riding lights you can find on eBay. The other difference is their high-quality aluminum housings, brackets and other components, as well as the sophisticated control system.
We fitted a Buell Ulysses with Clearwater’s Glenda and Krista lighting kits, the first a pair of tiny 22mm, 12-watt fog lights intended to mount on lower fork legs, the second a pair of 95mm, 36-watt night destroyers that put out a high-beam-like broad pattern. While the kits are sold separately, the wiring harness that comes with the big Kristas is provisioned to take a pair of Glendas, as well, eliminating control duplication. It took about 4 hours at a relaxed pace to install both sets—not counting the day spent making a light bar for the Ulysses, a part no longer available through the aftermarket for this orphaned motorcycle.
The best feature of the lights is the rheostat that controls light output through pulse-width modulation and the override for that when the high beam is switched on. The idea is to dial the light output down to a level where drivers of oncoming cars aren’t annoyed, and then having full power available with a flip of the high-beam switch. The little Glendas produce a broad pattern that almost overly lights the roadway immediately in front of the bike; they’re most effective for making your motorcycle more conspicuous than anything else. But the big Kristas throw beams down the road that will light up road signs and animal eyes a half-mile or more away. Even at the lowest setting, the Kristas shine brightly enough to mildly annoy oncoming drivers, though not enough to elicit countering flashing high-beams.
If you were to install only one pair of Clearwater lights, the Kristas are the clear choice. On dark, isolated country roads, with deer lurking behind every bush, the broad and bright illumination they produce could be a literal life-saver.
2546 Mercantile Dr. #B
Rancho Cordova, CA 95742
Price…$475 for Glenda
Price…$649 for Krista
- Bright, bright, bright
- High-quality, expensive look
- Complete kit with comprehensive supplies and instructions
- Kristas are so bright as to be not legal, if you care about such things
- Expensive look and prices
- Krista “universal kit” may require some fabrication for oddball bikes