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LED Tail Light Upgrade

Swapping out the tail light on the R100GS for an LED version eliminated having to replace bulbs a couple times a year and got me a brighter light to boot, so I was game for making the same upgrade on this R100RT. Unfortunately, GizmoLabs is no more, so I turned to Motorrad Elektrik and their Beacon II LED replacement.

Like the GizmoLab product, this one relies on individual LEDs on an encapsulated circuit board, sized to closely fit the contours of the ’79 – ’95 BMW street bikes. Red LEDs dot the back of the board, while a row of white LEDs provide license plate illumination on the other side.

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Running Lights on a /6

I originally wrote this piece some seven years ago in 1995. Finding that the last of my modified bulbs burned out one filament the other day, I had to make some more up, which gave me an opportunity to revisit the article and to make it more useable.

Note that most if not all states require that any taillight or running light on the rear of a vehicle be RED as per D.O.T. guidelines unless it is used to illuminate the license plate.

The idea is to increase visibility of a motorcycle by the addition of two permanently illuminated rear running lights. Added to the central red light this gives three rear facing lights, allowing car drivers to triangulate on three light sources rather than one, enhancing their depth perception and improving the biker’s safety

I had fitted Full Scale Designs’ running light kit to the front and rear of my K100LT. A nice installation on a not so nice motorcycle, now sold and unlamented. The installation described here is not as elegant as FSD’s but is equally effective. It has the merit of being much cheaper. You can also buy a ready made kit from www.run-n-lites.com for $30 plus a $50 core charge (as of August 2002). I cannot find a listing for FSD.

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HID Lights

One of the upgrades I made while rebuilding the R100GS after the wreck was to install a pair of High Intensity Discharge (HID) driving lamps. I don’t do a lot of riding at night, but when I do it’s usually out in the boondocks where there’s little traffic and lots of deer. More light makes sense in that situation, and with the recent availability of the HID light systems, and their low current draw, it didn’t take long to justify the purchase. I shopped around a bit before coming across MicaTech who sold both a pencil beam and a wider driving beam lamp. MicaTech is now under new ownership and no longer carries the lamps, but Farklemasters carries the pencil beam. These work so well I decided to use a pair of them on the R1200GS when it came time to upgrade the lighting on it. After you get over the price of the lamps themselves (about $300 each) the biggest challenge is where to mount the ballasts, and how to mount the lamps. The R100GS is no exception, as there’s already a lot going on under the fuel tank, what with dual ignition coils and the factory relays and regulators. As shown above, my solution to the ballast problem was to use the spot formerly occupied by the factory ignition coil, and substitute in its place an aluminum bracket upon which is mounted the two ballasts and a hand full of relays. The bracket picks up three brackets on the main spine of the frame, and uses a short boss to provide a standoff for the lower mounting point (that’s the circular feature in the middle of the photo below).

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Headlight modulators

Headlight modulators are, or can be controversial, with differing viewpoints & arguments for & against. Some find modulators annoying. I believe that is, perhaps not always, folks seeing OTHER folks’ modulators, not their own. Some are concerned about oncoming drivers fixating on one’s modulating headlight & aiming for them, this seems to come from the idea that a motorcyclist tends to ride to wherever they fixate on. Studies have shown that adding lights at the rear (& in some instances the sides) of motorcycles makes them more visible and recognized earlier. For the rear, the lights should be red & as differentiated as possible between Run & Brake. Bright clothing, greenish-yellowish helmets, etc. …all have been shown to reduce accidents. I see no one arguing about ‘fixating’ on THEM.

Whether or not to install a headlight modulator on YOUR bike, is a personal choice; the USA government has not made them mandatory. My comments in this article apply to the USA, as headlight modulators may not be legal in some other Countries.

There ARE reasons that motorcycles are specified, since 1978 in California, & specified in many other States, to automatically, upon ignition turn-on, to power headlights ON, without having to manually turn the headlight(s) on. State law & Federal law are not necessarily the same thing, but, typically, Federal law supersedes. In this instance, always on headlights after a certain year model does apply. There is also an argument about certain cars, such as late models, having constant-on headlights …the argument usually is negative, as motorcyclists want only themselves to have such lights, to differentiate between them and cars. That’s a decent argument, but tends to favor modulators in use during the daytime.

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Adding Running Lamp To Turn Signals

This article deals specifically with converting the two Airhead rear turn signals into running lamps, while retaining the original turn signal function. Considerable information is applicable to a FRONT turn signal lamps conversion, if desired.

This article does not deal directly with conversions to the Classic K-bikes, such as the K1, K75, K100, K1100. MUCH of what is in this article on the physical modifications ARE applicable to K bikes, Oilheads, ETC. The K-bikes have a bulb-monitoring relay; which complicates matters, & information on modifying them is in item #2 in  http://bmwmotorcycletech.info/K-hints.htm.

Adding running lamp functions to the rear (and/or front) MAY add to safety. You get more lights, & you have two lights that are illuminated in case your one rear stock running lamp burns out; many bikes have only ONE rear running light & if it fails you might be INVISIBLE to cars coming up towards your rear; which is one of the arguments FOR this conversion. My primary argument against this conversion is that the turn function is, or can be, less noticeable to car drivers ….due to the running lamp function in the same lamp, same housing (could be separate lamps on fronts, some bikes). You must decide for yourself. Proper installation with proper color of lens & proper lamp bulb may negate such arguments.

The conversion may not be legal in some States,  ….if the lens is not re-colored to be RED (or the lamp colored red). Careful selection of bulb & possibly inclusion of reflective aluminum foil may improve brightness.

There are potential problems if not done well, the turn signals might then not be as distinctly different from the running lamp function. Properly done they certainly CAN be very distinctly different. Several ways to go about it, including a small unpainted or no red insert area, in the middle of the lens, or, a band across the center. One can find red bulbs plus use aluminum foil as a reflector, if desirable. The reflectors & lenses of the stock bike are OPTIMIZED for incandescent lamps, NOT LED types. I do NOT recommend LED lamps (of any type I have so far seen) for purposes of this article although wide angle LED lamp structures may now be available. RED LENSES have been available at times, almost a perfect direct replacement for your amber ones; you need only to provide a rubber gasket (easy and only if you wish to), and in a few instances about a minute of filing, depending on if plastic or metal case. The ones I have seen have an even better than stock amber lens light diffusion/reflection in the lens. Check such as Ebay. The ones I saw have number K22750 and K32724 on the plastic cover & were made by CoolBeam MTP; they are marked as SAE & DOT approved. These are hard to find in the USA. I have a set on my bike. If you find a source, PLEASE let me know so I can publish it here.

The conversions in this article are for incandescent lamps. You are free to experiment with plug-in LED lamps, but I have not done much experimentation so far.

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Accessing the Headlight Bucket

The fairing-equipped Airheads began with the 1977 R100RS. The headlight bucket is basically the same as in the unfaired models (except for later models not having fuses, etc., in the bucket). The bucket is not part of the fairing. On the RS and RT the bucket is located behind the front-most protective glass that is part of a ‘tunnel’ assembly with a large protective rubber molding with an outer glass, etc., whose design is such that it offers a relatively smooth front surface to oncoming wind, etc. The expensive outer glass has some orange lines on it. There is no purpose to those lines (stories abound, all wrong) except to draw the eye away from the quite large front glass. While the orange lines were purposely installed for that stylish effect, the headlight/bucket was quite far inwards from the front of the fairing, and thus the outer fairing tunnel glass needed to be of substantial size to prevent narrowing of the headlight beam. There is no aiming or other purpose to the orange lines.

Don’t do any disassembly of the fairing beyond what is noted below, unless you have a good reason to do so!

1. Fold back, barely (just a small amount), one corner at a time, each corner of the rubberized material surrounding the $$$ glass in the fairing. That will just barely expose a phillips screw at each corner.    

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Recognition & Safety

Conspicuity …Recognition …Safety ….

This article deals primarily with improving recognition and speed of recognition…hopefully leading to action by drivers of ONCOMING vehicles (whether from your front, rear, or sides), but also covers how YOU see other vehicles.

Many safety agencies …and studies, …have proven that safety is enhanced for motorcyclists having modulated headlights …as the pulsing light attracts attention, particularly important to a motorcyclist, who wants, or should want, an oncoming driver to notice & recognize that a motorcycle is there. This has been shown to reduce left-turn accidents, & in general, reduce most biking accidents.

Studies have also proven that bright clothing and certain colors of helmets help reduce accidents considerably.

State and Federal Governments testing and reports is NOT extensive for motorcycles, nor is private/commercial testing/reports.  While many effects do cross-over between carts and trucks and motorcycles, the information is spotty about specifics for motorcyclists.  Further, there is a considerable amount of wrong ‘information’ in common use or understanding. Especially notable is the paucity of knowledgeable effects of movement and head positioning of drivers/riders of vehicles on recognition times; although there are other things, including lighting, colors, etc….and these are vast subjects.  Many of the technical details are in this article:  http://bmwmotorcycletech.info/hdlite.htm
The information in that article is extensive.   I HIGHLY suggest you stop here, and read that ENTIRE article, before proceeding!

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Headlamp Cutout Switch

This is simple and self-evident to most anybody with a soldering iron but here we go….

First a primer on headlamps. Rated at 55 watts, an H4 lowbeam headlamp consumes around 55 watts, I guess, which is something like 4-5 amps. With a 240 watt alternator and with barely any charge below 2500 rpm, goofing around in the city, prior to cranking on a cold morning, or when your electric system is failing, it would be good to be able to switch off the lamp. Moreover, the parking lamp is on all the time and can make-do for a substantial part of the safety and regulatory issues, especially in the daytime. Finally, if you need some lamp action, you can always flick on the highbeam the two habitual ways which are unaffected by this mod.

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