Avoiding headlight bulb failure - suggestions, pls?

Discussion in 'Motorbike Technical Discussion' started by Jose B. Ruivo, Feb 2, 2005.

  1. Hi All,

    When your motorcycle has only one libht bulb in the headlight, what
    can you do to avoid it's failure?

    I first thought of regularly changing the light bulb, before it
    failed, but them some people told that wouldn't make much diference,
    if I happened to have sudden voltage rise ...

    Any sugggestions appreciated, pls!

    Jose B. Ruivo
    Jose B. Ruivo, Feb 2, 2005
    1. Advertisements

  2. Jose B. Ruivo

    TaskMule Guest

    Ummm....carry a spare?
    TaskMule, Feb 2, 2005
    1. Advertisements

  3. If I'm traveling down a twisty road without light posts, a spare bulb
    in my luggage might not be of much help if suddenly the working bulb
    fails ...

    Jose B. Ruivo
    Jose B. Ruivo, Feb 2, 2005
  4. Nothing :)
    Would have to be a sustained large rise to actually burn the filament(s)
    I used to carry a spare bulb. However, I never had *both* filaments in a
    twin-filament dipping bulb go at the same time, so I reverted to keeping a
    spare at home and another at my work place and lived with a headlight that
    was "stuck" one one setting for the remainder of the trip in whichever
    direction I suffered a failure.

    Stephen Malbon, Feb 2, 2005
  5. Jose B. Ruivo

    B. Peg Guest

    Flip over to high beam and hope it still works - or visa versa (this
    happened to me one night after a nasty bump). Wasn't that big of a problem
    as I had that concept drilled into me years ago when I took up this damn
    hobby, er.. sport. Also, maybe install some aux. lights like Moto-Lights or
    Piaa lights as well for backups.

    B. Peg, Feb 2, 2005
  6. Jose B. Ruivo

    B. Peg Guest

    Also, maybe install some aux. lights like Moto-Lights or Piaa lights as
    On second thought, go ahead and install these if you do any extended night
    riding. If you have one of those silly Class B Euro headlamps that cut off
    the light on turns in canyons, these aux. lights may be a better solution
    than worrying if your headlamp will fail.

    Gawd, I hate those Euro lights! They cast that weird shadow that keeps from
    blinding oncoming traffic but at the expense of not seeing around corners
    well in the dark. Very bad from the rider's viewpoint. If you want an eye
    opener, switch rides between a Harley and a BMW in a canyon at night.

    B. Peg, Feb 2, 2005
  7. Yes, that's true of some South American countries, maybe Argentina and

    I was reading an article about some guys who drove a Chevy Suburban
    from Tierra Del Fuego to Point Barrow, Alaska...

    They said that they were surprised during the early part of their trip
    by drivers who would suddenly high beam them, after they'd been driving
    at night with their lights off...

    The South American drivers thought that it was rude for anybody to be
    driving around at night with their lights on, blinding the local

    It seemed that the local laws not only required all lighting equipment
    to work, but the owner of the vehicle had to carry a complete set of
    spare bulbs in the car...

    And new bulbs were so difficult to get, drivers wouldn't turn their
    lights on at night...
    krusty kritter, Feb 2, 2005
  8. Jose B. Ruivo

    Charlie Gary Guest

    Here's the most basic one of all. Always have the high beam on unless
    oncoming traffic at night makes you go to low beam. This way the high beam
    gets the most use, and will probably fail first, leaving you a functioning
    low beam until you can replace the bulb.
    Charlie Gary, Feb 2, 2005
  9. Jose B. Ruivo

    OH- Guest


    How do you mean ? Do you seriously say that it is preferable to
    use lights that do blind oncoming traffic ?
    As a Swede I guess I only use "Euro" lights. The trick is to use
    full beam when there is no one that is bothered by it and use
    the asymmetrical dipped beam when it is necessary to avoid
    irritating other traffic or putting them at risk.
    Symmetrical dipped lights, correctly adjusted, will differ from
    asymmetrical only by providing less light on right hand side
    (assuming a drive on the right country).

    Coming back to the OP question.
    Do what Mark Olson says and try to find high quality bulbs
    (slightly more expensive ones and from established companies).

    The risk for bulb failure is very dependent on what bike you
    have. Most will be fine, and I would not bother carrying a
    spare. OTOH there are some notorious ones that shake a
    lot or have suspect electrical systems and on these the bulb
    life is short and unhappy.
    OH-, Feb 2, 2005
  10. Jose B. Ruivo

    M. MacDonald Guest

    How do you mean ? Do you seriously say that it is preferable to
    I agree with B. Peg. I have a BMW and the thing is dangerous in canyons
    late at night with its stock lighting. There is absolutely no light cast on
    turns and there is very little oncoming traffic in the canyon at night to be
    concerned about blinding them (personally, I'd rather blind one or two
    drivers than ride 40 miles with no lighting for cornering). I could dim
    them as on my old Honda to not blind oncoming traffic, but this isn't an
    option for just having poor Euro lighting from a single lamp on the BMW.
    The BMW I have just fires out a squarish beam straight ahead with a bit of a
    V-shaped darker section on the top (European style?). Lean it over into a
    tight turn and there isn't any light where you need it. It gets dark....and
    right now!

    Fwiw, my friend on his Honda can blow me away at night in the canyons as his
    light doesn't have that Euro shield - for lack of a better word. I need to
    creep around turns like a blind man and he is just gone. After 50 miles of
    this, it gets more than annoying not being able to see around turns without
    supplemental lights (non-European approved) in the dark. May as well not
    have lights -- or not ride at night.

    One time, when I fell way behind, we switched bikes after he came back to
    find me thinking I had crashed. I was miffed about how poor the headlight
    was (I even added the illegal 100 watt high-beam lamp at his time). He
    didn't believe me. We agreed to swap bikes and he discovered how bad the
    BMW European lights were and I dusted him on his own Honda coming over a
    coastal pass at midnight. Yep. European motorcycle lights really are poor
    in mountain canyons at night.

    Come to think of it, we did have a CHP officer found dead one morning in a
    field riding a new BMW (when they were introduced in California as patrol
    bikes around 1997-8). Wonder if the headlamp - or lack of - was a factor in
    his crash as it happened late at night when he was enroute home.

    M. MacDonald, Feb 2, 2005
  11. Since all street motorcycles sold in the USA have to run with the
    headlights on for "safety" all the time, the attitude of many riders is
    that driving with the high beams on all the time will make their
    ride even "safer"...

    But motorcycle magazine articles that I have read indicate that car
    drivers do not feel threatened at all by motorcycle headlights, whether
    they are on low beam or high beam, they just go ahead and turn left in
    front of oncoming motorcycles anyway...
    krusty kritter, Feb 3, 2005
  12. Jose B. Ruivo

    B. Peg Guest

    Around here, Elbert Bott's dots (i.e. those raised white reflectors and/or
    bumps) are used on most all highways that aren't snow covered where the
    removal equipment could damage them (some are now recessed and glued into
    the groove to alleviate that issue). Highway 166 from the Pacific coast to
    the inland valley of southern California is one area where the dots lie.

    If you bike through the mountains at night on that road, you'll soon learn
    how impractical the Euro lighting is on a motorcycle. You would hope that
    you could see the Bott's reflectors lighting the way along curves. Not so
    as the Euro light goes straight off into the darkness and the Bott's dots do
    nothing as they aren't being lit at all from the design of that light. It
    just isn't safe and maybe that's why the cops in our area don't seem to ride
    at night on their bikes.

    Someone should design a steerable motorcycle lamp for canyon carving at
    night. Sometimes I just give up and settle in behind a car and let them
    lead the way.

    B. Peg, Feb 3, 2005
  13. work about 8pm. When I used low beam at night, I usually had someone
    pull out on me from side streets about once every week or two, where I
    had to give the brakes a pretty good squeeze to keep from hitting them.
    Since I've switched to 24x7 high beams, nobody has pulled out on me.

    The 24x7 high beam strategy is a bit like the "loud pipes save lives"

    Whatever works for you is OK by me. You should use every tactic you can
    think of to make yourself visible to the distracted cagers, and the
    cops are too busy with violent crimes to spend much time on high beams
    and loud pipes...

    I've read about Euro-style headlight lenses or bulb shields or whatever
    device directs the low beam causing it to be extremely dim as seen by
    approaching drivers. The recommendation for those types of lights on
    recent motorcycles has been to run high beams all the time...

    Some drivers will get angry if followed by a motorcyclist using just
    his low beams. I had a slowpoke San Francisco area driver pull over
    into another lane and flip the bird at me when I overtook him. I was
    overtaking him because he was driving at varying speeds, even though
    there was nobody ahead of him for a mile...

    But Los Angeles area drivers seem to be rather oblivious to that
    situation. I try to ride far enough back that my lights don't shine on
    the rear window of the car ahead of me. I might annoy a car load of
    gangbangers, riding the freeway through South Central at night, so I
    give everybody respect...

    Out in the country, cage drivers from the city often don't use their
    high beams at all, they just aren't used to high speed driving on the
    open range, and have no idea what the rules of the road about
    high beam and low beam usage are. In CA, the following driver must dim
    his lights when he gets within 500 feet. Approaching an oncoming car,
    the lights must be dimmed at 1000 feet...

    Travelling at a speed of 65 mph, the vehicles are approaching each
    other at 190 feet per second, so they should dim their lights when they
    are only about 5 seconds apart...

    But, the moronic city driver usually doesn't know this. While
    travelling through open range country, or even fenced pastures, where
    cattle and horses just might be running loose on the highway, city
    drivers begin angrily flashing their high beams at approaching cars
    that are a mile away, expecting the driver to dim his lights and drive
    on low beam for nearly half a minute...

    That's a situation where I will not risk my life by groping it the
    dark, feeling for solid objects on the road. If a driver flashes his
    lights at me when he's a mile away, I *never* dim my light for the
    krusty kritter, Feb 3, 2005
  14. the headlight is attached to the triple-clamp.

    That was my initial wrong-headed objection about the fixed Windjammer
    fairing, versus the handlebar mount Wixom fairing back in the

    I wanted some wind protection for cold weather touring, and the Wixom
    fairing was a lot cheaper than the Windjammer, and the Wixom couldn't
    be ordered with paint matching my 1974 GT-750 water buffalo...

    I told the salesman in the moto emporium that I wanted my headlight to
    turn with the handlebars, and he replied that I would only have that
    advantage when riding at very slow speeds, and what did I plan to do
    with the Suzuki, ride English Trials? I wound up buying the

    But, if you should happen to have a *naked* bike sitting around the
    garage, roll it out at night and sit on it with the headlight on, and
    turn the handlebars from side to side and watch where the pattern of
    light falls...

    It will actually *dip* as you move the bars, and that's *not* what we

    A rider with any kind of fairing, fixed, bar-mounted, or even a naked
    bike can get more light on the road for night riding on twisty roads by
    adjusting the headlight higher, but that's not really a satisfactory

    Some sportbikes even have two knobs on the back of the fairing for
    headlight adjustment instead screws or bolts, but a rider couldn't turn
    the right hand knob while riding anyway, unless he took his hand off
    the throttle...

    And, with the headlights adjusted up for riding twisty roads, just as
    soon as the rider gets on a straight, he's blinding oncoming traffic
    again, and must re-adjust the lights for that reason...

    Driving lights are indicated. Just leave the headlights adjusted
    correctly (and legally), and use a pair of auxillary driving lights...

    The lefthand driving light should be aimed *up* and *to the right*, not
    straight ahead and level. The righthand driving light should be aimed
    *up* and *to the left*...

    When the driving lights are in use, the lefthand light is illuminating
    the side of the road, and the righthand light is shining in the trees
    above the line of vision of oncoming motorists...

    So what if you annoy the owls, you'll be seeing the *road*...

    There is one inobvious problem with adding auxillary driving lights.
    You can use a relay to avoid damaging the stock dipper switch, you can
    run heavy gauge wire directly to the battery, but you'll still run into
    problems with the alternator and rectifier regulator connectors...

    The alternator and RR have to work harder to charge the battery and the
    plastic connectors will melt if you don't chop the plugs off and solder
    the wires directly together...

    Been there, done that...
    krusty kritter, Feb 3, 2005
  15. Jose B. Ruivo

    Hank Guest

    That's a great idea, if the forks were turning a lot TOWARDS the
    direction you are turning in, instead of slightly AWAY from the direction
    you are turning in. Surprised KK didn't pick up on this..........
    FWIW I always use my illegal 100W high beams (Which miraculously haven't
    melted anything in 25 yrs use on my old CBR and older GL1000) in the daytime
    for 2 reasons; 1) It is slightly more possible that blind cagers will
    recognize that SOMETHING is coming towards them. The sun being a few billion
    times brighter negates the whining that it hurts anyone's eyes. 2) The
    theory behind car DRLs using the beam which will cause the least problems
    should it burn out. (Ever try limping home at night in traffic with only
    your high beams working?)

    To the OP, can't you just switch to the other beam (hi or lo) when one burns
    out? I have. However the night ALL electrics failed on my Accord while
    passing a car in a turn with steel guardrails on both sides this wouldn't
    work. Thankfully the other cars' lights allowed me to coast to stop on the
    roadside ;-) It's no fun shunting around under-dash connections at
    midnight when it's 25 below!
    Hank in NB

    Hank, Feb 3, 2005
  16. the direction you are turning in, instead of slightly AWAY from the
    direction you are turning in. Surprised KK didn't pick up on

    I hoped that we were talking about riding at night with some semblance
    of sanity...

    If you are turning at speed, and your front wheel begins to point in
    the direction you're turning, you are split seconds away from high-side
    crashing. Front wheel pointing into the turn is called "tucking under",
    it's about to lose grip from being pushed too hard by the rear tire and
    swingarm jacking effects...

    And, anybody who is riding so fast on a twisty road at night that his
    front end starts to tuck is going to take the Red Blanket ride in the
    ambulance, sooner or later...
    krusty kritter, Feb 3, 2005
  17. Jose B. Ruivo

    TaskMule Guest


    Lol, and what exactly would this accomplish? Aside from rolling the bike
    around in a tight laneway that is.
    TaskMule, Feb 3, 2005
  18. Jose B. Ruivo

    M. MacDonald Guest

    I've been wondering about countersteering in the dark ---

    If push right = go right, then push right = headlight "points left" which
    makes it worse as now no light is into the right turn (if this makes any
    sense) as it pertains to fork-mounted lights. Was this the reason for
    fairing mounted lamps?

    M. MacDonald, Feb 3, 2005
  19. Jose B. Ruivo

    OH- Guest

    Well, this is a BMW problem, not a Euro problem. There are
    lots of euro spec bikes with acceptable or even good lights.

    OTOH, like others have suggested in this thread, I believe that no
    single lamp motorcycle light system will ever be able to give good
    lighting for fast riding at night on twisty roads. You either fit extra
    lamps or do like I do - slow down.
    OH-, Feb 3, 2005
  20. which makes it worse as now no light is into the right turn (if this
    makes any sense) as it pertains to fork-mounted lights.

    On the initial countersteer, the front wheel will often "out track"
    to the left, as you thought. But, if your chassis is correctly balanced
    as to front and rear ride heights (both geometry and sag being correct)
    you will have neutral steering and the front and rear wheel will be
    pointing in approximately the same direction, so the headlight will be
    aimed in the direction of travel. Problem is, the headlight beam will
    be aimed a little lower when you are leaned over than when you are
    riding straight up...
    No, back in the days when large fairings were mainly mounted on the
    handlebars, there wasn't much weight on the front tire contact patch to
    give the front end a "planted" feel to the rider...

    Any side gust of wind or rough pavement would get the heavy
    handlebar-mounted fairings to start a speed wobble which scared riders.
    Any heavy mass forward of the steering stem contributes to speed
    wobbles, so engineers even moved the disk brake calipers behind the
    steering axis to reduce wobbles...

    Frame mount fairings add weight to the front end of the machine without
    destabilizing the steering...

    Motorcyclists should understand the difference between a speed *wobble*
    and a speed *weave*...

    The wobble is a high frequency oscillation about the steering stem. Its
    onset and finish take place in a fraction of a second, the rider has no
    time to react to the wobble, it's over and done with so quickly. The
    speed wobble is what is called a "tank slapper"...

    The speed weave is a slower oscillation around the motorcycle's center
    of mass. Every motorcycle will begin to weave at some high speed, just
    as it weaves at very low speeds. If you ride a motorcycle through a
    puddle of water and then onto dry pavement for
    a short distance and go back and look at the tire tracks before they
    dry, you'll see that the front tire track weaves back and forth across
    the rear tire track several times...

    The same thing is always happening at high speeds, it's just that the
    weave pattern is at a lower frequency. And then the rider tries to go
    too fast, entering the regime of speed weaving where there isn't enough
    weight on the front tire to make the front end "plant" itself and the
    motorcycle begins to speed weave and tries to toss the rider over the
    handlebars as it simultaneously rolls, yaws, and pitches about its
    center of mass...

    I call the speed weave a high speed "wahoo! because that's what I'm
    thinking, in preference to "oh, shit!" I often get a low speed wahoo
    when passing through water on the pavement while cornering. The front
    tire loses traction for an instant and can't hold the chassis in the
    desired roll attitude, the chassis falls toward the inside of the turn,
    and then the front tire regains traction and tries to correct the

    The chassis goes through about two cycles of the "wahoo!" before it
    settles back to normal and I have time to wonder about the status of my

    Something similar happens in the high speed "wahoo!" The front tire
    loses traction because the rubber can't grip the road properly due to
    the increase in vibration as the front tire encounters small pavement
    irregularities, or gets unweighted while leaned over, or the rider
    applies too much throttle---or the bike gets hit by a gust of wind at
    krusty kritter, Feb 4, 2005
    1. Advertisements

Ask a Question

Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?

You'll need to choose a username for the site, which only take a couple of moments (here). After that, you can post your question and our members will help you out.