Wheel alignment

Wednesday 30 May 2012

Let there be light - lots of it, and there was!

When I wrote the original Street Triple review, the only disappointment was the lights - having a couple of candles flickering away inside those twin chrome bowls would only have been marginally worse.  To make matters worse, the units pointed at the ground too steeply, giving you a tantalising view of a hole in the tar seal a nanosecond before your front wheel dropped into it.  I suppose that the lights might just have been ok for poseurs who like riding their bikes in a fully-lit city at night, but woefully inadequate for anyone who wants ride their bike in an unlit, twisty bit of countryside.

In fairness to Triumph, a lot of other makes fall short in the headlight stakes and I'm at a loss to know why, particularly as a lot of the world has animals that come out at night and lurk on the nice warm roads.  Cattle, sheep, kangaroos and the like are pretty immovable objects if you run into one and there are things in the Americas and elsewhere that would happily eat your face if you annoyed one by running into it.  Ok, by putting crap bulbs into the average bike, the makers might save a buck or two over fitting something better, but they don't win any brownie points from the owners and it's a genuine safety consideration.  Even for riders who predominantly ride in daylight, there are obvious advantages to being as conspicuous as possible.

There are all manner of remedies (at the owner's expense) such as HID but these have a few drawbacks too, cost not being the least of them.  On my Blackbird, I switched from 65W halogen bulbs to 100W high quality Xenon bulbs.  (More on the quality aspect later).  Night vision was much improved and people certainly noticed me in daylight earlier than previously with that intense blue-white light.  I could get away with a higher wattage because the volume of the headlight was quite large, allowing decent heat dissipation.  Not so lucky with the Triple because of the small headlight volumes and the risk of cooking wiring or other fittings.

Apart from raising the angle of the factory-set headlights a touch, the stock bulbs were replaced with ones of the same wattage, but high quality Xenon bulb, the Osram Nightbreaker +90.  The difference was immediately noticeable, even in daylight as per the photo below.

 Standard bulb left, Nightbreaker right

As mentioned in a previous post, these bulbs were good enough to see me through the annual 1000 miles in 24 hours endurance ride on twisty, unlit backroads.  They weren't outstanding, but they were good. In daylight, traffic definitely sees the bike earlier, particularly when I'm approaching from behind.  They definitely don't like those lights in their mirrors for long!

One of my bulbs failed a couple of weeks ago after 2 years of service.  I would have been happy with a straight replacement but had a look about to see if there was anything else worth checking out.  Autobulbs Direct in the UK whom I've dealt with for quite a few years were advertising the Ring Xenon Ultima +120 bulbs at 27 pounds a pair.  Not cheap, but they were duly ordered and arrived today.

Ultima +120 left, Nightbreaker +90 right on dipped beam

Contrast the two photos......  the Nightbreaker in the top picture is significantly brighter than the OEM bulb and in the lower photo, the Ultima is brighter than the Nightbreaker so it looks like we've got a winner again, although they need a proper test.  Looking at the manufacturer's specifications, both bulbs are rated at 400-500 hours of life. My lights are permanently on and over 2 years, this claim represents an average of 5 hours riding a week.  My riding is is well in excess of this rate over a year so the manufacturer's claim, at least for the Nightbreaker, is quite conservative.

Ring +120 packaging

Ring +120 bulb through blister pack

As mentioned earlier, having bright lights is equally important for both daytime and night-time riding, reducing the risk of SMIDSY (Sorry Mate, I Didn't See You) from knuckle-dragging cage drivers.

It might be time to mention the word "quality" in conjunction with replacement bulbs.  Both Osram and Ring Automotive are major manufacturers with a good history of continuous improvement.  A friend who used to ride a Hayabusa bought some supposedly high output Xenon bulbs off Trade Me, the NZ equivalent of eBay.  When they arrived, they were coated dark blue all over and made in China.  OK for pimped cars that never leave town, but utter crap for the serious motorist or rider.  Their output was FAR worse than the standard bulb so it pays to do your homework and stick to the major brands!

Oh, and nothing to do with bikes but  whilst Jennie is away on her European trip, I took her trick MX5 to Auckland and put on a set of sticky tyres to replace the current ones which were well past their best.  A friend who successfully races cars recommended the Bridgestone RE 002.  Not cheap, won't last as long as "normal" road tyres but man, do those things grip.  A blast down the practically deserted twisty Kaiaua coast road was impressive (err... an understatement).  So there we are, additional safety for my soulmate and additional fun for me when I'm allowed to take it out on my own, **grin**.  Quite a good week so far!

Bridgestone RE002


  1. Good stuff. You can never have enough light.

    Hmm, I found the tires on Jennie's MX5 had quite the grip, now those babies must be like glue then.

  2. Sonja:
    Absolutely! If I had a Bobscoot-type bike, it would have switchable spotlights too.

    Oh they do, good for twice the speed of the old ones over the Coromandel Hill :-)

    1. Geoff:

      the V-strom is known to have "good" lights straight from the factory. I really wanted auxilliary lights but don't know which ones to get. I went to the dealer and they said to go to the auto parts store.

      I read somewhere that they are supposed to criss-cross with each light angled to the opposite sides. The problem is that my light is fixed in the fairing, while your bike the light "turns" with the wheels, so on a country road with no lights you have to slow down and wait until the light "catches" up in the turn, otherwise you can't see . . .

      Riding the Wet Coast
      My Flickr // My YouTube

    2. Bob,
      A Beemer rider who came to the last IAM meeting had the same problem which you describe and solved it by fitting two LED spotlights which gave a wide beam. They were fitted maybe 60cm above road level but I didn't notice what they were attached to. He's really impressed with them.

      P.S Sorry for the delay in replying, can't think how I missed it!

    3. Bob:
      BTW, my lights DON'T turn with the bars!

  3. Hmmmm, +120's. Maybe next time...I love my +100's in the Connie - they pick up reflective road signs at around 1km (straight road obviously). I reckon I get around 20,000km or more out of them too. The Connie has good lights as standard due to their design but adding better bulbs is one cheap and smart decision. Let there be light I say!

    1. Well worth trying Andrew!

      The Blackbird was the same as the Connie in a straight line but the shape of the headlight badly limited it in the twisties when leaned over, despite the 100W bulbs. The Triple isn't as good in a straight line, but the round headlights give a superior spread when leaned over.

      Aye, let there be light!

  4. I have gone the HID route - excellent for dipped beam, not so good for main due to "warm up" lag. Anything over 55W is not legal here in UK for H7 bulbs.

    1. Hi Nikos!
      Yep, the lag is one issue, but as you clearly found, it's not a show-stopper on dip. I gather that there are some shonky Eastern HID's around so caveat emptor. Didn't realise about the 55W limit in the UK as virtually al the Blackbird owners over your way use 100W bulbs to partially address the headlight shape limitations. Would the testers nor pick this up, or would it be a quick switcheroo of bulbs come testing time?

    2. Geoff me ol' fruit!

      According to Ride magazine tests the Philips X-treme power coes out top for light output and its road legal at 55W.

      I don't think testers remove bulbs to check but 100W might overate the wiring expecially if 2 bulbs are involved?

      My dipped beam HID is so powerful I don't notice a difference when the main beam goes on and the 2 auxilliary lights don't provide anymore discernible light.... I think the previous owner fitted a 50W HID which is the equivalent of 10 suns!


  5. You've been busy while Jennie's away.

    I understand manufacturers wanting to keep costs down, but I consider headlight brightness in line with safety and I don't think they should skimp on safety.

    Those bulbs should really make a difference on those dark night and twisty roads.

    1. Brandy,
      Sure have, not to mention attending to officially-sanctioned tasks like vacumming the carpets :-)

      Yes, it seems ridiculous to me too.

      The bulbs in the Triple are H4 fitting. The first time I ordered them, I wasn't paying proper attention and ordered H1, sigh..... must see if either of our cars take H1!

  6. Nikos, if you don't notice the difference, that's a pretty strong recommendation!!! Melt the eyeballs of cagers cominf the other way who are slow to dip!!

    1. I also notice how cagers move deftly to the side to let the mighty GS pass!

    2. Rather satisfying, isn't it? A bit like their momentary hesitation when you have hi-viz vest on..... "is it a cop?". Even more likely with a BMW!

  7. The glow of my evening cigarette (before I gave up) was brighter than the lights on the sprint....seriously inadequate.

    1. Rog,
      I really wonder why manufacturers skimp on something so important. At least you know what to fit by way of an upgrade now!

    2. Hi Geoff
      I see in a trade mag today that Narva have released a bulb called the Plus 120. Looks identical to the ring one and avalable here in NZ. Not sure what the price is probibly still cheaper to get them from the UK !!

  8. Hi Biggo - thanks for dropping by!

    Thanks for the heads-up about Narva - must keep my eyes open. I think they're a reputable brand as they've certainly been round long enough. I know that the Philips X-treme +90's are available at Repco although I haven't priced them. Must look into the Narva option.

    Many thanks again!

    1. Checked with Repco today $58+gst trade price for a pair of H4 Narva +120
      Still more tha your 29 pounds from UK

    2. Hey thanks for that Biggo!

      Worth knowing though for convenience or emergencies, although it only takes 1 week max to get the bulbs from the UK from time of order. You don't have any use for a set of H1 bulbs do you? They're going free as the first time I ordered them, I clearly wasn't watching what button I pressed and we haven't got any vehicles which take H1.

      BTW, where abouts are you in NZ?

    3. Hi Geoff

      Thanks for the offer on bulbs but my vehicles are all either H4 or H7 ...
      Live in Waikanae on The Kapiti Coast

      Cheers Phil

    4. No worries Phil - they can stay in the shed!

      Know your area fairly well. We have old friends in Paraparaumu (used to be a travel agent at House of Travel in Paraparaumu.) One of my riding partners lives a bit further down in Whitby. I envy you with pretty quick access to the ferry :-)


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