Clearwater LED Lights

[ Monday - November 30, 2009 ]

If I have HID lights already then why in the world would I consider investing even more money on LED lights?  Is it because the HID lights aren't bright enough?  Hardly.  In fact it's the total opposite.  The HIDs are too bright for city use.  Why don't I mount it lower?  Because I really can't.  Taking the light an inch lower would have the HID lights over powering the turn signals.  I can't mount it on the fork because these are inverted forks and there is a mudguard/fender that travels up and down the fork.  A max of 9 inches to be exact.  What about mounting the lights on my engine guard?   I can just picture in my little head the lights getting crushed when the 8GS is taking a dirt nap.  Uh... no.  That's not a good location also.  Sigh... there is no other place to mount the lights other than where they are right now.  In the end it is where it's suppose to be.  Of course it doesn't help the matter at all.  As a result of all this, I'm researching for alternative lights that might better serve as running lights.  I think I've found them:  Clearwater LED Lights

At $475 from, on top of the shipping and the freakin' hiked up CA sales tax, the total comes to a whoppin' $514.  Ouch, that's steep.  At this price I'm banking on "You get what you pay for."  The good news is the review of these LED lights on WebBikeWorld did a good job of convincing me that the lights are what they claim to be.

The complete kit.

Now it's just a matter of figuring out how to hook up the lights using my accessory power setup (e.g. Centech AP-1).  Oh, the other thing that convinced me of these lights is the variable intensity settings for the lights.  Way cool!

[ Sunday - December 6, 2009 ]

It's finally time to put the lights on the bike.  I've procrastinated enough and the days are getting dark sooner.  I start the day by cleaning up the wiring for the existing HID lights.  When I first hooked everything up, I did a quicky job (because Death Valley '09 was just around the corner) just to get some brights lights for the Hwy.  I didn't have time to open the bike up and beautify the setup.  Suffice to say, the wiring was a mess.  Now it's all cleaned up and everything looks clean and tucked away.

Check out the high tech way of holding the HID lights on when there are no screws.

It's much better to route the wiring underneath the fake tank / air box.

Yup the AP-1 is going to stay right where it is.  Under the seat.  It's easier to get to the fuses.

Now I don't know whether it's my impatience, due to old age, or whether the instructions for the Clearwater LED lights are terrible.  I think it's a combination of both.  I had to read the directions at least 5 times, in addition to contacting the folks at Clearwater Lights, before finally understanding what I have to do.  Maybe it's because I'm dense.  I don't know.  Nonetheless, I figured it out.  Here is what I did.  BTW, since I have the AP-1 already connect and controlled via a relay, I didn't have to hook up the relay that came with the Clearwater lights.  If you don't have a similar setup, you'll have to use the Clearwater Lights supplied relay.

Mounting the lights is very simple.  It's just a matter of deciding how much vertical and lateral angle you need.  The mounting process is very intuitive so I won't bother with the details here.   It's figuring out the electronics that's the confusing part.  The fact that the instructions are in black and white doesn't help the matter much.  The provided diagram really needs to be in color.  Unfortunately, it's not.

Running the wiring for the lights is also not a big deal.  Once again it's a matter of deciding how much slack you think you need for the wheel travel.  I've left enough slack to the wire that even if I go airborne, god forbid, it shouldn't cause a problem with the wiring.  On the left fork, I just run the wire straight up the side.  On the right fork, I run the wire up the fork, and detour the wire right along with the break line.  I also make sure not to disturb the ABS wire in any way.  It's better to be safe than having ABS faults.

The wiring runs underneath the fork guard.

Straight up the left fork.

Follow the brake line and split off to the back of the fork.

The right light's wire runs in the grove where the ABS wire would be.
(There is no ABS sensor on the right side of the wheel)

Both lights installed and wired.

Now for the tricky part ... the electronics.  In reality, it's not really that tricky.  All you have to understand is that all three green wires, combined together, is used to determine the lights' dimming factor via the kit's provided light volume knob.  If you wire the lights without using the green wires, the light will simply be on at full power all the time.

Instead of showing the jumble of wires on the bike, I'm just going to show a schematic of how the lights should be connected.  Hopefully this will also eliminate any confusion regarding the lack of colors in the original instructions.

There is an alternate method of hooking the volume control knob via a second relay and the low beam power.  That's fine and all, but I just don't feel comfortable tapping off of that power source, even for a relay.  So I kept things simple.  Power switch and volume control knob.

Left, LED with volume knob above it.  Right, HID lights.

So here it is, connected and all.  The lights are very bright, but they're not bright enough to be a hazard like the HID lights.  As a result, they will work fine for city driving.

I drilled a small hole in the fork guard and zip tied the wire to eliminate too much slack.

Philips Vision Plus.  Still pretty good.

Clearwater LED Lights at full blast.  It definitely improves the situation.

Last but not least, look at the blinding white light of the HID lights below.  There's no comparison between the HID and the LED lights.  However, it's obvious that I can't use the HID lights in the city.

Look how bright this is compared to the image above.

It appears the LED lights will work fine at 50%.  At 100%, the lights are still quite blinding.  Is it worth the $514?  In terms of brightness, yes.  Now we'll see how it stacks up during the commute.

[ Tuesday - December 8, 2009 ]

It's been two days of commuting in both early morning light and at almost pitch black evening.  What do I think of the LED lights?  Very nice.  Very nice indeed.  Their adjust ability makes the lights really useful.  It definitely improves the night riding and also make people notice that I'm not a one eyed car.  When I need more light, it's just a matter of cranking the knob a little bit more.  I've found that 60% is more reasonable than 50%.  The fact that it's adjustable on the fly just makes it oh so nice.  When I'm finally by myself and there are no cars around, 100% is awesome.  Still not as powerful as the HID lights, but that is exactly what I wanted.

How do I rate the lights?  Overall, 4.9 out of 5.  Why is it missing the .1?  The instructions kind of stinks... a bit.  If the instructions are improved, a definite 5 of 5.  Please improve the directions Clearwater Lights.  That way more dense folks like me would have less problems and you're more likely to sell more units.  The lights by themselves, their construction, and the ease of operations is a definite 5 out of 5.  Simply holding the lights in your hands, you can see and feel the quality of the workmanship.  For the three of us... me, myself and I, it's money well spent.

BTW, WebBikeWorld has installation instructions for installing the Clearwater LED Lights on a Ducati Multistrada.  The last time I looked at the instructions, it was a bit overwhelming.  I don't know if it's because I'm impatient or if it just looks nasty/scary with all those wires going all over the place.  As the article puts it, "...I ended up with a more organized mess...".  Have a look for yourself.  The article is really good though.  I ended up skipping to the very end to read the summary.  I made my decision on the LED lights based on that summary.

Written on: November 30, 2009
Last modified: December 8, 2009