Visibility safety improvements - active lighting - Kawasaki KLR 650 Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 05-03-2013, 06:02 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: Buffalo, NY
Posts: 277
Visibility safety improvements - active lighting

I've seen some links on reflective tape that people on here gave me, and I've been checking it out.

I actually had pulled the trigger on some iron-on reflective tape for my jacket, and when it arrived it was totally disappointing... not bright at all, hardly reflective. So I'm not going to waste a perfectly good, brand new jacket with some sub-par reflective tape that doesn't accomplish anything. The white stripes on the jacket are more visible...

...but it got me thinking.
Reflective tape makes you dependent on the other vehicle's light, some external light source you HOPE is there. What if it isn't?

There's products out there like Electroluminescent (EL) tape and wire that are much more active than passive. Wouldn't these be smart to use for visibility? They light up, they do more than reflect.

Here's a random example from Google:

I ended up buying some EL wire, $20 for 10 feet of white and the transformer, I'm going to basically install it circling the intake vents on my side panels, and down the inside edge where the plastic panel doesn't quite meet the gas tank, and figure that's going to light up at night - should be more visible than reflector.

They also make EL tape, and sheets, that you can cut and the whole thing glows. I had thought about lining the flat surfaces of the vent intake on those same side panels, but the EL wire was cheap and I know I can hide it so it's only visible at night.

They also make LEDs that are small, which similar to EL wire uses hardly any power - I see guys on Harleys with these all the time - not for visibility but for show:

Our motors aren't chrome so that might not be entirely effective, but it's a thought too.

I have a set of tiny (and cheap) car foglights I've had sitting around for probably 15 years in the box still - I thought about mounting them somewhere firing down, to light up the road beneath me, but it seems like alternator (generator?) amperage is a concern on these bikes, and mounting something that size so it's somewhat hidden might be tricky too..

Anyone use any active lighting for visibility rather than passive reflectors?
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post #2 of 6 Old 05-05-2013, 12:37 PM
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: NW MO
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If you want to use them, I think you would be best-served with the lights you have on hand to shoot for a 3-point lighting system in the front to aid approaching drivers in calculating your rate of closure. It's a known fact that it's easier to judge the speed of approach from a cluster of 3 lights in a triangle pattern than from a single source of light like a single headlight. I would mount them up front and point them forward, not down.

Of course, mounting options on a stock KLR are a little limited: if you don't have them a fair distance from the headlight for some distinction/spacing, they might not do much good.

Personally, I don't see much advantage in side lighting. If somebody's distracted enough to run a red light or stop sign and hit you in the side, lights on the sides of the bike probably won't help. I have reflective tape on mine, but it also serves the purpose of perhaps letting a motorist spot me if I'm already crashed and still in the road.

I do about half my riding in the dark. I guess it's the same thing, but I modified the old maxim "ride like you're invisible" to "ride like you have no lights at all" when cycling after the sun goes down.

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post #3 of 6 Old 05-05-2013, 11:07 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: Buffalo, NY
Posts: 277
That's a good maxim to fit with my paranoid ways, and I definitely agree from my approaching bikes in the dark - impossible to judge distance, and your first instinct is "looks like a car with a light burned out".

I would do some auxiliary lights if they didn't seem to inexplicably cost $200. For cars, you can buy nice ones for that price, or cheap ones for $20, and everything in between. No options for bikes? Just your pick of a few $200 ones?

For the rear, I saw a kit on Twisted Throttle that converts your rear turn signals into LED running lights, and that's only $50. I'm definitely thinking of pulling the trigger on that for the same reason.
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post #4 of 6 Old 05-06-2013, 07:38 AM
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: NW MO
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You can put the cheap auto parts store fog lights or driving lights on a KLR, but unless you have engine guards or another location to mount them, it doesn't seem like you'd be able to get them far enough apart for an effective triangle pattern. If you wanted to improve the forward lighting for your own sake, I'm guessing you'd have to go with some higher-end lights because the headlights on an '09 (in my opinion) are quite adequate.

If you put some $30 Auto Zone fog or driving lights on there, you'll be able to tell they're on, but they're not going to effectively light up the road in front of you any better than the stock lights already do.

You'll find that as you continue to ride, your "paranoid" ways will just become second-nature and you can still ride relaxed while being vigilant.

It also helps to weave back and forth in your lane when a vehicle is approaching at night or if you see a vehicle at an intersection waiting to turn out. At night, it lets other motorcyclists know "Hey, a car doesn't move like that" and in the daytime it helps break up your sillhouette against your background.

Fortunately, where I live, I just don't encounter that many cars at night. I've found the greatest hazards are that you generally don't see animals until they're already close to (or on) the shoulder of the road and it's more difficult to see small objects in the road, things like oil or diesel spills, gravel spread out at the intersection of a gravel road, etc.

I don't know this for a fact, but would daresay that, on a motorcycle, you're more visible to the average motorist in the dark than you are during daylight hours. As long as you have your lights on, that is.....

I also lower my speed by approximately 15% while riding at night, especially on nights when it's cloudy or the Moon isn't close to Full.

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post #5 of 6 Old 05-07-2013, 09:09 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: Buffalo, NY
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I'm thinking a couple of these could be mounted against the bottom surface of the handguard:

That's as wide as you could get, seem to have good reviews.
Wouldn't illuminate like a driving light, but for night visibility - like you said, giving oncoming drivers a point of reference for distance - that seems like a good idea for dirt cheap.

And the Twisted Throttle rear running light LED conversion is only $54 or so, would achieve the same for the rear.
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post #6 of 6 Old 05-17-2013, 06:37 AM
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I was cheap and went the reflective 3m tape route I know I am dependent on a light source but I figure it's better then nothing and I don't have to wire lights. So far so good.
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