The Low Down on LED Lights
In the part one of this article series we talked about what an LED is and how they are much more efficient than any bulb. We also discussed a few of the different options available to choose from when selecting the style of colored LED accent lights for your bike. People have been asking me a lot about LED lights for bikes, seems every one wants to know my secrets and how to do an install on their own. So I thought I would try to “shed some light on the subject”, okay, that sounded cornier then I thought it would.
If you have a basic understanding of 12 volt D.C. and know your way around a toolbox you may be able to light up your own bike and save a bundle. I have seen booths at rallies charging 700 bucks or more to light your bike, yikes! I wonder what you are getting for $700?
Now, some pointers for any one who is thinking of doing an LED light install on their own bike at home. I must put out a word of caution though. This is not an easy or a quick installation. It will involve some dismantling of your bike and a good understanding of your bike’s moving parts and how they work. There is no way I could possibly cover every aspect of every install on every bike out there. Each time I do an LED install on a bike it is like starting over, as every bike is different and there are so many add on accessories that people can install on their bikes that have to be considered. Patience is key when doing this kind of work.
That being said first thing you need to know to do a proper 16-pod install on a bike is you will need time. I have been installing LED lights for years and it still takes me about 4 hours minimum to do a proper install. More pods means more time spent doing the install, however the bike in the picture for this article has a 16-pod kit that I installed and as you can see it is plenty bright enough. If you have a bagger it will take more time then a Dyna because of the extra hardware on the bike. So as a first timer plan on spending an entire day or better yet an entire weekend to light up your bike properly.
You need to know that all LEDs are polarity specific. This means they will only work when the positive wire is hooked to a hot wire, and the negative wire is hooked to a ground. If they are hooked up backwards they will not light up, and can be permanently damaged. So plan on using a multi-meter and checking the polarity before you apply any power to your LED lights.
Next, consider the tools you will need to complete a proper install. You will need your basic tool kit (screw drivers, sockets and drivers, Alan wrenches, Torx bits, box wrenches, etc) all in standard and metric sizes to take off parts of the bike (seat, bags, covers, etc.) to gain access to the battery and other areas of the bike. You will also need rubbing alcohol and cotton swabs to clean any surfaces that you intend to stick a pod to. And don’t forget your basic electrician tools like wire strippers, multi-meter, electrical tape, solder and soldering iron etc. Depending on what kit or brand of LED pods you are installing you may or may need things like a weatherproof switch, a fuse, crimp on connectors, shrink wrap, and some extra wire to do the install. It helps to take an inventory before you start your install to avoid making several trips to the local hardware store.
Before you start your installation, take a good look at you bike and decide where you want to put your lights. Each pod will have wires that will need to be kept clear of moving parts on the bike to avoid pinching damage that will cause short circuits. Hot surfaces like the engine and exhaust system will also melt and destroy wires and pods. After considering the possible wire routing considering the moving and hot parts on the bike, I connect a nine-volt to each LED pod (one at a time) to find the best mount locations getting the most out of the pod’s light.
The hardest part of doing an accent LED light install is hiding and connecting all the wires. The only tip I can offer here is take your time and do a good job, believe me you will not want to have to get done with all this work just to re-do it.
If all else fails you can always have a professional do the install. Just be sure that you are getting your money’s worth, do your homework, ask questions and if the person or place does not take the time to answer your questions, they probably won’t take the time to do a good job. Remember, the only dumb question is one that does not get asked.
In the next part of this article series I will talk about LED turn signals, add on LED brake lights and motorcycle mirrors with LED running lights and turn signals built into them.
-Ride smart, Biker Chad