Like many components on your motorcycle, the headlight bulbs are designed to do an acceptable job while mass production techniques make sure they are as cheap as possible. However, also like many of the components, if you spend a little money on uprating them, it can have a huge effect on their performance and your safety and enjoyment of your ride.
Of course, we are talking about regular, halogen-style bulbs here. Bikes that come with LED lighting already installed – an increasing number nowadays, thanks to their low weight and power consumption combined with excellent performance – won’t need to be or can’t be upgraded except with additional lighting.
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We’ve based prices here on a replacement H4 and H7 motorcycle headlight bulbs, which includes both dipped and main-beam units in the same unit. However, the same principles apply if you have separate dipped and main-beam units.
A bulb promising greater light, this time up to 150% more than standard and with a range of up to
This bulb from Osram claims to be the bluest legally approved halogen light, so it should
This motorcycle-specific bulb is quoted to last longer than comparable car bulbs, with a prominent
Another from Bosch, this time purporting to produce 120% more light out on to the road. Like the
It's no surprise Halfords produces its own range of uprated motorcycle bulbs and this one promises
Seal of Approval - We've tested this product and have found it performs well
Another from Osram designed specifically for bikes, the X-Racer should stand the rigours of
How do headlight bulbs work?
‘Normal’ headlight bulbs produce light by passing a current through a wire which is encased in a glass vial, filled with gas – normally though halogen uprated bulbs may use Xenon - to help prevent the wire degrading. The current causes the wire to glow and this produces light. However, it also produces a huge amount of heat, meaning that they aren’t very efficient.
Traditionally, the light produced was yellow in colour and the amount of light, measured in Watts like a normal household bulb, was limited to 55W for dipped headlights and 60W for main beam units. However, replacement bulbs not only purport to offer a greater amount of light emitted for the same power, but they also change the colour of the light to aid vision at night.
Light ‘colour’ is expressed as a temperature, in Kelvin. Normal halogen light bulbs emit yellow-ish light – so-called ‘warm white’ - at around 2400K while sunlight is 6000K. Most LED bulbs and those that promise a brighter ‘white’ emit light at around 4000K and on the road, this can penetrate further into the darkness, giving you valuable extra vision when you need it most.
How do I replace my headlight bulbs?
Most bulbs are supplied for cars, so you get two in a pack which gives you coverage for some time if your bike uses a single bulb though there is a selection of motorcycle-specific bulbs included as well. However, be aware that uprated bulbs may not last as long as traditional ones, thanks to their improved performance.
A word on LED replacement bulbs. Generally, these tend not to work particularly well as they don’t produce a properly defined beam pattern and as a result, tend not to illuminate the road properly.
They can work well to make sure you are seen by other traffic – they throw out a mass of undefined light at the front of the bike – but that lack of concentration means that they generally won’t illuminate the road and can be worse than having no lights at all.
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