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 bulb, 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 150m on the road. These are available in a range of bulb styles to cover a huge variety of cars and bikes and quote a colour temperature u201820% whiter than other bulbsu2019. In tests, they did reasonably well, with a good spread of light though not as white as they could have been.
Electrical giant Bosch offers several ranges of uprated light bulbs and this, from the +90 range, promises up to 90% more light thrown out on the road ahead. Two bulbs come in the pack and the illumination is very nice, with a good spread to pick out details by the side of the road but also, decent penetration on the main beam into the distance. There is no colour temperature quoted but they are definitely whiter than a standard bulb.
This bulb from Osram claims to be the bluest legally approved halogen light, so it should penetrate well into the darkness. Its colour temperature is 4200K and it does produce white light with blueish tinges to the edge when looking at the bike. Its performance is good, with excellent penetration close to the bike and decent illumination further ahead.
Philips X-Treme Vision Moto
This motorcycle-specific bulb is quoted to last longer than comparable car bulbs, with a prominent u201810Gu2019 logo on the packaging. It is also quoted to give out 130% more light and in testing, it was slightly whiter than the standard halogen bulb. Performance was reasonable, with a bias towards illumination provided closer to the bike for picking out the edges of the road.
Another from Bosch, this time purporting to produce 120% more light out on to the road. Like the +90 variant, there is no quoted light colour temperature although it produces a noticeably whiter light than the +90 sibling. Penetration into darkness is good and it gives a similarly useful spread of light.
, so it is more resistant to vibrations than bulbs for car use and is claimed to produce 110% more light and illuminate the road up to 40m further ahead of the bike.
and while the colour temperature is not quoted, the blue band on the bulb, like many others here, serves to produce a brighter white light than a normal halogen. In testing, they did well, with a crisp pattern and good performance, particularly on dipped beam.
Halfords +150 Motorcycle
Itu2019s no surprise Halfords produces its own range of uprated motorcycle bulbs and this one promises up to 150% more light on the road, with a range increase of up to 80m over a standard bulb u2013 to 190m long. The light colour temperature is 3700K to give a crisp, white light and being a motorcycle bulb, should resist vibrations better than a normal car version.
Seal of Approval - Weu2019ve tested this product and have found it performs well
Another from Osram designed specifically for bikes, the X-Racer should stand the rigours of motorcycle use and be vibration resistant. The colour temperature is quoted as 4200K so it produced a bright, white light with a blue-ish tint to the edges of the beam and it penetrates well into the darkness. Comes in a two-pack with the spare in a helmet-shaped holder and was also given a Recommended triangle by RiDE.
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.