GL1100 headlights from KC Hilites


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bruce swaybill
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GL1100 headlights from KC Hilites

Postby bruce swaybill » Mon Oct 05, 2015 3:58 pm



A Modern Headlight for my GL1100

One time last fall after daylight savings time ended, I got caught out a little too late, and had to rely on my headlight to find my way home. Now, I have auxiliary lights that help a lot but I was thinking after all the upgrades I’ve done on the “old girl”, I was still using 1980’s lighting technology to find my way through the darkness. SO, I asked on this forum if anyone knew of any product(s) that would improve my night vision. One good soul provided a link to the KC Hilites web page for a replacement 7 inch round headlight intended for Jeeps but a sure thing for my GL1100. My journey had begun ….

Old vs new technology.
My “Old Wing” had what was state of the art in 1983 for a headlight, that is, a blown glass “sealed beam” light that consisted of:
(1) An H4 halogen bulb with high and low beam filaments;
(a) the low beam filament has a shield below to reflect downward light up to the upper half of the light
(b) the high beam is more rearward and shines in all directions
(2) A smooth parabolic reflector to send the light forward
(3) A scalloped lens to redirect the light into the desired low and high beam patterns.
Only one of the two filaments are lit at one time, so the low beam pattern was basically lost on high beam.

At night, the width of the beam was very narrow and far reaching. Back in 1983, perhaps we did not know any better….

Anyone who has driven a new car recently may have noticed that the light patterns have changed in the last 10 years. In the old days, there was a lot of wasted light that filled the areas above the road. Today, these light systems have very defined upper edges of light on the low beams and usually add lights for high beam, thus retaining the visibility from the lows. Also the pattern is very wide, lighting the sides of the road without the need for fogs lights. My wife’s 2013 car lights up the road soooo much better than my 2002 ever did!

I noticed on modern bikes that have a single halogen headlight, the lens is smooth and the reflector is segmented or faceted like a series of little mirrors. I saw how the beam pattern was much better defined and wide. Realizing this difference, I questioned if there was something to be done for my ‘Wing that would help.

Why is this important?
In all the training classes I’ve taken or videos I watched on riding technique and skills, I always hear “turn your head” or “look where you want to go”. So, I try very hard not to watch the patch of pavement in front of me or the bumper of the car ahead of me. I look beyond all that, as far as I see, down the straight or around the curve, to maximize the warning distance/time of hazards, to maintain balance by referencing the horizon, etc. I know you all know this, here’s my point: I can only do this because I can SEE that far. During the day the sun does a great of lighting up all that stuff for me to see. At night none of that exists – I rely on my own lights. My original headlight provided only tunnel vision into the vast darkness. Suddenly I can’t see around curves to judge proper speed of avoidance of obstacles. When you can’t see it becomes a challenge to ride safely and you are forced into the bad habits you try to avoid in daylight.

A new Light.
I ordered the KC Hilites 7inch replacement headlight intended for Jeep Wranglers. At $62 it was a reasonable expense compared to the other stuff I ‘ve done on the bike, including replacing all the lights with LEDs from Super Bright LED. When it arrived, it looked like I had hit the jack pot. However, once installed, it did not meet my expectations. It looked better from a distance in daylight, but at night the street was lit a little better but still not what I hoped for. To make this comparison fair I did not use the supplied Phillips H4 bulb but transferred the PIAA Intense White bulb from the OEM lens. I rode with this setup for about a month.

A Better Light.
The KC Hilites website also had an LED 7inch head light. The website had the single light for $312; I found it on eBay for $259. (I spent a few weeks getting over the sticker shock!..... )
This light uses two leds, one for low and both for high beam. The power consumption id 20W low and 25W high beam. The light output is 1500/1650 lumens which is comparable to the H4 halogen.
This light is much, much better. The low beam has great lateral spread. The high beam does not lose the low beam illumination and adds awesome visibility further away. Suddenly the tunnel vision of the OEM light is replaced with confidence inspiring lighting – I felt safe riding down the road able to see what dangers awaited me.

Testing.
The following photos illustrate the design and performance differences of the three head lights.

The OEM light installed:


The KC 7inch Halogen light installed:


The KC 7inch LED light installed:


On the workbench:






On to Part 2.....


Have a nice day! :)

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bruce swaybill
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Re: GL1100 headlights from KC Hilites

Postby bruce swaybill » Mon Oct 05, 2015 4:04 pm



Shining on my garage wall: High beam first and low beam second:

OEM


KC Halogen


KC LED


On to Part 3 ....
Last edited by bruce swaybill on Mon Oct 05, 2015 4:34 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Have a nice day! :)

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bruce swaybill
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Re: GL1100 headlights from KC Hilites

Postby bruce swaybill » Mon Oct 05, 2015 4:08 pm

On the dead end street in my neighborhood:

First the ambient light:


OEM (the shiny thing in the distance is a gate with reflective tape about 300ft away)


KC Halogen


KC LED


It should be clear that the difference in street lighting is better with the KC LED headlight. To be honest, these pictures from my iPhone don’t do it justice. In person, it is sooooo much better than the others, I see no reason to use the auxiliary lights I have installed. Of course, for the price difference, it should be!

As we used to say when I grew up in NY “I’m no Rockefeller”, but my philosophy has been that the pain of paying more for something better will fade quickly, but the pain of not paying more may last a long time, such as crashing because of poor night visibility. (I’m sure my wife would agree in this case, if I ever told her how much it cost…) I think this light is well worth the money. There may be other headlight alternatives that cost less but perform equal to this. I’ll leave that research to other forum readers.
Have a nice day! :)

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bruce swaybill
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Re: GL1100 headlights from KC Hilites

Postby bruce swaybill » Mon Oct 05, 2015 4:30 pm

One last close look at the KC Hilites LED headlight high and low beam....

Have a nice day! :)

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Re: GL1100 headlights from KC Hilites

Postby WingAdmin » Mon Oct 05, 2015 10:09 pm

What an excellent review! If I still had my GL1100, that LED headlight would be going in it today after seeing your pictures.

Just for those who might be interested, I found this headlight, being sold single, on Amazon, for $288. Most places only sell them in sets of two:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B015EB ... ingdocs-20

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Re: GL1100 headlights from KC Hilites

Postby thunderwing » Wed Oct 14, 2015 10:34 pm

EXACTLY what I've been looking for.....Thank you for a magnificent review on the topic. The $280 is the cost of ownership. 33 years of service from OEM headlight is a nice run, so another 33 years of service from the new headlight modification!!!

Can't wait to do this to my bike, waiting on the proper moment to pull trigger on this money wise, but I'm committed to this upgrade.

Thank you.

Best,

Scott
Scott & Laura
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Re: GL1100 headlights from KC Hilites

Postby Mh434 » Thu Oct 15, 2015 2:41 pm

I've been saying for years that, sooner or later, we'll be having vehicles with exclusively LED lighting. Up until now, that seemed reasonable except for headlights, as the LED ones didn't seem to have the "reach" that halogens or HID's do. Looks like the threshold has finally been reached!

I've been wondering about this for a while - I have an inexpensive Stanley handheld 2K LED spotlight with incredible power & reach - better, even, than the brand new halogen on my bike. I couldn't understand why this technology still hadn't made it to headlights, as only reflector design prevented this same LED from being a perfect headlight light source.

Looks like they're finally here!!

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Re: GL1100 headlights from KC Hilites

Postby WingAdmin » Thu Oct 15, 2015 3:06 pm

Mh434 wrote:I've been saying for years that, sooner or later, we'll be having vehicles with exclusively LED lighting. Up until now, that seemed reasonable except for headlights, as the LED ones didn't seem to have the "reach" that halogens or HID's do. Looks like the threshold has finally been reached!

I've been wondering about this for a while - I have an inexpensive Stanley handheld 2K LED spotlight with incredible power & reach - better, even, than the brand new halogen on my bike. I couldn't understand why this technology still hadn't made it to headlights, as only reflector design prevented this same LED from being a perfect headlight light source.

Looks like they're finally here!!


Many cars have had that for some time now. My wife's car doesn't have a single light anywhere on it that isn't an LED.

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Re: GL1100 headlights from KC Hilites

Postby Mh434 » Thu Oct 15, 2015 3:16 pm

Same with my wife's car, although the headlights are HID. Every other light on the car is LED. I wasn't aware that some were actually using LEDs for headlights now - Hey, my prediction came true!! Looks like the aftermarket is catching up, too, based on these KC lights.

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ram11397
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Re: GL1100 headlights from KC Hilites

Postby ram11397 » Fri Oct 16, 2015 2:33 pm

but why so expensive the price needs to come down, saying that i will probably get one for next years riding season this one about over up here in the northeast
Rick
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Re: GL1100 headlights from KC Hilites

Postby japbikejerry » Sun Nov 01, 2015 11:49 pm

about led headlights
J W speaker are about the best led headlights available, they are better than Harley's day makers ( I have ridin with the day makers and they light the way very good )
I have found the J W speaker led head lights for about $300 to 450. check with independent Harley repair shops for pricing and availability. if you can afford it go with it. the other options are led retrofit from Cyron for about $80- this has a very white bright broad light( about 2500 lumens output ) but not much difference between high and low beams. the least expensive is a plasma anti vibe bulb from dennis kirk for about $45- this is very bright (about 5000k lumens output ie retina burners lol) but has a more yellow light and I would recommend that you use a head light visor to help direct the light down ( so you are not shining for coons. of coarse the two last options work the best with newer style head light lens. remember that your headlights need to be adjusted properly so that you are NOT pissing off on coming traffic and so you can still see what you need to. just putting my 2 sense worth out there from my experience

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Re: GL1100 headlights from KC Hilites

Postby dabadge » Mon Nov 02, 2015 2:22 pm

As another alternative, I have been using http://www.amazon.com/Truck-Lite-27270C-Headlamp/dp/B007K8AA7I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1446491416&sr=8-1&keywords=trucklite+led&tag=goldwingdocs-20 on my CX500 for about a year. The nice thing is Jeeps share the same headlamp style, so we actually have aftermarket availability. Not sure how these compare side-by-side, but I'm quite happy with how much light it puts out. These are quite a bit cheaper at about $165 instead of $280 (got mine for ~$100 on fleabay).

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Re: GL1100 headlights from KC Hilites

Postby thunderwing » Mon Nov 02, 2015 6:17 pm

I have not bought an LED 7 inch replacement headlight yet, and now I know why......more solutions that are easier on the wallet are helpful.....I can think of other places to sink that savings.

This forum is great for providing quality solutions and quality shopping alternatives that save my household money....

Thanks guys!!!

Best,

Scott
Scott & Laura
Ride, Ride, Ride!
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1989 Gl1500 Wineberry/Former Ride-God I miss that machine.....
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Re: GL1100 headlights from KC Hilites

Postby rogmerrill » Tue Nov 03, 2015 5:44 am

Great article. I'm looking at upgrading, and in the interest of saving a few dollars also found the Peterson 701c, available from Rockauto or on Ebay: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Peterson-701C-7 ... Tb&vxp=mtr for $175. I may wait until spring as I live in Minnesota, though.

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Re: GL1100 headlights from KC Hilites

Postby sportsfreaked » Sun Nov 08, 2015 12:08 pm

I was going to say let us know how the one from Rock Auto works out but then you said you lived in MN I was like Spring is a reasonable time then for a review :lol:
Thanks to all who answer and help. It is greatly appreciated!
Ed

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bruce swaybill
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Re: GL1100 headlights from KC Hilites

Postby bruce swaybill » Mon Nov 09, 2015 2:17 pm

This Peterson unit looks like a dead ringer for the KC Hilites unit, except for the lack of KC logo!

I say go for it!

Bruce S.
Have a nice day! :)

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thunderwing
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Re: GL1100 headlights from KC Hilites

Postby thunderwing » Mon Nov 09, 2015 3:47 pm

What are the lumen output specs for both the petersen and the KC Hilites ? in both high beam and low beam? That will tell the tale.
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Re: GL1100 headlights from KC Hilites

Postby dabadge » Mon Nov 09, 2015 3:50 pm

Peterson says Low Beam 1100 Lumens; High Beam 1650 Lumens.
KC Low Beam 1100 Lumens; High Beam 1650 Lumens.

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Re: GL1100 headlights from KC Hilites

Postby thunderwing » Mon Nov 09, 2015 3:58 pm

Looks like the petersen is truly a dead ringer for the KC Hilites unit, that settles it.
Scott & Laura
Ride, Ride, Ride!
1983 Aspencade Wineberry/Current Ride
1989 Gl1500 Wineberry/Former Ride-God I miss that machine.....
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[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/115373397

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Re: GL1100 headlights from KC Hilites

Postby rogmerrill » Mon Nov 09, 2015 7:32 pm

On one of the Jeep Wrangler blogs some one said that Peterson makes the KC Hilite headlight. The specs are the same, so it is possible, but I have no verification.

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Re: GL1100 headlights from KC Hilites

Postby chrisz » Tue Dec 01, 2015 8:30 am

Old thread, but the monthly newsletter brought me here to ask a question on the KC LED light. Would this light work with a headlight modulator (high beam)?

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Re: GL1100 headlights from KC Hilites

Postby WingAdmin » Tue Dec 01, 2015 10:02 am

chrisz wrote:Old thread, but the monthly newsletter brought me here to ask a question on the KC LED light. Would this light work with a headlight modulator (high beam)?


It *should*....but you might have an issue with the modulation levels. By law, the modulation must be between 100% brightness and no less than 17% brightness. Basically they don't want it flashing.

The problem with LEDs is that they require a specific amount of voltage in order to switch on. Whereas incandescent bulbs will go dim at low voltages, LEDs will turn off entirely, resulting in a flashing light. Kisan has a version of their modulator that is specifically intended for LED bulbs:

http://kisantech.com/mag/index.php/path ... w-led.html

I'd probably look at using that - either that, or use a regular modulator with a power resistor across it, so that when it shuts off, some voltage is still reaching the LED, preventing it from turning off all the way. The value required for the resistor would need to be worked out.

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Re: GL1100 headlights from KC Hilites

Postby chrisz » Tue Dec 01, 2015 6:53 pm

Thank you for the insight.




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