SoCalMotoGear Pathfinder LED Headlights - 2nd Generation


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SoCalMotoGear Pathfinder LED Headlights - 2nd Generation

Post by WingAdmin » Sun Sep 30, 2018 8:31 pm



If you are just interested in seeing the video, including live footage of nighttime riding with these lights in place, click here to jump to the video review.

Two and a half years ago, I reviewed the Pathfinder LED headlights from SoCalMotoGear - you can read that review here: SocalMotoGear Pathfinder LED Headlights Review

There are two main vendors for Goldwing LED headlight systems: SoCalMotoGear and Electrical Connection. When I did the review, I had tested both, and found that the Pathfinder product was the superior system. It did have its downsides however:

- Brighter than halogen, but nowhere near as bright as HIDs
- Beam pattern was substandard, again blinding oncoming drivers
- High beam was useless - to have the low beams aimed correctly, meant the high beams were illuminating treetops, leaving the road dark

Two years later, technology had advanced, and prices had decreased. I decided that seeing as how I had used and reviewed the SoCalMotoGear product last time, I would try the Electrical Connection product this time. You can read that review here.

The problem is, in that review I compared the new EC LEDs with the old Pathfinder LEDs. Not exactly a fair fight.

I have now evened the playing field by installing and comparing a set of the SoCalMotoGear Pathfinder LEDs. Like the EC LEDs, I installed a set of H4 bulbs in my 2000 GL1500 for this review.

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The Pathfinder LEDs are rated at 25 watts, but like the EC bulbs I measure them consuming 24 watts, or 2 amps. Regular halogen bulbs draw 4.6 amps on low beam and 5 amps on high beam, so running two Pathfinder LEDs instead of regular halogen bulbs means you are using less than half the power - and on a GL1800, where you are replacing four bulbs, the savings is even more.

They are rated for 6000 lumens, which appears to be accurate.

Opening the box, you're greeted with the two bulbs and their drivers, an instruction sheet, and if you have purchased the unit for a 1998-2000 GL1500, a shim kit.

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The system consists of the bulbs themselves with integral heat sinks, and the driver boxes. The heat sinks are required because high-output LEDs generate a lot of heat, and heat kills LEDs. Therefore the heat is drawn out of the LED into the heat sink, where it radiates to the surrounding air.

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The heat sinks unscrew for installation, and if you are worried about them loosening off, there is a tiny hex set screw in the side.

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The threads are coated with thermal transfer paste, to effectively transfer heat from the bulb into the heat sink. There is also a spring washer.

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The first thing I noticed was the exceptional heat sink on the Pathfinder LEDs. This heat sink has a LOT of surface area, and when it comes to heat sinks, surface area is EVERYTHING. There is no fan required, so no moving parts, and no bearings to fail.

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The Pathfinder heatsink (on the right) is quite a bit larger, with a lot more surface area than the EC heat sink (on the left). This is borne out by the cooling effectiveness: When I tested them, the Pathfinder LEDs ran much cooler than the EC LEDs. Because LED lifespan is affected by heat, this may mean that the Pathfinder LEDs could be expected to last longer than the EC LEDs. I also noticed however that the Pathfinder wire is thinner than the EC wire.

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Comparing the new Pathfinder LED next to the two-year-old Pathfinder LED, you can see a tremendous difference - heat sink technology has progressed, and whereas the old LED had one LED module each for low and high beam, the new LED has eight modules each for low and high beams.

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A touch of class is the laser-enscribed logo on the side.

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The Pathfinder LED has sixteen total LED modules, eight on each side. The four LEDs in the front (with the shield) are the low beam, and the four in the back are the high beam. The LEDs are aligned in a position that closely mimics that of a halogen H4 bulb, to make effective use of the reflector. The main difference between this and a halogen H4 bulb is that the light is emitted mostly to the sides, and not to the top or bottom.

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The angle of the beam can be altered to fit the headlight reflector housing, but this does not normally need to be adjusted.

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The angle adjustment plate has its own set screw.

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The driver for the LED is just a bit over two inches long, and easily stowed behind the headlight assembly during installation.

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The driver connects to the LED with a waterproof screw-together connector.

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A definite benefit of the Pathfinder system (right) over the EC system (left): The connecting wires to the driver box are almost twice as long. This makes it MUCH easier to install, as the drivers can be located in the cubby on either side of the headlight. The EC system requires that the drivers be stuffed in behind the headlight reflector assembly.

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The Pathfinder (top) and EC (bottom) bulbs look very similar in a lot of ways, but you can see differences. Note the surface-mount components on the Pathfinder LED.

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The clamp holding the circuit board to the bulb is also slightly different on the Pathfinder bulb.

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Once installed, you can see the difference in heat sinks. The Pathfinder (right) takes up more area, and has more air gaps.

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Before installing in a 1998-2000 GL1500, the two lower tabs on each bulb need to be snipped off. For 1988-1997 GL1500, this is not required, nor is it required for GL1800's.

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A view of the bulb from the business end, after both tabs have been snipped off.

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The supplied shim is installed in the reflector assembly for the 1998-2000 GL1500. There is no shim required for 1988-1997 GL1500's, or for the GL1800.

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The heat sink is unscrewed from the bulb, and the bulb is placed into the reflector assembly.

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The locking wire is clamped into place on the bulb.

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The rubber boot is installed over top of the bulb.

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Next, the heat sink is screwed into place.

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The weatherproof connector is pushed together, and the locking ring is screwed into place.

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Lastly, the driver box's connector is pushed into the original Honda bulb connector.

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So how does it look? Using my highly scientific shine-headlights-at-beach-towel method, this is the Pathfinder's low beam. I have the aperture of my camera dialed way down, so that the image was not so bright. Notice the small dark inverted "V" at the bottom - this is from the blank area at the bottom of the LED where no light is emitted (it emits light out the sides only). It's not that a huge a deal, as when the headlight height is adjusted properly, this dark area is pretty much immediately in front of the bike - not an area you really care about seeing at night.

Also of interest is the strange "flyaway" on the top left. I did not see this occur with the EC LEDs. Out on the road, this seemed to have zero effect however.

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The high beam is brilliant. The light is not concentrated as much in the center as it is with the EC LEDs - it's spread out a bit more, and overall the high beams seem a bit brighter.

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In comparison, this is the low beam from the EC LEDs:

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And this is the high beam:

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Overall, just like the EC bulbs, the beam pattern is close to perfect - very, very close to halogen, and so much better than the old SoCalMotoGear bulbs. There is a hard upper cutoff, so that oncoming drivers are not blinded. The Pathfinder LEDs concentrate the majority of the light exactly where you need it, with some spread off to the sides to help in turns as well as to give visibility off to the sides for deer.

Just like the EC LEDs, the high beam of the Pathfinder LEDs was spectacular. Road signs lit up a quarter of a mile away, and the road was clearly visible far, far ahead - yet I still had more than enough light to illuminate the road nearer to me. Obviously a lot of work has done into emitting light in a proper beam pattern, and it shows.

That said...even going back and looking at video that I took of each system being ridden on dark roads, I was unable to see any real difference between the two systems. They both perform amazingly well. If you showed me video from each system in a double blind test, I doubt I would be able to pick out which video was from which system.

So between the two, which would I pick? It's a tough call.

The EC bulbs have a very marginally tighter, sharper pattern. The Pathfinder bulb puts out more light on high beams. The Pathfinder bulb has a superior heat sink, and runs cooler as a result. The EC bulbs don't have the tiny wasted light on the upper left "flyaway" that the Pathfinders do. Both systems cost almost exactly the same. The Pathfinder is slightly easier to install because of the longer wires.

In the end, I would have to recommend...both systems. You should be thrilled with either system.

See the next post for video that I took with the Pathfinder system installed in my GL1500.



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Re: SoCalMotoGear Pathfinder LED Headlights - 2nd Generation

Post by WingAdmin » Sun Sep 30, 2018 8:31 pm

Here's the video review taken of the SoCalMotoGear Pathfinder LED headlights in action:




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Re: SoCalMotoGear Pathfinder LED Headlights - 2nd Generation

Post by Stew » Mon Oct 01, 2018 11:09 am

Good review, glad to hear both systems are comparable and that the SoCalMotoGear's aren't noticeably better than the EC's I just bought! I also wanted to mention that I do have that little flyaway exactly like in your picture with my EC's so maybe it's not the bulbs but some minor bulb positioning with the install? I use the shims like you and there is a tiny bit of wiggle room with those. Not much, a mm or less perhaps but maybe that's enough.

Cheers!
Winging it every chance I get 8-)

19,119 miles when I got it from dad Oct 15, 2017 --- 24,532 miles and counting as of Oct 17, 2018!

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Re: SoCalMotoGear Pathfinder LED Headlights - 2nd Generation

Post by WingAdmin » Mon Oct 01, 2018 1:08 pm

Stew wrote:
Mon Oct 01, 2018 11:09 am
Good review, glad to hear both systems are comparable and that the SoCalMotoGear's aren't noticeably better than the EC's I just bought! I also wanted to mention that I do have that little flyaway exactly like in your picture with my EC's so maybe it's not the bulbs but some minor bulb positioning with the install? I use the shims like you and there is a tiny bit of wiggle room with those. Not much, a mm or less perhaps but maybe that's enough.

Cheers!
That's a good point. That could very well be the case. I'll have to play with that next time I have the headlight out and see if I can recreate it (or make it go away) by wiggling the bulbs. In either case, that little flyaway seems to make zero difference in real-world riding.

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Re: SoCalMotoGear Pathfinder LED Headlights - 2nd Generation

Post by SlowTyper » Tue Oct 02, 2018 1:46 am

I put a HID headlight on my GL1200 years ago, and am still very happy with it. Unfortunately, it has been discontinued and is no longer available. But fortunately, I was able to get a spare bulb and ballast in case I need them some day.

What I like about my HID is that it is not only bright and lights up the road ahead very well, it is not tightly focused and thus spills a lot of light to the sides. This lets me see where I am headed when making turns. I also mounted LED driving lights that are pointed outwards about 30 degrees. Thus, I have fairly continuous light from about 45 degrees to the side to a long way straight ahead. Compared to the video above, my HID light causes reflective signs to be seen even further ahead.

The only weakness of the HID light is that it takes half a minute or so to get as bright as a standard headlight, and 10 minutes to reach full brightness. And since starting the arc puts a lot of wear on the bulb, I went to a lot of work to make sure the bulb did not cycle on/off when starting the bike.

Even so, I still would accept the LED monthly contest prize... :)

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Re: SoCalMotoGear Pathfinder LED Headlights - 2nd Generation

Post by Papy73 » Tue Oct 02, 2018 7:31 am

Thanks from France for this very clear and useful comparison.
I have read the last month one, about EC and first generation SoCalMotoGear kits, but after this post, I guess I would choose the new SoCal. Hope I can find them in France !.. :roll:

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Re: SoCalMotoGear Pathfinder LED Headlights - 2nd Generation

Post by RBGERSON » Tue Oct 02, 2018 8:28 am

Sorry but I am going to win the contest this month.. :lol: :lol: :lol:
HAD LOTS OF GOLDWING 75-83
NOW INTO 1500'S..RIDING A 1998 SE

FAIR WINDS,
RB

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Re: SoCalMotoGear Pathfinder LED Headlights - 2nd Generation

Post by Dude's Garage » Tue Oct 02, 2018 11:08 am

I was sold when I saw the heat sink, it's a work of art.

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Re: SoCalMotoGear Pathfinder LED Headlights - 2nd Generation

Post by Alan_Hepburn » Tue Oct 02, 2018 11:45 am

The winner this month has just registered in the contest - my GL1500SE sidecar needs more light out front!
Alan Hepburn - San Jose, Ca
1994 GL1500SE with a California Sidecar

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Re: SoCalMotoGear Pathfinder LED Headlights - 2nd Generation

Post by WingAdmin » Tue Oct 02, 2018 1:51 pm

Dude's Garage wrote:
Tue Oct 02, 2018 11:08 am
I was sold when I saw the heat sink, it's a work of art.
It really is - it's a model of efficiency and design, lots of open space to move air through, but an absolute ton of surface area to disperse heat.

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Re: SoCalMotoGear Pathfinder LED Headlights - 2nd Generation

Post by hut1 » Tue Oct 02, 2018 7:18 pm

Thanks for the excellent review and comparison. The Pathfinder LED headlight has now moved to the top of the list for my winter rebuild.

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Re: SoCalMotoGear Pathfinder LED Headlights - 2nd Generation

Post by juliandavies » Thu Oct 04, 2018 3:54 am

Excellent review, thank you. I'm not sure whether these are available (or legal) here in the UK; I seem to remember some odd legislation concerning lighting upgrades (homologation or some such) but I will endeavour to find out. My GL1500 headlights are not wonderful.

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Re: SoCalMotoGear Pathfinder LED Headlights - 2nd Generation

Post by Mh434 » Thu Oct 04, 2018 10:12 am

Legality is actually a bit of a thorny issue. Here in Canada, and for the most part in the US, aftermarket LED & HID headlight bulbs, intended to replace factory-fitted (and government-approved) halogen bulbs are generally NOT legal.

The reasons for this are obvious - government-approved & tested (i.e. "factory") lighting systems are accepted as safe & do not tend to blind other drivers unless they are badly aimed (and aiming is also government-mandated). The profusion of aftermarket bulbs (including the vast numbers of "offshore" designs) is such that government testing of such bulbs is impossible for a government to undertake. Ergo, they are not tested, so not approved for use on highways.

Up until recently, LED bulbs were NOT designed specifically to cast an appropriate pattern of light using standard (i.e., halogen-bulb-designed) headlight reflectors, so the light was badly scattered, often doing more to blind oncoming drivers than light the road. This was even worse with HID bulbs, which threw more light, with even worse patterns.

Recently, however, LED bulb manufacturers have developed bulbs that precisely mimic the light patterns of the H4 bulbs they replace, albeit with far more light & far less current consumed, and less heat produced.

My thinking of the legality issue is thus: provided one purchases these latest-generation LED bulbs, installs them correctly, and aims them according to government mandate, there really shouldn't be much attention drawn by them, if any. These days, at least around here, roughly half of the vehicles on the road have factory-installed (and approved) LED lighting. So, if your lights are properly aligned, you'll appear to be merely one of the throng with government-approved LED factory lighting.

In the UK, my understanding is that all vehicles have to undergo MOT testing from time to time. It would be wise, therefore, to retrofit the (approved) halogen bulbs for the purpose of passing the testing. After testing, the LED bulbs can be switched back again. I know, it's skirting the legality issue, but there's something to be said for the vast safety improvement of the new bulbs, too.

Just my $.02' worth...

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Re: SoCalMotoGear Pathfinder LED Headlights - 2nd Generation

Post by juliandavies » Fri Oct 05, 2018 2:54 am

Thanks for your comments. I am inclined to agree with your conclusions. However, the 'legal' position in the UK appears to be along the lines of the following:-

'Cars/motorcycles fitted with LED systems from new are OK because they will have passed European/UNECE technical standards. Nonetheless, the ‘bulbs’ on those newer cars thus equipped, at the time of writing, cannot be renewed on their own. If an LED module fails, the whole lamp has to be replaced.

Not only do conversion bulbs fail to comply with the aforementioned European technical standards but also fitting them ensures that your lamp will not perform as designed and will prejudice the Whole Vehicle Type Approval of your vehicle'.

I have never seen a GL1500 headlamp unit that is rated for LED - whether one exists I do not know. So I guess the answer is the same as the first commandment of politics; 'Thou shalt not be found out!'

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Re: SoCalMotoGear Pathfinder LED Headlights - 2nd Generation

Post by Mh434 » Fri Oct 05, 2018 10:17 am

That was my thinking, exactly.

The only point in the summary that I take issue with is the reference to "...fitting them ensures that your lamp will not perform as designed...".

While that was absolutely true 3-4 years ago, it is no longer so. Technology & design over the past year or two have advanced dramatically, and the latest generation will, indeed, allow lamps to perform as originally designed, albeit with far better illumination & without blinding other drivers.

Unfortunately, governments are not necessarily wont to keep up with technology. I expect that, in the future, there will be gradual acceptance, but in the interim the best advice would be to install them, aim them with scrupulous adherence to local regulations, and hope you don't get noticed. Essentially, that's what I've done.

I had a chance, a few days back, to ride alongside a GL1800, still fitted with its OEM halogen bulbs. Both of us were astonished at the now-obvious inadequacy of his lighting, compared to my "old" GL1500, fitted with the last generation of Pathfinder (i.e., from a couple of years ago) LED bulbs. My lights are crisp, white, and illuminate the road & shoulders extremely well. His halogens, by comparison, were dim & yellow. He's already ordered LED's as a result.

So - at this point, we can either adhere to antiquated laws, or dramatically improve our safety (while not adversely affecting anyone else) & try not to be noticed so as not to run afoul of the authorities.

As I said, with the profusion of LED-lamp-equipped vehicles on the road now, another motorcycle with properly-aimed LED headlights will not stand out from the crowd. At the time of any government testing, however, it would behoove one to temporarily switch back to the old bulbs....

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Re: SoCalMotoGear Pathfinder LED Headlights - 2nd Generation

Post by echinus1988 » Wed Oct 10, 2018 5:34 pm

So if I am reading this right, for the 2006 GL1800 we have the option of buying 1 kit for the pathfinder brand to cover low OR hi beam or two kits to cover both low and hi beams? Just making sure I am reading it correctly.

Great article and after riding with my son for over 5,000 miles on our trip I was able to see how bright his LEDs are. Mine are really yellow and dim compared. So now I have my Christmas present picked out...

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Re: SoCalMotoGear Pathfinder LED Headlights - 2nd Generation

Post by WingAdmin » Wed Oct 10, 2018 7:06 pm

echinus1988 wrote:
Wed Oct 10, 2018 5:34 pm
So if I am reading this right, for the 2006 GL1800 we have the option of buying 1 kit for the pathfinder brand to cover low OR hi beam or two kits to cover both low and hi beams? Just making sure I am reading it correctly.

Great article and after riding with my son for over 5,000 miles on our trip I was able to see how bright his LEDs are. Mine are really yellow and dim compared. So now I have my Christmas present picked out...
On the GL1800, it is a bit different than the GL1500. All four bulbs are the same type, H7. The inner two (low beam) bulbs stay on all the time. When you turn your high beams on, the outer two (high beam) bulbs come on as well. The high beams are aimed differently, and have different reflector shapes than the low beams.

So you are correct - one kit will cover either the high or the low beams. If you want to do both, you need two kits.

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Re: SoCalMotoGear Pathfinder LED Headlights - 2nd Generation

Post by captaindan » Sat Oct 13, 2018 10:14 pm

I've replaced my low beams on my 06 1800 with the EC's.......Haven't replaced the high beams just yet....I'm thinking maybe the best of both worlds by having the EC for low beams and installing the SoCal for high beams.....Anyone foresee a problem with that?

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Re: SoCalMotoGear Pathfinder LED Headlights - 2nd Generation

Post by WingAdmin » Sun Oct 14, 2018 9:12 pm

captaindan wrote:
Sat Oct 13, 2018 10:14 pm
I've replaced my low beams on my 06 1800 with the EC's.......Haven't replaced the high beams just yet....I'm thinking maybe the best of both worlds by having the EC for low beams and installing the SoCal for high beams.....Anyone foresee a problem with that?
Nope. Should work just fine!



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