LED and HID bulbs in headlights

Many people seem to mess with headlight bulbs looking for an improvement. I did some experiments with different bulbs on the Ducati Supersport. The Supersport has a single filament dip beam which is perfect for my experiments as it is a reflector and not a projector headlight. Any old type of bulb can be put into a projector, but the reflector headlight needs the filament of the bulb to be in exactly the correct place to produce the correct beam pattern and cut off.

The first picture shows the LED bulb that I bought for the experiment.

This is the type with a fan rather than a huge heatsink hanging out of the back, it does not really matter which type you use.

Here is the dip beam with a standard H11 55 watt halogen bulb, the type that nearly all cars and bikes are fitted with as standard:

As can be seen in the back of the very messy garage, the dip beam is very clear with a sharp cut off with virtually no light scatter to blind other drivers. This is a standard set up as designed by Ducati.

The next picture shows the Led bulb fitted:

This might look brighter, but it is not, the camera has compensated for the different amount of light. The nice clean cut off has gone because the LEDs are not in exactly the same place as the halogen filament was within the reflector. Loads of the light is being thrown all over the place rather than where the rider wants it, on the road. There is also far too much being thrown into oncoming drivers eyes. I would not be happy riding behind that.

The bike is in a different position in the next two pictures, but they are a comparison. Again the camera has compensated for the different amounts of light, the bottom picture actually has about 3 times as much light as the one below.

Once again this is a standard 55 halogen bulb with a nice dip beam cut off as in the second from top picture.

This one is the 35 watt HID xenon headlight bulb with a separate ballast. The light is much brighter, but again the nice cut off has been lost. This would seriously dazzle oncoming drivers due to the stray light scattering. That is the reason that these should only ever be used in projector headlights. No manufacturer puts HID xenon into a reflector headlight on any standard vehicle.

Led headlights can be specified as an extra on many cars and bikes these days, but none of them are LED bulbs inserted into normal reflectors designed for halogen bulbs, they are whole units with the LEDs as part of the design.

The halogen bulb is now at the peak of its development and cannot really go much further. Many will tell you that their bulb has 10 or 20% more light output, but that is rubbish, if it were possible then everyone would only make these improved bulbs. What those higher power bulbs are doing is to change the colour of the light to a slightly bluer light and fooling the brain into thinking that it is brighter.

Some people also use 100 or 130 watt halogen bulbs, remember that watts is a measure of electricity consumption and not light output as that is measured in lumen. What happens is that the halogen that uses 100 watts does not turn it all into light, but only a small percentage of it, most gets turned into heat to fry your wiring. Why do you think that the experts have come up with 55 watts as the normal bulb?



Supersport LED rear indicators

Just a short post. I never liked the huge rear indicators on the Supersport, and do not like the fact that they are the only two incandescent light bulbs on the whole bike. So I searched for something different.

To change the indicators to LED, no resistors are needed in the cabling, they just need to be electrically connected and the flash rate will be correct. The small tray needs to be removed from under the tail piece, 5 screws, and the original indicators will fall out. If you want to preserve the original Ducati plugs the an adaptor to bullet connectors is needed, and two indicator blanks are needed to fit the new indicators.


These indicators are sequential, that means that the light flows from inside to outside rather than just flashing on and off. I made a little video with the hazard flashers on to demonstrate. As can be seen from the above picture, the indicators are rubber mounted so are not easily knocked off.


The first pictures.

Today is Sunday. I collected the bike on Thursday in the rain and it has rained since apart from a brief spell yesterday afternoon. My wife and I pulled the Supersport out of the garage to clean it and take some pictures. While it has been in the garage I have spent some time going through the various settings and modes on the bikes electronics and display, and have removed the rear footrests as they will only be needed when a certain person visits from the UK. I have also cut down the large rear number plate hanger that is too big for our French number plates.

Here are the pictures:

The front of the bike looks quite pretty while at rest, I thought that the 848 was a piece of art, but this one is too.Then when the ignition is turned on the daytime running light illuminates. It is an array of LEDs and makes the bike look more aggressive.

These two side views show the lines of the bike, note that without the black rear footrests and their hangers above the exhausts, the lines are a bit cleaner.

It looks like it should be quite an aggressive (uncomfortable) riding position from this angle, but that is not the case, it is very comfortable. The long part that holds the rear number plate will be changed for a shorted on in due course.

The business end. This instrument has a wealth of information. The two boxes on the bottom left and right can be scrolled though to show average speeds, fuel consumption, distance left on fuel in the tank and much much more.

The selectable riding modes, “Sport”, “Touring” and “Urban” are also selectable and programmable to give various throttle responses, engine power settings, traction control and ABS settings. If it sounds complicated then it is not too bad once you have read the huge instruction manual.

More to come.

Ignition key

The standard ignition key for a 1967 Ducati 250 single is so basic that any bent nail would work to switch the ignition on. If someone wants to steal a bike then they will probably lift the bike into a van, but I am not going to make life easy for them. As I never had the key for Dinky, I used a fuse holder inside the headlight and just inserted a 10 amp fuse to switch the ignition on.

I bought an ignition switch from ebay for the grand sum of £3.50 but at least it has a double sides key and can’t be switched on with a bent nail. The only thing was fitting it. I do not want the do anything to Dinky that is not reversible, that means that she can be returned to a standard bike without any effort in the future. For that reason I cannot just remove the old ignition switch from the headlight shell, enlarge the hole and fit the new switch, as that would damage the shell. The end result was to make an aluminium bracket that fits to the top of one of the front forks. The new switch, with key, is indicated in green in the following photos , the red arrow is the old switch.

ign2 ignsw

The result looks quite neat.

The next job was to fit the headlight for the first time. An LED bulb was fitted into the sidelight position to be sympathetic to the puny charging system on this old bike and will be used as a running light. If I switch the 45 watt headlight on instead of the LED then it will use just about all of the electrical power used by the little bikes generator.  I was surprised to find that the headlight lens is plastic and was just thinking how advanced Ducati were in 1967 to fit plastic lenses, my guru Craig, shattered that illusion and told me that it should be glass.


It does look rather cute now though.

As most of the major stuff is done for now on Dinky the Ducati, I shall move back to some work on Ronnie the BMW RS with his cafe racer conversion.

The ultimate headlight for the ST2

Please note that the videos in this post have a narrative so please turn on your speakers.

The ultimate headlight because there have been many ideas and a few mock ups so far. The headlight that has been running till now has a HID bi-xenon projector with a 35 watt ballast and a blue tinge bulb in it. As a bi-xenon supplies both a dip and a main beam from the single HiD bulb there was no need to have a separate main beam bulb so I put a cheap LED bulb in there instead. So rather than the standard setup of using a 55 watt halogen bulb for dip and then another 55 watt halogen for main, consuming 110 watts on main beam, the system used 35 watts for about 3 times the amount of light.

Since that was fitted my wife has taken a liking to the ST2 as I have been riding the 848. Most of the time she is behind and one thing has become apparent, the headlight is not very noticeable from the front. Due to the huge amount of light coming out of a HID xenon it has to be in a projector as the shield stops any stray light while on dip beam. This is a disadvantage as maximum visibility is needed at all times for other drivers. French law requires bikes to be ridden with lights on at all times. What was needed was a bright LED that would switch off when the main lights are on for good visibility during daylight  but no dazzle at night. I then found these on ebay:

They have two functions but the 30 watt LED is far too bright even for a daytime running light.

This is what has been in the main beam position up to this week. As can be seen the cheap H1 LED in the main beam has fallen apart due to the vibration on the bike.

The following video shows how to take the headlight apart:

Once you are at this stage there are four screws on the back of the projector mounting plate that need to be removed to change the projector. Even if you leave the standard projector in there, it is worth dismantling just to clean the inside of the glass as can be seen in the video, I would guess that the light output from your standard bulb will increase enough to notice even it, if this is all that you do.

Once the ebay light is fitted into the main beam side of the Ducati headlight, the 30 watt LED is wired into the same circuit as the cut off shutter in the projector. This means that it will illuminate as a flasher even when the headlights are switched off. The “angel eye” wires are a bit more tricky, the red wire (+) is wired into the bikes fuse box to a supply that is live with the ignition on, but dead with ignition off. I have fitted extra fuses into my fuse box to supply this and the voltmeter, and have fitted a 1 amp fuse (12 watts). The earth wire from the “angle eye” is wired to the supply side of the sidelight bulb. By doing this the “angle eye” will earth through that bulb as long as it is switched off, but should that bulb be switched on the “angel eye” will extinguish.

So what you see now is as follows:

Ignition on – Angel eye on, 5 watts consumption, everything else off.

Headlight switch in park, first position – parking light on, rear light on, about 8 watts consumption, angel eye off.

Headlight switch in dip, second position – HID xenon comes on 35 watts consumption.

Main beam selected – same 35 watt HID xenon, cut off shutter open, plus 30 watt LED on the other side.

The 30 watt LED is also the head light flasher at all times.

Here is the end result, the larger picture shows beam patterns on the wall while the smaller shows what the headlight looks like to oncoming traffic.

And there it is, the ultimate headlight using modern technology in a late ’90s designed headlight. It now fulfils all the functions that it should whilst using the minimum electrical power that it can and puts out huge amounts of light compared with the standard setup.

Back to the ST2 electrics and headlight

My wife has taken ownership of the ST2 while I use the 848. The ST2 is a much nicer bike to ride than her much newer BMW F800ST anyway. On trips out she has the HID bi-xenon headlight switched on as is the rule here in France. A couple of times she has told me over the intercom that the voltmeter is only reading 12.6 volts, so I know that there is not much charge going into the battery. As I always ride at the front (women can’t navigate) I have noticed that the sharp dip beam cut off in the headlight does not really do much for visibility. Both problems have been sorted with yet another headlight design.

In this design there is a circular LED “angel eye” as a daytime running light, A conventional side light for parking with the headlight switch in the first position and the HID dip on the second position. When the parking light or headlight is switched off the “angel eye” switches off. This way it can throw more light in all directions for the daytime to make the bike more noticeable and does not stay on with the lights at night so as to avoid dazzling oncoming drivers.  A 30 watt LED light is fitted inside the ring to provide a headlight flash function. as there would be none without the dip beam being on otherwise.

The ST2 is now very noticeable during the daytime from the front. The voltmeter is showing 13.9 volts at tick-over so we know that the battery is charging, and the daytime running light is only consuming about 5 watts. It is wired through a 1 amp fuse in a spare position in the standard fuse box.

I am not sure if I should make videos and take photos as it is some effort when I am not sure that there are many ST2s and ST4s out there with owners wanting to modify the lights, if I am wrong and there is someone then let me know and I’ll go and document it.

Hydraulic bike lift.

As we own a number of bikes, and I do all the servicing and work on them myself, A hydraulic bike lift has been one of the best things that I have invested in. It was a standard lift with some minor modifications. The first mod was to drill a hole on each side of the platform and insert a long bolt so that I can strap any bike to the lift before elevating. The second mod was to remove the very poor design of front wheel holder and fit my Constand wheel chock. This makes positioning a bike very simple and a one man job. Here is the standard lift.


I have a pair of magnetic screw trays at the front for placing fairing screws in.

When I was working on the Ducati ST2 starter the other day I found that the biggest problem with working under a bike is the light. There are florescent tubes on the garage ceiling, but that is not much use. I could fit the same to the lift, but they break easily and they need 230 volts, which I don’t want in my work area.

I ordered a 5 metre strip of waterproof, self stick, 5050 LEDs from ebay for less than £8, LINK HERE.  These can be cut to any length and I stuck 1.8 metres on each side of the bike lift.



These are connected to a small 2 amp 12v wall transformer, but will eventually be powered by a small battery fitted under the front of the lift, with switches to switch either or both sides on.





Some of the pictures look very poor quality, that is due to the camera trying to compensate for the brightness of the LEDs.

Thank you Will in Ireland for giving me the idea!