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.

Headlight bulbs – general

All over the bike forums there seem to be people asking about LED headlight bulbs at the moment. We are not talking sidelight/parking light/running lights etc these are easy to change to LEDs and, as they are visibility lights and you don’t need to use them to see the road ahead, they do not need to be anything special. We are talking about headlights, dip beam and main beam, the things that you use to see where you are going.

Halogen Headlights.

Most modern vehicles these days use a light bulb known as a HALOGEN. The halogen bulb has been around for many years and has been developed to what is now the pinnacle of its efficiency. Most single filament halogen bulbs consume 55 watts of power and put out around 1400 lumens of light. They are very cheap to buy and produce, and are great value for money. The halogen bulb is on its last legs development wise and is probably the best that it is ever going to be. Some manufacturers are claiming all sorts of magic things for their bulbs (130% more light is one) but there is very little difference between the bulbs and you would probably need electronic equipment to see that difference. In conclusion, buy a halogen bulb from a known manufacturer and you will have the best available. Before you go out and buy 100 watt versions of halogen bulbs, remember that watts is the power consumed and more of that extra power will turn into heat than light, so for 90% more electricity, you may only get 25% more light, but enough heat to melt the wires on your bike! The second bulb from the left in the picture below is a 55 watt halogen bulb with a H11 base as fitted to many Ducatis.


The first bulb (left) is a 35 watt HID xenon with a H1 base, The third is a COB LED with a H11 base, and the right hand one is a SMD LED with a H1 base.

LED headlights.

The LED bulbs above (the two on the right) are absolutely useless as a headlight bulbs. They would be fine for a show bike that never goes on the road, but will not give any decent light to light a road ahead. The COB LED uses about 8 watts of power, but at a guess only puts out around 500 lumens. The other LED (on the right) will use about 2 watts of power and puts out as much light as a dead glow worm.

If you want LED headlights then be prepared to spend the money on complete LED headlight units as LED bulbs in halogen reflectors just do not work. Manufacturers like BMW and Ducati motorcycles, and Seat, VW, Audi, Mercedes cars all make LED headlights but they are designed to be LED headlights and are completely different to anything else. These are being fitted to save electrical energy and improve longevity rather than to boost light output.

HID xenon.

These are the headlights that are often seen on upmarket cars. They consume 35 watts and have a light output of around 3000 lumens, over twice as much as halogen bulbs. The downsides of HID xenon lights are that they need a ballast fitting to fire them, see next picture, and they need to be fitted into projector headlights to control the amount of stray light and avoid dazzling other drivers. Both my Ducati ST2 and the 848 have projector headlights as standard. Projectors can be identified by looking at the front of the headlight and seeing what looks like a round magnifying glass. The projector has a physical metal shield inside to provide the sharp cut off required. The lack of this shield and the subsequent stray light is the reason that HID xenon bulbs should never be fitted into normal reflector headlights. When they come towards you at night you will sometimes see HID xenon lights as blue, they are not blue as standard, but the blue light in the visible light spectrum bends more than the other colours, so the blue is the first colour that bends around the edge of the metal shield in the projector. Below is a picture of a modern HID ballast.


If you retrofit HID xenon lights to your projector equipped Ducati then you will have to find room for this ballast. It is about 2 cms thick. These lights use less power than standard lights so would put less strain on the bikes electrical system. Some people think that a relay should be used with this, but after some experiments with starting and running these units I have come to the conclusion that a relay is not needed, if you use an inline fuse then a 5 amp is fine for each ballast.

Bulb bases.

In the pictures above you will see that there are two different bases on the bulbs, H1 and H11. These have nothing to do with the light output of any bulb that is fastened to the base, it is only the fitting of the bulb to the headlight. I have shown the H1, H3 has a small wire tail and is used in some headlights and many foglights, H4 is a twin filament bulb for dip and main beam in one bulb but with a large base, H7 is a more modern fitment used on some BMW bikes, and other things, H11 is used on the 848. There are more but a Google image search will show you those.

I made a little video today to illustrate the difference between the LED and the HID. Both bulbs are on in the video but I then put a bit of card over the HID light to show what the beam looks like for the LED.

This one shows the lights from the front. This proves that LEDs are great to be seen with but not for seeing the road with.

HID xenon conversion part 1

This post will concentrate on fitting a HID (High Intensity Discharge) xenon kit to a vehicle that has a projector headlight fitted as standard, that includes the Ducati 848 and its big brothers, and the ST2 and ST4. Other bikes such as the older BMW R1100S also have projectors fitted and can be upgraded in the same way.

I would not consider fitting a HID xenon to any light that does not have a projector due to the HID giving out about 3 times as much light, (35 watt version) as a 55 watt halogen bulb. The shield in the projector stops any of that light straying into other road users eyes.

There are vendors on ebay who will try and sell halogen bulbs and call them HID or xenon, but they are halogen, if there is no ballast then it is not a HID. Ebay is the best and cheapest place to buy a kit, and most kits for sale in the US or Europe, started life in China and on ebay. Buying from ebay will also ensure that you are getting the very latest and smallest ballasts on the market rather than some previous  generation, bigger ballasts from some ones old stock.

First decision to make is the power that you want, two versions are available, 35 or 55 watts. The standard halogen bulb fitted to your headlight is a 55 watt. The watts in these cases are a measure of electrical power consumed and not light output, that is measured in Lumen. A 35 watt  HID xenon has nearly three times the light output of a 55 watt halogen. If you use a 35 watt HID xenon bulb then you must also use a 35 watt ballast.

The second decision is the colour of the bulb, measured in “k”, a 4300k is about the same white as daylight and a 6000k is bluer, but puts out no more light than the 4300k – bigger is not better. You also need to know what type of halogen bulb is used in your standard projector. The Ducati 848 etc use a H11 and the ST range a H1 or H3 (I can’t remember which).

Below is a kit that was ordered separately as a bulb and a ballast from ebay for around £8 for the lot.

kitThe part ringed in green is the 35 watt ballast. I know that it has DUFF written on it as the black wire coming out has been damaged. The red wire is the input.

The bulb is ringed in red. In this case it is a 6000k H11. It comes, as they all do, with the cable to supply 12 volt power to the red lead of the ballast and two plugs to take the very high voltage out of the ballast.

kitconnHere you see the connector for the 12 volt in, circled in red, and the two connectors for the bulb supply, circled in green. The hard part of installation is finding where to fit the ballast, but this ballast is a very thin modern one and fits behind the triangular panel inside the right mid fairing on the 848.

hidbulbThis shows the only part that needs to be fitted now the ballast is located. The HID bulb (green) needs to be fitted in place of the standard H11 halogen, and the two wires arrowed in red need to be fitted to the original plug supplying the halogen bulb. I avoid touching the bulb just as I would a halogen due to the oils in human skin. As the ballast will be outside of the headlight enclosure a rubber grommet is supplied to fill the hole than needs to be cut into the back of the headlight.

Does it make much difference? Well here is a short video that I made in my garage with the Gopro. The first light that you see is the 6000k HID xenon dip beam. The sharp beam cut off can clearly be seen.

When the main beam comes on (a standard 55 watt halogen H11) you can clearly see that it is not as bright and more yellow than the dip which stays on. At one stage I put my hand over the dip so that just the halogen main can be seen, that shows that it only lights toward the top as there is a shield inside that light too, it is just a dip fitted upside down! If that shield were removed there would be a better spread of light from the main. That will be the subject of another post.

The main thing is that people can see the difference between the two light technologies and can understand how a 35 watt HID xenon gives so much more light than a 55 watt halogen.

There is, however, one disadvantage to the HID, it does not light instantly like any other bulb, but takes a few seconds to come to full brightness. This is the reason that I will leave a halogen in the main beam for the flash function.

Doing this mod took me about 45 minutes and needed no special tools other then a 25 mm hole cutter to cut the plastic. It has been running for a few hundred miles without problem.

Something to be aware of.

I have covered a few thousand kilometres now since I bought the bike, and love the lightness and the way that it handles. The suspension is adjustable for spring pre-load, rebound and compression damping both front and rear. I have dropped the front forks down a little through the top yoke to sharpen it a bit and enjoy the ride. It has a new Metzler Z6 tyre fitted to the back and a worn Bridgestone on the front.

There was always a slight niggle about the fast cornering which I put down to the part worn front tyre. It often felt like there was a very slight “step” when banking over so I have ordered a new Z6 front tyre, €74 from including delivery.

After a quick ride out today, the sun was still shining on our return, so Jude, my wife, set about cleaning her BMW F800ST. I decided to fit the new footrest rubbers that I had bought from the Ducati dealer this week. After fitting I thought that it might be a good idea to put a plank of wood under the rear tyre while on the centre stand, to see how hard the rear felt. To my amazement there was some play in the suspension. I could feel that there was about 5 to 10mm of movement at the tyre before the slack was taken up. After investigation it was located at the bottom of the rear shock tie-rod mount.

The bolt that holds this and the bottom of the rear shock can be reached through a hole in the right hand side of the swinging arm with a long 8mm allen key, on the other end of this (left side) there appeared to be a strange nut with two vertical flats. As I removed everything all became clear. The nut was in fact a bush with a thread in it. For the bush to work the flats had to be horizontal otherwise the bush part will not sit into the hole around the bolt! After correct reassembly all the play has gone.

Some pictures:


Item 12 is the bush shown with the flats horizontal.

DSCF6097sThis is where the part is located and can be checked without dismantling anything.

DSCF6098sHere the flats are horizontal as it should be and the whole bush is sitting inside the recess in the swinging arm which ensures that the bush is in the bolt hole. As can be seen from the picture, if the flats are vertical then the bush will sit on the ridges on the swinging arm and not be seated correctly. The handling of the bike is now transformed.

I am not sure how this was fitted incorrectly, it could have been a previous owner or it could also have been some apprentice at a motorcycle workshop, but my advice is that any ST owner can look at this without getting their hand dirty and should do so if anyone else ever works on their bike!


Fuel sender

The fuel sender that is fitted to the ST range of Ducati motorcycles can be problematic, just try a Google search to see what I mean. After filling the ST2 up with fuel and resetting the trip meter I was stunned to find the low fuel warning light came on at 209 kms and there were no bars showing on the fuel gauge.


The green arrows show the fuel light (off) and the gauge showing all bars (full).

When I filled up at around 215 kms and measured the amount that went in I found that there would have still been at least 9 litres in the tank despite what the indications were telling me! This was something to be investigated as I understand that there is no way to adjust anything on the system.

A few weeks later my wife (BMW F800ST) and me on the Ducati filled up with fuel, my gauges were showing full for about 30 kms then everything went down to empty. I stopped and looked into the tank, it was still full. Off we rode again, the light went off and the gauge showed a quarter full for 10 minutes and then went back to zero. Time to investigate.

The first thing that I did was to get a large spanner and tap the fuel level sender in the tank (shown in the next picture) to see if anything would happen, nothing did.


Time to start draining the tank to look at the sender. I had an empty 20 litre can which was just big enough. The tank was emptied, removed from the bike and placed upside down on a blanket to get access to the inside. Three nuts were removed which allowed the fuel pump assembly to come out of the bottom, and then the sender was pulled out. It is only fitted in with rubber cups top and bottom (shown in green in the picture below) . When out the sender (shown in red in the picture below) could be tilted up and down and a float of some sort could be heard going from one end to the other.


It looks like it should not be dismantled and there is no obvious way into the sender so I left it as it was. I decided to adjust the position of the sender just in case it was working again, so that the light would come on with less than 9 litres left.

Both the rubber cups (green) are the same and they both have step inside them to stop the sender sliding up and down when in position. I cut the step and the bottom of of one of the cups and fitted that cup to the bottom of the sender so that it sits about 15 to 20 mm lower in the tank. The sender was refitted in the new position and the fuel pump and tank were all fitted back to the bike.

The tank is now full, as the pictures show, and everything seems to be indicating as it should. Perhaps something was sticking and has been freed up by my playing, but we shall see. I will run the bike till the low fuel light comes on and report back on the new position of the sender unit.

Windscreen – Pare brise

I was browsing ebay a couple of weeks ago and put Ducati ST into the search bar to see what was around. I came up with a black tinted windscreen, now I do not need a windscreen as mine is fine, but at €16 (£11,60) I just had to order one. It comes from Hong Kong and the ebay item number is 201257447952. Click on the number for the link. I was not expecting anything fantastic for that money, but thought that I would have a look at it.

Today this turned up in the post:


Like a kid with a new toy I set to opening the parcel, it was very well packaged and so survived the journey from Hong Kong intact. Here is the packaging:


I was downstairs in the garage like a racing snake to see how it fits. The fit is very good and did not need any adjustment at all. The thickness of the plastic is about the same as the original Ducati screen on the bike and I was impressed by the overall quality of the screen for the price that I paid for it. The only thing that I don’t know at the moment is how scratch resistant it will be. When I have cleaned the first few batches of dead flies off the screen I will report back, but if it does scratch easily then I will just fit the old screen back on. At the price that I paid I could afford to buy a new one every year!

Here it is fitted:

fittedfLooks great!