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 American Heritage Dictionary, def: conspicuity; n. The quality of being conspicuous; obviousness.
Con`spi*cu"i*ty\, n. The state or quality of being clear or bright; brightness; conspicuousness.


Practical Conspicuity for the Concours Rider

By: Larry Buck

Copyright 2003, all rights reserved

I've been asked by some riders to publish my views on making us more visible to automobiles while riding.  This is by no means the last word on the subject, it's just my thoughts about being seen better.  The usual disclaimers apply.

LED lights. LED's do not/cannot use the reflector that is a part of our tail light and marker light housings (turn signals too) because their light is directed straight out (spot) or only at a 20-30 degree angle. Asking a six LED cluster to do the work of two 1197 bulbs can't happen. LED license plate frames and those little 6 or 8 LED modules that go on with the brakes are barely visible in daylight from any distance behind the motorcycle.  But, there ARE excellent LED lights available from Whelen, the company that makes police and fire vehicle lighting. One of their LED units is about 4" wide x 3" high, with the entire area filled with red or amber LED's. One model can be programmed to flash the LED's several times before going on solid or other light patterns. If you have a Givi top case, this unit may be what you are looking for, it is BRIGHT. Cost is about $80.00. 

Priority Lights. If you want maximum, active conspicuity from the rear, day or night, this simple accessory is THE answer. By turning your turn signals into running lights and brake lights, you now have 3 light locations shining at all times and going brightly on when applying your brakes or using your turn signals.  There is even a model that will flash the brake lights several times before going on solid (Priority Plus). It is much better than a brake light only flasher.  Some will say that using the rear turn signals for running lights is illegal in some areas.  Most enforcement agencies would think that a rider was increasing his visibility to other vehicles and would likely pass on enforcing the letter of the law.   

Tailbrights. This is obviously a shameless plug, but I, and my customers believe them to be the simplest and least expensive way to maximize your nighttime presence to motorists behind you and from the sides. My own experience, and that of my customers, is that cars tend to slow down sooner when coming up to you at intersections and they move into the passing lane sooner when overtaking you too.  A single taillight does not give a car driver any spacial depth of field, Tailbrights do...........and use no power.

Real Driving Lights. Whether you use my mount or not, do yourself a favor, and get some real driving lights for your Concours or whatever motorcycle you ride.  Being an '80's design, we only have a single headlight, not the multi-halogen, bat-wing shaped units found on newer sport tourers. The same concept applies to the front of the bike as the rear; a single headlight does not give an approaching driver any spacial, depth of field to judge distance.  I do not think the placing of small, rectangular lights under the headlight (over the front fender) has much value, because they just present a bigger "splotch" of light.  They also reduce fender clearance significantly. What is needed are 3, spaced sources of light so the oncoming driver has more information to react to.  The small, rectangular lights are too small to improving your "down the road" lighting. Real driving lights must have a decent sized reflector to truly put out more light in a larger area to see better, and react to wildlife and other situations. I can also tell you that using the driving lights during the day (DRL's = daytime running lights) is of even more value, because they are the best way to prevent oncoming cars from turning in front of you at intersections. You are that visible.  Also, using them during the day when riding in the left lane in urban or interstate traffic, really fills up a drivers’ rearview mirror with light to let them know you are there. If you are in the right lane, they won't cut you off very often because they will see you.  If you've ever had a problem getting an in-attentive driver to move over so you could pass them, give them a couple of courtesy flashes with your high beam.  If that doesn't work, turn on your driving lights. Trust me, they WILL move over.

Be aware that it is illegal in most states to have the driving lights higher than the horizontal centerline of the headlight(s).  The brackets that mount the lights either above or below the side mirrors of the Concours, gain very little in “down the road” coverage at the expense of rarely being able to use the lights because they aggravate everybody coming your way. The lights will have a significant amount of shake too, because of the structure of the Concours fairing.

On the subject of wattage, it is of little value to upgrade the headlight bulb to the 100 or 130 watt rated bulb, and I do not recommend them. By increasing the wattage, we only put more light into the area the bike's headlight reflector will allow.  We don't get a bigger pattern or meaningful increase in longer distance lighting. What we need is MORE light, supplied by ........you guessed it, MORE lights.  I use a true, xenon headlight bulb (55/65 watts) and have also used a 80/100 bulb in my Concours. I notice very little difference in the amount of light between the two of them, but the side pattern is much better with the xenon bulb. There is very little additional light provided by the high beam when my driving lights are on. If you do put a 80/100 or 100/130 watt bulb (or even stock wattage) in your Concours, please use dielectric grease on the contacts.  Oh, and that NAPA socket number for the Honda that's supposed to be ceramic?  It's really bakelite, just like the stock one. If you really want the ceramic one, go to a junk yard and get the real deal off a wrecked Honda Accord.  And if you just have to have that 100/130 watt bulb, use the ceramic socket, larger wiring and a relay to do it right.  Guy Young's web pages have the wiring diagram for such a setup.

In summary, here's my take on conspicuity. Tailbrights, Priority Plus safety module, and real driving Iights. You saved anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 when you bought your Concours.  A few hundred spent on conspicuity will be cheap insurance.  Now back to your regularly scheduled “oil” and “tire” threads. 

Thanks for the bandwidth.

Larry Buck

Ph: 561-417-3601
Fax: 561-417-3621

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