Impressive tail lights

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by Grommet, Feb 4, 2002.

  1. Grommet

    Grommet Adventurer

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    Whilst driving home tonight I followed a Beemer (I think it was an 1150R), which had modified tail lights. Looked like the blinkers had part of the lens as a red light, which was pretty bright and made the bike much more visible than with a single, standard light.

    Anyone have an idea of what I saw? I reckon they'd be a good safety addition for night riding...
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  2. fish

    fish Banned

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    Coulda been either run-n-lites or lite-buddies.
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  3. moon

    moon Space Cowboy

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    I've always thought it would be a cool idea to mount a tail light of some kind across the top of the grab rail on the GS. Maybe some LEDs.
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  4. Grommet

    Grommet Adventurer

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  5. moon

    moon Space Cowboy

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  6. Ron B

    Ron B Been here awhile

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    I use lite-buddies and a Kisan Tailblazer. I've been told that, along with the reflectives on my bags, I'm quite visible. That said, however, I think that the best solution would be to mount something higher up where those idiots might actually see it.

    I saw this on a newsgroup recently: Maybe if we replaced the airbag with a pointy foot-long steel spike, those cage drivers might pay attention to what they are doing.

    Do you think so??? Nahhhh!
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  7. CodeMonkee

    CodeMonkee Geek Adventurer

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    Since this was one of my fave issues I've posted extensively on this. Here is a short version:

    I don't like to put running lights or red lights into the turn signals. Rear amber running lights are illegal in most states. Having the running lights, red or amber, using the same lens as the turn signals can be confusing to others, especially when trying to signal a turn. The best way to signal a turn is for the turn signal to go through a cycle of off/on/off/on, not dim/bright/dim/bright or red/yellow/red/yellow. Off/on catches the attention much better, and that is why I have an aux. set of brake lights separate from the main tailight that works just that way; it only goes on when I apply my brakes, and it is attention getting. These are Hyperlites - see attached photo.

    OTOH, using the turn signals as running lights does improve the visibility, especially from the front, and especially on bikes with small tail lights such as the Airhead GS.

    Personally, I think if you want to have running lights, then have them separate fro mthe turn signals. Buy a pair of Hyperlite modules for each end of the bike, red for the rear and amber for the front. Mount them outboard from the center of the bike, such as on the mirrors and panniers, to give the bike more visibility. You can even hook up the rear running lights to go brighter when applying the brake.

    Attached Files:

    #7
  8. bear

    bear Guest

    What is wrong with the turn signals being red? Car turn signals are red. They also operate as running lights, maybe if motorcycle turn signals and running lights mimiced car tail lights they would see us. They don't see us much now.
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  9. CodeMonkee

    CodeMonkee Geek Adventurer

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    Not all of them; many rear car turn signals are amber, especially European and Japanese cars. The reason is simple; having the turn signals a different color makes them more noticeable.

    I have done some observation, and I have done some reading, and there are three factors that affect how noticeable a signal is, whether it be a running light, a turn signal or a brake light:

    1) Whether the signal goes on/off or dim/bright, with on/off being a lot more noticeable than dim/bright.

    2) Location. The further away from the center the more noticeable a turn signal is - I believe I read one place that at least 12 inches was really necessary. The further away from the tail-light the more noticeable an aux. stop signal is; this (and #1) is why most cars sold in the US now have a center aux. turn signal located as high as possible.

    3) Different colors. While it is not mandatory that rear turn signals be amber, most safety experts recommend it as it differentiates from the stop signals.

    Think about it; if you have a red flashing turn signal on a car, it is possible that the driver is applying their brakes and the other side brake light is burnt out, or it is actually a turn signal. In the split second the following drive is considering this they have traveled quite a distance before they apply their foot to the brakes or maneuver around you. Since most people are more accustomed to cars, the often apply the same subconcious logic to motorcycles.

    There is also this factor; humans learn such skills as walking, running, skiing, driving cars and riding bikes, to where they don't really think conciously about what they are doing. This is because once these skills are learned they are burnt into a separate part of our brain where we don't really have to give as much attention to them - we just do them. This actually makes the exercise of such skills more fluid, coordinated and faster. This learned behavior lets us concentrate on other more important tasks at hand, like where we want to go, etc. - and even then we sometimes do it unconciously if we have taken that same route often enough.

    Anytime where we have to actually think about doing such skills our performance suffers because the part of the brain that handles the skill is different. When we see red brake lights or amber turn signals we respond semi-reflexively at first - in those first few fractions of a second before we actually think about what is going to happen.

    If we have to try to differentiate whether someone is turning or stopping, then that slows down our processes. If we follow too closely like 99% of most drivers do, then that can make the difference between stopping in time and hitting the person we are following. Many traffic accidents are caused by people following too closely.

    This is why I try no to confuse those following me as to what I intend to do; I want it to be clear as soon as possible whether I am turning or slowing down, or both. That is why I do not mix up these signals with each other; I don't have running or stop lights mixed in with the turn signals, and I have a separate very bright aux. stop light.

    Also, you may notice that my tail-lights and stop-lights are LEDs. LEDs turn on and off much faster than incandescant bulbs - by as much as a quarter second. That can buy me some 25-30 feet at highway speeds, which can mean the difference between being hit from the rear or not.

    Also, the abrupt nature of the LED on/off cycle makes them very noticeable, and some of the LEDs I use are a much brighter red rather than the orangish incandescent light coming from a typical stoplight lens.


    All three factors together, location, color and on/off vs. dim/bright gives me an edge over other arrangements.
    #9
  10. bear

    bear Guest

    Most of the cars I see around town, do not have a rear tail light that is turn signal specific. Most trucks share the turn signal and brake light in one tail lens housing. Most cars I see also do this, the cars/trucks have the advantage that most driver's are trained to look for cars/trucks and not bikes.

    Cars that have separate tail lenses of a different color for turning are of the high end cost wise, so I see very few of those where I live.

    I agree that the off/on pattern would draw more attention, but if you ran your tail lights as running lights and then when you went to signal the did an off/on pattern that should work.

    Thank goodness we are in a country were we are still allowed to decide how much we are going to put ourselves at risk, instead of our government.
    #10
  11. moon

    moon Space Cowboy

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    I've followed a friend who has some kind of flashing light gizmo on his brake light. I found it to be confusing. Not only was I unsure when he was going to turn, but I found myself having target fixation on his butt. This can't be good if you believe in the rule that you go where you look.

    Anyway, I've developed the opinion that stock is best. Stock colored lights and flashing only for turn signals and emergencies. But I like the idea of getting the brake light higher as has been the trend in cars since about the 80's. So, I wouldn't mind finding a red tail light that I could mount across the top of the grab rail of my 1150 that doesn't blink but just comes on with the brake. Most likely a set of LEDs.

    Lauren, could you describe the brake lights you've got on there from Hyper Lights? Looks like two kits, one for the main light and an additional strip across the top. Do they blink or just burn slolid with the brake?
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  12. CodeMonkee

    CodeMonkee Geek Adventurer

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    Well, I am all for that - I would not want to suggest that you should be able to do that, as long as you put no one else at risk. However, there should be some standardization - such things as no rear amber running lights lest someone get confused about whether you are coming or going, no blue lights, etc.

    This has been a topic that I have thought about, researched and discussed on the various lists, and getting too fancy can confuse people. I have friends that have Run-nlites, Lite-buddies, etc., and I saw a lot of different setups at Redmond, and I have come to the conclusions that what I posted above is best.

    Some of the Run-n-lites type stuff is confusing - while it does enhance your visibility, it also detracts in other areas as letting people know what you are doing.
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  13. CodeMonkee

    CodeMonkee Geek Adventurer

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    I have seen a lot of these kinds of lighting setups, and the only one I think I like is the Kisan Tech tail-light modulator:

    http://www.kisantech.com/tailBlazer Main.htm

    [​IMG]

    The other setup I have seen is something different; it hooks up to your vacuum and when you are decelerating it flickers your stop light. You can adjust it come on at different levels of vacuum. We all know that many bikes can slow significantly without applying their brakes, sometimes almost as fast as cars can with their brakes. When I am doing this I pump my brakes a little (not enough to actually apply them, but enough to flicker the brake signal) to let people know I am slowing down. It would be nice to have something do this automatically. I would hook it up to my Hyperlites only and not the main tail-light.

    If you go here you can see more pics, and there are captions with many of them when you open up the thumbnails. But since I don't know how long PBase is going to be in existance or keep my pics up, I will explain here too.

    http://www.pbase.com/lauren/motorcycle_light_and_signalling

    What I have is the following:

    From the bottom up, I have a Trucklite model 45 LED brake light - the kind used on trucks, buses and trailers. It is larger and brighter than the stock light as you can see from the pics. It is both a tail-light and brakelight.

    Above that is a Signal Dynamics LED bar which is setup to be both a tail-light and brake light. As you can see from the pics this isn't a very good unit and I don't recommend it, but I bought it so I use it. Its problem is that from much of any angle the lens cuts down on its visibility quite a bit.

    On top of that are two 16 LED Hyperlites that only come on with the brake light. These are extremely visible and have the best and brightest LEDs of any of the products I have ever seen - and I think I have seen them all. LifeBrites are pretty much the same or similar.

    Here is an animation of what they do as the brake is applied then let go. They stay on solid while the brake is applied and do not flash. I do have a flasher for them, but I don't use it. The flasher does something like flashing for a few seconds then going solid.

    Attached Files:

    #13
  14. moon

    moon Space Cowboy

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    Thanks, Lauren. I think this is what I'm looking for.
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  15. CodeMonkee

    CodeMonkee Geek Adventurer

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    BTW, one of the reasons I went the route I did was because I tried a Halogen light bulb and it melted the plastic reflector in the stock GS tail-light in about 10 minutes.

    I was trying the Halogen bulb because I wanted two things:

    1) More visibility.

    2) Longetivity.

    In theory the Halogen bulb should have given both. Previously I have had a lot of problems with standard 1157 bulbs in bike tail-lights as the filaments would vibrate lose. The Halogens don't do that and indeed the bulb never did burn out nor the filament vibrate lose. But it did melt the reflector since the reflector is plastic and couldn't take the heat.

    So I replaced the tail-light with the stock one from my DR until I figured something out. The stock tail-light on the DR is metal and it worked just fine, but I wanted something better.

    The problem with the Halogen bulb, beyond melting reflectors, is that while it was brighter, it made it harder to differentiate between running light and brake light mode, which is dangerous.

    So I got neither more visibility nor longetivity, and I made the setup I have now.
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  16. CodeMonkee

    CodeMonkee Geek Adventurer

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    You can do lots of things with Hyperlites or Lifebrites. They come in sizes you can put inside tail-lights and turn signals, or you can put them on top of just about anything as long as it is somewhat flat. I could not easily put them onto my rack as the tubing is round, but I could have found a way.
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  17. Grommet

    Grommet Adventurer

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    I guess it's when decelerating that you really need the visibility. I was first struck with the pattern of the tail lights I saw (which must have been Lite Buddys'), as three lights in a horizontal line. This pattern drew your attention as it's wide and unusual - plus the brightness of the LEDs was a real enhancement over the stock tail light. But the LEDs were far enough away from the stock brakelight that their brightness did not interfere.

    I also agree with the comment on turning indication. I followed the bike into a left turn. The blinker was visible, but you had to be closer than say, 40 yards to see it clearly over the red LEDs.

    Thanks all for your excellent and informative responses!
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  18. stevenknapp

    stevenknapp Long timer

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  19. CodeMonkee

    CodeMonkee Geek Adventurer

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    Does anybody remember this company?

    They have a web site where they also sell helmet retro-reflective sitckers in the shape of arrows. The decals and vacuum device were both on the same website.

    I lost the URL when I had a HD go bad on my computer, and I can't find them again.

    Thanks,
    Lauren
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  20. CodeMonkee

    CodeMonkee Geek Adventurer

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