Picture this: As the sun slowly sets at your lakeside cabin after your family BBQ and a sunny afternoon of fun, you weigh the decision of whether you should have left much earlier on your motorcycle to avoid riding these country roads in the dark. If it’s too late for that, you are instead left with the alternative of leaving right now and riding at dusk. A favorite time for animals on the road, and the blinding headlights from other vehicles in your eyes. You instead settle on your final option, waiting another hour until it’s fully dark and hoping for minimal traffic so you can utilize your bikes high-beams for most of the ride.
The first 15-minutes of the drive is a gravel route flanked by thick brush. Afterward is 45-minutes of paved country roads, then another 20-minutes through the city until you are safely parked in your garage. Once on the road, you luckily encounter no oncoming traffic, and your high-beams are fully lit up. The first and also worst fifteen-minutes have passed and gone fine. Once on the paved country road, a truck flashes you with its high-beams as a request for you to dim yours. You do, and you get the standard flash of lights in your face while the truck passes. Immediately afterward, you switch on your high-beams while your eyes try to adjust. Everything soon comes into focus, and in that split-second, a deer has found his way into your driving path. In an instant, you and the bike have skid down the road while the deer limps into the brush. In awe that both you and the bike are virtually unharmed, you make a commitment to yourself that you will design a better lighting system to help improve the safety of riders across the nation.
It’s a story similar to this one that lead Glen Stasky to found Clearwater Lights in 2009. He and his team now have close to a decade of innovation and dedication to rider safety through lighting. Here is a look into Clearwater’s incredible evolution.
What Is Clearwater Lighting?
If you’ve ever shopped around for aftermarket motorcycle lights, you’ll see that there are about as many options as there are tread patterns for your tires. There are the eBay addition Asian imports for under $20. These are great so long as you don’t require them to be waterproof, last longer than six months, and have an extra battery installed. Then there is a plethora of custom fitted options, lighting bars, and vehicle-built options that you’ll see people have bolted on then zip tied into place.
What Clearwater aims to do to separate themselves from the pack, was to develop “…the only fully-adjustable high-powered LED auxiliary motorcycle lights available.” What that means, is that you now have the option to use a dial operated control to run a set of astonishingly luminescent lights. From the lowest possible setting for simple daytime running lights, to adjusting it as you see fit for oncoming traffic, bad weather, or total blackness. An incredible design that clearly has a growing fan base.
Lighting Options: Halogen, HID, & LED
When it comes down to lighting options, you’ve got three basic set up’s that your motorcycle likely came with. Let’s start with the halogen bulb, or more formally known as a tungsten filament bulb. This type of bulb comes stock on many motorcycles for one underlying reason, it’s cheap! The halogen bulb sits inside a shell with reflective backing to get as much light as possible from the emitting, low-efficiency bulb. This, in theory, is a great idea. However, it won’t necessarily shoot your light in a particular direction or focal point. It will just emit the light forward, and any spillover will light up the reflective backing and in turn, reflect the light as much as possible. These bulbs will get you an average lifespan of about 500-1000 hours of use.
Another option that manufacturers and aftermarket builders got into was building HID, or High-Intensity Discharge lights. These HID lights use Xenon Gas inside the bulb via a ballast to light an electric arc to illuminate them. The good part is that they put off significantly more light than the halogen style bulb. The trade-offs are, they also suck up a lot of power and produce a lot of heat. An HID bulb takes 12V of power from your motorcycles electrical system and converts it to a very hot, very well-lit set of lights. An HID Xenon bulb should get you somewhere around 10,000 hours of run time, give or take a few hours depending on how they are treated.
Insert the next solution, LED lighting! Well LED lighting does not eliminate every issue in the lighting world, but it definitely makes waves in the right direction over the halogen and HID options. LED’s a.k.a, light emitting diodes, solve your power and heat problem. That being said, they also require the right reflective backing similar to the halogens to get the most use out of them. They are incredibly efficient, typically eye-meltingly bright, and often can be made quite small. You will, however, need to use them along with a projector if you want to get their full effectiveness. This generally means you will be paying one arm and one leg more than you would for those cheap as chips halogens. Our leaner, greener friends the LED light, should get you close to 50,000 hours of run time. Or if you wanted to offset your high-efficiency carbon footprint by letting your bike run continually for six or so years, the bulb should last that entire time!
OK, lay it on me - What’s so good about the Clearwater lights?
One of the top defensive/safety features you can put to use when operating a motorcycle is being seen. Many of the drivers of vehicles involved in motorcycle related accidents claim they didn’t see the rider at all. This could be the result of many things, none of those reasons matter if you are the one laid out across the pavement. Using a highly visible lighting system could be the difference between having a safe ride, and becoming road pizza.
Let’s look at Clearwater’s, Erica style light. It is designed to fit a number of applications, including Honda’s Africa Twin as one of its ‘easy-fit’ options. Each one of these lights works with six high-powered LED lights. Once on high, they put out a daylighting blast of 6000+ lumens of light per unit with a draw of 60 watts from your bikes electrical system. They also come with a bracket designed to fit the Africa Twin specifically, and can be cross-used with many other bike setups.
Now for example, if you are running the hills of California on a Yamaha Super Tenere and feel you can get away with a few less lumens, bolt on a set of Darla’s. The Darla setup will put you behind 2000 or more lumens only pulling around 24 watts per light when you have them cranked on high. These are also fully dimmable, and they pack everything right inside a 2“ housing.
When you check out the Clearwater website, you’ll see that you can easily check for bike fitment by brand, then skim through what light options are best for your bike. This means that applications are mostly bolt-on, wire up, and go. No need for significant structural changes or a product that is not quite right.
If lights bright enough to turn the night into day were not enough to make you feel noticed, don’t worry, there’s more! The wiring harness kits have a couple of different installation applications tailored to give you more options. One revolutionary design feature is the option to wire your lights right into your horn. Smart idea, as you are usually using the horn to be noticed. With the Clearwater kit when it’s wired it into the horn, each time you press it, not only will the alarming horn sound be made, but it will also activate the lights to flash. A very innovative design to offer you more protection than ever before.
What color do you bleed?
For those of you who logged into eBay, searched “LED MOTORCYCLE LIGHT,” then got them to list the results by price, you might not care. For those of you who are looking for more than that, and specifically bleed red, white, and blue. You will be happy to know that Clearwater manufactures its lighting systems in the USA! This also means you are going to be paying for an incredibly high-quality accessory with an American labor price tag. While you can get into a set like the 900 Lumen Glenda Universal Kit for around $280, it’s not too bad. If you are looking for the slick fitting, fully luminescent set that might require a welder's mask to see if they are working. The Sevina’s, which pour out over 7500 lumens are probably what you are after. However, you might need to ask your boss for a few more hours at the office. These babies will set you back a little closer to the $1000 mark. That’s a bright light that packs a bit of a bite.
Lights That Speak For Themselves
You don’t need to believe everything that you read, though if you are looking to invest in a set of Clearwater Lights, you can read the testimonials and reviews online and see that five-stars are a pretty common response. Even for those who were sweating as they swiped their credit cards, you can sleep at night knowing you made a good choice. If that’s not enough for you, you’ll see that Clearwater Lights are also the ‘go to’ lighting application for police and race lighting in various parts of the globe. An impressive and innovative local company with local manufacturing and enough research and development to know they will fit your bike, your lifestyle, and get you home safely. What more could you ask for.