HID Motorcycle Lighting and Torque

Answers

By Tim Carrithers, Photography by J.R. Montalvo, Touratech

Got a question for answers? Send it to mcmail@sorc.com

Shine A Light
Q
I just picked up a clean, used BMW R1200GS and love it. But after a month or so of exploring the local deserts-on and off the pavement-there's only one problem. I love riding at night, but the stock lights don't illuminate things up ahead nearly as well as I'd like-nothing like the setup on my '07 Toyota FJ Cruiser, which wears a pair of Hella Model 500 lights on its roof. I'd like something similar for the GS. Hopefully something more compact, which probably means an HID setup. Most of the kits I've seen aren't exactly cheap, but I don't mind spending a few bucks to really see where I'm going. Can't steer around what I can't see, you know? Most of the locals seem to travel on four legs instead of four wheels where I ride, especially after dark. Hitting one on four wheels is bad enough. You don't want to know what a motorcycle looks like after slamming into 900 pounds of sleepwalking beef. Don't ask how I know. Any wisdom you can pass along would be sincerely appreciated and scrupulously applied.
Rob Kaczorowski
Elko, NV

A Truth: New lights are a whole lot cheaper than a new GS. Especially considering those roving impediments to nocturnal travel. You're on the right track. Nothing bores a bigger, better hole into some moonless desert night than a first-rate set of HID (High Intensity Discharge) lights. The net result is more useable light on the road from smaller, more efficient lamps; most auxiliary HID systems mount a small lamp on either side of the bike.


We asked J.R. Montalvo, owner of Angel City Cycle (www.angelcitycycle.com) in Los Angeles, and an expert in the repair, restoration and enhancement of any BMW built in the last 40 years, to shed a little light on the subject. "The GS electrical system is easily compatible with the draw of the HID setup, along with all popular lighting systems currently offered," Montalvo says. "Quality is always the key. That old saying about getting what you pay for is very true in this regard. Good-quality HID systems offer superior lighting and a very manageable current draw-both good things for the gadget junkie. The only drawback has been limited space, but that has been addressed with recent motorcycle-specific designs. Mounting an HID system to a bike with a CAN-bus electrical system such as the R1200GS requires a power-management device available from The Electrical Connection (www.electricalconnection.com) or Touratech (www.touratech-usa.com) or even a Centech-style (www.centechwire.com) power-distribution box. For most riders budget is the deciding factor, so if you've got the cheese, go with the HIDs. I've found that not everybody installs lighting for the same reason I would, which is seeing what is on the road ahead. Many people buy products that allow them to be seen and not so much for early warning."

Torqued
My friends keep going back and forth between foot-pounds and pounds-feet, and it's beginning to drive my inner perfectionist crazy. I've seen it printed both ways in various publications, though you guys seem pretty consistent with lbs.-ft. as opposed to the other way around. Can my buddies interchange two expressions of what seems to be the same thing and still claim to be correct? Or are they actually talking about two different things?
Robert Maxwell
Lakeview, MI

Though foot-pounds and pounds-feet are commonly used to describe the same physical phenomenon, they describe different things. Engineers and other devotees of precise language will tell you that lbs.-ft. (force times distance) refers to torque, which is what makes your crankshaft go 'round. A ft.-lb. (the product of distance times force) is a measure of work, as in the energy used to move some quantity of mass a given distance. It takes one foot-pound to lift one pound one foot. Refer to torque in ft.-lbs. or work in lbs.-ft. in the presence of any serious technical types and the sucking sound you hear is your credibility leaving the building.

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