LED Headlights Are Amazing

LEDs changed the world. Now they're changing motorcycles.

BMW Factory halogen (left) vs. J.W. speaker LED (right)Julia LaPalme

For decades after the invention of the light-emitting diode (LED), humanity couldn’t take advantage of the technology because LED only existed in red and green varieties. A more natural, white illumination was unattainable until three Japanese scientists triggered blue light from an LED in the early 1990s. The practical use of LEDs in everyday life impacted the world forever, and those three scientists won the Nobel Prize for physics in 2014.

The application in motorcycling is equally great—LED are tougher than incandescent bulbs and use less energy—and the even-better news for all motorcyclists is that replacing your bike's non-LED headlamp can be easy. Mounting kits are available for a variety of makes and models, from a handful of different companies. Depending on the bike, aftermarket LED headlights can be had for $150 to $250 and will likely light your way better than the stock unit.

If you've got a standard 7-inch headlight to replace and money is no object, feast your wallet on the J.W. Speaker Model 8790 like the one we installed on our BMW R nineT Scrambler long-term bike. Ours retailed for $800. Mount pricing depends on the bike. The 8790 sits in a die-cast aluminum housing and, in addition to looking like an alien eye, throws a bucketload of light down the road. How much? Any brighter, and technically it would be illegal. It's also adaptive. On-board sensors detect your bike's lean and cast bright LED light through the corner ahead. The future is here, and it's bright indeed.