MC Tested: Clearwater Lights CANopener Motorcycle Accessory Lighting System

A brilliant solution to seeing and being seen.

Clearwater Lights CANopener
Two of the kits are shown on a BMW S1000XR and a BMW R1200GS. The installations were relatively easy as the kits include complete photo documented instructions as well as some of the installs being shown online. The Darla model lights on the lower forks start at $499 while a pair of the Erica models, shown on the GS in the upper position, start at $849.Photo: Steven M. Green

BMW owners are well known for wanting the best in accessories and 'farkles' for their rides. With a mix of being a BMW rider-racing enthusiast, graduate physicist, and having lots of friends in the high-tech world of Silicon Valley, Clearwater Lights owner Glenn Stasky attacked the problem of operating and modulating LED lights on newer BMWs with a microprocessor plug-in to the CANbus wiring loom allowing use of the stock handlebar switches.

After cracking the BMW CANbus codes (no doubt to the chagrin of BMW,) Clearwater designed a plug-in module that allows the existing switches to activate and modulate the lights. The device, which they cleverly named CANopener, reads the signals from the turn signal switch, photocell for dash lights, rotary knob (if the bike is GPS equipped) horn, high beam switch, and brake lights to activate various functions of their accessory lights. The state of the art electronic unit plugs in under the seat of the bikes in line with the tire pressure monitor plug.

Clearwater Lights CANopener
The kit includes all the wires and connectors to install the lights. Also shown in this photo is their Billie brake light / license plate frame. It is good to be conspicuous both front and rear. The small box, lower center in the photo, is the CANopener that lets you use the stock switches to control the lights.Photo: Steven M. Green

The installation is well documented for each model and the company makes a plethora of bike specific mounting brackets designed using laser scanning and CAD/CAM techniques. They offer bike specific kits for the 2013 and later water cooled bikes and recently released the kits for the S1000 series machines as well. They also have kits for non CANbus wiring so their lights are easily mounted on any bike.

Once the kit is installed, you can turn the accessory lights off and on by depressing the turn signal cancel switch for two seconds. You can also adjust the daytime or night time non-high beam intensity of the lights; the accessory brake light can be controlled for intensity and mode (mimic brake light, strobe, etc.) The horn switch can be used to just sound the horn, or can strobe the lights at 100% intensity along with the horn — an awesome function when riding in traffic! These are just a few of the features. The complete list is included in the instructions, which are also on their website.

Clearwater Lights CANopener
The CANopener neatly fits under the seat and plugs into the connector for the tire pressure monitor. It not only reads the canbus signals from the stock switches (little blips of electricity that tell the relay to actuate the lights) but it still allows the tire pressure monitor, if equipped, to be plugged back in.Photo: Steven M. Green

The lights are extremely bright. The CANopener microprocessor will dim the lights by flashing them at 250 time per second; they appear dimmed to the eye. At full power, you will think you're melting asphalt, but your high beams will yield the ability to easily identify road hazards and will make their cost seem modest. The model specific kits for the R1200 series bikes start at about $520 and can go to over $1300 depending on the number and model of the lights These kits include brackets and the CANopener. They're available at select motorcycle shops or clearwaterlights.com.

Clearwater Lights CANopener
Clearwater conducts a laser scan of each model bike for their kits and provides a custom bracket that lines up with the factory fasteners to make the installation a snap.Photo: Steven M. Green

Clearwater Lights CANopener
Price: Varies depending on model
Grade: A
Verdict: It pays to be conspicuous, and the CANopener makes adding accessory lights a snap, combining bike specific brackets and kits with easy-to-use controls.
Contact: clearwaterlights.com