Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Flashy, Flashy


No, no, not Will Smith's Men in Black flashy thing.

Let's talk about something else first.

Not long after I bought my Ninja 650R, I added a couple of things to it that I thought were expedient.

One thing I added was a set of frame-mounted sliders.  These are the type that were available from Kawasaki.

The slider is the round black object protruding through the bottom of the cooling air vent.
Photo taken four days after bike purchase.

The sliders have helped prevent damage to the pretty -- and expensive -- plastic cowlings several times.  Most of these times were low or no-speed tipovers when making a sharp U-turn or when balancing the bike where there is gravel or where there is a major slope to the road.

OK, now, let's talk about flashy, flashy.

The other thing I added was a headlight modulator to make the bike more conspicuous to oncoming traffic.  The Ninja has two headlights.  The low beam is on all the time, and the high beam comes on in addition to the low beam, when extra light is needed.

I bought a Comagination VisiPath sS115H7, available now for $55.98.  The unit comes with connector plugs that are supposed to go between the wiring harness and the bike's H7 headlight bulb terminals.  The Ninja has a headlight bulb adapter, however, so the plug won't mate up as intended.  Instead, the ground female spade connector had to be removed from within the connector plug on the bulb modulator so the two female spade terminals can slide onto the wider spacing of the adapter on the bike.

Like this:

The cylindrical electronics housing is about 1-3/8" diameter by 5/8" high.

Photo shows H4 bulb connector.
It will fit easily on most bikes.  I wire tied mine to some other wiring so it doesn't flop around.  

You can connect the modulator to either the low or high beam, but not both at the same time.  (There are other models that allow you to connect two bulbs to one modulator.)

I connected the high beam lamp to it.  Now, the low beam comes on as usual, and when I turn on the high beam, it modulates.  The modulated lamp is varied between 18 and 100% brightness at about 4 times per second.  It works only with incandescent bulbs, halogen, and xenon, not with HID.

One more thing is needed to make the device functional.  There is a photocell that is mounted so it can see daylight.  I found a place between the instruments and windshield. 


The purpose of this is so the high beam does not modulate at night or when in a dark place like a garage or tunnel. 

[So, does the modulator have any effect, Bucky?  Does it ward off mishaps?]

Take a look at this video: 

Taken from a YouTube video by HuachucaGuy of a Bergman scooter with modulator.
(It sounds like he breaks the sound barrier just as he passes the camera.)
His original video is here.

What do you think?  Does it help make the bike more visible? 

There are a couple of differences between his setup and mine.  My bike has one headlight that is always on low beam.  The other headlight is high beam only and comes on in addition to the low beam and modulates.  His bike has two dual element headlights, and he modulates both headlights on high beam.  (Try as I might, I could not get my video camera to clearly show the modulation.  Thus, the borrowed video above.) 

There is no way to tell for sure whether the modulating headlight has prevented any mishaps.  I can tell you, though, that there have been many instances where a vehicle has begun to pull out, but stopped short and waited for me to pass.  I suspect that this is mostly because of the modulator setup.

If it has helped avoid even one crash or near miss, then the unit is worth its weight in gold.  But, I still ride as though no one can see me, always on the lookout for danger. 

There is an occasional side effect that I need to tell you about.  When I am following someone, and modulator is on, the driver of the car I am following sometimes seems to be seeking out a place to pull off the road.  This could be because the modulating light is annoying.  (It may be, so I usually turn it off when I am following a car closely.)   The other possibility is that they think I am John Law.  I think this is a distinct possibility.  Some drivers have actually pulled over and stopped.

I'm sure they are relieved that they weren't being stopped for some traffic violation. 

Though I have replaced the low beam lamp several times in the last 50,000 miles, I have yet to replace the high beam.  I ride with the modulator on almost all the time, so the modulator doesn't seem to reduce bulb life at all.  In fact, it may extend it, because the modulator uses electronic switching so it is a soft ramping up and down in brightness rather than an abrupt on/off. 

Comagination also sells a brake light modulator that flashes the brake light a few times, then makes it come on constantly.  I had purchased one of these, but it has a characteristic that I think is detrimental.  It delays the illumination of the brake lamp for a fraction of a second before it begins to flash.  This reduces the reaction time a following driver has when you put on the brakes.  I removed that modulator and, instead, added an LED auxiliary brake lamp beneath the license place.  The LED lights faster than the incandescent bulb, so it provides a larger margin of reaction time to the driver behind.
Safety first! 

So, what's your take on the headlight flashy, flashy thing?   Is it beneficial, like Will Smith's?  Better than his?  

Additional info:

Here is a video that shows how the photocell turns off modulation when you enter a tunnel, garage, or when it gets dark. 

Here is an update on the modulator I installed.

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