Contributed Tech Stuff - LED Lights - Part 1 - Headlights

Contributed by F. Robert Falbo


Disclaimer: Information and ideas contained in this section are solely those of the contributor(s) and not those of Harley-Davidson®, Harley-Davidson® of Uica, H.O.G.®, or the Erie Canal H.O.G.® Chapter.



Let's face it - Most of the headllights that come on stock Harley-Davidson® motorcycles have, up to the last years or so, been real "Dud Lites." I'm referring to the Halogen and Sealed Beam junk that came from the Factory. The original Sealed Beam headlights were so dim you could buy a flashlight that gave off more light. H-D® finally saw the light (pun intended) and switched to replaceable bulb Halogen headlights, which were an improvement, but by 2010 those paled compared to the new LED headlights starting to enter the market. Now that LED headlights have become a mature technology, you'd think that H-D® would phase out the Halogens on new bikes for an LED headlight - dream on... my 2017 Street Glide Special ($25K) still came with a Halogen headlight. Do they realize there are cars that cost less than $25K that come with LED headlights as standard?

Let's face it - Most of the headllights that come on stock Harley-Davidson® motorcycles have, up to the last years or so, been real "Dud Lites." I'm referring to the Halogen and Sealed Beam junk that came from the Factory. The original Sealed Beam headlights were so dim you could buy a flashlight that gave off more light. H-D® finally saw the light (pun intended) and switched to replaceable bulb Halogen headlights, which were an improvement, but by 2010 those paled compared to the new LED headlights starting to enter the market. Now that LED headlights have become a mature technology, you'd think that H-D® would phase out the Halogens on new bikes for an LED headlight - dream on... my 2017 Street Glide Special ($25K) still came with a Halogen headlight. Do they realize there are cars that cost less than $25K that come with LED headlights as standard?

I soon noticed a problem that haunts most LED headlight owners - the dreaded cut-off zone. You see, all headlights are required to shield oncoming traffic so that you don't blind the oncoming vehicle. With sealed beam headlights, their price necessitates cheap optics so their cut-off zone is pretty fuzzy, letting quite a bit of light spill into the cut-off zone. With Halogens, the cut-off was sharper because their optics were generally better (Cibie tends to make the best Halogen optics, with Bosch maybe second.) but still most Halogen optics were nothing to write home about because of cost concerns, so spillage above the cut-off zone was still noticeable. Both sealed beam and Halogen headlights bounce their light off a rear reflector, then out through the front optical lens. Both use a shield to prevent light from going directly from the bulb out through the front optical lens. Along came the LED headlights, and they went from the sealed beam & Halogen's use of a relector, shield, & front-focusing optics to "projector" technology that didn't need a reflector or a shield - it fired the light directly through the front optical lens. That made their cut-off point almost razor sharp, with very little light above the zone.

Here is the required light pattern for all road vehicles. The
shortend length is to prevent blinding oncoming traffic.
That shortened length is achieved by requiring the lights
to output this pattern.

While that's great for four-wheeled vehicles that (almost) always stay vertical, it's bad for motorcycles because they lean over in turns. So "What's a Mother to do?...The problem is that as you lean into a corner, the cut-off zone on that side dips down and leaves a dark area that encompasses the area you're riding into in the turn - not good! You can get around it by adding Auxillary lights, but that's just putting a Bandaid® on the situation. What's needed is a headlight that can either remain perfectly horizontal while the motocycle leans, or somehow steer around the corner so that you can see what you're riding into.

J.W.Speaker came up with a solution based on a combination of the two - an "Adaptive" headlight designed specifically for Motorcycles! They devised a lean angle sensor and added extra "fill" LEDs so that the more you lean into a corner, the more "fill" LEDs would light up, filling in that unlighted void you're turning into. In effect, it makes the headlight SEEM like it is remaining horizontal when it's actually leaning with the motocycle. Does it work? Oh hell yeah, and I've got the video to prove it! Oh, and in case you're wondering - better bring two wallets!

Here is a normal LED motorcycle headlight. You can't
see the blind spot you're turning into.
Here's the added light area due to the additional fill lights.
(Photos from J.W.Speaker promotional video.)
This is how the Adaptive headlights work. The further the
motorcycle leans, the more fill lights turn on.
(Photos from J.W.Speaker promotional video.)

Ok, let's take a look at these lights I've been talking about...

This is the Factory Halogen headlight that came on my FXSB.
(It came from the Factory with that rust on the light shield.)
Here's the Harley "Daymaker" light I replaced it with.
Both lights are 5-3/4" diameter.


This is the Factory Halogen headlight that came on my FLHXS.
It is 7", and has two Halogen bulbs - an H11 Lo, and an H9 Hi.
This is J.W.Speaker's 7" #8700 Evolution 2 Series LED Light.

That was a comparison of the original Halogen headlights and their LED replacements. The OEM Halogen lights don't list a Country of Origin, but with rust on the shield straight from the Factory you can guess it took a scenic cruise to get here. The Daymaker and the Speaker 8700 are both made in the U.S.A.

Now here's the LED light that has changed the game in Motorcycle headlights - The J.W. Speaker 8790 Adaptive headlight. As you lean the bike over, those five fill lights on the side fire up from bottom to top, depending on the angle of lean.

J.W.Speaker has also updated all their lights with "Dual Burn™" technology. When you switch to high beam, the low beam stays illuminated too, filling the area close to the vehicle that would normally be darker with just high beam on.

Just recently J.W. Speaker released an improved 8690 & 8790 headlight called the "Adaptive 2 Series." With the "2 Series" Speaker has added the ability to steer around a corner on both low and high beam, (The original Adaptive headlights only steered on low beam.) and they've dropped the price considerably. (About 23%) And while their Adaptive Technology has been out for two years now, they're still the only LED Headlight designed specifically to address the characteristics of motorcycles.

This is J.W.Speaker's 7" #8790 Adaptive 1 Series LED Light. The lean angle on the kickstand is enough to light the
first fill light.


If you have a 2017 or newer Touring bike (Street Glide, Road Glide, Ultra, Road King, Tri-Glide, or Freewheeler)
you'll probably need an H4 headlight harness adapter.



Manufacturer Model Size Face Color Part Number Price Links to Sources
J.W.Speaker Daymaker 7" Chrome 67700265 $574.95 Harley-Davidson® Dealers
J.W.Speaker Daymaker 7" Black 67700267 $574.95 Harley-Davidson® Dealers
J.W.Speaker 8700 EVO 2 Dual Burn 7" Chrome 0554961 $299.20 Amazon
J.W.Speaker 8700 EVO 2 Dual Burn 7" Black 0554941 $299.20 Amazon
J.W.Speaker 8790 Adaptive 1 Series 7" Chrome 0551331 $622.95 Dennis Kirk
J.W.Speaker 8790 Adaptive 2 Series 7" Chrome 0555031 $619.99 Dennis Kirk
J.W.Speaker 8790 Adaptive 1 Series 7" Black 0551321 $622.95 Dennis Kirk
J.W.Speaker 8790 Adaptive 2 Series 7" Black 0555011 $619.99 Dennis Kirk
J.W.Speaker Daymaker 5-3/4" Chrome 67700144A $399.95 Harley-Davidson® Dealers
J.W.Speaker Daymaker 5-3/4" Black 67700145A $399.95 Harley-Davidson® Dealers
J.W.Speaker 8690 Adaptive 1 Series 5-3/4" Chrome 0551741 $477.95 Dennis Kirk
J.W.Speaker 8690 Adaptive 2 Series 5-3/4" Chrome 0555101 $482.99 Dennis Kirk
J.W.Speaker 8690 Adaptive 1 Series 5-3/4" Black 0551721 $477.95 Dennis Kirk
J.W.Speaker 8690 Adaptive 2 Series 5-3/4" Black 0555091 $482.99 Dennis Kirk
Harley-Davidson® LED Headlamp Wiring Harness N/A N/A 69200897 $19.95 Harley-Davidson® Dealers
HogWorkz 69200897 Harness Adapter N/A N/A HW131132 $14.98 HogWorks
Custom Dynamics LED Headlamp Adapter N/A N/A H4-TOUR-ADPT $19.95 Custom Dynamics Dealers
Drag Specialties H4 Wire Harness N/A N/A 2120-0891 $19.95 Drag Specialties Dealers



Personal Opinion Section below. (Hold your nose!)

I suppose you're wondering why I've only recomended lights made by J.W.Speaker... Well... Why I stay away from funky named lights...

While the Chinese make a lot of excellent products, they are also known for making copies of well known items from junk components. You want a $50 LED headlight?... they'll make one for you, and they'll make it look pretty damned good - but how it works? Your headlight is your safety net at night. What good are loud pipes if you're wrapped around a tree or a deer?




Here's a small movie of the 8790 Adaptive headlight in action.











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