Serious Long-Range Lights at a Remarkable Price
I've recently been shopping for some long-range lights for my R1100R. I wanted something to supplant the standard headlight (with a PIAA Xtreme White bulb, which helps a lot), which provides good light for near and midddle distance, and Motolights, which are good for close/wide lighting. What I was looking for was some lights to provide some real long-range punch for high-speed night riding, yet with a beam wide enough to light up the edges of the road several hundred yards out. I want to see not only obstacles long before I encounter them, but also the shiny deer eyes lurking in the bushes.
I'd recently purchased some Hella 500 driving lights for my pickup truck and found that they work well, are quite light, and provide a tight pencil beam out to a good distance. However, for the bike I wanted something with more of a flat-oval pattern (the Hellas have a tight round spot beam), and something a bit smaller. The Hella 500s are as large as the headlight on my 1100R, which would not only look awkward, but posed a mounting problem -- on a motorcycle there's no easy way to mount a pair of lights that big.
The common thing to mount on a bike like this are PIAA 500-series lights or smaller, but after looking at several PIAA models I was disappointed. They seemed well made, but I thought they were insanely overpriced. Having some background in optics and electronics, I could see that driving lights are, at heart, very simple things, and I simply could not see $150 or more of value in a simple metal shell, reflector, a simple clear lens, and $6 bulb. I understand that to some degree one pays for the name, but in this case it seemed excessive. I was also disappointed with some of the features of the PIAA, such as the needlessly obstructive grille guards, which in the case of the 500 series blocked about 40% of the light generated by the bulb. To me that seemed an inexcusable waste, much of it for the sake of having a huge block-letter PIAA advertising logo across the front of the light.
Reaching into my old days of off-roading and 4-wheeling, I looked at some of the lights offered for off-road racing, such as KC Daylighters and similar. These are the muscle-bound commandos of driving lights, super-powerful beams in steel housings with rubber vibration isolators. If they can survive the pounding of Baja racing, they can survive anything. They're not cheap either (though less expensive than PIAAs), but they're typically large to very large (some are more than 9 inches across and 150 watts), generally too big and heavy for a motorcycle. However, it looked like the smallest (5-inch and 6-inch) sizes might work on my 1100R. From past experience I know that Daylighters, being essentially adapted aircraft landing lights, throw a very powerful long-range beam, easily the equal or better of any common motorcycle lights I've ever seen.
It was while shopping for KC Daylighters that I came across Eagle Eye lights. According to a fellow in the business, Eagle Eye lights are identical to KC Daylighters in every way (this fellow said they are the *same* lights sold as Daylighters), but sold without the KC Daylighters name they are much cheaper. Shopping around I was able to find a pair of 5-inch, 100-watt Eagle Eye driving lights for just over $20 each. That seemed too good to be true, but comparing them side by side with the 5-inch Daylighters I simply could not find any difference -- same deep-chromed steel housing, same rubber lens/reflector mount, same stainless-steel retaining rings, same H3 bulb, everything the same. I cannot vouch that they are indeed the same light, but comparing them side by side I can easily believe it.
So for less than $50 (!!!) I found myself the owner of a pair of 5-inch, 100-watt, bright-chromed Eagle Eyes. (Stainless steel and black powdercoat are also available.) For that price there was no electrical hookup kit included, but it did include soft covers and a length of flexible stainless-steel conduit for each light for routing the light wiring (see photos).
Side view of the Eagle Eye mountings. Note the spiral stainless-steel conduit for the wiring -- these came with the lights.
A quick test of the beam pattern showed it to be ideal -- a sharply-defined wide oval, roughtly 2X wide as high. Aimed with some overlap, the two lights provide a very, very long central beam, yet still illuminates the sides of the road beyond the distance where the human eye could make out shapes. I'm even thinking of swapping the 100-watt bulbs for 55-watt bulbs, as 200 watts of this kind of beam may be overkill for my purposes.
I mounted the lights upside down below the turn signals using simple aluminum brackets (see photos). The brackets are very simple 2" x 2" aluminum angle, with holes drilled for the turn signal stalk, headlight side screws, and the Eagle Eye mounting bolt. I did modify the vibration dampeners on the mounting brackets of the lights so that they could be mounted in a half-inch hole rather than the > 1-inch hold required for the full rubber damper. (The mod required only one cut with a pocket knife to remove a rubber damper disc.)
Mounting the lights upside down did require two minor mods: I removed the lens/reflector assemblies from their rubber mounting collars and turned them 180 degrees (so that the "TOP" mark was on top), and I drilled tiny holes in the bottom of the housings to allow any water inside to run out. The lights look to be quite weatherproof, but from past experience I've learned to make sure that no water can pool anywhere near anything electrical, even if just from condensation.
The result is what you see in the photos. The lights are big enough to seem a bit prominent, but not really out of proportion with the bike or the main headlight. I'm not totally happy with the appearance of the mounting bolts poking above the mounting brackets, and I'm still mulling what to do with that (perhaps some nice chrome caps?). Overall I'm very happy with them so far; they provide a dazzling blowtorch of light beyond the limits of practical need, and as a side benefit give the bike a distinctive, purposeful look. The only drawback is that they are *so* bright that one has to be careful about turning them on -- anyone within a half mile will curse you for them, within a quarter mile will be nearly blinded by them, and any much closer that nat will probably get a suntan and maybe some curled paint.
Overall a purposeful and good-looking package on the 1100R -- the Eagle Eyes are large without being overwhelming. Compare with the small Motolights lower down on the fork (brake bolt mount).
Only time will tell how these lights work out in the long run, but in the meantime I thought I'd pass along what could be an excellent choice in serious long-range lighting. Similar 6-inch and 8-inch models are available with bulbs up to 150 watts, in case you want to be able to signal other planets, all at remarkably low prices. Eagle Eyes are not much advertised (which I suppose is what allows the very low prices), but are widely available from many sources -- a quick search on Google turned up many retailers. Certainly worth considering if you're looking for a beefy, durable light with the ultimate in long reach and beam pattern.