Alanf’s blog…
Scattered thoughts

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

You light up my life…

Author: site admin
Category: Bike Updates

Having reluctantly laid out the big bank for a BMW a few years back, I have been pretty slow to sink more money into bike. Right after I bought it, I added the Jesse bags and a few extras like a Throttlemeister and Touratech hex oil filler plug but overall I’ve been very happy with the bike as it was originally designed.

One thing that I have thought about fixing are the headlights. I know it seems strange to argue about lighting on a bike with a 700W alternator and dual 55W Halogen headlights but because of the way the Euro spec headlights throw their light pattern it is difficult to see things off to the side of the road when riding at night. Because I live in the mountains, animals are a constant concern and I’ve nearly blinded myself straining to see the reflection of light off critter corneas when riding home from work in the evening.

PIAA lights on the GS

Two years ago, my wife Jonna bought me a pair of PIAA 510 Super White driving lights. I bought a ZanZBar light bar from Cycoactive and then bought a Euro right side switch pod from BMW with the “extra” three position switch. But at that point I stalled out because the wiring of the Euro switch pod meant that some electrical trickery would be required to get the lights to function the way I wanted (with the three position switch giving 1) spotlights off 2) spotlights on with high beam 3) spotlights on). As a result, I stashed the whole shebang in my projects box and then didn’t touch it until this past weekend. With some free time to play in the garage, I started digging out a lot of different projects for all the bikes and decided to finally tackle installing the PIAAs.

First, I threw my plans to use the Euro switch on the back-burner. I did go ahead and install the Euro switch pod but all it does now is turn off one and then both of the headlights (a basically useless switch but with it installed I can always splice the wires later to get the functionality I wanted…on the plus side, if my alternator ever dies I can now switch off the lights and eek out a little extra mileage from the battery). Anyway, the ZanZBar light bar went on so easily it could have been designed directly by BMW. The PIAA lights bolted up quickly too. Then I spent way too many freaking hours tediously running the PIAA wiring harness through the bike wiring harness, down to the battery, then back up to the switch pod (to install the stock PIAA switch/LED on the handlebars) and then back down into the wiring harness to splice into the high beam circuit behind the right headlight. The PIAA wiring harness is about a foot longer than needed for installation on the GS but since the connectors are pre-installed, it requires cutting/soldering to shorten so I just zip-tied the extra wires in with the rest of the harness.

Around 11pm, I finally got everything installed and buttoned back up. Now the PIAA switch is powered whenever the high beam is activated. I can either leave the PIAA switch on (so the spots work with the brights) or can switch them off so I’m not blinding cars when commuting during the day. Everything seems to work great. The dual 55W bulbs, along with the dual 55W stock headlights (when using the high beam) are enough to light up the road like it was noon. The only two things I’d do differently is get the Euro switch working from the beginning and actually solder the high beam splice into the stock wiring harness rather than using the PIAA supplied vampire splice. I hope to correct both of these in the near future. The only other task still on my list is to play around with different angles for the driving lights to see if “crossing” the beams gives better road illumination when leaned over in terms. I’m pretty with them happy so far.

In addition to getting the PIAAs mounted, I also took some time while I had the bike disassembled to install two extra Powerlet sockets up on the GS “beak” in front of the gas tank. I used one of the Powerlet wiring harnesses for the first socket then cut off the “T” connector and spliced in another set of 12 guage wires for a jumper over to the second socket. I still have to finish a little of this wiring because I couldn’t find any plastic tubing at the hardware store that I use to protect the jumper wires. I’m hoping to find something at NAPA this week and will install the second “T” for the second Powerlet later this week. Then I will have dedicated power feeds for the GPS and a radar detector (if I ever decide to buy one).

What is really nice is that I can’t think of what else I want to add or change to the 1150GS, other than replacing things as they wear out, unless its just to replace it with a new R1200GS. I’m a gear hound but this bike is just so well made that I can’t really find many things that have to change.

Hopefully these new PIAAs are going to give me a lot of confidence when riding at night. If you’re driving in Colorado one evening and find your eyeballs being seared by the lights from a fast moving BMW…I apologize in advance.

[image from my photo collection.]

1 Comments so far


July 2nd, 2005 at 2:24 am

You used da zip ties! You shouldn’t use da zip ties… you need wax string ;) Really, it probably would end up saving a scrape or two :)

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