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BRIGHT IDEAS LED Lighting Technology Has Become More Efficient, Reliable, And Designed For Specialized Applications By Dan Sanchez Auxiliary lighting has become a staple for any off-road vehicle, so much so that it would be embarrassing to show up to a trail ride without any kind of light accessories on your vehicle. Over the years lighting technology has changed to increase power and visibility in the dark, starting with incandescent lighting, then moving to HID, and currently with LEDs. Although LED technology has been around since the 1960s, it has improved dramatically to increase power output, from more efficient components. “As a lighting manufacturer we keep seeing efficiency improvements,” says Chris Fortunato, Marketing Manager at Baja Designs. “With the improvements in LEDs, we are able to output as much useable light into smaller packages. As an example, our Squadron light has more intensity today than it did in the past. It is also more efficient so it uses less power. The newer LEDs allow for higher output and more lumens from the same size light. We are also adapting combination circuit boards that can operate different LED modules all from one light which also helps to improve performance, reliability, and size.” This increase in efficiency and light output now allows light manufacturers to create lights that are designed for specific purposes. This also has a lot to do with where they are being mounted on the vehicle. “The form factor on new lights also has a lot to do with the fitment and where you plan on putting them,” says Brian Hosford, Marketing Director at Rigid Industries. “For example, depending on what you’re trying to achieve, an A-pillar light can provide basic illumination forward and slightly to the side to see better in a general way. A roof-mounted light-bar, however, can pierce farther out in front, and include a spot beam for racers who are traveling faster. This gives them more time to react to obstacles. Rock lights are very small and compact, but they not only help rock-crawlers with tire placement over obstacles but in Baja, they also help tremendously in pit-stops.” “We as a company are focused on getting better at more effective mounting options,” says Robin Jacoway President at Niterider. The company manufactures High-Powered LED lighting for off-road motorcyclists and bicyclists, utilizing feedback from riders to build lighting that works in real-world environments. “We are always looking at how riders need to use the light,” says Jacoway. “With that in mind, we partner with LED manufacturers that give us access to the highest quality light-output with the most efficient use of power.  Our proprietary reflectors and collimator’s give us the best beam pattern that provides riders with good periphery lighting, as well as forward spotlighting.”  Motorcycles & UTVs Have Unique Lighting Challenges With the surge in UTVs and motorcycles wanting greater lighting options, manufacturers have found there are constraints with these applications. “Both UTVs and motorcycles have less battery and alternator power, if at all,” says Hosford. “There is also limited real estate on these vehicles to mount large or multiple lights.” The answer for lighting manufacturers is in-line with the trend of building compact lighting units, but using those that don’t use much of the vehicle’s electrical power. “The Adapt series from Rigid Industries, for example, uses a (smart) GPS speed chip that when used with lights that feature three different beam patterns, can change with the conditions of the vehicle,” says Hosford. “The system transitions from a wide beam pattern to a driving light and thus dramatically reduces power consumption while providing power management by using less power draw for lights needed during slower rock crawling or transition to higher-power lights for high-speed action.” For UTVs and Motorcycles, Baja Designs has been utilizing lasers to get the most light from a smaller package that can be used on these vehicles. “Our S1 Spot Laser is the smallest form factor light,” says Fortunato. “The S1 standard LED is one of the most affordable lights for the entry-level consumer who needs a small spotlight. Smaller spotlights are becoming more popular on UTVs and motorcycles as they need as much light as possible, but with less power available from their batteries to operate them.” According to Baja Designs, laser lights are capable of throwing light 350-percent farther than current premium LEDs. The small-size, high-output lighting works well for motorcyclists too. According to Jacoway at Niterider, riders can only mount a large light on the handlebars, small lights on some forks, and a small light on the helmet. “Fortunately with the advent of mounts for GoPro cameras, mounting solutions are becoming better for riders,” he says. “We designed our proprietary Jawbone mount that securely attaches to full-face helmets and gives a great line-of-site for riders. We found that mounting a high-powered light below the chin this way works better and reduces backscatter and reflection of particulates. Riders tell us it is easier on the eyes and there’s less fatigue.” “Some of the older motorcycles don’t have batteries, but many of the new ones do,” adds Jacoway. “This allows for the use of a more powerful aftermarket headlight on the handlebars that can provide a dual-beam. This incorporates both a spot and wide-angle reflector on additional LEDs giving riders both peripheral illumination and a spot all in one light.” Selecting The Right Beam If you’re wanting to outfit your vehicle with some auxiliary LED lights, manufacturers recommend starting your selection by the type of lighting you might need. Most manufacturers offer easy-to-use charts that enable racers and enthusiasts to match the type of light with the lighting pattern that is projected. This makes it easier to filter through the many designs and styles of lights they would need on their vehicle. “For motorcycle racers and enthusiasts wanting to start with the minimum, a helmet light is the most important,” says Jacoway. “Most bikes already have a headlight so the helmet light will provide some additional visibility. We would recommend our PRO MX lights that are available in single or dual beams, coupled with our Jawbone helmet mount. If they want more light, they can always retrofit a better headlight like our Dual Corsair, with a dual-beam and built to withstand the abuse.” While LED light manufacturers design a multitude of size lights for any application, most agree that small light pods are a good and inexpensive place to start for any kind of vehicle. “For any vehicle platform, light pods are always an inexpensive way to start upgrading to auxiliary lighting,” says Fortunato. “Small lights like the Baja Designs Squadron Pros can handle 95-percent of what most people need for casual off-roading. You can put a lot of light where you want it. The LP series of lights is something they can move up to for optimum performance when they need something with higher output with premium options.” According to Hosford, he believes that for most off-road enthusiasts, the A-pillar is the best place to start adding lights. “A light pod like the Rigid Industries D-series is less expensive than a full light bar and can be rotated for more adjustment,” he says. “For a UTV, our Adapt series offers a wide variety of options with great power management. We are also working on motorcycle pods within the Adapt line soon to focus on zones rider’s needs. They will have less power draw to work with factory stator units that provide power to fuel injection systems.” Go For Quality Name Brands One of the first things you’ll notice when shopping for LED auxiliary lighting is a huge price difference between brand name lighting options and those that are typically found on Amazon or eBay. “What’s important for consumers to know is that there is a big difference in the quality between name-brand units and others,” says Hosford. “Look at the quality of the lenses, the powder coating, discoloration of the optics, and anything that doesn’t look cosmetically high-quality.” “The nitty-gritty is all in the build construction and assembly,” says Fortunato. Name-brand manufacturers use only the best LEDs and sealed components with O-rings. One way consumers can spot poor-quality lights is to see if they have a high IP (Ingress Protection) rating. This is an international standard used to define levels of sealing effectiveness of electrical enclosures. As an example, name-brand products can have an IP rating of IP68 or IP69K, the latter meaning the light can be submersible in three-feet of water, as well as withstand dust and sand. In the long run, you’ll be able to enjoy your off-road adventures without worrying about your lights going out and being stranded in the dark. SCORE fans typically use what the racers have on their vehicles. The same units used on race vehicles in classes from SCORE Trophy Trucks to UTVs and Motorcycles are the same models that consumers can purchase. The fact that these light units have withstood the rigors of Baja racing, makes them a sure bet for any off-road enthusiasts wanting a quality light that’s going to last and be reliable. SJ SOURCES: Niterider Baja Designs Rigid Industries

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