January 24, 2018

Bright – Xenon HID – Eyed Susan

Confessions of a Born Again Biker - Versys Headlight after Xenon HIDs Conversion

I seem to have a thing for Xenon HID Headlights on my motorcycles. I’m never sure why manufacturers don’t fit them as standard on all bikes, perhaps it is a cost issue in a tight market.

Then again some of the new Kawasaki models are fitted with LED headlights as standard.

Whatever the reason I found myself ordering another HID conversion unit from the good people at HIDS4U in Southampton and then parking up outside Chris Walker’s Kawasaki dealership to have them fitted.

Fitting them isn’t a major job. However, when the bike is under warranty, my logic is that by having the HIDS fitted by Kawasaki trained technicians, if  by some remote chance I need to claim under the warranty scheme, no one can say it is because I’ve been messing about.

It is all about the Lumens

Light power, rather than being anything to do with watts or amps, is measured in Lumens. The more Lumens you have, the brighter the light. Or if you would like to get technical about it … “a unit of luminous flux in the International System of Units, that is equal to the amount of light given out through a solid angle by a source of one-candela intensity radiating equally in all directions“. Absolutely if they say so, I’ll just go with brighter.

Confessions of a Born Again Biker - Versys Headlight before Xenon HIDs
Kawasaki Versys Headlight Before Conversion

A typical 55-watt halogen bulb puts out around 1000 lumens, whereas a 35-watt Xenon HID will put out 3000 lumens.

The added bonus with Xenon HIDs is that not only are they brighter, but they also consume less power. By converting my headlights to Xenon HIDs, I’m using less power – 35Watts per bulb rather than 55 watts – and getting a lot more lumens for my trouble.

If you are into aesthetics, there is also colour temperature to consider. Measured is Kelvins, the higher the number the closer to the blue end of the spectrum, the light is. Standard headlights that have a yellowish glow, are at a lower colour temperate; Xenon headlights typically run a 5000 to 6000 Kelvin depending on whether you want white lights or a blue tint. There is even an 8000 Kelvin option for those that like that kind of thing. Very spaceage.

The colour temperature though is nothing to do with the heat produced by the bulb. Although using less power (watts), Xenon HIDs do run slightly hotter than standard bulbs. The difference is small, but it is there. And it is the heat that makes fitting a higher wattage halogen (standard) bulbs something to be considered carefully.

Fit a 100-watt Halogen bulb, and you will get more lumens, but you will also draw more power and produce a lot more heat. It is the extra heat that can lead to the yellowing of some headlight “glass”. Essentially, the plastic is getting cooked, and if the “glass” discolours then all the extra light isn’t going to get out and illuminate the road.

The Conversion Process

Personally, I found it a simple and painless exercise. I rode to Chris Walker’s Kawasaki dealership. Returned a few hours later, paid the bill, and the job was done. Simples.

However, chatting with the people who actually did the work, they had a couple of comments.

Confessions of a Born Again Biker - Xenon Headlight motorcycle ConversionOverall, it is an easy job. It is a decent conversion kit, but modern motorcycles have limited space around the headlights. If the cables provided were longer then the ballasts – clever do-hickeys that spark the Xeron HIDs into life – could have been mounted in an easier place. Cutting and extending the cables is an option, but the Technicians didn’t want to spoil the wrapped and sealed wiring that comes with the conversion kit.

The Kawasaki Versys doesn’t have a CANBUS intelligent system monitoring the lights, but there are some clever electronics on the bike. Cheap conversion kits can interfere with the monitoring systems. No such problems with the Stealth conversion I bought, but do choose wisely.

Are the Lights Better?

Taking photos of lights can be problematical. The camera will compensate for the amount of light available and try to give you the correct exposure each time.

The photos hopefully show the difference in colour temperature after the conversion (headline image), and to show you how much brighter they are, below is the video taken either side of converting my Triumph Tiger, with the same kit, back in 2016.


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