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SOLAR POWER – or simulated fusion for your scooter

June 23, 2010

What do most long distance motorcycle riders consider essential gear? I think the short list would include a throttle lock, GPS, maybe an aftermarket seat, and improved lighting. This article details installation of HID lighting on my Aprilia Caponord. Aftermarket HID kits are for the most part, a fantastic, cost effective, upgrade for your motorcycle. Key benefits of installing an HID lighting kit are:

  • Increased visibility during the daytime.
  • Significantly increased light output at night.
  • Decreased power draw on your alternator (more power for additional accessories).
  • Significantly cooler bulb temperatures.

There are countless back and forth debates on the legality and effectiveness of HID versus stock Halogen bulbs. For the case of this discussion let’s assume this installation is properly aimed, does not generate hot spots or light scatter, and is only used in an off-road setting. This article also assumes that the reader is somewhat familiar with HID technology and has mechanical/electrical ability. There are countless forums that deal with installing HID conversions on just about any motorcycle. If you need more info visit Google.

The Caponord Challenge:

My Aprilia Caponord, like some FJR’s and V-Strom’s has the H4 high/low beam setup. As opposed to a motorcycle with an H7 (for example) setup (separate bulbs for low beam and high beam), the Caponord has a pair of headlights that contain a single bulb containing two elements – high and low. These bulbs have the elements placed in two different locations inside the bulb to properly illuminate focused areas of the reflector. Low beam is forward and high beam is rearward approximately 9mm. It is critical that the HID install closely match the bulb’s element positioning for correct focus. Most HID conversion kits are not adjustable and can cause horrible light patterns that are unfocused at best and dangerous to other drivers at worst. So the challenge at hand was to obtain a kit that could be adjusted and figure how I would setup each headlight.

Options I considered were as follows:

  • Left side HID, right side halogen.
  • Shielded HID on the left side, un-shielded HID on the right side.
  • Un-shielded HID’s on both sides. One to operate on low and both to operate on high.

While I pondered how to setup the lights I ordered an automotive HID kit from Xenon Depot. I’m glad I was not in a hurry as this particular kit took almost two months to arrive. Apparently the kits were back ordered. Usually Xenon Depot kits arrive in a week or two. I bought the cheaper kit and if I were to do it again I would spend a bit more and get the more expensive kit. SLIMLINE (thinner) ballasts are the only way to go with a motorcycle install. It is important to understand that with HID lighting, lower kelvin ratings, 4300k for example, have the most light output. Ordering a 6000k or higher light actually reduces light output.

Installation:

The first installation was not what I had hoped for. The left side shielded (low beam) HID was bight but the pattern was terrible. The right side un-shielded HID (high beam) was a complete mess shooting light everywhere except down the road.


Most of the problem, I think, was related to the crappy re-based HID lights set permanently into plastic H4 adapter rings. The bulb and housing quality was underwhelming and absolutely un-adjustable. There was no way to modify the bulb/housing to adjust the bulb’s focal point. Comparing the stock bulb high beam element positioning, I determined that to obtain a correct bulb focus the HID element had to be moved reward about 9mm. Which was impossible with this HID bulb.


At this point I decided to scrap the dual HID setup and do a single HID for low beam and uprated H4 halogen bulb for the right side. My assumption was that I would gain increased light output with the HID and lose nothing in high beam performance and retain the ability to “flash to pass” and have instant on high beams. HID lights take a few seconds to come up to full brightness when switched on initially. With a full HID install you lose instant low/high light switching. As you can see below this improved the light pattern but it’s still awful and scattered all over the place. This picture shows HID low beam and halogen high beam on at the same time.


Back to the drawing board. Unfortunately, in my experience, the “drawing board” is almost always entirely constructed of money. After a few weeks of fruitless posts asking for advice and searches of the FJR and ADV rider forums – I had a few ideas but no concrete plans. A guy who goes by the nickname “warchild” had faced similar issues with his FJR and ultimately decided to go with full time HID low beams and PIAA aftermarket driving lights for high beam. I was not interested in the expense, wattage draw and look of bolted on accessory lights.

Somewhere along the way, I learned the term “rebasing”. This is the term for adapting HID bulbs to modified applications. Non-rebased bulbs have a completely different “seat” and won’t work at all in modified applications – EXCEPT, where you can purchase a specially made adapter machined from aluminum. I would also have to purchase adapters to connect to my originally affordable and now much less so, HID kit. This setup also allowed me to run genuine Phillips HID bulbs and not bulbs made by whomever, wherever. The bulbs, adapters and adapter harness were all purchased at www.autogoody.com Autogoody.com offers free shipping and the items arrived in less than a week.

Philips D2S bulb:


D2S bulb and adapter ring:


Bulb and ring installed in the headlight:


D2S Adapter for Philips D2S bulbs.


The one immediate problem I had with this setup is the adapter ring focused all the light to the upper portion of the headlight reflector. This smoothed out the light pattern overall, but created hot spots and weird light scatter. As you can see below, the light is much more balanced and better focused but now there is a tremendous amount of intensity in the center of the light due to the light adapter’s scatter shielding.


At this point I decided to begin cutting the scatter shield back in steps to see if I could obtain a more even light focus. After trimming the length several times the light output was improved but still not what I wanted. Out of frustration I cut the scatter shield completely flush.


The picture below shows the light being correctly focused, even, without any hot spots. This picture is before the light was adjusted correctly so it’s a bit on the low side.


Low beam – left HID only.


High beam – left and right HID at the same time. Very hard to take a picture of how bright this actually is.


For the HID side I made spacing rings from delrin plastic washers to obtain the correct light focus.

The installation looks fantastic. There is plenty of room to hide the ballasts and igniters behind the Caponord’s instrument panel.


The HID capsules and adapter rings fit perfectly.


Some light trimming of the stock rubber light boot is required. The end result looks factory.


While the end result was nowhere near as good as the H7 based HID light setup on my Futura, it’s vastly superior to stock. I think the single best benefit of making this type of modification is increased visibility during the daytime. The installation is 100% reversible. Not a single wire was cut. I’m guessing this whole setup cost around $430.00.

NEXT UP IN TECH – Spiegler Braided Stainless Steel Brake Line Install



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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Frank Gorshin permalink
    June 24, 2010 12:29 pm

    Very informative piece, but under ‘essential gear’ you forgot to include a 750 ml bottle of real absinthe for the tank bag…

    • June 24, 2010 1:14 pm

      Indeed. I never leave the house without my Hank Snow album collection either.

  2. June 27, 2010 2:44 pm

    This is some great info, I’ve been looking to convert my 03 Capo to HID but never really knew the best way of doing it without loosing the flasher.

    I’ll need to price this up but it defo looks like the most cost effective way of doing it.

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