The $500 Light Mount

LED’s are everywhere now:  Flashlights at Walmart checkout?  LED.  Shop lights?  LED.  Cel Phones at an Offpring concert?  LED.  Turn signals on your Corvette?  LED.  They are everywhere and can be wired for almost anything by anybody with a pair of dikes and a roll of black tape.  Two kinds of folks have traditionally been fans of auxiliary lighting:  Cops and off road guys.  I am not a cop, I am an off road guy.  And among the off road motorcycle guys, there is a sub culture that marches to their own fashion drum; the Adventure Tourist.  And them fellas love their lighting.

Now it doesn’t matter if this textile clad midlife crisis is on a Honda Grom with knobbies and a bucket for a fairing or or a fully loaded KTM 990 bound for Alaska at 85 miles and hour with a hot Starbucks shot, he is going to have some extra lights.  And the days of PIAA 510’s is long gone, folks.  Now is the day of the LED light bar and the LED pod, or five.  A quick check of the marketplace, or any Hoonigan video, will let you know this.  And the mounts and complete kits are brutally expensive.  Five hundo is nothing when shopping LED kits.

Because Mrs. Dano and I have two boys away in college, there is little discussion when I start to fiddle with unattended items in the shop.  By comparison, there are lots of discussions when I spend $500.  One boy left an 8″ LED light and the other an assortment of pods.  I am sure all of them came from Amazon via China.  There were at least two wiring and relay kits still in the wrapper in a nearby box.  He lives out of state and I had a free afternoon and I am as frugal as, well, a frugal person with two kids in college.  I do not have a hot Starbucks shot.

I looked curiously at the front of my 2007 BMW 1200gs.  It works perfectly well even absent the auxiliary lighting and monkey bar set of crash bars that adorn 90% of these boxers.  There had to be a way to make this work.

I knew I had an empty circuit on my Centech auxiliary fuse box (no CANBUS issues with this project), a wiring loom and an LED utility light, so I set out to see how cheaply I could join the crowd of the LED enlightened.

The fork tubes of the GS measured 54mm with my dial caliper and I found a pair of round light mount brackets from a buggy/ side by side specialist for $14.  The wiring harness had an automotive type rocker switch and I wanted a motorcycle switch for the lights; done at $8.  I needed a fuse for the circuit and the kit at NAPA was another $8 for an assortment.  I was missing a metric bolt for the light (it may have been eaten by our puppy), so that was another $4 at AutoZone on a Sunday.  Total in parts: $34.

I got rid of the round rocker (at left) and replaced it with the square motorcycle style rocker that bolted onto the handle bars in seconds.  I used the harnesses own switch connector and two others in the harness, thanks to solder and heat shrink tubing.

In fitting a square light between two round pegs,  I needed to bridge the gap between the width of the fork mounts (wide) and the brackets that came with the light (less than wide).  I wrestled with this for about 40 minutes and three different configurations of my 54mm brackets.  I decided that a 2″ wide piece of 12 gauge stainless strip would solve the problem.

I measured the shit out of it, cut it with an abrasive wheel, bent it with a hammer in the vise and drilled four holes in it in under an hour.  It fit like Bridget von Hammersmark’s foot going into that shoe in “Inglorious Basterds”.   I was happier than Colonel Landa at this point.

I whacked it with a scotch brite pad on general principle then painted it Satin Black.  Satin Black is the official color of Adventure Riding.

Wiring a relay is relatively straight forward.  Just google “wiring an automotive relay”, print one of the pictures and go from there.  If you can tell one battery terminal from another, you can do this.  Why use a relay?  Why do the battery cables not come up to the dashboard of your car?  Because relays allow better use of heavy gauge wiring and better protection via fuses.  Taking the bike apart is only inconvenient; not difficult.  Don’t let your dog eat your parts.  Do not be afraid.  When doing final assembly, I used blue Locktite to prevent loosening.

Because I ride year round and use actual water to wash the bike, I did solder and shrink wrap everything.  If you don’t know this skill, get a Weller 8200 PKS kit for under a $100 and get busy on youtube.  The days of twisting wires and duct taping are over.  I did my soldering on the table and attached a spare light to the harness.  I connected the entire thing to an 18 volt DeWalt cordless drill battery and test fired the harness.  The switch, relay and light worked.  Then I put the whole mess onto the motorcycle and connected it for real, adjusting wire length as I needed.  I used an online calculator to determine the amp rating needed for the fuse in the fuse box; placed a 10 amp fuse in the Centech and buttoned everything up with some zip ties.

So for the outlay of under $40 and a few hours in the shop, I got a few more lumens to help me down the back roads of the sierra foothills or around the west.  Just in case I happen to find an adventure or a hot Starbucks shot.