Motorcycle Helmet Lights: Cool and Essential for Safety

Evan Rally
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There’s a big reason many motorcyclists get hit on the road.

It has nothing to do with alcohol, road rage or rough weather.

The Brits even have an acronym for it: SMIDSY.

And you can fix it today if you want.

Sorry mate, I didn’t see you!

That major reason for getting hit while riding your motorcycle is a lack of visibility. If drivers can’t see you, they’re liable to bowl you right over.

While you’re picking yourself up off the pavement, you might hear this excuse: “Sorry mate, I didn’t see you.”

Easy for them to say.

How can we prevent this? INCREASE OUR VISIBILITY!

Brightly colored gear helps, but at night, color matters far less than LIGHT.

Adding lights to your motorcycle helmet – whether with EL wire, a kit, or a brake lightmight save your life.

But how can you wire up your helmet? And is it legal? In this article, I’ll walk you through:

  • Helmet Brake Lights (Easy Install)
  • Readymade Kits for Helmet Lights (Customizable)
  • How to DIY Motorcycle Helmet Lights (Cheap!)
  • Clip-on Headlights
  • Legality of helmet lights
  • BONUS: T3 Light – Cheap and Effective Visibility
  • BONUS 2: Helmets with Integrated Taillights!

Let’s get into it.

Motorcycle Helmet Brake Lights: Brake Free

There’s a new trend in motorcycle helmets lately: Helmet integrated brake lights. These greatly improve visibility and help reduce rear-end collisions into motorcyclists by careless drivers.

But these can go horribly wrong: Many helmet brake lights require you to disassemble your bike and cut in to the wiring for your brake and turn signals so your helmet light can mirror your bike’s signals.

Take it from me: messing with wiring is way more annoying than it sounds. I once swapped out a tail tidy on a bike, and that bike STILL loses signals every time I wash it! Even if you do manage to install the sensor, now your helmet brake light will only work with that one bike.

Brightness is another factor to consider: Mounting a light made for bicycles or some other application might not be bright enough to ensure you’re seen on the road.

You can even buy a light for your helmet that’s illegal (more on that later).

Instead of going with one of the many cheap lights out there on Amazon, I’d recommend Brake Free.

The brake light from Brake Free fits on any helmet. It’s light at only 7 ounces, and their included mount means you can pop it on and off when you want. You can also buy more mounts, making switching helmets a breeze. The unit charges via MicroUSB and holds around 10 hours of battery life.

It’s water resistant, rated at IP65: meaning you can spray a hose at it and it won’t go out.

They built it to be viewed from a wide angle, meaning that truck in your blind spot can see it too.

You get three modes with the Brake Free Light:

  • Active Mode: All lights are on at 20% brightness. When braking or deceleration is detected, they go to 100%
  • Pulsing Mode: Center lights are always on at 20%, with the side panels blinking at 20% brightness nonstop to catch drivers’ attention. When braking, everything goes to 100%.
  • Stealth Mode: Center lights are always on at 20%. When braking, everything goes to 100%.

The panels also flash when the unit senses heavy braking, and the left side of the unit blinks to let the rider know it’s time to charge.

The best part? The Brake Free Light doesn’t require any installation on your bike. The unit uses G-sensors to sense when you’re braking or decelerating. No wiring or plug necessary.

The Brake Free is a must have safety accessory for any rider tired of tailgaters (comes in White too!)

Bonus: Check out the T3 light at the end of this post for a quick hack to make any bike MUCH more visible from behind.

LightMode: Your Readymade Kit for Helmet Lights

Want to turn heads and keep drivers aware with a set of gorgeous, customizable helmet lights?

Turn your helmet in to Tron with the LightMode kit. It can handle rain, wind, sun and cold. And the light modes available will certainly turn heads.

LightMode is a purpose-built LED lighting system for motorcycle helmets. The creators package everything you need in the box to light up your helmet: cords, battery pack, and light strips with 3M backing.

Their latest product is called Night Shift, and it’s 10x better than EL wire.

Mount a Night Shift on your helmet and use the app to change the color, turn on cinematic effects (fireballs, waves, etc) and even sync the effects to your music.

Regular LEDs can only emit light from a very small point. They use proprietary light diffusion technology to make the strip glow.

Source: LightMode

Each component was painstakingly designed and tested to be water resistant, safe, and unlikely to damage despite the crazy conditions motorcycle helmets go through.

They also sell one-color kits called Neutron S in various solid colors.

LightMode ships around the world and gives you 30 days to return the kit if you’re not happy with it.

There are a million other helmet lights I could have mentioned here, and even earned a commission off of. But I don’t, because none comes even close to the quality of LightMode’s product.

I don’t earn any commission by talking about LightMode. I just like what they’re doing. The founder exposed the many low-quality knockoffs out there and delivered a light that can handle just about anything a motorcyclist will ride through. That’s worth sharing.

LightMode too expensive for your budget? Time to DIY.

Light Up Your Motorcycle Helmet, DIY Style

This is for those of you who like to do it yourself. With a hardware store, Amazon and $20 you can mount some pretty awesome lights on your helmet.

This can all be achieved using electroluminsecent wire or EL wire. While that sounds specialized and expensive, it’s cheap and easily available online.

All done with EL wire. Source

However, you’ll want EL wire that’s bright and waterproof to mount on a helmet. You’ll also need a battery pack and switch that are tough and waterproof.

Installing is easy: just use clear hot glue to attach the EL wire wherever you like. Attach the battery pack with 3M double sided tape rated for outdoor use.

Tip: Make sure you choose a battery pack that can support the length of wire you plan to use. Too small of a battery means less life or lower brightness.

You can pick up a kit of EL wire just about anywhere that includes several colors and battery packs. For under $20 you can make yourself a lot more visible and add a futuristic vibe to your ride.

What are the downsides of EL Wire DIY approach?

EL wire usually comes in just one color, and is either on or off. You can’t set different colors or light modes. Plus, the inexpensive commodity kits are rarely built to withstand strong sun or rain and wind. One ride in a storm might be enough to knock your EL wire out of commission. That’s why we have LightMode!

Clip On Lights for Off-Road Riding

If you ride off-road in a hot climate, you might have to go out at night just to keep from overheating. Your bike might also lack a front light entirely.

With no streetlights to guide you, you’ll want lights on your helmet.

What do you need? An extremely bright light (similar to a bike headlight) in a small package. It should mount on the top or side of your helmet and break away easily in the event of a spill. And of course, it needs to be tough as nails.

Turn to Task Racing or Baja Designs to get the job done.

You’ll get tough and bright lights in all their kits, along with rechargeable batteries that you can juice up on the road. Given these lights are so bright, it’s uncommon to find a battery that lasts more than three hours. So bring something to charge it with while you ride!

In general, helmet lights are legal in most US states. However, there are rules around flashing/strobing and showing red and blue (police don’t like being imitated).

California only allows white or amber light to be projected forwards from the vehicle, and only red light may be projected backwards. While this applies to vehicles, police might still try to get you for it.

Unfortunately the authorities don’t make it easy to find their nitpicky requirements online – you’ll have to contact your local DMV (or maybe a lawyer that works on traffic cases in your area) to ask what’s legal or not when it comes to helmet lights.

Two quick rules of thumb:

  • Red LEDs facing forwards are often specifically prohibited in the law. For obvious reasons!
  • Also, strobing colored lights are often illegal, making units like this unfortunately illegal.

BONUS: Motorcycle Tail Lights!

I once met a million-mile rider at a Harley dealership in the USA and got a great tip. For under $50 you can pick up a basic T3 LED light to mount on the back of your motorcycle, right above or below your brake light. You can set this light to flash or strobe, and it’s visible from hundreds of feet away. That’ll catch the attention of drivers long before they rear end you.

Feniex Industries - T3 Perimeter Mount LED
The humble T3 (Image Source)

With a screwdriver and some electrical tape you can wire up that light to turn on when you hit the brakes, and set it to strobe or flash in different patterns. Seriously, I have very little little mechanical experience and set this up in 15 minutes with a screwdriver and tape. You can buy a T3 light in white or red here.

Extremely bright is exactly what we like.

Now I know this might be illegal in some states. However, I rode with a white T3 unit across the USA, covering over 7,000+ miles, and never ran in to trouble with the law. The light strobed every time I touched the brakes. Besides, I’d rather have a slap on the wrist or a fine from an officer than a broken back from getting rear ended anyway.

BONUS 2: Helmets with Integrated Taillights!

Don’t want to mess with DIY? Thankfully there are two amazing helmets on the market with integrated taillights. They don’t sense braking, but they do provide more visibility from the rear, especially at night. I only recommend these two – not the cheaper offerings from ILM and 1Storm – because I don’t trust the safety of a $100 helmet.

These helmets are the Sena Stryker and Sena Impulse – both also come with Sena’s top of the line 50s Bluetooth systems integrated as well, providing Bluetooth and Mesh connectivity with audio piped through Harman Kardon speakers already integrated in to the helmet’s shell.

These are solid lids for all around safety, comfort, and features. Check them out below on Revzilla.

Comments

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  • Anny

    11 months ago

    Your illumimoto link does not lead to any reference whatsoever on of light laws in any states. All it does is show multiple products they sell. (Just so you know) as i am finding it hard to find a list of the laws for any state since I am looking into it to purchase lights for my own helmet.

    • Evan

      11 months ago

      Oh shoot, they must have taken that page down. Thank you for letting me know! I will look for another resource and put it up ASAP.

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