Mounting the lights to the side of our helmet brought about a Predator-esque look, but we found the setup to work best. Mounted on top, the lights can shine directly through you line of vision, causing problems in heavy dust and are more likely to suffer a direct hit from low-hanging branches.
If you had to lose one of your five senses, which would it be? We don't know for sure which we'd choose, but we do know that it wouldn't be sight. The ability to see your surroundings is something that we take for granted every day, but once it's gone, only then do you realize the beauty of vision.
We've all experienced a loss of sight at one point or another in the form of darkness. For most of us, the usual result is smashed toes and the occasional tumble. Knowing this, we wanted to make sure that we had light at all times when racing 28 continuous hours in Baja, California, because if getting tripped up in our own living rooms can hurt so badly, we didn't want to mess with a high-speed get-off in the Mexican desert.
Most riders know that a bike's headlight is only good up to a point. So many variables can affect a headlight that it limits their potential. For casual night riding or infrequent use, stock units work well enough, and aftermarket lights only improve the situation. However, if there is going to be serious riding after nightfall, especially racing, having a backup supply is always a good idea. Fortunately we had taken this into account before leaving for Mexico, so we borrowed a set of Trail Tech helmet-mounted HID lights and spare batteries.
Trail Tech's were a common sight in Baja, and overall we were glad to have joined the masses.
The stock light on our bike crapped out before the sun even set, so we were forced to rely on the TT lights entirely. Some of our riders didn't have them, and they suffered through alternate forms like flashlights duct taped to their helmets. You can guess how that went. Luckily our night riders were set to go and the TTs were quite possibly the only reason that we even finished the Baja 1000.
Carrying the 17.6 oz 4400 Lithium Ion rechargeable batteries, we were equipped with roughly two hours of light per, so by hauling two we could illuminate our way for nearly four hours. Drawing 26 watts off the batteries allowed the dual-lamp, HID (High Intensity Discharge) lights to emit 76 watts of halogen-equivalent light. A simple push of the blue-lit button on the HID light controller brought the lamps to life, piercing darkness with a brilliant, white light. We quickly found that judging battery life was no problem.
When the two hours worth of juice is used up, the lights give no warning of their impending failure. Instead of dimming or flickering, they simply cut out entirely all at once, leaving the rider suddenly night-blind and hurtling through the darkness. One nice thing about the battery packs is that after draining, they are useable again once they've been given a chance to rest for a short while. Since we were carrying two batteries, after our second one expired we hooked back up to the first again and were rewarded with a few extra minutes of visibility. It isn't much, but it might get you just far enough if in a jam. In our case we weren't that lucky.
Attractive styling and rugged performance blend the best of both worlds. The only grievance we had was a flimsy electrical connector.
The HID units stayed exactly where mounted, despite some mentionable get-offs. The adhesive on the backs of the mounting patches stuck tight to our helmets through dry, dusty conditions and muddy, wet rides alike. We had no complaints of premature peeling whatsoever, and the gripping action between the exposed half of the waterproof Velcro and the lights themselves was equally impressive. Securing the lamps properly requires more pressure than expected, but once the interlocking plastic Velcro was engaged, they were nearly impossible to shake loose, even when struck directly by an overhead branch.
Mounting brackets are available to attach the lamps to your machine, but having them stuck to your lid does allow you do see in the direction you are actually looking rather than where the bike is headed. The wiring from the lamps to the batteries is the only area that gave us any problems. The cord was long, in order to give riders options when deciding where to carry their batteries, but the additional length made the cord heavier than we would have liked. It isn't that the system was a burden to carry in terms of weight, but the bouncing cord tended to pull apart the break-away connectors, disconnecting the power supply. We would lose our lights every two or three minutes while traversing the rough Baja terrain. Duct taping the connection would probably fix the problem, but who wants to bust out the silver role every time the battery needs changing?
Price is always a factor in motorcycling, but when the lights go out, you'll wish you spent the extra coin. With the ability to run off your engine or batteries and to mount on a helmet or handlebars, the TT lights can justify their cost in many different ways.
The Trail Tech HID system isn't cheap. The dual-lamp kit we tested retails for $239.95 and comes with wiring designed to run off the bike's electrical system. The 4400 Lithium Ion Battery will run you another $189.95 each, which of course requires another 50 bucks for the charging unit. Though expensive, the chrome finish on the lamps is sweet looking and tough, and overall the lights worked awesome. A high-quality product ensures that after making the investment you should have plenty of time to save up your money again before it's time for replacement.
We were glad to have the Trail Tech lights with us on our ride and would recommend having a backup lighting system like this on hand if you plan to do any serious night riding. Some minor changes would make the TT HID helmet mounted lights unstoppable, and when it's our vision at stake, that's exactly what we want.