Sena BlueTooth vs. StarCom 1

OK, since 2007 I’ve had an intercom system in the bike.  StarCom1 Advanced to be exact.


It allows me and a wired passenger to talk.   The intercom part of the StarCom has always been a bit of an issue for me.  Mostly tuning it.  To get the VOX just right, so that we can talk clearly w/o wind noise holding the conversation open when not necessary.

Fortunately or unfortunately I haven’t had to use the intercom portion all that often since Claudine just doesn’t ride with me that much.   When she does they are normally short trips and not worth messing with the intercom.

That being said, I use the StarCom every day on every ride.

It is my audio interface to my GPS (Zumo 550, then 665) and it’s my entertainment center (mp3’s from the Zumo and formerly XM via the Zumo) and when appropriate Radar detector audio.

At one point it also served as my interface to the phone.  Both times, phones connected to the Zumo via Bluetooth and the Zumos hard-wired into the StarCom.

Previous to the StarCom I simply used a MixIT, to be a portable amplifier for iPod/XM and to Mix in the radar detector.


The Mix-IT worked well, but created a mess of wires going into the tank bag where I kept it.  When I decided I wanted an intercom I passed it on to a friend and he still uses it today.  My dad still uses one as far as I know.   (Great product).

The Starcom has a number of advantages for me:

  1. Central mounting location, on the bike.   No longer in my tank bag.
  2. One nice cable to my helmet, no mess.
  3. Intercom capability
  4. Above average volume and sound quality.

The disadvantages are:

  1. It’s not cheap, it’s not super expensive but it’s not cheap.
  2. Starcom cables don’t seem to last a long time.   The Shielded cables for Radar and phone seem to break down.   When you’re talking a $82.95 microphone/audio cable. This is a problem to have to replace it every year or so.  (Two cables actually MIC-02 and MUS-04) if you want Stereo sound, which I do.   And, no, you can’t use cheapo Radioshack cables.  You can, but you won’t be happy.
  3. Tuning the Intercom can be a pain.
  4. Headsets aren’t cheap, now about $75 per helmet.  Figure two helmets for me, one for the wife, one for the kids that equals 4 helmets/headsets.   That is cheap compare to say a J&M system.  
  5. The headsets aren’t easy to shuffle around so you need to mount it in your helmet and leave it there.
  6. Along with the cables I’ve found headsets if worn year-round tend to break down as well, usually the microphone is the first to go.

So what brings me to this review?  Well about two years ago I lost the phone/microphone  capability with my StarCom again.  It actually works if the bike isn’t running, but if it is, well the noise or interference is so bad nobody can hear you.

I replaced the headset, and the cables (again), and re-routed them to get them away from as much stuff as I could to avoid the interference.   It worked for a while but now it’s back to being fubar again. 

All other audio functions work just fine.  It’s the cable from the Zumo to the StarCom that is the issue.

So I decided to look at what else is out there.  

Back in the day before I had the Mix-IT, I did play with one of the first CARDO BT systems for motorcycles and it was pretty good.  At the time it was mono only and phone only.

After searching, the Sena Bluetooth SMH10 seems to be the most recommended at this time.    Also the idea of my riding buddy having one and being able to talk to him was attractive.   So I ordered up a pair.

I unboxed them, charged them, upgraded them to the new 4.0 firmware.

Paired up my Zumo and iPhone and went out of a test ride.

First thoughts:

1) Sound quality from this is HORRIBLE.   Streaming MP3’s from the Zumo 665 is about AM quality at best.   It’s certainly loud enough.  I ride with earplugs so it needed to be loud enough to overcome.   But even at lower volumes w/o earplugs, on a scale of 1-10 it was a 3 maybe a 4 at best.   (Versus the StarCom which I would rate an 8.5-9)

(And yes, I am painfully aware of the need to make sure the speakers are centered in the ear).

2) Phone call testing.

For the first test I used what Sena calls Case 3:


I called my wife who was happy to play along, and she said no.  This is unacceptable.  I was barely legible if at all.

Now knowing that with my windshield down, it can be quite turbulent, I stopped an put the plastic microphone mask on the front side of the mic as suggested and included in the box.

No real change in quality.

I stopped again an switched up to what Sena calls Case 2:


For this the phone call quality was better.  Wife said she’d call me and talk to me in an emergency, or take a call from me in an emergency, but no, she would not talk to me like this for 30 minutes to keep me awake.

It was not as good as the StarCom when the Starcom works.

In this configuration, MP3 streaming form the Zumo was still bad, though GPS prompts sounded pretty good.

At the end of the day I decided I listen to music 98% of the time and talk on the phone 2%.   I’m not willing to give up the music audio quality in favor of what turns out also to be a lesser phone call quality.

The wireless features and Bike-To-Bike capabilities *could* have possibly swayed me.  But even those scenarios are less than 10% of my total ride time and aren’t likely too.

So with some frustration, the Sena gets shipped back today.   

I have ordered the StarCom1 BT-02 module.  If that rectifies my cable issue, then I’ll be a happy camper.  If not then we’ll figure out what to do next.

If you have a sure-fire bike to bike system that provides great audio (with ear plug) and uses or doesn’t use the StarCom system.  Please let me know about it or how you have it set up.

2012 Mason-Dixon 20-20 Rally Report

If you already know what a Motorcycle Endurance Rally is.  Maybe because you read my report from last year (2011) or (2010) or (2009) you can skip this section and go straight to the Ride report.   Otherwise, the basics are explained in the (2010) report.

This years rally them was the Mountain Doo Doo

20-20_Mountain Do Do Patch_C1_FR1101 Ab

Mason Dixon 20-20 2012

This was hinted at last year and advertised as the antithesis of last years nearly 100% highway riding rally.   It was destined to be in the mountains and only in the mountains.

I was excited, I’d rather ride 1500 miles in the mountains than 800 on the super slab but that’s just me.

We anticipated that being in the mountains at night was gonna suck so last year after the MD2020 I added AUX lights to the bike.  Nothing really sucks worse than two lane West Virginia roads in the dark and you can’t really understand just how dark unless you’ve been there.

OK so with much anticipation, the list of boni (which is plural for bonus) was released last Sunday (one week before the rally).

We get to prepare (read agonize over these for a week) while we try to figure out a good route.

The base boni looked something like this:


Now the first thing you might think is that’s a lot of boni, of which a good portion aint in the mountains.  That’s exactly what I thought.   Then the rules indicated that this was an efficiency rally.   Which means the most points per miles wins, and not the most points.   As you can see, the purple (highest value) boni are in the mountains as are most of the red (next highest in value).   But all those green ones, the mediums, they are much closer to the rally HQ, which meant (to me) that an efficient ride was going to include a bunch of those and none of the red/purple which were “in the mountains”.

This didn’t sit well with me.

For one, the MD2020 always awards the most efficient rider with the Jim Young Trophy.  This guy while efficient, usually is outside of the top 5, sometimes even outside the top 10.

So immediately I dismissed the whole efficiency idea.   I played with a few routes but I (we) which includes my riding partner decided, we wanted a mountain rally and would ride the mountains and pick the best route out of those that we could find and ride it.   We just wanted to ride well and score well.   We became much less concerned about finishing well.

And so planning began and this is what we came up with:


The route included 1266 miles which would be enough to claim the points for exceeding 1250.   It was tight.   In fact it had us getting back at 2:40pm, which was 10 minutes after the Time-Bar time.  Which meant we had to find 10 minutes, something we haven’t been able to do in the past.

But the route was such that at the end the last 8 or so stops, we could bail and jet over to 81 and make a run for it if we were running behind or “on time”.

The Route sheet from which we’d work from looked like this:


I can’t remember the last MD2020 that got started on time but we left the barn at 05:30, and beet feet north to Jim’s grave, a mandatory bonus every year, we arrived 07:02 which meant we were 30 minutes ahead of schedule from getting started 30 minutes early.  This was awesome, now we just needed to maintain that over the next 33 hours.

Stop 2 was actually a bonus that’s not listed on the route but we were following a rider towards Jim’s grave and when he bailed off at the exit I checked to see what he might be going after, and (since we were ahead) we had time to grab it.  It was right by the exit and we would need fuel at this time as well.

So we grabbed the 35 extra points for bagging the community center:

From this spot it was a bit of a ride to get to bonus 114 The population center sign.

At this point we were almost an hour ahead of schedule and starting to think maybe we’ve missed something…

4th stop would be Lost River Church Historical Marker

Followed by the Coots Store sign:

I should point out that the bandana was a new requirement for this rally.  Not only did you have to have your rally flag but about 1/2 the boni required your ‘colorful’ bandana also had to be in the photo.   Thanks Rick!

From the Coots sign we headed to cemetery in Franklin WV.  By now it was north of 90 degrees and steamy hot.

After this bonus I noticed that my windshield wouldn’t go up or down and my turn signals were ‘funky’.

I pulled off the road at a gas station and Kyle mentioned I didn’t have any head lights to go with my other issues.  *CRAP*.   I have a 2006 FJR (Gen II) and no I have not had the wiring harness recall performed.

I have had 2 Brodie harnesses in my hands but gave them both up to guys who needed them for the Iron Butt Rally in 2009 and 2011 and never installed it.

I was fearful that my harness was melting and I’d be stranded in the middle of nowhere-WV.

In top of that starting was also problematic.  It wouldn’t start in neutral, only in gear after ‘cycling’ the kickstand.  I feared we were hosed at this point, and we were a full 1 hour ahead by now.

Kyle and I discussed and decided to carry on.  If I was going to get ‘stuck’ in WV I guess it didn’t really matter where. (We’ll revisit that thought later).

The way the spider problem often works is you shut your bike off and it just won’t start back up.  So I got it started and I’d just leave it running until the rest bonus.  We knew then we’d be in a more major metropolitan area.

The next stop was in Seneca Rocks:

Then Rich mountain.

Followed by Pickens WV the highest point bonus of the rally at 777 points.

Now here’s the deal with this.  Pickens is paved.  But there are 3 ways into Pickens, and Garmin didn’t route us in or out on a paved road.  No rather it was 20+ miles in and 20+ miles out on gravel, gravel that the FJR had no business being on.   We were passed by dirt bikes, trucks and 4-wheelers.

It was a great fire road, and lucky for us it was graded recently.  It wasn’t too rutted, buy still, we had no business there on 650lb street bikes.

Yea, there was a reason it was 777 points.

(Rick you suck)

From Pickens we headed to Hacker Valley.

Then on to the Walter Cool Historical Marker.

then an over look:

Of course you had to read the damn thing, cause they wanted the bend in the river and not the sign.

Then off to Zela

Extra special thanks to Bill Dunlop who was just leaving and pointed us to the sign, which was covered up…

From Zela to the Glen Ferris Inn near Gauley, WV

Then the Coal Marker

Then the Hatfield Cemetery

It’s starting to get dark and I don’t have any headlights.  Sad smile

I do have aux lights which will help but people don’t really like those even though they are aimed away from oncoming traffic.

Next stop is Gilbert, WV to shoot Marilyn

Then Grundy, WV

Brilliant, Kyles headlight is out too.  IT’s been fickle all day, he can usually get it started by wrapping on the relay with a screw driver…

This sucks…

(yes the FJR is running)

2 more stops before our rest bonus.


We found a reasonable gas station with good lighting, and an ATM.

We grabbed our rest start bonus at 00:16 and I tore into the FJR.  I was hopeful that maybe just maybe the wiring for my aux lights was causing my issue.  I disconnected the high beam relay (leaving the manual on feed) but that didn’t make a difference.   That cost me about 40 mins rest.

We slept in the nearby Burger King parking lot away from the hustle and bustle of the gas station.   The provided us with 2 good hours of sleep on our luxury thermo-rests.

The alarm went off at 02:50 and we saddled up and rode over to the gas station.   I got a crappy cup of coffee and some pop-tarts.

We got our ending receipts at 03:18 and off we went into the night.

Smithfield WV.

Then Burkes Garden to snap the old post office.  The road in and out of Burkes Garden was awesome.  Only wish it hadn’t been in the middle of the night.

This was a daylight only bonus and daylight started at 05:30 regardless of the amount of light available, which was pretty much no light.

Then Peterstown, WV for a big Chicken

Then the Deer Restaurant

Then the Cow at the Paint Bank General store.

Which was perfect cause both of us were running on fumes and probably couldn’t have made it another 5 miles to the next gas station.

At this point we realize that getting back by 1pm is a possibility.  The Garman is telling us we have a 10 minute cushion.  (which is an hour and a half better than our planned arrival time of 02:38).

Just 3 more stops.

The hump back bridge

Then the lookout at Longdale Furnace.   Another Rick Miller special.  10 miles of Gravel up the mountain in, and 10 miles out.

Just to get a picture of a pile of rocks.

Oh look, a Magical Coyote.

It’s right there under the bush, can you see it?

Lastly a quick photo of Foam Henge 🙂 I have always wanted to stop here.

We still had 180 miles to go and one fuel stop.

And we made it pulling in at 12:50pm

Total Rally miles 1264 (corrected)

Plus 450 miles to the rally and 450 miles home meant a wonderful 2164 for the weekend.

Good riding, good times.

We ended up with an 8.5 something points per mile.  Good enough for 13th/14th place.  But we didn’t really go for high points per mile so we’re really happy with that.

This was for us, the best rally we’ve ridden.  We planned then rode our plan.  We made time instead of losing it.   Outside of some potential mechanical problems that didn’t really hurt us, we didn’t have any issues.   We rode for a solid 30 hours and couldn’t have done any better.

We are happy with the ride and the results and are looking forward to next year.

The entire photo library is visible here:

I don’t have a spot tracker and used Google Latitude on my iPhone so family and friends could track me.  That data is available here:

Best viewed in google earth, it’s not super accurate though.  Apparently the Garmin can’t keep 3 days worth of Rally data so I lost all tracks prior to the rest bonus :/

Clarification: I wasn’t disappointed with the MD2020, it’s theme or the they way it was run.  Bummed that it wasn’t a pure mountain rally, and bummed that it wasn’t traditional rally scoring yes, but I wouldn’t say I was disappointed.  The rally was awesome, and well run as the MD2020 always is.  It just turned out to be a different rally than we expected so in that aspect I guess you could say we were disappointed.   Anyway, we made the best of it.  We planned a rally route that we wanted to ride and executed it to the best of our abilities.   It was probably my best ride to-date, in that we were able to execute our plan, added points and finished earlier than we expected.   We were never rushed, it was a beautiful thing.   Had this been a ‘regular’ rally we would have finished well, but we knew we wouldn’t from the get-go so we’re good with it.  

Ride with me for 15 minutes…

Last weekend I participated in the Void in Lynchburg, VA. (see prior post).

For the ride home we picked the scenic (read twisty) route where possible, avoiding the slab (highway).

The video below includes 15 minutes of footage along US Route 311 in Virginia headed towards West Virginia.

Footage shot with a ContourHD camera.

Yeah, I know the sound is out of sync (thanks iMovie).   But it gives you a good idea of why we do this (or maybe why some people don’t).  I don’t claim to be any good at this video editing thing.


Best viewed in 720p

The Void 6 (2011 Edition)

Rally the Void for 2011 is in the books.  If you don’t know what a long distance rally is check out my report from the Mason Dixon 2011, or the Void last year for explanations.

This years theme was water towers and spooky stuff, and by spooky stuff the bonus locations focused on Hard Drive Data Doctor and other things that were supposed to be haunted and/or had some bizarre thing happen at that place in the past.

Example from the rally book:


The Void is unique in that it’s run from multiple locations at once with each starting location essentially being it’s own rally (since there is no way to ensure parity).   Our starting location was Clarksville, TN.

The rally was run from 0900 Friday morning to 1400 Saturday.  In order to be in Clarksburg for Friday morning we rode down leisurely Thursday.  Stopping at Makers Mark distillery, and a couple National Parks so dad could get his passport stamped.

OK so normally, or at least in the past you’re given the list of bonus locations ahead of time.   Sometimes as much as a week ahead of time.   This year the schedule indicated that the bonus locations would be available “No Later Than” 8pm Wednesday the 5th.   Which sucked for us, since we knew we’d be leaving early Thursday.  This meant we’d have less time to plan and even less time to second guess ourselves.

I was very happy to find out that the bonus locations were available Tuesday evening.   So basically Tuesday night was wrecked planning routes.

The initial map of bonus locations looked something like this:


The colors represent point ranges, the shapes represent availability, the round spots are available 24 hours, the squares are ‘daylight only’, and the triangles have additional restrictions.

The rally start time was 0900 on Friday with a finish time of 1400 Saturday.

(for those doing the math that’s 29 hours total).

Subtract out the mandatory 3 hour rest bonus, that left us with 26 hours to work with.

26 hours at 55MPH average = 1430 miles.   55MPH average is a good average for me, and one that I’m comfortable with.   It’s not but burner gold pace (1500 in 24 hours = 62.5MPH).  But this isn’t that type of ride.  These east coast rallies usually involve lots of two-lane twisty roads, so in all honestly a 50MPH average is probably more realistic, unless you’re just a monster.

The rally also had a 1421 mile cap.  So any miles ridden over that would be penalized at 50 points per mile.

So our target route length was set, at 1400 miles give or take.

For the purposes of planning I disregard any what I call ‘standard’ bonuses.  They are standard in that everyone will likely have them.  They include the donation bonus, the don’t lose your flag bonus, and the rest bonus.

There were really any wild card bonuses in this rally so we didn’t need to consider those either.  We just had to work with what was on paper and I liked that.

The one ‘wild-card’ in this route was that if you stopped by the Rally headquarters on ‘Saturday’ and did an Odometer check route (using up about 35 minutes).  You’d score 1 point for doing so, but any bonuses you collected after that check ride were worth double.

So our initial ride had us killing a bunch of bonuses up to roughly 8pm, sleeping for 3-4 hours, being at the rally HQ at midnight to do the check run.  Departing the rally HQ for leg two and slaying a bunch of high valued bonuses at 2x their normal price.

We had a good route, one I was confident would be a top 3 finish.  It wasn’t overly aggressive, it was just right.   In fact I slept like a BABY on Tuesday after working out our optimal route.

Then came Wednesday.

It was noticed that we would hit two ‘high value’ bonuses on Friday that weren’t available until Saturday.   I spent my lunch out re-working things and was once again confident that we would have a good route.

At the end of the day I printed out the rally book and was marking page to make retrieving the information easy.   That’s when I stumbled upon bonus number 109  The group-N combo bonus.   This lovely bonus instructed that if we got 6 of them in a specific order and claimed the combo bonus, that we could score 6666 points.   That was about 1/2 of our 12,000 point route.  WOW, this was a game changer at the 11th hour.

So, of course more time was wasted trying to work that in.   It had lots of pitfalls.   All of the bonuses were only available on Saturday, so it had to be done in 14 hours.  Worse, 4 of them were daylight only bonuses.   Daylight was defined as:  Enough light to get a photo with background items clearly defined or some such nonsense.   That meant with Sunrise being at 0700, it left you with roughly 7 hours to get the remaining four.   While I was sure someone could pull it off, I was sure it was on the edge of our ability and was more likely to cause us to DNF so we wrote that bonus off.

Still we were confident that our route would score well.  Maybe a group-n getter would beat us.   But maybe they’d DNF for trying too.

We left Thursday morning for Clarksville confident we had a good route.   Then we read a question posed to the group.   If you took your rest bonus after the odo-check would that be doubled?  Pfffft I thought.   That doubling nonsense isn’t meant for those types of bonuses, I thought to myself.

Well it wasn’t meant for that but there wasn’t any wording saying it couldn’t so it would be allowed.   The rest bonus was worth 2000 points.  Ugh, making that worth a potential 4000, one that 3/4 the field would go for was a game changer.

We’d have to reassess for the 87th time.


After completing our tour of Makers Mark, and visiting the National parks we landed at our hotel for the start.  Went and got dinner, and re-evaluated the plan.   We still felt that our plan was good, in fact, shifting things around to double our rest bonus would actually score fewer points so we elected to skip that.

At the start we were discussing our plans with John Frick.  We told him what we were going to do.   He said it was a good plan but risky.  We agreed.  Then he mentioned that it was smart that we were starting our rest bonus when we did, and reminded us that we couldn’t start it before 10am.

We got our start receipts, and we were off.

On the way to our first bonus, I looked at our schedule and timeline.   Uh, our rest bonus was supposed to start at 8pm.  For roughly 4 hours.  That meant we wouldn’t have enough rest since it couldn’t be started until 10pm.  How could we have over looked this?   (Knob Creek, that’s how).

I love Knob Creek, but uh maybe it shouldn’t be consumed when planning a rally.

Just before grabbing our first bonus I mentioned to Kyle that we were ‘screwed’, and we were.

At the bonus location we discussed it, and decided we’d just have to adapt and make the best of it.   If we converted our 2000 rest bonus into a 4000 rest bonus by doubling it, we could shift it and pick up some other stuff to make up for it.

It was a good plan, a good adjustment.

We grabbed the first bonus at 10:08am #74 the Factory Water Tower in Franklin TN worth 222 points.

and moved on to the next #73 Billy Hollow Road sign in Pleasant Shade, TN worth 333 points.

and then #70 the crossville water tower with Budd’s sign in the photo for 111 points.

We added Willy G’s grave for 555 points in south Pittsburgh, TN, to help buffer the and make up for dropping stuff later:

it was quite a bit out of the way.

Then we got crushed by traffic in Chattanooga and Knoxville.  Which cost us almost 3 hours on our way to  Kingsport, TN for 222 points.



The photo was taken at 8:30, in our schedule we should have been there at 6pm.  The gig was up.  At that point we knew we were way off schedule, and way off our core route.

We headed to the barn for the 12:01 ODO check and 3 hours rest and recalculate.

Things just weren’t going our way.

We ended up at the Rally HQ at 12:30 instead of 12:01.  We took off in the fog on the ODO check ride, only to miss a turn, which forced us to do it AGAIN by the time we were done it was 0130 which meant we couldn’t leave the hotel until our 3 hour rest bonus was up at 0430.  About an hour later than planned.

A word about rest bonuses.

We’ve slept in church parking lots, we’ve slept in gas station parking lots, we’ve slept on picnic tables.   But last year at the Void, I learned the VALUE of even as few as 3 hours sleep in a bed, in a warm hotel.   It’s worth $50 for a cheap hotel, even for only 3 hours.

I was sure that we’d be able to get a room at the host hotel.  And since the hotel is (or was) a complete dive, it would have to be cheap right?  Wrong.   They have or are in the process of renovating it and making it nice.   The group rate for the rally was $89 a night.   Honestly I thought that was outrageous and price gouging for that luxury hotel, and by luxury I mean total shit-bag.  But upon returning I was mildly surprised that it was in better shape and was clearly on the path to being a better place.   So I asked the clerk if they had rooms, he said ‘sure’ but he wasn’t able to give us the rally rate and that it would be $125 for a room.

Uh, no.   At that point I wasn’t aware that the rooms were recently remodeled, even so, no, not $125.  Not when I can sleep in your lobby for FREE.  The hotel was kind enough to let people sleep on the floor of the meeting center room.  But honestly the last place I wanted to sleep was on a concrete albeit carpeted concrete floor with 25 other guys snoring like you wouldn’t believe.  So uh, no thanks.

Instead of taking $50 or $75 from me, they let a room go un-sold for the evening.  That’s hotel management 101 failure right there.

So anyway, we decided to see if there was any possibility of resurrecting our botched plan.   I spent about 45 minutes looking at what we could do and we decided to bag it.  But we couldn’t check into our room until 12pm the next day.   We spent our 3 hours in the lobby.  Kyle napped upright on the couch.  I simply can’t sleep like that so I stayed up the whole time talking to Hooch, and Jim Pucket.    When our rest time was over we decided we’d run out and get the low hanging fruit.  After all it would all be doubled.    We identified 3 bonuses that would be an fairly easy 400 mile route and add 1400 points to the bottom line.

We saddled up and rode ~70 or some miles, in the dark, in the cold (we saw 38 degrees in some valleys, and arrived at our destination at 06:15.  I grabbed the rally book to read the description.   But we weren’t at bonus number 98, we were at bonus number 90.    So instead of being worth 444 points it was only worth 12, and best of all it was daylight only so we had to stand around for 45 minutes to get the photo:

This was the last straw.  We chucked.   It wasn’t mean to be.   A nice family restaurant at this location opened at 0700, so we stopped, sat down and had a nice breakfast.  Western Omelets and Biscuits and gravy.  Yum.

We left there and grabbed two more bonuses, a 111 pointer and 222 pointer (each to be doubled) and headed back to Rally HQ.

We were back early, like 2 hours early.   But hey we were finishers 🙂 and as it worked out we were right there at the top of the bell curve.

So now we need to buy a shirt 😉

We had a blast, just over 1020 miles or something silly low like that for a rally.   That coupled with mileage to the start and home on Sunday wrapped up a 2000 mile weekend.

We didn’t have nearly the luck or results we wanted but we had fun, and that’s what it’s all about.   Good roads, good friends, good times.


Can’t wait until next year.

New Eyes for the FJR

Light, we need more light captain!

Truth be told, the factory/stock headlights on the Yamaha FJR1300 are pretty darn good.  I did replace the factory bulbs with some ‘better’ brighter halogen bulbs when it was new.

I also added lower fork mounted lights.  Initially MotoLights[TM], but in 2009 I won a set of Glenda Clearwater lights at the Eastern Owners meet.   These lights (as well as the moto lights), while they do illuminate things up close, and fill in the void near the bike, they really don’t throw any appreciable light down the road.   The are mostly ‘see me’ lights.  Lights there for the benefits of others so they can see me.   The lower mounted lights help break up the ‘single’ light that makes distance harder to judge and make me stand out more.  They help, a lot, but people will still pull out in front of me, even with my high viz jacket.

Anyway, on to today’s project.   While riding rallies that require us to ride 24 hours a day we ride at night a lot.   Often on twisty mountain roads.   It’s often darker than dark.  While the stock headlights are good, it’s still pretty easy to out ride your lights.

With the upcoming Void Rally and others on tap, specifically the 2012 MD2020 which will be almost ALL mountain roads I decided it was time to add some Auxiliary Lighting.


The number 1 self contained HID for this type of application is the Soltek Fuego’s.  While they have gotten cheaper (now $320 each instead of $500 each), a pair is still north of $600 plus hardware.

The next best thing, is the Chinese Knock Off’s.   They can be had via Amazon for $120 each or there about.  Hella also offers these same lights with their name on them.

So $240 sounds a whole lot better to me that $600.   Allegedly they put out about 90% of the light of the Soltek’s at less than 1/3rd the price. 

I lucked into a deal and got a pair used from an FJR forum member.  

The next puzzle is where to mount them on the FJR.  The FJR doesn’t really lend itself to lots of mounting spaces, and these lights are LARGE.

The standard approach is using a set of brackets that mount the lights under the mirrors, using the mirror mounts.   That works well for some of the smaller lights but doesn’t work real well for these larger lights or the Solteks.   The other problem with that location is that a simple parking lot tip over (and I’ve had a few in the years that I’ve owned the FJR) will likely break or smash one of your $300+ lights.

I was struggling to find a solution, then ran into Alex’s Brackets.  These brackets were made specifically for these lights or Solteks.  Mounting them above the mirrors instead.  This is good for both tip over protection and getting the lights as high as possible.

I received my brackets, and a spare set of left hand controls off a wreck on ebay for cheap to mount the switch (in case I messed it up), and fabricated a wiring harness.

Since I do have the Twisted Throttle Mirror Extensions, I did have to ‘tweak’ the brackets a bit.   Nothing a little bench grinder can’t take care of.  Repainted them and viola Done.

Mounted them up today and now I can’t wait until it gets dark Winking smile


Had to increase the relief for the windshield.


Had to grind a little relief for the mirror extensions.


Had to come up with about a 3/8 inch spacer, ended up using 5 fender washers.


Touch up paint on the brackets and washers once finished.


Added this toggle switch to the back of my left hand controls.  This On-Off-On switch, turns the lights (On when the bike has power – Off – On with the High Beams).



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