Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A few More Street View Twisties - Thank You Google

I'm still working on riding routes for this summer.  I use Google Street View to see what the road conditions are and what date the Street View was photographed.  Since W. Virginia is fracking country, you can't count on older Street Views, a lot could have changed with the fracking trucks.

Once in a while, I come on a Street View picture that just makes me smile.  So all honors and attribution to Google for these two photos.  I couldn't resist sharing them.


Sunday, January 7, 2018


Something has changed in the headlight world while I wasn't paying attention.

Back in the early 2000's, HID headlights were a premium car, premium option that cost more than $1000.  It was mainly OE, but you could find aftermarket options if you were willing to pay $800 per headlight.  So I lived with Halogen and wondered about the future LEDs, but I knew that just changing to an LED bulb wasn't going to work because the LED doesn't work as a point light source like the Halogen, so the reflector design is all wrong.

I'm in my 6th winter with my Fiat.  In the past, I didn't need to drive much at night since I was out of town much of the winter.  This last couple of years, I have been driving more at night and noticing that the Fiat headlights are not great.  The Fiat uses a kind of projector headlight, but rather than 4 lamps (2 low, 2 hi), they use only 2 lamps and have a mechanical shutter to form the cutoff in low beams.

Having 4 lamps on high beam is a real plus for cars that are built that way because the light from each of the lamps adds together to make things brighter.  So even though the projector headlight in the Fiat may be a good design, it isn't very bright on high beam.

This point became critical when I was down in West Virginia looking for motorcycle roads.  I'm on twisty, hilly, and narrow roads in the country and it's pitch black darkness at only 5 pm.  I just can't see enough to keep going at any speed.  Ok, so my eyes are getting older and we can blame them as much as the headlights.

That evening down in West Virginia, I started looking online to see if there was a brighter bulb or something available.  What do you know.  Since the last time I paid any attention, HID conversion kits have become much cheaper.  First of all, the HID bulb is very similar to the Halogen in the idea of a point light source.  So they can make an HID bulb to work well in the the housing of a Halogen headlight.  I guess the market grew and the cost of electronics became smaller, because now you can buy a cheap HID conversion kit for as little as $30.  There are some issues with the cheapest versions, so even a better quality version can be had for less than $100.

Today I installed my HID conversion kit.  It was a bit fiddly as the British say, but it went together nicely and only took a couple of hours.  I just got back from a test ride and it's totally worth the effort.

First you turn on the headlights and get a FLASH.  Then it's like a slightly slow fluorescent bulb where it dims after the flash, then slowly gets brighter over 4 or 5 seconds.  By the way, you get to choose your color and I chose 6000K which is slightly blue but mainly white.  Much whiter than the 4300K original Halogens.  A whiter light makes it easier to see details at night, so I'm already ahead of the game.  And the light is so much brighter.  I'm ready to jump in the car and go back to West Virginia.