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.
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 light – might save your life.
But how can you wire up your helmet? In this article, I’ll walk you through:
- How to DIY Motorcycle Helmet Lights (Cheap!)
- Readymade Kits for Helmet Lights (Customizable)
- Helmet Brake Lights (Easy Install)
- Clip-on Headlights
- Legality of helmet lights
- BONUS: T3 Light – Cheap and Effective Visibility
Let’s get into it.
Light Up Your Motorcycle Helmet
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.
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.
If only there was a kit purpose-built for motorcycle helmets…
LightMode: Your Readymade Kit for Helmet Lights
EL wire and LED strips are the Toyota Camry of helmet lighting. They will get the job done, but they don’t turn heads nor will they survive onslaughts of rough weather.
The Ford Raptor of helmet lights is 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.
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.
If you’re not here for custom colors, maybe a brake light is more what you’re looking for. That’s up next.
Motorcycle Helmet Brake Lights: Brake Free
A brake light on your helmet improves visibility – lessening the likelihood that you get hit by a careless driver.
But where can you go wrong? Many helmet brake lights require you to disassemble your bike and cut in to the wiring for your brake and turn signals. Take it from me: messing with wiring is more annoying than it sounds. I still have one bike that loses turn signals after 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: 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, but 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.
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!
Are helmet lights legal?
In general, helmet lights are legal in most US states. However, they are heavily regulated, with rules usually requiring that lights do not constantly flash or show red and blue. Some states, like California, are very strict that only white/amber light may be projected forward from the vehicle and only red light may be projected backwards.
Red LEDs facing forwards are often specifically prohibited in the law, like that for Illinois. For obvious reasons!
Also, strobing colored lights are often illegal, making units like this unfortunately illegal.
This list from Illumimoto gives you a great rundown of the light laws by state in the USA. Find your state (and neighboring states!) to figure out what you can run.
International folks, you’ll need to check your local laws.
BONUS: Motorcycle Tail Lights!
A friend of mine 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.
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. You can see that light from hundreds of feet away, catching the attention of drivers before they rear end you.
You can buy a T3 light in white or red here.
Now I know this might be illegal in some states. However, my friend rode with one a white T3 unit across the USA, covering over 5,000 miles, and never ran in to trouble with the law. I’m sure he’d rather have a slap on the wrist or a fine from an officer than a broken back from getting rear ended anyway.
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