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Your guide to the different types of motorcycle headlights

With motorcycle headlights, you also need to see to be seen.

MV Agusta Brutale

Motorcycle headlights are one of the most important safety features of a motorcycle. They work in both giving you visibility at low light conditions or at night, and they also let people know that you’re there. Motorcycles nowadays have more than one type of headlight technology to give you visibility and make yourself visible at the same time. 

In any case, they all do one important job when you’re riding down a dark road — lighting the way. Here are the different types of motorcycle headlights most manufacturers commonly use on their motorcycles. 


Royal Enfield Continental GT 650


They’re inexpensive, have that old-school retro feel, and are easy to replace


Halogen bulbs have a short lifespan as compared to other types of headlights

Halogen headlights are among the most common types of headlights found in motorcycles ranging from the entry-level to the retro-styled models like the Royal Enfield Continental GT 650. They have been used since the very beginning. A halogen bulb uses a tungsten filament with a small amount of halogen gas that mounts in the center of a housing which heats up and emits light as electric current flows through it. The housing itself can be more basic with the use of a reflector, which – true to its name, reflects light emitted from the bulb onto the road. A more advanced housing that a bulb can find itself in is a projector lens, which focuses the light from the bulb onto the road ahead. 

Xenon or High-Intensity Discharge (HID)

Kawasaki Z900


Brighter, less heat generation, and longer life span 


More expensive, and might require an electrician to replace and fix

Like halogen headlights, a tungsten filament is also used in Xenon or HID bulbs, however, if Halogen bulbs are filled with Halogen gas, HIDs are filled with Xenon. The light emitted from these kinds of lights is much bluer in their color temperature, rather than the incandescent hues of the more standard halogens. Instead of heating up the halogen gas, the Xenon gas glows when a current is applied which results in an output with less heat generated, unlike halogens, thus prolonging the life of the bulb. 

Like halogens, they can also be placed in either a reflector or projector housing, and there are also aftermarket solutions that allow people to retrofit HIDs/Xenon lights onto their OEM halogen reflector or projectors, but this upgrade will require an electrician as there is more complexity that goes into an HID system. 


BMW F 900 R


Extremely energy-efficient, and has an incredibly long useful life. 


Expensive to replace. Much more uncommon compared to reflective headlights. 

LED headlights are now becoming more common with most modern motorcycles. They are considered the most modern and energy-efficient among all the types of motorcycle headlights. Because of their small size and footprint, they can be configured and manipulated in such a way that they would be shaped just as the same size as old-school reflective headlights or made as compact as projector headlights. LED headlights, more often than not, give you the most freedom in the level of brightness and temperature of light they emit. They last much longer than halogen or Xenon HID bulbs and consume much less power, and they are also the most thermally efficient. 

The new BMW F 900 R uses LED headlights with optional adaptive cornering functions which illuminate towards the lean angle of the corner that the bike is attacking forcing the rider to focus more on the illuminated area. 

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