Picture of Twin High-Power LED Motorcycle Headlights

This guide shows you one way to make a pair of high powered LED headlights for your chopper, hog, crotch-rocket, cruiser, scoot, or just plain motorcycle.  The design uses readily available copper fittings for the housing and some bronze threaded rod for the mounting.  Each motorcycle install may be different than that depicted here but the general idea is applicable.  Similar techniques are detailed in some of my other instructables linked below.
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Materials

The bill of materials for this build is :
1x: 12" of 5/16"-18 threaded bronze rod ($13.59)

2x: 1-1/4" standard copper coupling w/o dimple stop ($3.48)

4x: 1-1/4" standard copper cap ($2.19)

1x: 1-1/4" heavy duty Type K copper pipe 24" ($25.31)

2x: Neutral-white Cree XM-L star ($11.14 Cree Part# XMLAWT-00-0000-0000T50E4)

2x: Carclo 26.5 eliptical lens ($1.59)

2x: Carclo 26.5mm lens holder ($1.59)

1x: BuckBlock 2100mA driver ($19.99)

4x: Bronze 5/16"-18 machine nuts ($8.40 for 25)

1x: Cable gland with strain relief ($2.64)

Misc consumable items:
Lead-free solder for copper pipe (~$18.00 for 1 pound of solder)
From any hardware store

Conductive epoxy for mounting LEDs (~$35 for a 14g kit)

Regular epoxy for sealing, can use clear or filled (JB Weld e.g.)
From any hardware store

6 feet of 2 conductor stranded wire of at least 22 gauge

Silicone RTV for sealing lens to body
From any hardware store

Tools needed:
Drill bits (1/2" and 7/64")
Propane torch
Common sense: Build safely, saws can cut you and torches can burn you.
1-40 of 58Next »
AkshatR3 months ago

Well done, and thanks for taking the time out to make the guide. Cheers!

tamasic17 months ago

Great build! I noticed in the step 8 pics you have a Honda SuperCub. Have you tried something similar for it using the stock headlight housing? There are a lot of scooter owners with a early 6 volt system looking for a low watt lighting setup.

jmengel (author)  tamasic17 months ago
Good eye. That isn't my SuperCub, but it does have an LED light that I build for it. The driver is a boost type, driving a 3-up XPG star but another good method would be a buck type driving a single XML. The stock headlight housing is terrible for LEDs from an optics and a thermal perspective but the owner didn't want to lose the "original" look. I could detail that build if you'd like. I've also done retrofits into several Honda city bikes (and two more waiting) from the 80s as well and should write those up too.
tamasic1 jmengel7 months ago

I can understand the difficulty of the issue. Like the owner of the Cub, I'd like to keep the original look. CPU's in a laptop only have a plate atop them with a thick copper strip that routes the heat to an exchange grid to vent externally. I wonder if the same would work with a LED headlight setup. Plenty of room behind the forks for a heat sink.

Yes, would like to know more about your builds. Thanks!

jmengel (author)  tamasic17 months ago

Yes, a "heat pipe" if you will can channel the heat to a remote sink, with some commensurate increase in LED temperature due to increased thermal system resistance. Can also use the frame itself as the heat sink if there is enough metal around.

GregT1 made it!8 months ago

Rad project. plenty bright + looks mean. I doubled the recipe

crazypj9 months ago

got a couple of the lenses for the 100w LED, they don't concentrate the
light enough, plus, as you mention, there is no cut off.. I was hoping
it would be closer to a projector light as used on modern cars.

play with lens position, move it forwards and back until I get beam I
want. Going to step up to 2-1/2" copper pipe which is big enough to
mount a 12 v fan inside, radial holes for airflow and make heatpipes
from 1/4" copper tube. The weirder looking the better for a steampunk

'Frenching' the lens inside pipe should cut down unwanted beam?

jmengel (author)  crazypj9 months ago

Curious to see a pic of the lenses you got for the 100W LED. Frenching, or recessing the lens and LED will change the spill of the LED, but you may need something like black-out headlight covers from WWII.

crazypj10 months ago

Thanks for Instructable, I can make stuff and adapt idea's but not so good at coming up with stuff :)

I like the idea of copper pipe, going to use it on my 'steampunk' XS650 but will use 32~36v-100w LED and a step up transformer plus 2-1/4" pipe (LED is little over 2-1/8")

Copper has much better heat transfer so can act as the heatsink but I may add a couple of 12v computer fans as well.

jmengel (author)  crazypj10 months ago

100W LED? Hmmm. Get ready to be ticketed. Good luck!

crazypj jmengel10 months ago

I put a light together to test, the beam patter is completely wrong. If I can find some way to control the light direction I'm going to make it Going to need some sort of 'standard' lens over the LED 'bulb' which will cut down efficiency somewhat :)

jmengel (author)  crazypj10 months ago

You aren't using a lens at all right now I imagine. Certainly not the lens I specified. The lens I specified cuts down somewhat on the glare to oncoming traffic by concentrating the light but still lacks the "cut off" of a true DOT approved headlight. Without a lens you are basically spreading all 100W of LED illumination everywhere with likely a half intensity angle of 120 degrees. Which makes for a blinding but ineffective headlight. You can try and fit a standard motorcycle housing over the LED but it will impact your cooling negatively (and thus LED lifetime) and the differences in source light from the halogen bulb and the planar LED COB (chip on board) array will make the housing lens (sort of Fresnel-esque) essentially useless.

Also, I don't think your 2-1/4" pipe is up to the task of cooling a 100W LED unless it is also about 48" long. So I'd be careful about running the LED while standing still. Will work better at 100mph or with fans as you mention. Still I'd expect your die junction temperatures are quite high and will lead to rapid failure.

Getting a lens for a large COB LED array is going to be difficult. You will not find anything off the shelf unless this COB is used on a production automobile. Designing you own is a difficult, solitary but satisfying option. Good luck.

I'm in the same project except I'm putting my LEDs into a street fighter style headlight assembly this gave me a good idea were to by nicer more powerful LEDs instead of radio shack plus I will wire two seperate circuits now just in case on goes always keep the wheel turning I like your style of rat bobbers! It's awesome to see outside the box. And not mainstream style
MasterErik1 year ago
142$? Guess if you have some of the equipment. Good for a steampunk bike!
fourechodog2 years ago
Cool. Very nice. WAY over my head though!
ctaylor292 years ago
Quick Question,
Does the Buck Puck work as a resistor or do you need put one on the leads?
(I'm trying to do this myself right now and I dont want to fry my LED)
:) Thanks!!!
jmengel (author)  ctaylor292 years ago
The buck block is a constant current driver. If you wire the LED and power to the buck block as indicated in the datasheet you will be fine and will not need an additional resistor.
Love this on so may levels.

Quick question, how was the fit on the optics with the XM-L Stars? I have been looking around forever to find good optics and holders for them that are in stock.

jmengel (author)  John Culbertson3 years ago
The optics holder fits fine and is designed to fit any star board. The optics are designed to work with any LED, as long as the correct holder height (focus) is used. The optics holder available at is not designed for the XML LED. The stand-off legs on the holder, effectively focal length, is varied for the various LED designs. In looking at the Carclo datasheets though, the holder for sale at is only off from the recommended XML leg length by 0.1mm or so which I thought was close enough. In practice it looks to be close enough as the lenses perform well on the XMLs.

The lens and holder fit to the copper housing could be tighter though, but barring custom machining something it was as close a fit as I could get. Once more optics options are out there for the XML more housing possibilities will emerge.
dlemke3 years ago
Need to have a way to change lights in case of a burn out or malfunction. It is a real leg wettin experience to have both high and low beam burn out at 80 mph on a curve at night. I didn't see any back-up circuit for this option, since it is wired in series. Trust me, if it is on a motorcycle, it will need repair. They are very hard on lights and everything should be made to be servicable. On the bright side, this is an awesome idea and I'm sure many people will take advantage of it on custom bikes. You may even want to write in to that show, "Biker Build Off", if it is still running. They would need to modify them, and have a way to service them, as would anyone using this setup. You could also reduce the cost greatly by using a regular outlet for the copper supplies, as they are available at any home improvement store and McMaster Carr is expensive.

I also think you could use these as driving lights in addition to a regular headlight, like on a Harley Dresser, which has small driving lights on the side of the big headlight, and that would keep it legal in most states. Switching would be an option of the owner, but using a auto sensing switch from a Caddy would be a cool addition to your idea. That would auto dim the lights when someone came your way, although a lot of people didn't like them, as they would auto-switch when getting false readings from billboards, etc, but a key item, would be a proper digital delay to keep them from switching too quickly. Now you got me fired up, and I can see a whole lot of good things that can be done with this type set-up.

Thanks for the cool idea.

jmengel (author)  dlemke3 years ago
Also, I find that is the same price or lower for most of the copper parts. That and you can buy various grades of copper (thin or thick wall) as well as the 1 1/4" inch pipe in smaller 24" sections. Home Depot only sells it in 8' lengths ($$$) which is more than I want or need.

For example, the 1 1/4" coupler is only available with a stop at HD and sells for around $6. A 1 1/4" coupler without stop is only $3.50 at McMaster. Your mileage may vary.
jmengel (author)  dlemke3 years ago
Redundancy is a good idea. The original single bulb headlight did not have any however and my opinion is that the pictured LEDs and driver circuit will outlast the bike. You could use a driver in each pod and be effectively wired in parallel to the 12V headlight wire. Since the cost of the driver was a big part of the overall project cost, and the efficiency of the driver drops from 90% to 80% when running 1 rather than 2 LEDs in series we decided to put the pods in series on a single driver. Time will tell.
ZoDo3 years ago
Heh made it look like Wall-e :P
wdsparrow3 years ago
I think I'm pretty ignorant here. Someone please help. I have never understood why someone would use a LED driver circuit? Doesn't a driver circuit push the consumed power above LED rated power by pulsing it? You would never want pulsed headlights on a motorcycle because it's hard on the eyes. And running above rating will shorten the life of the LED which means failure on the road. Why not just use 12 volt DC current through a larger number of LED's and a resister? It's a cool instructable regardless of my confusion.
The reason you would want to use a driver with a high power LED is that they supply a fixed current supply to the LED.

Generally the only time a driver would be pulsing would be if you were dimming the LED via PWM, as long as the frequency is high enough the flickering is not readily visible.

The problem with using just a resistor is that the current the LED draws is then directly tied to the voltage. The current increase/decrease can be quite extreme with just a small change to the voltage, I assume that the power supplied by the battery on a bike isn't that smooth (as it's being charged)...but that's just a guess.
Nice Instructable! Can you post a picture of the whole bike? I'm sure many people would like to see it. Your pictures are great!
jmengel (author)  maxstevenson3 years ago
Thanks for the feedback. We'll see what I can do on the pics. I am also working on a set of side-by-side beamshots comparing the bike headlights to a typical car headlights. Stay tuned.
jmengel (author)  jmengel3 years ago
See step 8.
k0k0s793 years ago
Can you please add a night shot of these on the road to show their efficiency?
Dstrcto k0k0s793 years ago
I second this, please do
jmengel (author)  Dstrcto3 years ago
See step 8.
cway563 years ago
Harley has a set of them.. Cha Ching.
marcintosh3 years ago
I'll just leave this here -

LInks to a commercially available headlamp modulator. I had one years ago (1982?) on a CB650. I was never run off the road in city or rural driving.

I found this interesting as well

(has a link to above too). Poster lists legal and official federal guidelines for headlight modulation. I would double check, just because that's the kinda guy I am.
BTW- 'ible looks great.  Might just be the start of a steampunked bike.
owenbrau3 years ago
It's good to see the DOT catching up with technology finally. Can't wait for stock replacement for universal applications.
Nice Idea Dear ,,
Now i am thinking to purchase New BIKE :)
to do this types Experiments ;)
What about the beam pattern? or are these designed as spotlights?
jmengel (author)  I am in the shed!3 years ago
These use an elliptical lens. 44x8 FWHM.
Bilby3 years ago
Nice instructable!

Looks like... hmm. At a guess, '75 CB450? This would be an awesome headlight cluster for my '73 CB350 cafe if I ever get it together.

As a proponent of never-enough-illumintion when it comes to riding, I can see a double-stack of these on each side, two with the slit lens arranged one higher then the other, and two pin spots. Low beam could have the lower-aimed slit lens illuminated, while high beam could have the other three illuminated as well. Not only would visibility be much higher but it would look even more hard core :D
jmengel (author)  Bilby3 years ago
Close, it is a CB550. Thanks for reading.
1-40 of 58Next »