KC HiLiTES Flex Era 1 LED Lights
Company: KC HiLiTES
- Pair: $339.99
- Great output.
- Customizable pattern and color.
- Compact design.
- Requires some custom mounting for a motorcycle
- Long wires come stock.
What it is
- 23w LED Light.
- 2430 Lumens.
- Short-Range LED Light.
The KC HiLiTES Flex Era 1 is a single 23w “short-range” LED that produces 2430 lumens of light. The Era 1 comes pre-assembled with a spread beam lens, but also comes with a more diffused flood beam lens as well as a clear spot beam option. The included mounting bracket allows the light to be mounted on a flat surface in any orientation. Also included is a black cover to provide protection when not in use. The covers are available in clear and amber as well.
How it works
- Customizable pattern works well in a variety of conditions.
- Lights pick up great detail in the dirt.
- Semi-lightweight setup that produces a lot of light.
We used the Flex Era 1 lights in the 3 Bros 24 Hours of Glen Helen endurance off-road motorcycle race. The course is a mix of motocross, tight trails, ridge roads, and even a couple short pavement sections. Generally, I’d say the course is medium speed for a motorcycle, but there are a few 80+ MPH sections to test a light’s throw. Knowing we wouldn’t need the long-distance lighting needed for 100+ MPH racing applications such as SCORE or BITD, we wanted something that would provide a lot of light right where we needed it. KC’s new Flex Era 1 looked like a good option since the power requirement was in line with what we could support riding a Honda CRF450RX, and the form factor would work well in the limited space available.
For motorcycle applications, there are two main limitations that must be considered, size and power. It’s pretty common for four-wheeled vehicles to have plenty of electrical power to support whatever lights you might like, and you have a lot of space to utilize. In addition, the weight of the lights is insignificant compared to that of the vehicle. On a motorcycle, you only have a relatively small amount of space on the front of the bike and any measurable weight mounted there will have an effect on the handling. The second challenge is power, and not the power of the motorcycle’s engine, but the electrical output of its charging system. Output varies depending on the motorcycle so the first step is to determine what the bike can support. Here's a detailed rundown on how we went about that process with some steps you can take on your own bike - Lighting 101 Tech Tip.
In our case, we were installing lights on a 2023 Honda CRF450RX. In our testing, we determined that under ideal conditions the bike could support no more than a 50w draw. With each of the Flex Era 1 lights drawing 23w, the math was pretty simple, the bike could support two, and even that was right on the edge. Once again, I’ll point you to the motorcycle lighting article for more background.
Our plan was to build a mount that would hold four Flex Era 1 lights, but to do so would require us to increase the output of the bike. Unfortunately, that proved not to be an option. That meant we would need to run a separate battery that isn’t connected to the bike. This is a nice solution since it not only allowed us to increase our light, but it created two completely independent systems. If one experienced a failure, we’d still have half the light functioning. Our solution was to source some 14.4v Li-Ion battery packs that had sufficient capacity to run two of the Flex Era 1’s for a little over two hours. We swapped the battery each time the bike stopped for fuel at about an hour and fifteen minutes which gave us a nice cushion. The battery solution worked perfectly, and we had no issues all night.
The Flex Era 1’s really exceeded our expectations. We were able to build a relatively simple mounting system using some quick install brackets that mount to the fork tubes that we’ve used in the past. The frame gave us good horizontal mounting locations where we could use the provided brackets and hardware. This made the actual mounting very simple and gave us the ability to aim each light individually. One of the challenges of motorcycle lighting is creating the perfect pattern for your application and this was an area where the KC’s really shined, pun intended. We aimed one of the lights as far out as possible then two a little lower, right in what I might consider the sweet spot. These two were also aimed a bit off center to provide a little wider pattern. Then finally, the last of the four lights was aimed low to provide good visibility in the tighter slower sections.
The ability to aim each light let us easily test different patterns and quickly find what worked best but another feature of the Flex Era’s is to easily change the beam pattern of each light. Each light comes with a spot, spread, and flood lens that can be quickly swapped to provide even more beam control. We found the spot lens to not be too narrow and used it for all the lights except the one aimed lowest where we used the flood lens. All those lenses are also available in yellow which has proven to cut down glare and provide better vision in heavy dust. We tried those but ultimately decided to stick with clear for the race. Afterwards we were about 50/50 on if that was a good decision as parts of the course got extremely dusty and some of our riders felt the yellow lens would have been better. Ultimately, we were able to create a triangle shaped pattern that received rave reviews from everyone who rode the bike.
One of the other big positives that more than a few of our riders noticed with these lights is how much detail you can see in the ground. The slightly softer light allowed our riders to pick up the finer details like smaller rocks, ruts, etc better than most lights and was easy to look at for a duration of time.
Another accessory we really liked were the clear and amber lens covers. We used the clear covers to provide some additional protection from the roost and they worked great. The covers took a lot of abuse but the light itself, including the lens, was still in perfect condition. Only thing we didn’t like about those covers is that they create a halo of light around the outer edge that’s visible from above and behind. Not a huge issue, but we find any light in our peripheral vision to be a bit distracting. We might try a little black paint on the outer edge of the covers to address that.
We didn’t find much to complain about but if we’re splitting hairs, we can mention the wiring on the back of each light. It’s probably great for many applications, but the 12 inch long wires coming off each light created a pretty big bundle that had to be stuffed behind the lights and kept safe. On a motorcycle there’s a lot going on in that area and it’s important to keep any wiring from getting pinched in the steering or getting rubbed through by the front brake line.
We spent a fair amount of time testing the final design and then the entire night of the endurance event. We came away really impressed with KC’s latest lights. We found the ERA 1’s to be extremely powerful while still compact and lightweight – perfect for our application. The four lights including our mount only weighed 6 lbs (~5 lbs less than our old KC setup) and were almost unnoticeable on the bike (the weight drop was dramatically noticeable). The total light output according to KC is 9,720 lumens which is impressive, but maybe more importantly is that by aiming each light independently and using a combination of patterns we were able to put that light exactly where we wanted it. We have some additional night events coming up so we’ll continue to spend time with one of our new favorite lights and of course, we’ll keep you posted.
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