Back in October of last year, I wrote about new brake light modulator technologies that were becoming available on the market. In case you don’t know what the new generation of brake light modulators are: they flash auxiliary lights when sensing a motorcycle’s deceleration, even if the brakes are not applied, alerting vehicles behind you that your speed is lowering. After seeing the article on MO, a representative from Vectolabs contacted me, asking if I’d like to evaluate a Vololight. In the interest of learning more about this budding technology (and because I love fooling around with gadgets), I replied with an unequivocal yes.
A few days later, my friendly UPS driver knocked on my door, Vololight in hand. Vectolabs understands the importance of packaging, as the presentation was impressive. A quick glance at the contents revealed that there was remarkably little included with the product. This is a good thing since it gives initial credence to the company’s claim of easy installation. How easy? You unscrew four screws, remove the frame cover, slide your license plate in, and replace the screws. The unit is then ready to mount on your bike.
Although every bike is different, the most challenging part of the installation was deciding how to run the wires to a 12V power source. The route I chose required a small hole to be drilled in the fender of my long-term Interceptor (don’t tell Honda). Since about an inch of the wire was going to be exposed, I slipped about an inch and a half of black heat shrink tubing over the wires to hide them in plain sight. After that, I simply routed the wires up to the wires from the rear running light (found via a wiring diagram copied from a local dealership). Splicing the lines in place with Posi-Tap connectors (thoughtfully available on the Vololights website) assured a good connection without damaging the Interceptor’s wiring harness.
Perhaps the most crucial step takes place after mounting the plate via its bolt holes. Calibrating the Vololight makes sure that it signals when you’re decelerating and doesn’t give false readings. As with many things, I overthought the calibration, trying to physically touch the lens with the supplied magnet to trigger the calibration process. Since I wasn’t able to touch the lens with the magnet before the unit began its flashing sequence, I was worried that I wasn’t properly calibrating it. Watching the calibration video on the Vololights website eased my fears.
I’ve ridden with the Vololights for a few weeks, and I’m happy to report that I haven’t been rear ended. Then again, I’ve never been rear ended on my bike. Still, that hasn’t prevented me from doing things like flashing my brake light at a stop as a car approaches behind me.
After following Lightweight Scooter Editor, Troy Siahaan, aboard the Interceptor, I can say that the Vololight works as advertised. I could tell the difference between when Troy simply rolled off the throttle and when he’d banged a quick downshift by the speed of the LED flashes. Also, having the Vololights separated from the brake light means that it will keep flashing after the rider is off the brakes but still decelerating or by increasing the speed of the flash to signal harder braking. Also, if the rider rolls off slightly mid-corner because of a decreasing radius turn or some kind of obstacle, Vololights gives the following rider more time to react to the conditions. (Although this comes from familiarity with the lights.) Initial reaction by those who don’t know what the Vololights are will most likely be: “Oh, hey, flashing lights!” Regardless, they have achieved their goal by attracting visual attention to the decelerating bike.
Because different engine configurations have different engine braking characteristics, the Vololights firmware was recently updated to allow riders to adjust the sensitivity of their units. Now, the rider has three sensitivity choices: more sensitive, standard, and less sensitive. The standard setting worked fine for me. Owners of previous firmware versions can ship their units to Vectolabs for refreshing if they desire.
My only criticism of the Vololights is that I wish they were a little brighter or that they had more than the four LEDs behind the top and bottom lenses. While I found them bright enough to be seen in direct sunlight, Troy disagreed. Ironically, I found them easier to ignore when I was closer to the bike than further away. The distance the eye has to track to shift focus from the brake light to the Vololight increases as one gets closer, making the Vololight less obvious. With the extreme brightness of some contemporary LED brake lights, I’d love it if Vololights upped the intensity.
That nit pick aside, I heartily recommend Vololights for any bike that has space for the license plate frame. Consider it $129 well spent. For riders that don’t have room for a license plate frame on their bike or have the plate mounted on the swingarm, Vectolabs offers the $119 Volomod unit to be mounted under your bike’s bodywork: It can either trigger separate lights that you install or be wired in to the OEM brake light.