EZ ADV Upgrades: In Darkness, Let There Be Light

Ryan Adams
by Ryan Adams

Baja Designs Squadron Sport

In this four-part series, we take a look at five easy bolt-on parts that will transform your ADV bike from a Starbucks-destined road queen, to a Dakar-ready desert blasting rally winner. Or something like that. This series is designed to show how much of a difference a few well-thought-out adventure bike upgrades can make to the off-road prowess of your big ADV bike.

EZ ADV Upgrades: The Ever-Present Hunt for Traction

EZ ADV Upgrades: Some Of The Cheapest Insurance You Can Buy

EZ ADV Upgrades: Helping The Katoom Breathe Freer And Cleaner

A company that can boast about its products being used on every Baja 1000 winning professional and amateur motorcycle and ATV for more than 15 years clearly takes its business seriously. Baja Designs is a serious company, operated by racers and engineers who are leading the industry with exciting new technology and a Baja-proven design.

It was evident, as we passed through Ensenada just days before the Baja 500 was set to kick off on our Three Amigos 300cc ADV Bike Comparison, that Baja Designs is the market leader in off-road racing illumination. From trophy trucks and UTVs adorned with BD light kits and light bars, to four-story hotels cloaked in 50-foot tall Baja Designs banners, no one does Baja like Baja designs. Bred out of necessity and perfected in the beautiful, yet desolate terrain of the Baja California Peninsula, BD creates products for elite special forces units, championship-winning race teams, and enthusiasts like you and I. The Baja Designs Squadron Sport is a perfect example of the company’s race-bred technology built in a more economical application.

About the company

Alan has been racing since he was 13 years old.

Alan Roach, lead engineer and founder of Baja Designs, created his first dual-sport kit because he was tired of riding big, heavy, and under sprung dual-sport motorcycles like the KLR when he and his friends went on rides – particularly so when he had a perfectly capable XR600 sitting in the garage. The idea was to be able to connect the trails they were interested in riding with the odd stretch of asphalt here and there while doing so as law-abiding citizens. Alan used his expertise as a mechanical engineer to craft his first dual-sport kit. The first complete kit was installed on a friend’s 1991 Honda XR600-R.

It turns out Alan and his friends weren’t the only folks interested in converting their dirt bikes into street-legal machines. Keep in mind, at that time, there were no KTM EXCs or Husqvarna FEs. Folks wanting a capable trail bike that was street legal were simply out of luck.

As Alan’s interest in racing Baja grew, so did Baja Designs. A lot of the current product line stemmed from creating lights to use while racing Baja, whether the application was for two wheels or four. BD first put an HID bulb on a motorcycle in 1998 and started getting into LEDs around 2004-05.

As an example of how focused Baja Designs is in creating the absolute best product for its customer, the company’s 5000K Daylight technology was developed to run at a color temperature of 5,000 Kelvin. 5,000 Kelvin is the same color temperature of a sunny day at noon, which is where the human eye has evolved to see best. This reduces driver fatigue and increases terrain recognition to deliver the highest-performing driving experience.

It’s been important to Baja Designs to always be at the cutting edge of lighting technology which, in part, earned Alan his nickname “The Mad Scientist of Lighting.” While speaking to Alan about this article, he mentioned the company’s first laser-based lighting system had just shipped. Laser-based lighting technology is much more efficient, using vastly less energy and a physically smaller source, while illuminating brighter and further than LED. Simply put, it’s likely the future of lighting and is already being used on select BMW cars.

Alan Roach is proud of what the company has become and of its reputation. As the tip of the spear, Alan has managed to keep Baja Designs at the forefront of lighting application and technology as it exists and is still passionately testing his products in the field. Admittedly, he finds himself testing products in trucks more often these days, “With age, comes a cage,” says Alan, but he is still an avid motorcyclist and racer.

“We make products for ourselves first and our customers second,” states Alan, explaining the quality and mindset of his team of engineers and racers.

The Product

The Squadron Sport is Baja Designs’ most economically priced LED light. At $319.95, the kit includes everything you will need for installation onto an adventure bike (in this case, the KTM 1190 Adventure). The Squadron Sport produces an impressive 2,260 lumens while drawing 20 watts with four Cree LEDs. The lights we were sent is a driving/combo setup which can be defined by the difference in the cover over the top two LEDs from the bottom two.

The driving/combo style Squadron gives a nice smooth spread of both near field and distance lighting (zone 3) making it ideal for lighting up trails.

The Squadron’s housing is constructed of powder coated cast aluminum with a machined billet aluminum bezel and a hard-coated polycarbonate lens. The lights are submersible up to 9 ft, though you’ll likely have other things to worry about should you find yourself in 9 ft of water.

These lights feel rugged, which also explains the military applications Baja Designs has created for both standard and infrared lighting. BD has developed infrared lights that help operators using night vision goggles to see further. The lights also exceed MIL-STD810G (Mil-Spec Testing) and carry IP69K (waterproof, submersible to 9ft) and IK10 Compliant (mechanical impact testing) certifications as well.

Many of the parts on the Squadron Sport lights can be replaced is damaged.

The Squadron Sport uses a replaceable lens and optic which means if something goes wrong, you’re able to order parts of the light rather than the entire thing. More peace-of-mind can be had from Baja Designs’ 30-day money back guarantee and limited lifetime warranty on all of its products.

The Application

You can mix and match light types all day, but for general use, the driving/combo setup works well.

The kit was easy to install, though required me to remove the headlight guard that was using the same bolt holes. I’m confident that I could reinstall the guard with the lights simply with a longer bolt. Since I opted to install the lights at the same time as the Rottweiler Performance intake system, I was able to easily route the wiring cleanly along the frame which kept everything looking neat and tidy.

Baja Design’s CopperDrive LED management system uses next gen circuit board and driver technology to safely run high-powered LEDs at 100% power where others run closer to 70% as to not risk overheating. 4 levels of thermal management transfer LED heat up to 3000% more efficiently by using copper instead of aluminum to help transfer heat from the LED to the thermal gap pad. The gap pad is also important in aiding heat transfer to the heat sink on back of the light (seen above) as well as damping vibration. Microprocessor controlled thermistors help to constantly monitor the temperature of the LED to ensure brightness and longevity.

The entire install took an hour at most and required only my minimal mechanical skill. Take these bolts out, put those bolts in. Viola!

My first thought with this mounting point was to worry about the lights getting broken in the event of a tip over. However, after thinking about it a bit and my vast experience of dropping my motorcycle, the handlebars usually hit first leaving the front headlight area off the ground. That being said, anything can happen.

Push the red button!

Once I had the lights installed and the button routed next to the right switch gear, I couldn’t wait for it to get dark to test these bad boys out on the unforgiving terrain of Long Beach, California. These lights do a great job of illuminating the entire area in front of the bike as well as providing substantially more light to the sides of the motorcycle, a nice feature for folks traveling along animal-ridden stretches of highway at night, too.

I would say that if you plan on traveling at a high rate of speed you may want to include extra lights in your setup for providing light into zones 4 and 5 on the Baja Designs lighting zone map, but then again, if you’re going that fast off-road at night, you probably have a mechanic setting up your race bike for you, Mr. Racer Guy.

Though the company was born in the dirt and raised in Baja, there are plenty of practical street applications for the Squadron Sport lights for any motorcycle. Many OEM lights are rarely as bright as we would like, especially when blazing through uncharted territory – on-road or off. Baja Designs creates incredibly high-quality components with thoughtful engineering to back them up.

Shop for the Baja Designs Squadron Sport here

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Ryan Adams
Ryan Adams

Ryan’s time in the motorcycle industry has revolved around sales and marketing prior to landing a gig at Motorcycle.com. An avid motorcyclist, interested in all shapes, sizes, and colors of motorized two-wheeled vehicles, Ryan brings a young, passionate enthusiasm to the digital pages of MO.

More by Ryan Adams

Join the conversation
  • Patriot159 Patriot159 on Aug 20, 2018

    Though I don't have these lights, I do have aux LEDs in 30 deg. spot config. on my DR650 run through a controller. The controller allows me to run them at about 30% as DRLs with the low beam (not blinding at night either) and full power with the high beam. These, along with a JNS LED headlight give me excellent visibility. Definitely a fan of aux LEDs!

    • ChiefPockets ChiefPockets on Aug 21, 2018

      I love aux lights linked to high beam function! Less blinding, less power draw, still keeps you more visible to others... but then all the light in the world at the press of one button when you need it.

      I use a Hex ezCAN on one of my bikes, and have heard excellent things about a simpler product from advmonster.

  • Sayyed Bashir Sayyed Bashir on Aug 21, 2018

    The problem with mounting lights on the body of the bike is that they don't turn with the handlebar. The headlight is already lighting up the front, but when you are turning, the trail is dark. You need something which turns with the handlebar. The only place I found was either the screws that mount the dirt guards for the front forks, or the plastic dirt guards themselves. The second problem is the amount of power the lights draw from the battery (20W x 2 in this case, plus the headlight, heated grips, etc.). If you have been riding off-road after dark to get to your camping destination, especially in winter, and get up next morning in freezing weather, your bike may not start. I waited until PIAA came out with lights that use less than 1/3rd the power of other lights and are smaller, but put out the same amount of light by using reflective technology. These are small enough to be mounted to the front fork plastic guards and turn with the handlebar and draw only 6W x 2. I put them on both my KTM 1190 Adventure R and my KTM 500 EXC and am very happy with them. They come on with the high beam so there is no need to switch them on or off.