Sunday, May 4, 2014

Fenix F4 Hyper LED lights review and installation on WR250R

After looking at about a dozen options for LED driving lights, the Fenix F4 from Motorcycle Innovations seemed to offer the best combination of quality, features, and price. They appear to be custom units made exclusively for this vendor, as I wasn't able to find them anywhere else although they did look similar to another brand. (Probably made in the same factory in China.)

New to the Fenix F4 lineup (as of April 2014) is the "Hyper" option, which incorporates four 10W (edit: not 5W!) Cree LEDs at 3300 lumens per head, compared to 2200 lumens per head for the regular F4's. I ordered the Hyper floods (40 degree). If you doubt their intensity, having just tested these babies I can assure you their ample light will punch a large, smoking hole through your body if you accidentally walk in front of them.

Of course, this much light is just insanity unless you're alone on a backroad somewhere. So I also ordered a Skene IQ-175 light controller. The Skene allows you to keep your LED lights on all the time for conspicuity, with up to three programmable light levels (pre-set to 10/20/50% --these values work fine for me) while your main light is on low-beam. Then, when you switch on your high beam, the Skene switches the LED lights to run 100%. All you need to do is rig the Skene with an auxiliary three-position switch to selecting the low-beam intensity, and the rest is done automatically using your existing high beam switch.

Out of the box the F4s are much larger and heavier than I expected. Any thoughts of maybe rigging one pod on my mountain bike were dashed. It wasn't even clear where to mount them on my WR250R. The original plan was to mount them near the fork reflectors, but there's no way the pods would clear the space inside the shrouds when turning the bars. It's also a vulnerable area for mounting any light. The alternate plan was to see if I could rig a mount on the Barkbusters somehow, but it wasn't clear if that would achieve a good lighting angle to the road.

As it turns out, mounting the pods to the Barkbuster bolt hole is the perfect solution and dead simple. Just replace the Barkbuster mounting bolt with a stainless M8-30mm hex head and stainless fender washer, and you can run right through the F4 mount and into the Barkbuster mount. Fortuitously, the vertical angle for the lights is almost perfectly achieved at the best angle for the hand guards. I haven't experimented with lateral angles yet, so I left them about a degree or two walleyed. The fender washer and drop of blue Loctite are more than enough to keep the lights from rotating.

See how neatly that pod connects to the Barkbuster?

Once the lights are mounted, you need to sort out the electrical. The F4s come with a relayed wiring kit that will get you lit in minutes but was too bulky and redundant given the Skene and my Eastern Beaver switched power module. So I opted for making a custom harness using bits cut from the supplied harness.

Wires. Wires everywhere:

The first step is to mount the Skene. It fits perfectly out of the way on the bottom of the WR's headlight shroud and is held in place with two zip ties. Also, drill a small hole as shown so you can pass a zip-tie through later to hold the wiring in place and act as a strain relief. I opted to run the power down the left side of the bike frame, since it's easier to feed the wires on this side. Whichever side you choose, think about where your wires end up so you can orient the parts the right way for zip-tieing. (Edit: the wires for the Skene are pretty skinny. They should really up the gauge to something more appropriate for a few amps draw.)

Here's the hole for the zip tie:

Half of the harness in place:

All my connections were twisted, soldered, an covered in heat-shrink tubing. Make sure there's enough give in everything so it's easy to pop off the headlight assembly.

The white wire sticking up from below is the highbeam connection for the Skene. I added a bullet connector so I wouldn't need to disconnect the wire tap. The weird looking wiring assembly above the pigtail is my headlight relay (also from Eastern Beaver), mounted on a custom bracket. 

The barswitch takes three wires, including +12V and Ground. I just spliced these off my harness. Light gauge wire is fine since it's only carrying signal, not LED current. Motorcycle Innovations sells the switch mount and matching SPDT Centre Off switch. The supplied crimp-on blade connectors are crap though and I had to solder the wires to them to get a good connection.

Here's where the three-position switch (red) goes. The switch holder has an extra switch hole which I will find a use for some time. 

It's a good idea to cover all wiring subject to mechanical wear in protective tubing. I found a deal on 4' lengths of heat-shrink tubing which were perfect. Also, ensure you have enough slack in the right places to allow your bars to turn fully without catching or pulling the wiring. As you can see here, the wiring tucks away quite nicely.

 And these are the leftover bits from the supplied wiring harness.

Everything worked perfectly the first time I fired up the bike. I haven't had a chance to ride at night yet, although a quick night test in the driveway shows how formidable the F4's are. Even in daytime at 10% they create a much more noticeable presence for my small bike. And it's nice having the Death Star on call to flash drivers who are about to cut you off.

Big thanks to Matt Dynes at Motorcycle Innovations who patiently answered all my emailed questions.

Update June 19, 2014

Night-riding with these lights is awesome. No problem seeing the deer and other critters. While I don't ride fast at night (can't anyway on my little WR), having these lights sure removes the stress of feeling the need to hurry before the sun goes down. The stock headlight is a joke by comparison.

Update June 30, 2014

Here's a pic of the F4's on high at dusk in the woods, shot with my iPhone. It was fairly gloomy in there. The pool of light on the ground doesn't really do justice to the broad wash of light these things project. (For comparison, the stock highbeam barely illuminates the foliage.) The colour temperature of the LEDs is quite white, and doesn't detract from my night vision or depth perception like older LED tech with more of a blue cast does.

There's hundreds of kilometers of riding like this in my area. Lots of fun, and having the lights makes it so much more accessible.

Update October 5, 2014

Lots of bumpy kilometres in wet, cold, and hot conditions this year--and the lights have worked flawlessly.


  1. Great article ! I think that I need to follow your example and outfit my WR with this set up. Night riding is a little sketchy with the stock light. Thanks for posting !

  2. Thanks! I just saw that our local (Kanata) Honda Powersports centre is now selling a similar light--made by Rigid I think--that also comes in a light bar configuration and a square head with 6 LEDs, in addition to a 4-LED model like the Fenix. Haven't tried them myself.