My first foray into the world of custom motorcycles was with a 1978 Honda CX500. Along with all the prerequisite cafe racer modifications like low handlebars, single-seat and a significant weight reduction, I upgraded all the lighting. At the time I had a tight budget (and because it was 7 years ago), so I opted to buy the smallest halogen lights I could find.
The cafe racer craze was well underway but it was still early days. LED lighting for motorcycles was a niche within a niche the available options were limited and expensive. However, when the technology started taking off and the prices started coming down, I was quick to upgrade to LED. Old bikes don’t usually have the best charging systems so I felt that upgrading to LED lighting was an easy way to lessen the load on the ageing charging system. The lights I chose also looked great and were very reliable.
One thing I didn’t upgrade at the time was the headlight and this was for a few reasons. Firstly, even though indicators and tail lights were getting cheaper and options more varied, LED headlights were still very expensive. H4 LED lights didn’t exist yet and nobody was making drop-in kits for cafe/custom bikes. Come to think of it I don’t think many OEMs were even onto LED headlights yet!
Fast-forward a few years and LED headlight kits started to become more readily available and the price was far more reasonable. There was just one problem (and this is the second reason I didn’t upgrade) – they all looked terrible. The combination of these factors is exactly why Revival Cycles have entered the game with their Secret LED 7” Retro Vintage Headlight.
Based out of Austin, Texas, Revival Cycles have been punching out a steady stream of custom bikes, parts and even motorcycle shows since 2008. Revival even opened a retail store a number of years ago. Since then, they have been supplying the world with a carefully curated, yet extensive, catalogue of motorcycle accessories. It was only a matter of time before they released products of their own and the Secret LED is one of them.
Retro LED headlight construction
Most readily available LED motorcycle headlights are rather…futuristic-looking. In other words, a lot of them look like hot garbage. Imagine for a moment you own a classic sports motorcycle like a Moto Guzzi V7 Sport or a Ducati 900SS, the last thing you’d want to do is shove some spaceship-looking thing into the headlight bucket. So what’s the solution?
Revival’s answer to this problem is the Secret LED retro headlight, and it’s called that for good reason. The front element of the headlight is glass and was designed specially to appear like a classic motorcycle headlight. Instead of insect eyes, you get a front aspect that wouldn’t look out of place at a vintage show and shine.
The thick glass lens of this LED headlight hides a very modern LED element. The back of the headlight is aluminium and it’s a sealed unit. This means you can’t replace the LED element inside the headlight, but it makes installation a breeze. The back of the headlight is powder-coated in black and yes, this light is SAE/DOT approved (but it’s not E-marked).
The lens is a split design where the bottom half of the light is the low beam and the top half is the high beam. It throws out a clean, 6000K bright white light. Standard H4 globes are usually 4,000-4,500K so it’s noticeably whiter than an old incandescent headlight.
At 12.8 volts the low beam draws a maximum of 10 Watts while the high beam draws 22 Watts. Seeing as a standard H4 globe draws 55W at low beam and 60W at high, the power reduction is substantial. I can already hear the collective cry of joy from thousands of vintage motorcycle charging systems. Even better, the lifecycle is an expected 15,000 hours. As Revival say, the Secret LED will probably outlast your motorcycle. At the very least, you won’t have to change a headlight bulb for the rest of your riding life.
Installing the Revival Cycles Retro LED headlight
During the installation, I only had a few minor wobbles along the way. A lot of aftermarket LED options replace the stock halogen H4 globe with an LED. From all accounts, they work well but high power H4 LEDs often, if not always, have a ballast/heat sink at the back of the unit. Fitting them inside stock headlight buckets can be challenging. While there is more than enough room inside the headlight bucket on my 2013 Moto Guzzi V7 Special, I had to find a way to fix the Secret LED to the headlight ring.
My stock headlight is bolted to the outer bezel of the headlight assembly and, annoyingly, it uses special fasteners. A bit stumped, I went down the road to Rogue Motorcycles in search of some advice. Luckily Rogue had some Lucas W Clips in stock which turned the install into an easy swap. I also discovered that the headlight bezel was slightly too big. Rogue came to the rescue again by lining the inside edge of the bezel with adhesive rubber trim which had the Secret LED fitting perfectly.
I racked up over 1500km since the installation and the headlight hasn’t moved at all. As well as providing a good deal of friction between the glass and the headlight bezel to keep it in place, I’m sure the rubber trim aids in vibration dampening in some way.
In light of the hiccups I had along the way (pun intended), the installation was straightforward and has been a worthwhile upgrade. The only tools I needed (aside from the tool behind the camera) to install the headlight were a Phillips head screwdriver, the adhesive rubber trim, the W clips and my phone (to check the Revival website for details).
One of the best things about the Secret LED is the fact that it will fit so many different bikes. The headlight itself is only 90mm deep so it will fit inside a wide variety of headlight buckets with plenty of room to spare.
Retro LED headlight performance
The LED aspect of this light may be secret, by Revival are quite open about the performance. Whilst the glass lens looks great, it does impact the spread of the beam. The beam spread is wide but bright. It lights up city roads well enough but blasting down a country lane in pitch-black darkness with the low beam might be dicey. Auxiliary lighting is an upgrade I make to all my bikes so the low beam pattern is not a huge deal for me.
With the high and low beams physically separated across the middle, the beam pattern thrown onto the ground features a defined line. This is both good and bad. Good, because it looks very modern and bad because there is no crossover between the two beam settings. In the six years I’ve had my V7 I’ve replaced the halogen bulb twice. Is the weird beam pattern of the Secret LED worth not having to change the bulb ever again? Only time will tell. I do like how the light looks when it is running. Some might not like that only half the headlight works at once but hey, each to their own.
Retro LED headlight final thoughts
Revival Cycles have created a very niche item. It’s a motorcycle headlight that, although it will fit many motorcycles, is designed for specific motorcycles. Call it a niche within a niche. The overall construction of the Secret LED 7” Retro Vintage Headlight is fantastic. It’s heavy, the glass is thick, the finish is spot on and the installation is easy. Even the price is good. At around $265AUD it sits firmly in the middle of the LED headlight price scale. Yes, the beam pattern is a bit weird but that’s the sacrifice you need to make to look this good. As they say, beauty is pain.
- Looks great
- Doesn’t look like an insect
- Very well built
- Durable with a very long lifespan
- Easy to install
- Can be made to fit many motorcycles
- Reasonable price
- Bright, white light – easily distinguishable from most other motorcycles
- The beam pattern is compromised by the thick glass lens
- Doesn’t come with W clips (they’re $5 a pack so Revival might as well include some)
- Not as bright as other LED headlight options
- Some may not like that only half the headlight works at one time (can you tell I’m really clutching at straws here?)