It’s not every night you can ride a motorcycle safely during winter in New England, but a recent Friday found temperatures unseasonably warm (which is to say, above freezing). The roads in my neck of western Massachusetts were clear and dry, so after supper I suited up to enjoy a couple hours on some favorite local back roads.
Especially this time of year, it gets profoundly dark once you leave a built-up area. Along a familiar stretch of secondary road, I had closed in on a car, but my Spidey sense was telling me not to pass. Whoa—what’s that? From the right, a deer bounded toward the road. I rolled off and braked, but the driver ahead braked later and collided with the deer. The driver was OK, but neither car nor deer would leave the scene under its own power.
I wondered whether I had seen the deer before the driver ahead of me saw it? I can’t know for sure, but I’d wager a new Clearwater Lights model I’ve been testing – the Krista Spot/Fog Combo – gave me an advantage. Compared to the OEM lights on my 2019 BMW F750GS, a pair of Krista Combos distributes substantially more light side-to-side. They also throw light straight down the road, especially on high beams.
How does Clearwater accomplish this combined feat of illumination in one light housing? Consider that Clearwater already offers the Krista form factor in a Spot model and a Fog model. Each employs 3 Cree XML2 LEDs rated at 3,000 lumens per light (36 watts, 3 amps), but special purpose optics in each model project light differently. The Spots project a combo 8-degree/15-degree circular pencil beam. With the Fogs, the beam angle is a wide 60 degrees. The Krista Combo simply (and brilliantly) combines these into a single housing, with one spot beam positioned at the top and two fog beams positioned across the bottom.
The folks at Clearwater Lights told me that the idea for the Krista Combo came from customer feedback. “Our more adventurous riders were looking for a little more corner illumination while still maintaining that far out throw that Clearwater products have always been known for,” Zach explained. “The idea of picking and choosing optics to fit the need of the customer was born. Krista’s platform allows for this high level of tailoring.”
Versatility is good, right? Zach added that given this new approach to light distribution, Clearwater is diving into the automotive industry with this same kit for trucks, off-road vehicles, side-by-sides and other utility task vehicles.
With that deer encounter behind me, I lit up the night with 6000+ lumens from that pair of Krista Combos on high beam. The improvement over OEM lighting is astounding. As tight corners unfolded, I welcomed how well Krista Combos function as cornering lights. Bike manufacturers have been adding OEM lighting designed for this purpose for some time. The dynamic system available on BMW K1600’s is perhaps the most sophisticated approach. The angled-down rows of LEDs on Kawasaki’s Versys 1000 SE LT+ and Yamaha’s FJR1300ES take a simpler approach to the same challenge. Krista Combos do special purpose cornering lights one better because riders can dial in their desired degree of intensity, plus the spot beam also lights up the road further ahead, not just in corners.
I shared some test notes with my friend Dave, another long-distance rider who runs Clearwaters, and we uncovered a mutual observation: on really dark roads, our Clearwaters at 100% are so bright that, when we have to dim them for oncoming traffic, our visual acuity is briefly reduced as our eyes readjust to seeing the way forward with much less light. During testing, this had happened to me in a tight blind curve. As I neared the apex, I could see the other lane lighting up from an oncoming vehicle. So, part way into what had been a beautifully illuminated corner, I had to dim the lights, reducing visibility just as approaching headlights taxed my eyes even more. I know this blind curve, and I wasn’t pushing the pace, but suddenly having to work with so much less light was disconcerting. The Krista Combos did provide light into the corner, even when dimmed, and in a second I was beyond that vehicle and those Clearwater high beams lit up the night again. But that shot of adrenaline stayed with me for a while.
Installing Krista Combos on my F750GS was not difficult, just a bit tedious with body panels to remove, wires to feed and crash bar mounts to align just so. Clearwater’s model-specific instructions are clear and their CANopener module makes the wiring plug-and-play easy. There’s no tapping, splicing or drilling required and everything is completely removable. The CANopener makes it possible to control the lights several ways using BMW’s existing switch gear. For example, using the bike’s wonder wheel multi-controller, you can dial in the Kristas’ high beam and low beam output in 10% increments, from full brightness down to 10%. Using the high beam or flash-to-pass buttons, full brightness is available instantly. There are also several modes you can easily program to your liking. (One of these modes flashes the auxiliary lights when you hit the horn button; I actually turn that mode off since I have found a flash of lights is typically interpreted by other motorists as “go ahead.”) Clearwater also offers a slick auxiliary brake light that integrates with the CANopener (check out my review in Rider).
Note that when mounting Krista Combo lights, the spot beam must be positioned at the top and the two flood beams must be along the bottom. That means your mounts must place the lights in this orientation. Clearwater Lights offers beak mounts for my F750GS that position the lights up high, but they rotate the lights 90 degrees. For standard Krista Spots that’s not a problem, but rotating Krista Combos by 90 degrees to accommodate the beak mounts would project the wide-angle fog beam up-and-down, not side-to-side. So consider your mounts carefully. I used Clearwater’s crash bar mounts for the Krista Combos. The folks at Clearwater Lights can help you figure out the best approach for your bike.
As I’ve come to expect from Clearwater, every component in the Krista Combo kit is top shelf and made in the USA. It came complete with two lights, the CANopener module, plug-and-play wiring, mounting brackets and hardware. At $649 the Krista Combos aren’t cheap, but they are damned impressive, plus each bike-specific kit comes complete so you don’t get nickel-and-dimed for wiring, brackets or bike-specific hardware.
If you’re looking to brighten your way side-to-side and down the road, consider a set of Krista Combos.