Light to the front: the headlight
Thanks to Edison, cyclists no longer have to find their way through the dark with gas lights. But although Edison's patent dates from 1880, it was still 35 years before the first Harley-Davidsons lit their way with an electric bulb (the 11-H and 11-J models). The reason was the filaments, which were still made of carbon or osmium. Both materials can't withstand vibrations well and osmium is also rare and difficult to obtain and therefore very expensive. So not suited as wear part on the early bikes. The tungsten filament turned things around in 1904. Then, when the on-board small power plants, aka generators, became even more reliable, there was no stopping them.
Especially in the early days of motorization, there was a wide variety of types and designs. On top of that, models for overseas sale were often ordered without lamps. The buyer then bolted on locally available material for which he could more easily get spare parts. For Europe, this was often Bosch.
At the same time, bulb technology made progress: a two-filament bulb replaced the two bulbs of the early headlights, standardized bases made it easier for customers to find spare parts, and increasingly powerful bulbs allowed drivers to see better at night. The interim high point: the H4 bulb with its bright white illumination. From now on, the LED takes over.
Can I simply replace headlights?
Unreservedly yes. If you can handle a wrench and don't shy away from wires, you can swap your headlight if you're not happy with the style, size or whatever. The rules for headlight swapping only apply to the styles of headlight inserts, but not the principle itself.
Can I mount any headlight?
In most countries there are regulations on headlights. To put it more nicely, restrictions. If you don't want to have to argue with every second policeman and then get a ticket, certain requirements must be met in terms of luminosity and alignment of the light beam. However, you don't have to worry about such technical stuff yourself; it's enough if the headlight of your choice, or more precisely: the headlight insert, bears certain markings. In North America, the headlight must be "DOT compliant", which is confirmed by the marking on the part of the manufacturer. In many other countries, the lamp must be ECE approved. This is confirmed once by the letter E followed by a number in a circle and then another test number. In the case of headlight inserts, the function must also be indicated by an additional code letter on the lens: C = low beam, R = high beam, A = position light. For C/R, the insert is ok for high and low beam, but only one of the two at a time (typically with a two filament bulb), an HC/R the same. With HCR, the low beam and high beam may burn together. The H in the designations does not stand for halogen, but for a specific type. It is also found in LED lamps. And they do not have halogen bulbs.
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