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  #1  
Old 1 Oct 2005
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Modulating headlights in Mexico?


I have a modulating headlight kit installed on by bike. I am planning to ride from the U.S. into Mexico soon.

Does anyone know for sure or have any actual experience with this in Mexico? What do the Mexican laws say about this? Am I going to get hassled?

Of course I can turn the modulating off by just switching to the low beam, but I am just curious.

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  #2  
Old 2 Oct 2005
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I used a modulating headlight on my trip two years ago down the Baja Peninsula. Cops never hassled me, some of the trucks would flick their lights back at me, but sometimes they will do that anyway even if your headlight is on and not modulating.

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  #3  
Old 2 Oct 2005
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There is no known laws in Mexico regulating the use of that kind of lights.
If you go by a patrol and your lights are extremely high they will come and tell you to adjust them.
No big deal.
Truckers flip lights on you cause it is not often to see a bike on the road at night and they get a little "angry" thinking your "car" has a blown headlight.


Use them with confidence.

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  #4  
Old 3 Oct 2005
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Thank you all. Good thing to know for the daytime stuff. I hope I don't confuse all those truckers!
My modulating headlight has a light sensitive switch which deactivates the headlight modulation when dark, so it does not modulate at all at night. Besides, I am not planning to ride at night in Mexico anyway.
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  #5  
Old 20 Oct 2005
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OK, I just returned from 7 day trip to Copper Canyon, Mexico. I had absolutely no problem with my daytime modulating headlights. Yes, some of the truckers and the large passenger busses would flick their headlights at me, but I am not sure whether it was to tell me my headlights are flickering or just as a form of salutaion, since some of them would wave at me. I would turn the modulation off (go to low-beam) when approaching any checkpoint, just in case a 19-year old soldier with a large gun and corresponding ego would hassle me, while ignorant of their laws. Not a good time to argue, even if you know you are right. Rather than explaining how and why modulation works, I was ready to say that, yes, I had a headlight problem and I would fix it at the next town, and move on, never to see them again. But there was no need.

In any case, it was completely smooth sailing and I probably avoided some close-calls by having the modulating headlight (especially by opposite traffic vehicles overtaking slow trucks on 2-lane high-speed roads.)

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  #6  
Old 19 Nov 2005
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I wish to disagree with the replies so far. I am currently in Mexico, have been here since Nov 5 and have traveled from Nuevo Laredo to Cancun. As you know, in America, engineers don´t design motorcycles, politicians do. My American market BMW has a constant on headlight, no switch to turn it off. From the first, I noticed people in front of me driving around with their 4way flashers on or their directionals blinking, and oncoming traffic flashing their headlights at me. I also saw repeated signs in Spanish saying something like "concedo cambio de luces". Working this out with my limited Spanish, I decided a literal translation would be "concede the road to lights" Or for a more english friendly translation, "If someone flashes their lights at you, yield the right of way." Having seen how other motorcycle headlights look on a bumpy road when oncoming, the combination of a short wheelbase and a sharp cutoff for low beam on a bumpy road makes it look like you are flashing your headlights. At one stop, I placed a couple of strips of duct tape over the part of my lights that put out the brightest light on low beam and everyone elses driving improved dramatically. No further people driving with their hazard flashers on, no one flashing their headlights at me and only one old man driving down the road with his left signal blinking for mile after mile. I honestly believe I´m on to something and have only to speak with someone familiar with both the culture and motorcycling to confirm my theory. However, if I am, can you even imagine the havoc a headlight modulator would cause in a culture such as this?

A second thought is as follows: If you are the sort of person who needs a headlight modulator to warn people of your presence on a motorcycle and expect Mexican drivers to respond like drivers in the U.S. I believe you are going to be very unhappy with Mexican drivers. Motorcycles are everywhere in Mexico, but they are mostly little 125cc runabouts. Automobile drivers give them almost no right of way, lane splitting is common, and a bus or taxi will invade your space in a heartbeat. Nobody seems to believe that a motorcycle has any right to any more space than they are occupying at the moment. Lane lines in any city have been worn away long ago and it doesn´t matter, since nobody pays any attention to them anyway. I invite corrections or confirmation to my theory, attacks on my parentage, etc. but I would seriously consider both not using your modulator and covering your light with duct tape. For whatever it´s worth.
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  #7  
Old 19 Nov 2005
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Pippin, I am going to have to respectfully disgree wholeheartedly with you on this issue.


The whole point of the modulating headlight is for other drivers to NOTICE YOU. Even in Mexico. When you are noticed, the modulators have achieved their purpose. After they noticed your presence, Mexican drivers will respond in exactly the same way as U.S. drivers will. They will either ignore you, or they will acknowledge you. No more no less. Based on my experience, it will be the latter. But the important thing is that they now know that you are there. That is always a good thing.

I have used headlight modulators for over 10 years on all my motorcycles, and firmly believe in their safety value. They have saved me from many close calls and potential accidents along the years. Cars and trucks are now visibly hestitating when attempting to turn left as I approach. While I still ride as if I was invisible, it does bring some reassurance.

By saying to "Tape them up...", it seems to me that you are not familiar with how modulators function or with the safety value of having your headlights on, modultaing or not, in any culture and any country. Even in Mexico they are starting to encourage the "headlights on" driving along certain stretches of highway, for all vehicles. In addition, the NHTSA, with its experts (not politicians) is recommending installing modulating headlights for motorcycles. Heck, even aircraft are installing modulating "Pulse Lights" for recognition. The human eye picks up a moving (pulsing) light many times better than a steady state light.

Modulating headlights in motorcycles are automatically deactivated at dark. They have a light sensor for this. Thus the modulation only works during daylight hours.

In Mexico "conceda cambio de luces" does not mean "If someone flashes their lights at you, yield the right of way." as you say. It means to "Dim your lights for oncoming traffic", obviously this has meaning only at night, i.e. change your headlights from high beam to low beam so as not to blind an oncoming vehicle. It is a moot point during daylight hours.

While it is true that in Mexico, as in many Latin American countries, the native drivers are very aggressive and do not allow any special courtesies for motorcycles, it is still better if they are aware of your presence than if they are not.
In my recent trip to Mexico, I have noticed many times cars braking or holding off from cutting me off, thanks to my modulating headlights. I will also say that their general situational awareness of motorcycles all around them is higher than in the US, even while invading your lane to share your space. It is just in their culture. Their sense of "personal space" is very different from Americans'. This has nothing to do with headlihgt on/off, modulating or not. Everyone is expected to drive defensively because the traffic is chaotic, especially in the cities.

You say: "I placed a couple of strips of duct tape over the part of my lights that put out the brightest light on low beam and everyone elses driving improved dramatically." Why on earth would you want to LESSEN your visibility instead of increasing it? That makes no sense. How do you know their driving "improved dramatically"? After all they are different drivers. What does that have to do with them driving with their hazard flashers on? They would still do so whether your headlights were on or not. They are not doing it for you. Bad drivers will remain bad drivers, no matter what you do. Good drivers, the same.

I use my headlight modulators in Mexico the whole time I drive there, and there is never a "havoc in a culture such as this" caused by it, as you say. What kind of "havoc" are you talking about anyway?
I think that what you are advocating (to not use or to "tape up" our headlights) is very bad advice, bordering on the dangerous.


Modulators increase safety by increasing conspicuity, period. It's a proven fact (see the "Hurt" report).

Don't knock them until you have tried them.
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  #8  
Old 21 Nov 2005
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Flashing headlights have one of two meanings on the highway.

1: I have an emergency
2: I'm faster than you, let me through.

A flashing (I refuse to call it "modulating") headlight is at best crying wolf all the time about an emergency, and at worst making yourself look like an arrogant jerk who thinks everyone should get out of his way.

The same politicians who gave us flashing headlights took away our headlight on/off switches, so we can no longer blink our lights for truckers to let them know they are clear to pull into our lane. These people clearly have no understanding of highway etiquette.
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  #9  
Old 21 Nov 2005
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Of couse you are entitled to your opinion, and that is fine, but it flies in the face of all the safety experts' recommendations, who make a living studying these things. Politicians did not give us modulating headlights. They merely allow it and encourage it. I am stating hard facts, while you state your opinion, without any reasonable backup.

I am talking about safety and you are talking about "arrogance" and "etiquette" on the highway. Can I call you arrogant or having lack of etiquette for wearing an expensive flip-up helmet and for wearing a multi-hundred dollar armored and color coordinated riding outfit that makes you look like a Star Wars Trooper, and which almost no one in these thirld world countries could dream of ever affording? HMMM.. probably not, because, according to the neanderhtal view you present about safety, I would imagine you are also riding around in shorts and tank-tops, and don't wear your seatbelt in your cage either, because, after all, "the politicians also gave us seat belts."

You say: <<<...A flashing (I refuse to call it "modulating") headlight is at best crying wolf all the time about an emergency...>>>
First of all, headlight modulation IS NOT the same as flashing your headlights. It seems you are unfamiliar with the concept. Headlight modulation works only when you switch your light to High-beam. The light power is going from more power to less power. It never goes to off. Hence "modulating". A "Flashing" mechanism that goes ON-OFF is illegal plus it would burn out your headlamp bulb in a very short time from the thermal shock to the filament, while modulating does not. So you have to call it modulating because that is the correct term. It is not "flashing."

Secondly, you are totally wrong in your opinion about the headlight modulation meaning it's an emergency. I don't know where you got that from but it is patently wrong. It's a myth. It is nowhere in the law books, I should know. It's part of my job to know that. A flashing red light and siren are different, they are an emergency. A modulating headlight is NOT an emergency, any more than a flashing yellow light is not one either. You can call it a "watch out, I am here" light if you will.

As far as for signalling for "wanting to pass", sure, it is one of many forms of communication, but I can assure you that in many countries and states it can mean a whole bunch of other things as well, so there is no standard. You yourself stated that you had wanted to "blink" to signal your trucker good-buddies when it is safe to pull in front, so which is it?

Furthermore, from my post above you can read that I use headlight modulation, therefore I take exception to you calling me an "arrogant jerk", but if that is what it will take to save my life and others'life, then call me anything you want. I will stay alive longer than you because of it. You can make yourself as invisible as you want, while I want to make myself as visible as possible because we all are far too vulnerable on a motorcycle anyway.

For me, it is a matter of personal safety, not of "arrogance and wanting everyone else out of the way." Let me assure you it isn't so at all. On the other hand, assuming that you are faster than me, and if you want to pass me, then how do you signal that? And what's wrong with passing anyway? Or are you one of those self-righteous fast-lane pigs on cruise control who get into a road-rage hissy fit when somebody else passes you above the posted speed limit?

It all depends on your mindset and your level of safety education. If you think it is annoying then it is to you, and I am sorry, but at least you will know I am there and because of that hopefully you won't do anything stupid in your cage, and that's the whole point.


Cheers,

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  #10  
Old 22 Nov 2005
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I entered Mexico at Nuevo Laredo ran down thru Monterry to Tampico, up the mountain to San Luis Potosi, down thru Queretaro, to Toluca, then down the mountain thru Cutzamala, to Zihuatanejo, and up the coast thru Ixtapa, Manzanillo, Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan, and back up the mountain to Durango and Torreon and back thru Monterrey to Nuevo Laredo. Nine days, and 3,000 miles thru Mexico with the headlights on the whole way. Never had any trouble with anyone about the hedlights, although I was stopped a few times and asked to put my helmet on... LOL I detailed my journey in a book 'La Ropa Sucia' available at www.amazon.com for about $13 bones... See you all down the road.

[This message has been edited by Grant Johnson (edited 04 April 2006).]
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  #11  
Old 22 Nov 2005
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Well, my reply certainly did get a lot of attention both positive and negative. It is of course mine to have whether it´s right or wrong. I´m at this point on my way back toward the land of ice and snow and at least for now, I still have tape over my low beam headlight. Probably can´t reply to all the assertions, but for what it´s worth, I do like having my headlight on in the U.S. where the culture is familiar with it and even use my headlights when I ride any of my vintage bikes which do not have the constant on feature. On almost all rides I wear my Áerostitch, a full coverage helmet, boots and gloves even when, as it is now in the Yucatan, extraordinarily hot. I ride at a sane pace, have never in 34 years of riding owned anything that could be called a sportbike or that would do over 100 mph. I stand by my assertion that there is virtually no headlight flashing going on now that I have tape over my low beam lense. You are correct to state that they are different drivers, but there was simply no way to not notice the difference, before and after. This is of course your decision to make, but I find your objections quite strong since you did state in your original request that you wanted opinions and I gave you mine. That´s all it is, just an opinion. Have a great and safe time in Mexico.
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  #12  
Old 23 Nov 2005
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gyuris:

I'm about to go home and pack up for a motorcycle trip to Big Bend over Thanksgiving, so I have more enjoyable things to do than engage in a flame war. I'm not going to take the time to properly defend myself,but I'll try to clarify my point briefly.

There is a language for communicating with headlights that you seem to be unaware of. I can tell someont to quit hogging the fast lane, say that you are clear to pull in my lane, warn oncoming traffic about a speed trap, and more. A "modulating" headlight sends false messages, and an always on headlight makes you incapable of using this language. I have no doubt that a "modulating" headlight makes a bike more visible, but there are other factors to consider, whether they are in a government study or not.
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  #13  
Old 23 Nov 2005
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The best advice I can give is to adapt.

When riding in the USA I have found that you need to do things to make other drivers respect you. That is, doing things that make you visible and generally trying to behave like an automobile driver. Perhaps a modulating headlight helps.

When going to another place it is important to understand what to expect from other drivers (that is, do they tailgate as a normal practice, do they ignore lane markings, et cetera). Remember you are visiting them and therefore what they are doing is right, whether you agree with it or not. It then follows that you need to figure out what they expect of you. In France, if you're on a motorbike it is assumed that you will split lanes. It is not appropriate to hog a whole lane that could be used by a car. So, split lanes or be prepared to have automobile drivers upset with you.

When we were travelling we found that it took up to a week to adapt to local driving conditions, even in neighbouring countries in Europe, never mind when we got to North Africa. So, when you get to Mexico, try to figure out what is "normal" and then adapt to it. As was mentioned earlier it seems that headlight modulators or even permanently on headlights are not normal practice and as a result some other drivers may have reacted in a negative manner.

Personally speaking I find the modulators irritating and since I would rather not make other drivers irritated, I don't use one. This isn't because of a lack of concern for safety; I'm a transportation engineer so safety is part of my professional responsibility, I've been a motorcycle instructor with the Canada Safety Council and I always wear all the gear, no matter what the temperature. I simply chose to enhance my visibility in other, less irritating, ways!

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  #14  
Old 25 Nov 2005
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I´ve been riding some very nice roads the past few days and occasionally had time to think about this subject in between topes. I also had the opportunity to remove the tape from my headlight and observe the change. I had fog coming down from Tuxtla Gutierrez on M190 yesterday morning and removed the tape to make myself visible at all. Once the fog lifted I kept riding and once again was getting the various headlight flashes, hazard flashers going and people not turning, just signalling. I replaced the tape at a gas stop, and all that went away. This is not my imagination. The time while I was riding in sunlight with my headlight on was also the only time since I´ve been in Mexico that I´ve been forced to the shoulder by a driver passing a bus who would not back off. He saw me, it just didn´t matter. He was mas macho; he won, I took the shoulder.

I´ve decided the headlight modulator falls into the category of the teenager wearing a tshirt with a vulgar saying, or the woman wearing an extraordinarily short skirt. It definitely attracts attention, but does not always create a positive image. I believe this to be particularly true in a culture which communicates with headlights as much as Mexico does. Once again, just an opinion based on what I observe here and subject to the usual possibility that I´m dead wrong.
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