Ducati Multistrada at Okmulgee Lake in Oklahoma

Multistrada Headlight Mods

The early models of the Ducati 1200 Multistrada were equipped with four halogen headlamps. These use H11 bulbs rated at 55 watts and put out a decent amount of light. But there’s always room for improvement!

More modern headlight bulbs using light emitting diode (LED) technology can produce more, whiter light than halogens while using less power. Another complaint with the Ducati is the way the hi/low headlights work. Switching on the high beam turns off the low beams (or dipped beam as they say in the UK). For my aging eyes I want all the light I can get! Fortunately there’s an easy way to remedy this.

I’m a Fan
I think LED bulbs are great. But the fan-cooled variety… well, I’m not a fan (ahem). In the early days of LED headlight bulbs the high heat they generated required some serious cooling. The fan-cooled bulbs became popular because they eschewed the large bulky heatsinks so they fit in smaller spaces. But newer bulb designs don’t get as hot, so the fan is really an unnecessary complexity I prefer to avoid.

Another bulb design to avoid is what I call the “corn cob” style. These have an array of LED chips sprouting out all around on five or six sides. While these may look more powerful, they’re actually a less performing bulb for two reasons. First, they’re using cheaper low output chips and compensating by using a bunch of them. Secondly, if you observe the original halogen bulb and the way it emits light, you’ll notice it glows in the center. A higher quality LED bulb with mimic this by putting the chips as close to the center as possible in a slender design. Only this way can the bulb work with the headlamp reflector and lens as the factory intended. Cheaper bulbs may be bright, but the pattern of the light will not be directed on the road the way it should be.

Flame on! LED conversion and high beam mod means loads of lumens.

My favorite choice right now are Beamtech 12000LM. They are affordable, have quality LEDs and the heatsinks are substantial yet compact. The bright 6500k light make the halogens look yellow, plus they draw about half the amps of the original halogen bulbs.

All On
Modifying the high beam operation on the Ducati is relatively easy. But once again it require a diode. Not a light emitting diode, just a plain “one way valve” diode. There are tutorials available online instructing how to do this by fabricating a wiring loom made up of OEM style connectors to mate with the factory relay holders. But there’s an easier way.

My diode splice and wire taps ready to install.
The splice and wire taps. Note the yellow wire indicates the diode’s striped end.

If you simply splice together the output wires from the high and low beam relays, all four headlights will light up. But without a diode all four lights are on all the time. D’oh! However, if we add a diode to our splice all four lights come on only when the high beam is activated. This works for flashing to pass or the high beam on position.

How To
Installing the splice only takes about 15 minutes. It’s an easy job, though it’s cramped working conditions (like most any Italian machine). It’s also worth mentioning this is easily reversible– just remove the wire taps and splice. If you prefer the more involved installation tapping into the relay holders, refer to the article on MotorcycleInfo.co.uk. Onward…

All you’ll need for this method is a pair of wire taps (or Scotchloks®), two short pieces of wire and a diode. I used a 1N4007 diode sourced from my local electronics shop. The one tricky bit is keeping the diode pointed the right way (the stripe must point to the low beam relay). To keep it straight I soldered yellow wire to indicate the end of the diode with the stripe, the black wire is soldered on the end of the diode.

Next, remove the four screws holding the LH trim panel inside the fairing that covers the fusebox (see photos below). Lift the panel away and you should see a trio of small relays, the aft and center relays are for the headlights. Look under these relays for the yellow wire with a grey stripe and the yellow wire with a white stripe. I found it best to unplug or remove the relay from its rubber holder. Next, slice back the vinyl shielding to install the splice using the wire taps. There’s not a lot of room to work with, so be sure you have the wire fully seated before squeezing the wire tap closed. Be sure to connect it so the diode’s strip (the yellow wire in my example) is connected to the yellow/white wire. This is important! The stripe on the diode must be on the low beam side of the splice, otherwise all four lights will always be on.

Once connected turn on the ignition to test the headlights. Hopefully you see nothing different… until you pull the high beam switch and all four lights come on!

Total investment for this mod: about $3.00.

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