Lumens or Lux? Reflector or Projector? Is Brand name worth the Cost?  We dig deep into every spec that matters, so you can choose the Harley headlight that’s right for you.

That dim OEM headlight’s gotta go and you’re ready to look for something new. But where do you start?

Well, there’s more to consider than just price. So in this post, we’ll—

  • Give you 13 boxes to check off when shopping Harley headlights.
  • Dig into the Lumens vs Lux and Projector vs Reflector debates– which to pay attention to? Which is best?
  • Kick up the Quality vs Price dilemma, and give you our two-cent take.
  • Toss a few installation heads-ups your way.

Ready to make your best decision on a new Harley headlight? Let’s dig in.

harley headlight

Where to Start When Shopping Harley Headlights

What really matters when it comes to Harley headlight specs? Well, there’s more than a few factors to consider, brightness, beam pattern and color temperature to name a few.

But before you start surfing Revzilla, here’s a few things to get right if it’s your first time shopping Harley headlights–


Be sure you check the compatibility box off first.

That shouldn’t be too hard, but keep in mind that there are different headlight generations like 1994-2013 and 2014-1023. More importantly, all Touring models are not the same—Street Glide and Road King are cases in point.

That means different wiring harnesses, adaptors and mounting configurations, all of which means a send-back and lost time if you’re not reading the fine print.


This one’s tricky. Yes, you can get a great headlamp for under $100. And yes, you can overpay for a good Harley headlight. Ultimately, you’ll need to decide if you’re willing to roll the dice or play it name-brand safe.

harley headlight by custom dynamics
Custom Dynamics TruBEAM

Reviews are a great place to find quality at ultra-value pricing, as are Harley forums, Harley Owners Groups, rallies, rides, and Facebook groups. If Sunpie has a $69 bulb that thousands swear by, and it’s Amazon-cheap, that’s something to consider.

On the other hand, if you’d rather pay hundreds more because it’s made in Germantown, Wisconsin, go for it.

Bottom line—you want a headlamp that gives great visibility and durability to match the miles you put on your bike. Some of the low-priced Harley headlights meet those expectations, some don’t.

Buyer beware.


I’m not gonna do the Made in America lamentation, but it’s hard to ignore the (really) low cost of no-name products coming from China, Vietnam, Costa Rica and Italy.

So it’s fair to ask the question—

How much should I have to pay for name-brand (American-Made) quality?

Inflation aside, Quality and Cost will continually create decision dilemmas when it comes to aftermarket parts. You’re gonna have to do your homework, and weigh which frustration you’d rather live with—

The (overly) high cost of name-brand headlamps, or the unknown quality of super-affordable options.

Why Buying Smart Matters

harley headlight
Ciro 3D Vision X

Seeing the big picture as you pierce a moonless heartland night is priceless. Which is why, of all the OEM swap-outs you’ll put your bike through, the headlight should be your first.

It’s that important.

A high-quality, super-bright headlight will show you more of the road, its hazards and its obstacles. And, it’ll make you more visible to other drivers.

And you can’t be too visible for that.

Read on for other specs that’ll factor into your Harley headlight decision.

The Factors


The brightness of a headlight is typically measured in Lumens (LM)  (Lux is also used, but rarely shows up on specs).

Lumens measures total visible light emitted by the headlight. The higher the number of Lumens, the brighter the headlight.

Some manufacturers also add a Candela (CD) number to their headlight specs. Candela is a measure of light intensity at the source of the beam, and can be a useful brightness indicator. That said, if you’re deciding between the HogWorkz HaloMaker and Custom Dynamics True Beam, Lumens is a better comparison of brightness, since it factors both intensity AND spread of the light produced by the headlamp.

Look for a headlight with at least 1000 Lumens for decent visibility at night.

harley headlight

Lumens or Lux?

As you shop around, you’ll run into people saying Lux is a more reliable brightness factor than Lumens. Lux is rarely given as a spec (though it’s converted easily enough), but what is it? And is it a better brightness indicator than Lumens?

Lumens, as you’ll recall, is a measurement showing total light emitted, by a light source, in all directions.

Lux, on the other hand, measures illuminance, or the amount of light falling on a surface area.  It’s used to measure the brightness of a light source as it’s perceived by the human eye.

In other words, Lux and Lumens each measure output, but they measure different aspects of that light. Lumens measures the light that’s emitted, Lux measures the amount of light that actually reaches a surface.

Lux is considered by many a better measurement of brightness than Lumens, because it considers the distance between the light source and the surface being illuminated.

Our takeaway? A headlight with high lumen output may not necessarily provide the same level of brightness as a headlight that’s lower in Lumens but higher in Lux value.

Beam Pattern

Simply put, Beam Pattern tells you how light is emitted from the lamp and how it’s spread out on the road ahead of you.

Translation—your headlight has a has a “low beam” pattern and a “high beam” pattern.

Everyone is aware, so why is this even a factor? Because every headlight, due to the arrangement of their projector and reflector bulbs, will differ in the quality of both. Some will give you super-distant high beams, and passable width on the low beams, some vice versa, and still others will excel on both.

Truth be told, you’ll be surprised to discover that, when it comes to high beam distance piercing and ditch-to-ditch low-beam coverage, there’s tremendous disparity in quality across the market.

This is where research really matters. Look (or ask) for test patterns from the manufacturer or see if they show up in reviews.

At minimum, a good beam pattern will cover a larger area in front of the motorcycle, with minimal dark spots. That, and, a focused hotspot for better distance visibility when the high beam is activated.

harley headlight
Custom Dynamics Pro BEAM
harley headlight
Custom Dynamics TruBEAM

Beam Pattern and Color Temp

Let’s use two of Custom Dynamics’ top-selling Harley headlights to demonstrate Beam Pattern and Color Temp in action. (Shoutout to Brad Strzelecki at for his help)

Both the ProBEAM and TruBEAM headlamps– priced at $449 and $439 respectively– use a combination of projector and reflector style lamps. The ProBEAM, though, tends to provide a smoother beam output. You’ll also notice that the ProBEAM headlamp produces a light-spread that eliminates dark spots on the road for better night-riding visibility.

Now, let’s look at the TruBEAM headlamp. It produces a super bright beam and great visibility, but does produce dark spots in its output. Notice how the TruBEAM emits lighting directly in front of the bike and father down the road, but there’re less illuminated areas in the space between.

That’s Beam Pattern.

Now, notice the other difference in these two Harley headlights– the Color Temperature of the light. The ProBEAM– warmer and more yellow– burns at around 5500K. The TruBEAM– cooler and slightly blue– burns around 5800K.  

Color Temperature

A big factor that flavors appearance and performance of Harley headlights, Color Temperature measures the appearance, or hue, of the light emitted by a bulb.

Measured in Kelvins (K) and ranging from 2700 to more than 6500, Color Temp is an important headlight factor because it predicts how you’ll see the road at night. Style preference matters too, since lower color lamps appear warmer and more yellow, while higher color temps mean a cooler, bluer hue.

Specific Color Temps will vary by manufacturer and model. In general, expect a higher color temperature (5000K-6000K) to give better visibility.

Ultimately, it’s your style and riding preferences that matter, but as with other factors, be sure the headlight’s compatible with your bike.


 A headlight designed to withstand harsh weather conditions is important. Look for a headlight with a durable, well-sealed housing, and a high impact lens. The latter may affect your buying decision, since nearly all brand-name manufacturers will offer at the very least, high durability polycarbonate lenses.

Plastic vs Glass

Your Harley headlight will have a lens of either glass or polycarbonate. What are the upsides/downsides to each?

Well, glass lenses are durable, scratch-resistant, and over time, less likely to discolor or cloud. They’re also heavier than resin-based lenses, and can shatter upon impact.

Polycarbonate is a thermoplastic material that’s lightweight, shatter-resistant, and highly durable, making them an economical and popular choice for motorcycle headlight manufacturers.

Polycarbonate lenses are also easily molded into complex shapes, allowing for greater design flexibility. Another advantage is their optical clarity—polycarbonate lenses transmit light with high efficiency and minimal distortion, resulting in a brighter, more focused beam of light.

Plastic lenses are prone to scratching and discoloration, which will affect headlight brightness and clarity. This, though, can be abated with anti-UV coatings that prevent discoloration and hazing. They can also be treated with a hydrophobic layer to repel water and improve visibility in wet conditions.

Pros and Cons aside, you ultimately won’t have much of a choice in lens materials. The manufacturer will decide that for you. But it’s worth knowing the benefits of each.

harley headlight lens composite polycarbonate


Harley headlight
Rogue Rider Industries’ Amber Halo Headlight

While not as critical as the other factors, the style of a headlight is a matter of personal preference and will impact price and availability. And though the purpose of this post isn’t to feature the various styles available, manufacturers offer a dizzying array of standard headlamps, halo trims of varying color, rotating halos and, well, you get the idea.

We’ll let you decide how your headlight makes a style statement, but keep compatibility, quality and installation factors in mind.


Due diligence can steer you towards an easier installation, since some headlights require splicing and other slight modifications. Facebook groups, forums and Amazon reviews are a great place to get the real-life version of installation ease.

Here’s a few things to expect in the installation process–

  • Compatibility— We’ve already talked about this, but it bears repeating—make sure the headlight will fit your year and model. Call if you’re in doubt.
  • Wiring— Another issue you might be calling Customer Service about, since manufacturer websites can be confusing as to what harnesses and adaptors you’ll need. And if splicing’s involved, bring the necessary tools and expertise to get the job done.
  • Adjustments— Once installed, you’ll need to make angle and beam pattern adjustments.
  • Testing—Sounds weird, but yeah, take her out for a spin after dark, under low-gravity conditions, and be sure your new installation’s lighting things up the way it’s supposed to.

Any installation has its place on the piece of cake / pain in the ass spectrum. Yes, planning, patience and attention to detail works wonders, but it’s still your time, which is worth a lot. Depending on the model-year of your bike and specific wiring requirements, installation can be time-consuming.

So there’s no shame in asking for help.

Projector or Reflector?

Your headlight will come with a varying arrangement of Reflector and Projector lamps. How are they different? And is one better than the other?

A projector headlamp uses a lens and bulb to create a focused beam of light. The projector bulb is placed behind the lens, mounted inside a small metal housing.Typically formed from glass or polycarbonate, the projector lens is shaped to take the light from the bulb and focus it into a sharp, narrow beam.

The reflector headlamp, on the other hand, uses a bulb and curved metal reflector to direct light onto the road. Positioned behind the bulb, the reflector is designed to bounce the light forward and outward, creating a wider beam of light.

The difference between the two? It’s how they create and direct light, and, in turn, how they’re used.

Projector headlights use lenses to focus light into a narrow beam that gives better visibility at a distance. Reflector headlamps create wider beams of light that illuminate a larger area in front of the bike.

Projector headlights are more advanced than reflector lamps, since their output is a more precise and focused beam of light. However, reflectors are effective in their own right, and oft-used in tandem with projectors.

harley headlights

Legal requirements

Be sure to check the legal requirements for motorcycle headlights in your area. Avoid headlight bulbs with color temperatures above 6500K, as these produce a bluish light that can be distracting to other drivers.  In some jurisdictions, there are restrictions on the brightness or color of the headlight, as well as the type of bulb that can be used.

Cheap vs Name Brand– Why Roll the Dice?

We touched on it briefly, but what are you getting with an inexpensive headlamp– sold only on Amazon– that you’re not getting with a more expensive brand-name headlight?  

Let’s kick a few factors around, and give you a chance to consider the risks–

  • Lesser Quality—  Less expensive headlights may not have the same quality controls, performance standards and testing requirements as more expensive options do.
  • Compatibility Issues— Sales pages for less expensive headlights may not be clear on compatibility, and may even require modifications to fit properly, resulting in additional time, effort, and expense.
  • Safety Concerns—That inexpensive Harley headlight may simply fail, increasing the risk of accidents and collisions at night or low-light conditions.
  • Brand Reputation— Established brands matter when technical questions need answers or a lifetime warranty needs to be redeemed. Yes, there are lower-priced headlights that have a solid name and reputation. But many do not.

That lamp is your way home safely at night. An inexpensive OEM replacement headlight may seem like a good idea, but it can cost you more in the long run. It’s your call, but headlights are serious equipment, and it may be worth investing in a higher-quality, more expensive headlight that meets your performance and safety needs.

Now Go Get the Harley Headlight That’s Right For You

So, there you have it. 13 things you need to know when choosing a Harley headlight.

Do your homework, talk to riders at rallies, rides, even the dealership, and make the decision that’s right for you.

If you’re wondering what the others are riding with, check out our Top-10 rundown of Harley Daymaker alternatives.

What headlight will be on your bike?

See you out on the road.

harley headlight
Custom Dynamics ProGLOW

Further Reading on If you want to see what others are riding with, check out this Top-10 Rundown of Harley Daymaker Alternatives. Looking for a new taillight approach to your bike? Here’s a First Look feature on Ciro 3D’s Latitude Taillight with Lightstrike technology. Finally, if you’re interested in adding accent lighting to your bike, along with new headlamps, check this post out on the ProGLOW Accent Underglow Lighting System by Custom Dynamics.

In the meantime, Ride Safely and Be Well!

About the Author

Jim Smurawa is a full-time blogger and enthusiast of all things that require him to get off his ass. Jim loves bikes, so much so that he sold his 2019 Street Glide to study advanced blogging and digital communications so he could write full time about the Harley Life. He looks forward to getting back on a bike of his own, and he’s currently deciding on whether he should get a Softail, an Ultra or another Street Glide, since he’s owned one of each in the past.

Similar Posts