What’s The Difference Between Fog Lights and Driving Lights?

February 15, 2009 by: MCg

Motorcycle Driving Lights

Motorcycle Fog Lights

I bet you’ve ridden through some fog thick enough that your headlight simply bounced back at you (particularly at night). In that case, your headlight was refracted through a gazillion little water droplets to create one big bright wall of nothing that you were riding into: hardly a riding scenario that inspires confidence.

Motorcycle FOG LIGHTS are auxiliary light units mounted LOW on your bike. The lower the better, as what you’re doing is minimizing the opportunity for the light to reflect back at you.

Of course the advantage is you’ll be able to see further in front of you. (These will typically be located low on the front fork or low on the front part of the bike frame).

In addition to being mounted low, fog lights typically have a BROAD light pattern, so it is illuminating more of the sides of the road, too.

And one more thing, fog lights with orange or yellow lenses (or filters), are better at penetrating through those reflective water particles, than blue light, which is the color typically used for motorcycle driving lights.

Motorcycle Driving Lights

Motorcycle DRIVING LIGHTS are more routinely useful, because if you have them, you can benefit from them whenever the sun goes down (instead of when you’re riding through fog). Motorcycle driving lights have a NARROW beam. Not only considerably narrower than fog lights, but narrower than your high beams. And instead, what those driving lights are doing is tossing their illumination much farther in front of you, so you can better see what’s on the road before you get to it.

They are usually mounted higher on the bike than fog lights, to shoot their beams further ahead of you up the road. But not higher than the stock headlight, unless they are for off-road night riding (otherwise you would blind oncoming motorists).

Which is Better?

Driving lights are especially useful if you are traveling through night at higher speeds, since you may not be able to react fast enough to obstacles that appear in your regular high beams because they don’t illuminate far enough ahead of you. (You want to see that animal crossing the road as soon as possible!)

Hence, it would seem that for “most” riders, “driving lights” would be the better option, since greater night-time illumination is a benefit that is useful more frequently than riding through fog. However, if you are a biker that does a lot of night-time riding through twisty roads, then you may benefit more from the broad light pattern typical of “fog lights,” which can pick up animals, off the side of the road that may be getting read to dart out in front of you, more readily. Additionally, while riding on twisty roads at night on a motorcycle, your headlight beam can be thrown off the roadway as you’re leaning and turning around the various corners. In this way, the broad light pattern of fog lights keep more light on the road while you’re slaloming through the turns.

Driving lights are more useful if you are riding at night over long, relatively straight roads, which can better take advantage of their light’s long reach.

Caution

Oh! One more thing. Not all manufacturers who market auxiliary lights differentiate between fog lights and driving lights. For some of these guys, they’re just simply interested in selling more lights, and since not all consumers are aware of the difference, some manufacturers just sell their lights using both terms. Having said that, there ARE some auxiliary light systems that do include both fog and driving lights. But even so, since driving lights would typically mounted higher on the motorcycle than fog lights (to project their beams further ahead), having fog and driving lights at the same level for motorbikes is a dubious option.

And if that doesn’t add enough confusion into the mix, there are different laws in different states that regulate the use of auxiliary lights on motor vehicles. Generally speaking, bright driving lights should not be positioned higher than your stock headlight and should also be linked to your high-beam switch, so they are turned off when you dim your stock lights to low beam.

ONE FINAL NOTE: whether you add driving lights or fog lights to your bike, using ANY additional lights, including during the day (as well as night), engenders an added safety benefit of making you more conspicuous to oncoming drivers. For a number of riders, this is the main benefit they are after, since they may not ever ride in the fog, and since they may not do much night riding.

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