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Clearwater Lights Billie Brake Light – Review

Scott A. WilliamsFebruary 07, 2017
The Billie Brake Light features super bright, attention-getting red LEDs you can program for a range of flashing modes, inertial braking and more.

The Billie Brake Light features super bright, attention-getting red LEDs you can program for a range of flashing modes, inertial braking and more.

Clearwater Lights makes incredibly bright, programmable, auxiliary LED lighting for motorcycles. On late-model BMWs, they integrate directly with the bike’s CANbus wiring network using Clearwater’s slick CANopener module (Rider, April 2015).

Another Clearwater product that leverages the CANopener is the Billie Brake Light. This red LED auxiliary brake light/taillight attaches to your Beemer’s license plate bracket and connects to the CANopener to provide programmable, attention-getting conspicuity. Two versions are available: a full-perimeter license plate frame with embedded lights, and a light bar (“Billie Jr.”) that positions above or below your license plate. Both versions provide identical lighting functionality.

You can select among four flashing modes: Standard (functions just like the BMW brake light); California-legal strobe (4 Hz flash); Active Brake Light (flash rate linked to deceleration rate); and Off (I guess Off counts as a mode!). All flashing modes deactivate below 5 mph to avoid nuisance flashing in stop-and-go traffic.

The standard version is a full-perimeter license plate frame. The Jr. version (pictured) keeps more of the license plate surface exposed and doesn’t cover a license plate backer.

The standard version is a full-perimeter license plate frame. The Jr. version (pictured) keeps more of the license plate surface exposed and doesn’t cover a license plate backer.

Adjustable features include 10-step brightness intensity. Set brightness to your liking and the CANopener dynamically adjusts the Billie’s light output according to ambient daylight conditions. When you aren’t braking, the Billie functions as a running light at reduced intensity.

Enable the Inertial Braking Mode and data from BMW’s onboard sensors is applied to activate the Billie even if you don’t apply the brake lever or pedal. Say you downshift to take advantage of engine braking. The bike is reducing speed, but people behind you may not realize it since you didn’t hit the brakes. The CANopener recognizes deceleration and illuminates the Billie to alert those behind that you’re slowing down.

Like Clearwater’s other CANopener-integrated products, the Billie is controlled using BMW’s factory switchgear. Changing settings is simple but requires specific inputs from certain switches, so download the Billie manual to your smartphone for reference. Clearwater also includes a small red LED that you can zip-tie somewhere visible while riding, if you like. This lets you remotely monitor what the Billie Brake Light is doing while you’re on the bike.

Once your Billie is installed, ask a friend to follow you and share their reaction to the Billie in operation. My wife’s reaction was “Wow!”

U.S. motorcycle license plates come in many sizes and bolt configurations. The Billie license plate frame fits most, although for AL, AK, MN, NM and DC, Clearwater includes the caveat that “certain important information may be obscured.” Clearwater told me they’ve sold thousands of Billie Brake Lights and had exactly two complaints about fitment, but to reduce the risk of a ticket for obscuring part of a registration sticker or state name, the Billie Jr. may be the better choice for residents of those states. The Jr. is also good if you, like your humble scribe, have a license plate backer you don’t want covered.

Billie Brake Lights work only with late-model BMWs and Clearwater’s CANopener module. They’re made in California of light, rugged, CNC-machined aluminum. Full-perimeter frame Billie, $149; light bar Billie Jr., $129.

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