Want to run all LED turn signals, add driving lights, or eliminate your rear turn signals? Here you will find some information about the stock VLX electrical system and links and information on how to solve common problems when implementing a handful of electrical modifications to your Shadow.
The power generating portion of the VLX engine is best described as just a little bit better than adequate to handle the load of the stock bike. Ever notice how when your bike is at idle the head light is dimmer than when on the throttle, this is because at idle the stator isn't putting out enough wattage to cover the electrical load being consumbed while the bike is running therefore the battery has to pick up some slack. If you do not ride at speed often enough and for long enough or if you have additional electrical accessories such as driving lights, heated grips, etc. you may not be properly charging your battery. If you are a weekend warrior and or your bike sits for extended amounts of time there is a natural discharge that occurs with the battery. One option to help alleviate this is use a premium Yuasa battery or find a compatible AGM battery that is better at retaining a charge. Otherwise the easiest way to prevent this is to utilize a good quality trickle charger that maintains the battery and can help extend its life.
The VLX electrical systems outputs 345 watts maximum at 5000 RPM. If your stator or rectifier ever needs replacement or if you want to run lots of electrical accessories there are aftermarket options that can improve the stock system. ElectroSport stators put out about 20% more power than stock and a Mosfet Regulator/Rectifier can seriously improve charging/voltage regulation. Otherwise knowing the limitation of your bikes charging system can ensure that you don't end up stranded with a dead battery or overload the system by using too much power (i.e. riding at slow speeds at night in winter with driving lights on, using heated grips).
ElectroSport.com has a great write up covering the theory on how a motorcycle charging system works if you are interested.
Wiring schematics and diagrams can be found online at Wizard Enterprises technical page.
Swapping turn signals to LED by either finding LED conversions for the stock turn signals, aftermarket turn signals with LED lights, or even modifying aftermarket turn signals to add LED lights is a great way to save a few watts and give the electrical system a break or make room for other electric devices. LED's are beneficial because they last longer and if they are of high quality can increase visibility because they can be brighter than regular incandescent bulbs (this is not always the case). There are a few problems to be aware of when changing to LED turn signals on your VLX so they can be fixed if they arise.
Rapid Flash Problem or No Flashing at All:
A common problem when switching to LED turn signals is the stock turn signal relay (and many aftermarket relays) require load to operate properly. LED lights have very little resistance and therefore can render many turn signal relays useless or blinking too fast for normal operation. This is often referred to as hyper flashing. There are two options to correct this, sometimes one or the other is all you need, sometimes both are needed.
The first fix is replacing your stock turn signal with an Electronic Turn signal relay that doesn't care about resistance or load will restore a proper turn signal flash rate. Electronic turn signals are available from many local auto parts stores or can be purchased online for a motorcycle.
Custom LED makes a great Electronic flash relay that is plug and play with most of the Honda Shadow line of motorcycles including the VLX. They also have a similar 2 wire model with pig tail connectors making it compatible with custom wiring or universal applications.
The second fix is purchasing or creating your own load balancer(s) to allow your turn signal relay to work under a preferred reistive loads. The reason this option is second is because a load balancer is nothing more than some diodes and resistors which rob power and offset the power savings of LED lighting in the first place. Kuryakyn makes an incredibly popular load equalizer but you pay a premium for the brand. There are also cheaper options from other manufacturers.
BareAssChoppers.com has a great write up for the Honda VTX that includes do it yourself instructions on making load balancers with parts from radio shack. Being Honda the install notes are very similar for theVLX (the wire locations will be different, but the wire colors are probably the same).
4 Way Flash Problem:
An engineering design flaw of many Honda motorcycles is that they use a single turn signal indicator for both the left and right turn signals. This is not a problem under the load of incandescent bulbs but when you switch to LED turn signals with less load cross talk occurs between the LED lights causing all four turn signals to flash when the left or right turn signal is activated. If you experience this issue the fix is fairly simple, a diode kit needs to be installed to allow current to flow only in one direction to the LED indicator separating a shared ground between turn signals. Kuryakyn makes a simple diode kit to address this issue.
Want to save some money and do it yourself? A great write up for the VTX1800C with the same design flaw can be found at BareAssChoppers.com. Here you will find instructions and a schematic on how to make and install your own diode kit.
The stock turn signals are bulky and unattractive but luckily there are a multitude of options to remove them or replace them with something more attractive. The easiest option is to simply replace them with aftermarket replacements that look better. Mounting can be a chore but aftermarket turn signals can be mounted to the fender strut, the axle, or clamped to the rear swing arm. A sleek option if you have a dual light bulb tail light you can make that single fixutre your run/turn/brake lights by wiring in a universal trailer wiring harness or a motorcycle run/turn/brake controller. For a more custom look you can purchase an LED tail light with the turn signals built in. If you want to remove the rear tail light you can install a side mount license plate with a brake light or you could install a pair of aftermark red lense or red LED turn signals to use with a run/turn/brake controller to completely eliminate the tail light. If you dig for some creativity the possibilities are endless and only limited by your imagination.
Check for legality in your state to verify if you have to use a horizontal license plate mount or if a verticle sidemount is OK. There are a multitude of sidemounts available some with built in tail lights some without. A side mount is most commonly mounted to the rear axle bolt or it could be clamped to the swing arm. If you already have a sidemount license plate but no tail light there are many bolt on options especially of the bobber variety. Another option is a Radiantz license plate frame with white plate illumination LEDs and RED LED Run/Brake lights.
Dual Tail Lights:
Mentioned above, using a Run/Turn/Brake Controller allows your rear turn signals to function as your Running lights, Brake Lights, and Turn Signals similar to a car which simplifies and cleans up the rear end very well. You can even combine dual tail lights with your stock tail light or a sidemount brake light for better brake illumination. Note that the rear lights have to be red. If using LED turn signals that are red clear or smoked turn signal lenses are best.
If you install a Run/Turn/Brake Controller with all LED lights and you experience any strange operation issues (i.e. 4 way blinking, no blinking and lights are off or on solid) a single load equalizer may need to be installed between the turn signal wires and a ground wire in front of the controller. Wiring in the controller is fairly easy once you have identified the brake, left, and right turn signal wires to splice in and then splice the wires to the turn signals accordingly. Kuryakyn makes a popular universal controller, or as a cheaper alternative you can use a universal trailer tail light converter bought at a local auto parts store.
If you can afford it there are a multitude of very nice LED driving lights available in spot (narrow) and flood (wide) light patterns that can add additional light for greater visibility when riding at night while not taxing the limited VLX electrical system. If you choose incandescent driving/auxilary lights pay attention to the wattage of your bulbs, Using bulbs that are 35 watts instead of 55 watts for driving lights will help keep your system running fine with the additional load. Many models that come with 55 watt bulbs can be down graded to a 35 watt bulbs with little noticeable difference in light output at night
Incandescent spots or flood driving lights require a fair amount of power, therefore, care must be taken to ensure a proper relay, guage of wire, and fuses are used to prevent any electrical problems. Most lighting systems come with wiring kits and switches but if not quality wiring kits and switches can be purchased to simplify installation.
There are a handful of driving light options from various brands such as National Cycle, Sharpline Products, and Kuryakyn (39/41mm) Clamp on Drving Lights:
High power LED driving lights can get you the added visibility you need for night riding without requiring the power consumed by Halogen or Incandescent bulb driving lights. The light produced by LED's is also generally a cool white color which sometimes is preferred similar to HID lights used on some high end cars. Most LED options will require some kind of mounting bracket to attach them to the bike. Pricing for LED's can get expensive for good quality. Brands such as Denali and PIAA offer somewhat costly but attractive and useful options. There are other more affordable LED options but they often do not have the cosmetic appeal of higher end LED driving lights.
When modding and customizing your bike it cosmetic appeal becomes an important factor. There are a multitude of switch options ranging from a single switch to multiple allowing you to use them with other electronic accessories. If you only need a single switch and wiring Kuryakyn makes an attractive single switch universal wiring kit including relay. Show Chrome makes a couple of switch block options as well, one clamps to the handlebars and the other fits over the brake master cylinder. The show chrome options have the additional benefit of marker light showing when an accessory is on.
The VLX fork tubes are 39mm therefore any Harley or 39mm clamp should work to hold your driving lights, turn signals, etc. to your fork tubes no matter what make and model bike they were intended for. The most common options are the Drag Specialties Fork Tube Clamps or the Kuryakyn P Clamp. The P Clamp is also often available in black if you search for it.
There are many universal clamps available in a multitude of sizes that can clamp to either highway bars or frame down tubes. Mounting lights to highway/crash bars or engine guards is a great option for an out of the way custom look or to keep auxillary driving lights low to not interfere with other drivers on the road. Different highway or safety bars come with different sized tubes. Another option is mounting lights directly to the front frame tubes, please double check, but the front down tubes are approximately 1.25 inches. Any clamp that will fit the size tube you have will work so measure your tube and find a clamp to fit. For example the Kuryakyn 1.375" to 1.5" clamp or the Warn 1.5" to 2" clamp below. The P Clamp is often also available in black. For up to a 1.125" clamp see the warn option under the following Handlebars section.
The stock handlebars on a VLX are 1 inch and many aftermarket bars are also 1 inch. If you have a different size bar then search for a clamp to fit. For turn signals Chris Products makes a great turn signal handle bar bracket compatible with their aftermarket turn signals if you want that up high turn signal look traditional to a Harley Davidson. Of course Kuryakyn has top quality popular options such as the 1 inch P clamp or universal accessory mount. Note that the P Clamps are often also available in black. Any other clamp to mount lights, accessories, etc that fits a 1 inch bar will also work such as Warns universal mount with a swival tab (also available with a fixed tab). Any of these options can be used to attractively and safely mount a light or accessory to your handlebars or any 1 inch tube.
Turn Signal Relocation:
If you plan to eliminate the rear tail light/license plate mounting bracket completely or replace it with an aftermarket tail light option you may run into the dilemma of finding a better place for your turn signals. There are a handful of mounting options to relocate turn signals and even to mount a license plate to the rear sub frame. Kuryakyn makes a well reviewed universal Turn Signal Relocation kit that mounts to most license plate mounts. For tail light/bracket elimination a universal license plate bracket with turn signal mounts is a great option. If you only need a simple turn signal mounting option to the stock license plate Saddleman has a turn signal relocation bracket as well. These can be paired with stock turn signals (some may require drilling) or your favorite aftermarket option.