You might have seen a motorcycle approaching you many times. Have you ever noticed that it has only one headlight working? If yes, you may want to know the reason. Many individuals believe that there could be a problem with the other headlight. However, that’s not the case. So, why does only one headlight work on motorcycles? Let’s dive into the question to get an answer.

Why does my motorcycle only have one light on?

When people ride their motorbikes for the first time, they wonder – Why their motorcycle has only one light on. The other headlight isn’t malfunctioning. On the contrary, there’s a safety measures in place. Only one headlight working indicates to incoming traffic that the vehicle isn’t a car. In other words, motorcycles are symbolized by one working headlight, whereas four-wheelers are indicated by two lights.

The working of the headlight also signifies to others that the motorcycle is quite close to them. A ton of considerations get involved in the decision of having only one working headlight on motorcycles. If you’re a safety-conscious driver, go through this handy guide to figure out ways to avoid accidents using headlights.

Why do motorcycles with two headlights only use one?

If you take a look at any older motorcycle, you may notice that it has only one headlight. The addition of two headlights began later. In reality, it has nothing to do with safety. Two lights on each side make the overall bike design symmetrical. Still, the question surfaces – Why does only one headlight work on motorcycles?

Basically, two reasons are attributed to this question. Let’s take each aspect one by one.


From the functional angle, a motorcycle needs just one headlight. The light should have a dimmable feature to ensure it works correctly. Since the lights on any motorcycle are close to one another, there’s no point in turning on both of them for any reason. You only need one signal (light) to state that your bike is closed to the other person. Even if you turn on two lights, it’ll deliver the same message, nothing more. That’s the primary reason why only one headlight actually works on any motorcycle.

Depth perception

One vital function of headlights is to inform other drivers how far another vehicle is at night. Since the two lights on any motorbike are quite close to each other, approaching drivers can’t judge the distance with better accuracy unless only one light is used. The usage of two headlights looks more functional on trucks and cars.

Let’s get back to the triangulation concept to get a more clear answer. Triangulation measures distance via angles. The human brain automatically does this calculation when a person looks upon an object. The closer we get to an object, the more narrowly our eyes will look at it. If the object or vehicle is far away, it becomes more difficult and daunting to judge the distance.

The reason is the angle gets smaller. When we see a car, we notice two lights from one perspective. This isn’t possible with a motorbike because the two lights are closely aligned together. So, our brain’s calculation concerning the distance between the two vehicles is likely to be wrong. When that happens, the chances of accidents get elevated.

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Why are bikes built this way nowadays?

At this point, it’s clear that the usage of two headlights on a motorcycle isn’t a prudent Idea. In other words, you know – Why does only one headlight work on motorcycles? Now another question pops up – Why build a bike with two headlights? As stated earlier, there are specific reasons for this purpose.

First of all, there’s a logic behind adding two headlights to a motorbike. The design looks symmetrical and more appealing with two lights instead of one. Symmetrical designs are cherished by people more than unsymmetrical ones.

Secondly, buyers expect two lights on their bikes even though they’ll use only one light. A significant number of motorcycles still feature a single headlight today. Also, some brands have assigned a new function to the second headlight. They’ve turned the other one into dimmable light. That saves money also. How? A dimmable light consumes less energy. So, the battery is less likely to drain out sooner.

Are passing lights useful?

A large number of motorcycles with two lights include passing lights in their design. These lights make it much safer for you to drive in low lighting conditions. Using high beams constantly can impact the vision of other drivers and may lead to accidents.

Passing lights don’t give off much light like a high beam. They provide better illumination than one headlight. The idea behind adding passing lights is that riders stay safe. How? Instead of using one light, drivers can use three lights. Passing lights have become a prominent addition to today’s bikes. They’ve turned out so useful that most motorcyclists pay to install them if their motorcycle doesn’t have this feature.

How to increase visibility when driving a motorcycle?

Bike riding has been cherished for thrills and excitement. Back then, only youngsters preferred driving motorcycles fast on highways. The trend has gone through dramatic changes. Today, people of all ages and genders love to ride a motorbike. Even seniors enjoy the thrills of fast riding.

However, fast riding, especially in low light conditions can jeopardize the safety of drivers and others on the road. The instances of motorcycle accidents aren’t unheard of. Pick any newspaper or turn on any news channel! You should come across a couple of unfortunate incidents daily. The likelihood of accidents gets magnified at night. It’s helpful to increase visibility when driving a bike.

Many new motorcyclists don’t pay much heed to this point. They usually prefer fast riding in broad daylight to play safe. However, there could be times when you’ve to drive quickly to a hospital or other venues for some reason or even too close to another motorcycle. When that happens, your safety could get compromised. It’s helpful to see more clearly when riding without affecting the visibility of incoming traffic. This is where the discussion over one light versus two headlights comes into the scene.

Traditionally, one light is meant to be a low beam, whereas the other one serves as a high beam to be used for unusual situations. Although this design is practical, it lowers visibility for an average motorcyclist. So, the question surfaces – how to increase the visibility without sacrificing safety? You can do this in several ways.

Change the light on your bike

If you use halogen lights, try to upgrade them. Halogen lights are too bright. Other drivers may face difficulty noticing your bike. LED lights are much better and suitable for bikes.

Pay attention to your outfit

If you wish to ensure that you get seen especially at night, consider what you wear. Most motorcyclists prefer to put on black dresses. However, black is the worst color from the viewpoint of visibility. It’s best to invest in a light-colored outfit and helmet. Such dressing will make you get spotted even from a distant location.

Add some color to your bike

Add some light, visible colors to your motorcycle. There’s no need to paint the whole body. A few pieces of tape and color strips will do the trick. Just ensure you’ve some experience with painting to accentuate your bike’s looks. You may seek help from your friends and buddies in this respect.

Having one motorcycle light doesn’t decrease your visibility. But other factors contribute to low visibility. As a biker, you must play your part to complement the lighting on your bike to ensure you stay safer on the road.

3 types of motorcycle lights used today

Since you’ve only one light on your motorcycle, make sure to install the best one. There are three different lighting options to consider for your bike.

Halogen lights

They’re the oldest type of headlights. So, you won’t see them on new bikes today. However, they aren’t as bright as other lighting options. Plus, halogen lights consume too much energy. It’s advisable not to use them.

Xenon HD lights

If you wish to install the brightest lights on your bike, consider Xenon HD lights. However, they consume too much energy and are fragile due to the excessive heat that they emit. So, you won’t find them on too many bikes.

LED lights

They’re the preferred lights in use today. LED lights are cost-effective and brighter than older halogen lights. Plus, they carry much better durability and emit less heat.

If you’ve halogen or xenon lights on your bike, consider switching to LED lights. They’re much safer, affordable, and energy-efficient.

Bottom line

The next time you notice bikes approaching with one headlight, you won’t need to wonder – Why does only one headlight work on motorcycles? There are reasons why only one light is used on a motorcycle. Safety, depth perception, and distance judgment are the prime considerations for using only one headlight on motorcycles. If you ride a bike, make sure to install top-quality headlights and passing lights. Also, put on reflective outfits to make your bike noticeable from a distant place. As well as enjoying a thrilling ride, you’ll ensure the safety of others and yourself too.