I have done long-distance touring since I was 13. I distinctly remember my surprise when I discovered (1100 miles away from home) that you were supposed to actually have a driver's license to ride a motorcycle. I also remember my Mom's surprise when I called her from the Pike's Peak visitor center and said, "Hey Mom! Guess where I am!" I was supposed to be at Boy-Scout camp instead of romping about on my 125 Yamaha street machine, but of course all that is another story. Suffice it to say, there is a reason for all that white hair on Mom's head.
Anyway, out of the many breakdowns I have had, one stands out in its very preventibility . . . there had been several hours in which I could have realized the problem and taken some sort of corrective action. That failure was in my charging system.
My voltage regulator had failed (turned out to be a loose connection) and the first I knew about it was when the motorcycle died. That was it, stranded. Nothing I could do without a jump, charge, or new battery. I pushed for miles. Most machines won't run without some voltage for the ignition system (but I for one, am NOT willing to go back to magnetos).
Had I known about the failure when it occurred, I could have stopped in any of several towns and checked it out, and/or I could have pulled the fuse for my headlight and possibly made it home.
So, I have decided to add a Volt Meter to my Valkyrie. You can tell a lot about your system's health with a voltmeter . . . for instance, when you turn on the key, the voltage will be pulled down due to all the lights and no engine running. This is normal, but when your battery is getting older, that voltage will be lower, and can give you warning enough to change it. This could also help detect poor connections, which on your main battery connections are critical. Most alternators (regulators) will fry if the main battery connection is pulled while the bike is running (field voltage climbs too fast and the diodes go "sproing").
As you drive, with a voltmeter you would know instantly if you had a charging problem. You could then pull over, pull the fuses for the extra thousand watts worth of lights, the headlight, unplug your electric vest, chaps, gloves, and turn off the blinker that has been cheerfully flashing for the last 110 miles--honestly, it's not that I forget, it's that I've got a "blinker buddy" in my seat. WooHoo! For those of you that don't know, the "blinker buddy" is essentially a electric vibrator embedded in your seat and wired up to your turn-signals. Its purpose is to remind you that your blinker is on . . . of course that may not actually encourage you to turn it off . . .
Anyway, you can conserve power and get somewhere.
I had not seen a voltmeter that I liked before. I figured I wanted something cool . . . you know . . . led's or something . . . yet small and waterproof too. Also, it could not cost a fortune.
I found the Kuryakyn LED Voltmeter. (Kuryakyn part # 4219) I bought mine on the internet at Custom Dynamics. Good service, but alas, no sponsership or kick-backs. I paid full price (drat). Kuryakyn actually calls this cool little gizmo the "Universal LED Battery Guage".
This is an led bar guage, with red, yellow, and green led's to let you know your voltage. It comes in black or chrome (plastic) and sticks on with doublesided tape. It also dims itself at night.
It is still quite bright however, I recommend you mount it out of your direct line of sight.
Here is my installation . . . wired into my running light circuit inside the headlight.
Verdict? I like it. Works, it is actually accurate, and mounted here it does not dazzle me, even at night. It even looks neat (at least to me). Cost? 35ish . . .