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Baja Designs takes the fear out of night riding

By Liz Keener

Lighting solutions offer more time behind the wheel

On a recent camping trip in Barstow, California, Trent Kirby, operations manager of Baja Designs, took his grandmother on a side-
by-side ride. 

“For years past, she would always be sitting in camp. She’s to the age where her body can’t take the abuse of a bike or a quad to go putt around,” he said. “I was able to put her in a side-by-side, had a helmet for her, fresh air system, radio communication so I could talk to her, and take her into areas in the desert that she would’ve never traveled to before. Being able to share that experience with additional family members to expose them to something that they would never see in any type of other vehicle really is an incredible feeling and bonding moment for whomever you take.”

Baja Designs hopes that, with the proper lighting setup, more enthusiasts will be able to ride at night.

Kirby, like many employees of Baja Designs, is a powersports enthusiast. He owns a Polaris RZR XP 1000; founder and head engineer Alan Roach has a Can-Am Maverick X3; CEO Deanne Moore rides a Yamaha YXZ1000R, and two others at the office also own XP 1000s. And as riders themselves, they want fellow enthusiasts to be able to ride longer. 

“I feel like there’s too many people who rush back to camp when the sun goes down because they are afraid to drive at night, and part of it is just knowing what type of lights you need and having a setup that makes driving at night enjoyable,” Kirby explained. “That’s what our goal is: to provide forward-projecting solutions that allow people to continue ripping through the dirt or continue whatever project they have going on at night and enjoy it.”

Baja Designs specializes in forward-projecting lights for side-by-sides, ATVs, off-road motorcycles, adventure motorcycles, trophy trucks and automotive applications. The company wants people to use its products to ride later in the day more safely. 

The start

Baja Designs wasn’t launched as a lighting company. Instead, Roach started Baja Designs in 1992 as a company that offered dual-sport kits to make off-road bikes minimally street legal. 

“Those dual-sport kits included headlights, taillights, wiring harness, turn signals, horn — everything needed to put a dirt bike on the street,” Kirby reported. 

Then, while racing in SCORE events in Mexico, Roach discovered the need for high-performance lighting for motorcycles. That led to the development of Baja Designs’ first HID (high intensity discharge) motorcycle race light. 

Baja Designs offers plug-and-play forward-projecting lighting solutions for Arctic Cat, Can-Am, Polaris and Yamaha side-by-sides.

As Roach then began racing the Baja 1000 in trucks and buggies, Baja’s lineup expanded to include applications for those vehicles, and Baja’s engineers became known as “The Scientists of Lighting.”

“It developed into a full line of lights based upon, really, his passion and needs,” Kirby said. 

Since the late 1990s, Baja’s product lineup has expanded. Features like MoistureBlock, which creates a waterproof seal at the cord, even when the connector is cut off, separate Baja Designs from its competitors. 

Kirby said customers also appreciate that Baja lights perform at a 5000 Kelvin color temperature, which is easier on the eyes, and they like the Baja Designs uService feature, which allows them to swap lenses on their own. 

“That allows the end user to change the lens if it becomes pitted, chipped or hazed, and change the beam pattern,” Kirby said. “The lights are traditionally mounted on the front of a vehicle; they take abuse. And we understand that we’re on the high end of the market; we build a premium product. We want our enthusiasts to own the product throughout their lifetime and take it from vehicle to vehicle, so they don’t have to worry about cracking a lens or having reduced light by having a rock guard on there. With anyone else’s product, if you damage it, you have to throw it away. All of our lights are O-ring sealed instead of silicone sealed, giving the consumer the ability to change the pattern, if they want to, but also replace the lens and essentially have a brand new light after 10 years of ownership.”

Baja Designs also offers only single-row light bars because its LEDs are bright enough that a second row isn’t needed, and Baja’s light bars operate at 100 percent, even when the vehicle is running. 

Baja’s products are available to dealers through the company itself or through distributors. 

Side-by-side market

The side-by-side market has been important to Baja Designs for years. “It started with the Rhino 660 when we had our Fuego Halogen and HIDs, and now it has gone further with how competitive the side-by-side market is and all the well-built platforms and the variety of LED lights that we have to offer now. It’s been a crucial part of our growth,” Kirby explained. 

Not surprisingly, its products sell especially well among the sport side-by-side crowd. “What enthusiasts are coming to Baja Designs for on the side-by-side market right now is our headlight-specific kits that we offer for the XP 1000, our XYZ headlight kit, our Can-Am Shock Mount, anything that is a side-by-side-specific product that we offer that bolts to the application, plugs into the factory wiring harness and takes all the guesswork out of installation. That’s where the side-by-side market is going for us,” Kirby said. 

Baja Designs only makes single-row LED light bars because its LEDs are bright enough that a second row isn’t needed.

Plug-and-play kits have grown increasingly popular, so Baja Designs has adjusted to add more such options to its lineup. 

As vehicles improve in performance, Baja also has to improve its products. Sport side-by-sides are now capable at driving faster over rough terrain than they were in the past.  

“As the vehicles become more sophisticated and can handle higher speeds with additional ease, it means we need to provide higher performance lighting,” Kirby said. “If you want to drive aggressively at night, you need to have the highest-performing projection lights on the market, so for us, it’s constantly pushing innovation and making sure that we’re ahead of the performance level set by the manufacturer and the vehicle.”

Baja Designs is focused on innovation, so it’s not surprising that new product is coming out later this year. Kirby said, “We’ve got some new technology coming down the pipeline that we’re going to be showcasing at the Sand Sports Super Show, Off-Road Expo and, of course, SEMA in preparation for the Baja 1000, pushing the limits of lighting, allowing people to drive faster, safer and ultimately be able to enjoy driving at night.” 

 

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