Why Do Motorcycles Have X on Headlights? (Cafe Racer Thing?)

Motorcycle headlight taped in X shape

A black X tape on a motorcycle headlight looks cool. But did you know it was a logical thing in cafe racing? Atleast in the good old days it was.

So why do motorcycles have X on the headlight?

Motorcycles have X taped on their headlights because it looks cool. Earlier, the cafe racers taped to keep the glass together in case the headlight breaks.

But, it doesn’t make sense now. Modern headlight glasses do not break into small places unlike earlier. They crack and at worst, wreck into large glass pieces.

So, the only reason modern motorcycle riders tape their bike headlight in X shape is solely for aesthetics.

That’s the crux. Let’s now dive into the details.

What’s the point of this X mark?

The X shape does not hold any significance on its own.

Motorcycle riders tape X on the headlights solely for aesthetics.

X tape on motorcyce headlight

The black tape with X shaped mark on the motorcycle headlight – admit it – looks cool. And that’s it. That’s all there is to this X mark.

Sure, the X shaped tape mark is the norm since the 70s. The tape mark served a different purpose then.

But, even then, the idea was to tape on the headlight to cover the glass as much as possible without obstructing the light too much. And the X shape served the purpose the best.

Speaking of the rise of X mark on headlights, let’s dig into the history.

How taping X on headlight started – the History

Cafe racers started taping X on their motorcycle headlights in the 1970s.

It looked cool back then too. But that was not the main reason.

X tape on motorcyce headlight

The main reason for taping the headlight was so that the tape can keep the glass together in case the headlight breaks.

In those days, the headlight glass was pure glass. If it breaks, the glass would shatter into sharp pieces. They were a safety concern. Plus, cleaning them was a nightmare.

And taping the glass helped. A lot.

Broken glasses on the race track could potentially harm another cafe racer. So, taping the headlight glass prevented such incidents to an extent.

Also, the broken glass pieces stick to the tape. Cleaning a broken headlight glass was far easier.

Okay. Taping helps. But Why X shape?

Well, you have to tape so that the tape covers the maximum glass portion. Yet, at the same time, the taping shouldn’t obstruct the lighting. You need a fine balance there.

And X shape seemed like the best option.

X tape on motorcyce headlight

Covering diagonal to diagonal and at the same time allowing the headlight to light the track without too much blockade. The X shape taping was a good choice.

And that’s how the taping X on headlights practice started.

But, the same reasoning has lost its relevancy now.

Why is that? Let’s dive in.

Taping X on modern motorcycle headlight

Modern motorcycle headlights are much stronger now. The glass used, most of the time, is tempered glass.

Unlike the standard glass used earlier, tempered glass is much better suited for motorcycle headlights.

Why better you say?

Because tempered glass is much more safer. Tempered glass is about 4 times stronger than standard glass.

Glass - stock image

When the tempered glass on the headlight breaks, the glass fractures into small, relatively harmless pieces. Unlike standard glass, tempered glass was far safer.

No wonder tempered glass is the preferred option wherever human safety is an issue.

Back to the taping.

Now that modern motorcycles have tempered glass and safety is taken care of, the X taping to keep the glass together is no more relevant.

In modern motorcycles, the X taping on the headlight does not serve any safety purpose.

Then, why do motorcycle riders still tape X?

Simple. The X on the headlight looks cool!

That’s it. That’s the reason. That’s the purpose.

The X tape on the modern motorcycle headlight is purely for aesthetics.

Can you make an X on your bike too?

Sure thing.

But keep in mind the headlight restrictions in your region.

Few regulations state the distance the headlight needs to be visible.

For example, the California vehicle code states that headlights should have sufficient intensity to see a person or a vehicle at least 100 feet away.

Motorcycle headlight

So if you are taping X over your motorcycle headlight, make sure the light intensity does not vane off to violate the regulation.

Other than that, no problem.

Go ahead and tape an X mark on your motorcycle headlight.

How to go about it

Really? Should I give a step-by-step guide for taping now?

All you need to do is take a tape (black tape preferably) first.

Take two pieces and paste the tape diagonally on your motorcycle headlight. Making an X mark.

Motorcycle headlight taped in X shape

There is another alternative though.

You can just buy a headlight grill. It gives the same appearance as an X-mark tape.

Speaking of alternatives, here are the new trends you can try.

New trends:

Here are some new trends and alternatives for X black tape mark on headlights:

X shape headlight grill

The X shaped headlight grill is the closest that comes to taping an X over the headlight.

X shaped headlight grill

The headlight grills are quite popular too.

Especially on cruisers like Harley and Enfield.

If you are really obsessed with the X mark on your headlight, I would suggest going for a headlight grill over taping X.

Leather X

Another accessory is X shaped leather belt.

Headlight leather X

Over the years, the tape has lost its charm. Since the X mark is purely for aesthetics, it doesn’t make much sense to still stick with tape, isn’t it?

So leather headlight X is a popular alternative.

Plus it’s easy to buy and attach to the headlight. I would even rate it above engine grills for its ease of use.

Headlight guard

Lastly, if you are not fixated on the X mark, you can go for headlight guards with other designs.

There are lots of headlight guards with different designs out there.

Headlight guard

So go ahead and pick the one you like.

Also, make sure the guard doesn’t obstruct the light too much. The headlight should light up the road at least 100 feet.

Most engine guards qualify. Except for some crazy designs.


Is tape on headlights legal?

In most regions, there are no regulations making the headlights illegal. So you are free to tape your motorcycle headlight as long as it is not too obstructive.

There are regulations on the lights though. Most regulations expect the headlight to light up at least 100 feet in speed. So be mindful of that.

Do only cafe racers tape X on headlights?

While the cafe racers started this practice of taping X, any motorcycle rider can tape X on their bike headlights.

Engine grills and headlight guards are quite popular worldwide. And they are not limited to only cafe racers.