Date reviewed: July 2022 | Tested by: John Milbank | Price: £189.00 | www.hexezcan.com
Adding electrical accessories to motorcycles used to be easy – if you needed a switched live you could pick up off the tail-light. Wanted spotlights that went brighter on main-beam? Simple, just tap into the supply to the halogen bulb.
But the latest bikes have CANbus wiring, which allows multiple data signals to be sent on fewer wires, and for the ECUs to constantly monitor the status of the onboard electronic devices. That’s good as it means if your brake light fails the bike will know; it’ll warn you, and it’ll most likely use the indicators as emergency brake lights until you have it repaired. However, it also makes wiring in extra kit – like spotlights, additional brake lights, horns, sat-navs, alarms etc that much harder. And it could even void your bike’s warranty.
The Hex ezCAN has been around for a long time (now in its second generation), and put simply, it’s an easy-to-install programmable power distribution unit.
I fitted the Hex ezCAN to my 2019 BMW R1250GS to see how simple it is, and whether it’s worth the money…
The Hex ezCAN comes with plugs ready to be used with your accessories
The Hex ezCAN takes power from your bike’s battery, then sends it to four separate circuit outputs, which can be activated and controlled when the ignition’s turned on, or under other conditions:
On/off, day intensity on dip & main, night intensity on dip & main, turn off when indicator on, strobe when horn pressed, strobe when flashing the pass light, flash with hazards, modulation with bike’s ambient light sensor
Auxiliary brake light
Intensity as a running light, intensity as a brake light, solid or flash or California legal flash on braking, flash on emergency stop, flash on rapid engine braking
Sat-nav, phone etc
Time to remain on after bike turned off
Output at each of up to five stages of bike heating
Intensity as running lights, intensity as indicators
An optional wiring loom kit is also available, which allows you to quickly and easily connect most popular accessories with no soldering. The connectors are very high quality, and come with proper seals to keep the elements out
Distributing power to accessories can be done with products like the Rowe PDM60, which uses a connection direct to the battery in the same way as the Hex ezCAN, but it also requires tapping into a switched live to ‘tell’ the unit that the bike has been turned on. This will only be a trigger cable, and you’d be best using an accessory socket / auxiliary power supply on the bike. You can programme the current requirements of each of the six channels on the PDM60, and it’s a very useful piece of kit, but for ease of fitting and individual item control, the Hex ezCAN is well ahead.
One of the major advantages of the ezCAN is that it uses the existing switchgear on the motorcycle, rather than needing to wire in more buttons. For instance, if your bike has heat controls (like the heated grips function on the GS), the ezCAN can control a channel that supplies power to heated clothing, regulating the output to whatever you decide.
Other options, like controlling a horn, remove the need to wire a relay into the horn circuit and also give you more control, for instance activating the secondary horn after a delay of 0.25 to 0.5 seconds to give you a short, polite toot, then hit them with something like the massively loud Denali Sound Bomb if you hold the button down longer. You can also add a delay before the auxiliary lights start strobing.
The Hex ezCAN interfaces with your bike using quality connectors specific to the machine
All of the circuits controlled by the Hex ezCAN are protected by electronic fuses, and you can quickly set the threshold for these. It’s worth downloading the full ezCAN owner’s manual to work out what to set it at, but it can get a bit techy if you’re really loading it up.
The Hex ezCAN will handle up to a total of 25A continuous current draw, with each of the four circuits being programable to a maximum of 10A continuous, or 25A for 25 seconds (so enough to handle a high-power horn).
Running a Keis heated jacket, trousers and gloves all at full power would draw a total of 10.35A, which is just a bit higher than the Hex can handle. However, you’d be unlikely to want all this on at full power, and owners with this much heated kit would probably wire it direct to the bike’s battery.
I have a set of Denali D2s fitted to my GS through the ezCAN, each on a separate circuit with 2A easily covering them. I then have an accessory circuit for my sat-nav and phone on 4A (this’d be ideal for a dash cam too), and another at 10A for my heated vest (more than enough), making a total of 18A.
There aren’t many circumstances where people would want more, but this is a very compact device that tucks away fairly easily… even under the ridiculously stingy GS seat. If you need more circuits and more power, you’ll need a device with a larger form factor like the PDM60, but you’ll also lose the control.
Installation can be as involved as you want it – personally, I like to ensure I get the cables very carefully routed tucked well out of the way
The Hex ezCAN requires no modification at all to the wiring loom of your bike, which means it won’t void your warranty. It’s connected directly to the battery for its main power feed, then plugs into a device on the CANbus circuit. For instance, on the BMW S1000XR it uses the plug for the factory-fit alarm. It doesn’t matter if the device itself is fitted or not; the plug will be there.
On the R1200GS and R1250GS, the ezCAN uses the tyre pressure monitoring plug. Again, this picks up from the existing loom using a matching connector, with another that goes into the monitoring unit.
ezCAN piggy-backs the CANbus wiring loom to read the signals it needs without interfering with them. Clever stuff, but it does mean it won’t work with all bikes.
The ezCAN has four output cables, but a 3-pin splitter cable is available if you want to run more than one device from a circuit, for instance two spotlights on one circuit. The kit includes four plugs with two wires fitted, plus four extra single wires, so you can use them for power or as three-wire connections for dimmable lamps. There are also two blanking plugs supplied for circuits you don’t use.
I’m happy soldering, so there’s everything I need with the ezCAN, but a complete extension cable set is also available for an extra £39 (though I’ve seen bundles available for £199 – check what deals are on when you buy). The extension leads for the auxiliary lights make it a true plug-and-play system (and are available separately), though you could solder up your own leads if you prefer.
If you’re not happy installing the ezCAN yourself, your dealer will likely be able to, or A Bike Thing, for instance, offers an installation service in Chilcote near Tamworth, as well as hosting some very helpful video guides on its YouTube channel; I used this R1250GS strip-down video to work on my bike.
Over the years, the number of bikes the Hex ezCAN works with has expanded, but it’s still limited to the following:
R1200 air-cooled K25- K29
Africa Twin 2020-onwards
790 (some functions disabled)
The biggest spread is for BMW, covering most of the range from the past several years, but you can check all the bikes included on Hex’s installation guides page.
Because the ezCAN is plugged into the bike, there are specific connectors used, so you can’t, for instance, use the KTM device on a BMW. There are four different ezCANs across all the BMWs, two for KTMs, and one each for Honda and Harley-Davidson. If you’re unsure which to buy, you can use the VIN decoder on the website.
A laptop is the best way to setup your ezCAN; Mac or PC is fine
The ezCAN is extremely easy to set up, thanks to a well laid-out app available for both Mac and PC. If you don’t have a laptop – or a USB cable long enough to reach from your desktop computer to the bike – make sure you programme the unit before installing it.
Hex has talked about an optional Bluetooth module that would allow programming of the ezCAN via an Android or iOS device for a few years, but unfortunately it’s still not available, so really, you do need access to a laptop. Once it’s set up, there’s little need to go back in and tweak things, unless you change your mind about some settings, so you could always borrow a friend’s laptop.
The app is where your fuse settings and all the options are controlled, every setting being clearly explained. The only setting that can be adjusted without the app is the intensity of the auxiliary lights; depending on the bike you have, the method is explained in the ezCAN owners manual here.
One thing to keep in mind is that if you have some auxiliary lights fitted, and they’re set to strobe when you press the horn, you might need to turn this off for an MoT; check with the examiner who’ll be working on the bike.
My only small gripe with the ezCAN is that the little rubbery cover for the micro-USB connector isn’t retained, making it potentially easy to lose. But that’s it, and you can buy a better-designed port cover from A Bike Thing for £4.99 (if you buy your ezCAN from them, they’ll give it to you for free).
There are loads of options available in the app to set your accessories up how you want them
Most high-quality lights – like the Denalis I have fitted to my bike – have a three-pin input for power and a separate data input, to control the intensity. However, the ezCAN can also be set to any level of dimming on two-wire LED lights using PWM (pulse width modulation), which basically means it flashes the lights so quickly that you can’t see them go on and off; they just get less bright.
It’s impossible to say how well this will work with every set of lights on the market, but unless you’re going very dim, it should work well. While I’m not going to try to push the idea of having to buy Denali lights – which are more expensive than the cheap options on eBay and Amazon – I do want to point out that the D2s I have are about six years old, and have been fitted on four different bikes, never once letting me down. The ezCAN might not be transferable across all different bikes, but your lights are, so invest in some of a decent quality now, and they’re far more likely to last.
PWM will be used in the same way to regulate your heated clothing, so for some it might mean avoiding having use a separate controller attached to the heated vest or jacket, and could even save some money. Though while you can tailor the output you want, it won’t suit everyone, and it could get annoying having the heated grips output directly linked to your vest power.
I’ve had these Denali D2s for six years and fitted them to four different bikes now. I’d modified the hinge brackets to suit mounting to my previous S1000XR, but I was able to buy a new spare set from the distributor – R&G Racing for £20. Reliability and after-sales service are part of the reason it’s worth investing in decent kit.
Denali’s CANsmart is made by Hex Innovate… ezCAN and CANsmart are the same product, just in a different colour case.
However, the Denali CANsmart comes with all the extension cables you need to wire in a set of Denali spotlights and a Soundbomb horn. The Denali kit retails at £229.99, so with the £189 retail price of the Hex ezCAN, plus the £39.00 for the wiring kit, you’re looking at £228, making them about the same price.
If you already have all the cables you need, the ezCAN is the obvious choice. Equally, if you’re going to use the plugs that come with the ezCAN to solder up your own leads, you might as well save some money and get the original Hex product. But, there are often deals about on both, so do check a few retailers first.
Note that BikeSocial members can save 10% when buying direct with this Hex Innovate discount code.
The app has a diagnostics function that helps you check how much power is being drawn by your devices
The fact that you don’t have to interfere with the wiring loom on your bike in any way to fit ANYTHING that needs a switched power supply makes the Hex ezCAN worth the asking price alone. Having used the Denali CANsmart (see above) on my previous BMW S1000XR, and the Hex ezCAN on the 2019 R1250GS I just replaced it with, I can honestly say that it’s completely worth the investment.
Several years ago I bought a KTM 1050 Adventure, and when I fitted the Denali D2s to that (after removing them from a Kawasaki Versys 650), I had no end of problems with the lamps strobing on high beam. It took a while to work out what was happening – I’d tapped into the halogen bulb feed for the high-beam trigger – but it turns out that the wire also carries the crank position signal. If I’d had an ezCAN it wouldn’t have been a problem, and while CANbus systems are proving to be solid and reliable, opening up wires to tap into them is an easy way to introduce hard-to-trace electrical gremlins, especially when corrosion starts to creep in. I always solder connections and use liquid insulation tape and heat-shrink, but some people still use those old Scotch connectors, which can wreak havoc.
On the Hex ezCAN fitted to my 2019 BMW R1250GS I have the Denali D2s set to the exact intensity I want in dip and main across day and night, and they strobe when I press the horn or I flick the pass light three times. The spotlight on the side of the indicator that’s flashing also goes off, to make sure it’s easily seen (this was more important on my S1000XR as I had the lights mounted directly under the indicators), and they also flash opposite to the hazard lights, which really attracts attention.
I’m still toying with having my heated vest controlled by the heated grips, and I’ve got my TomTom powered by one of the circuits too. Sure, you can buy an adaptor cable to power it from the outlet for the Garmin, but doing it this way saved me £20.
I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Hex ezCAN – if you have a bike that it’s available for, and you want to add anything that requires a switched power supply, it’s well worth the money.