Bikerumor Review: Light and Motion Seca 400

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BIKERUMOR.com REVIEW: It’s that time of year again, when our best efforts to get a ride in after reading Bikerumor.com all day at the office is rewarded with total darkness. The solution: Night riding, of course!  We’ve been testing this light since early May, and have lots of night rides (and some competitive use at the BURN 24 Hour Challenge) on it with several riders. Here’s our Light & Motion Seca 400 review.

The Seca 400 is where Light & Motion’s Seca line starts.  There’s also a 700 and 900 available in both normal and ‘Ultra’ versions, with the number referring to the Lumens output and the ‘Ultra’ models simply getting a 50% larger battery.  Actually, for 2009, the 400 was upgraded to 425 lumens, but kept the “400″ name.

The Seca 400 has lots to like:  Three modes (400 / 200 / 100 lumens) plus flashing mode, a “Race” mode that lets you switch only between High and Low so you can make quick changes during climbs or descents during a race, it’s lightweight and bright enough to get you through the trails quickly.  So, is it right for you?  Read on for the full review…

WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

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Here’s what it looks like on the store shelves (or used to…we just got the Seca 900 in to review and it has a totally different box shape).

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The back of the box says they’re green, but you’ll have to read their Conservation page on the website to see how.

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The literature is laid on top of the tightly packed box, which seems to be holding up well as a continued storage unit for the lights.  It’s been thrown in trunks, bags and left outside as the morning dew settled on everything at the BURN 24 Hour, and it’s holding up fine.  (FWIW, we actually like this box shape better for continued storage than the new 900 box)

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For $429.99 MSRP, you get:

  • Light
  • 11.1v 3-cell Li-ion battery
  • Multi-chemistry charger w/ indicator lights
  • Helmet mount strap
  • Light mount that works on either handlebars or helmet mount
  • Battery mount strap (to attach to your frame/stem/etc.)
  • Sticker and instructions
  • Crash repair kit

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Everything’s pretty compact.  The battery is under 4″ long and the light is only about 2.5″ wide x 2.25″ deep.  It is a bit tall though…it sticks 3.25″ to 4″ up from the top of your lid depending on where you have it mounted and how it’s angled.

WEIGHTS:

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Everything you’d carry on the ride (light, helmet mount, cable and battery) weighs in at 368g, which is actually 12g lighter than their claimed weight of 380g.

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Battery weight is 200g.  We rode with it in a hydration pack mostly, where it’s not noticeable.  We also rode with it stuck in our jersey pocket with the cord run under our jersey and up and over the top of the pocket.  It’s light enough that it doesn’t flop around uncomfortably, and the rubbery end caps seemed to help it stay in the pocket.  None of us had it bounce out of our pocket during any test ride.  (Oddly, L&M’s claimed battery weight is 180g, meaning this is heavier than claimed, but the system weight is lighter.)

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The bigger concern with lights is the weight of the light/mount assembly.  Heavy lights can flop your helmet forward, especially if the vents on your helmet force you to mount the light forward of center…which can also cause the front of the helmet to press into your forehead a lot.  Fortunately, the Light & Motion Seca assembly is pretty light, which is good because the velcro strap on the helmet mount isn’t very long, which puts you more at the mercy of your helmet’s vent design with regards to how far forward or back you can mount it (ideally, you’re mounting it near the center to keep the weight off the front of the helmet).

HOW’S IT MOUNT?

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The helmet mount (and if you’re just getting into night riding, trust us, mount it on your helmet, not your bar) velcros around the helmet’s vents.  The straps are wide enough to grasp easily and pull tight, but as mentioned, they’re not very long.  Here, you can see the end of the strap barely comes out the other side…and these vents aren’t abnormally wide (for reference, it’s a Specialized S-Works helmet).  Another two inches of strap would be perfect.  Once it’s cinched tight, though, the mount does a good job of staying in place on the helmet’s surface thanks to a rubbery pad on the bottom.  Of course, if the pad happens to run directly over a vent hole, it may not do you too much good, but like we said…you can cinch the strap pretty tight.

There’s actually a support beam running directly under the light on this helmet, you just can’t see it.  Plus, with many helmets, the vents are curved such that once you tighten the strap, it’ll generally “sink” into the curve such that it’s unlikely to move fore/aft.

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Once the helmet mount is attached, the rubber strap on the light runs under it and pulls tight and notches onto a peg.  Here’s where reading the instructions pays off:  Originally, we just strapped it in the seemingly obvious way (right), and we could never get it tight enough without using a rubber insert between the light and the mount…and it still kept slipping down over rough trails.

Had we read the manual, we’d have figured out the correct way is to run the strap up through the slot, then pull it over the notch.  Once we did this, the light stayed in place while still being easy to make mid-ride adjustments.  This is important because let’s face it, the light is never where you want it when you first attach it, and being able to adjust it without having to stop is a nice feature.

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The light head can swivel on the base (as you can see here, it’s not lined up exactly).  You can adjust a screw underneath the pivot to tighten it down, or just leave it and have the ability to swivel it at your discretion.  We left it alone and never had a problem with it twisting…just be mindful that if you reach up to adjust the up/down aim, you could very well end up aiming off center.  If/when you mount it to a handlebar (ie. for commuting), you want the bit of swivel allowance to be able to account for the bend in your bars and keep the light aiming straight forward.

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When mounted, it does stick up pretty high, about 3.5″ off the helmet.  Fortunately we never clipped it on any branches.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

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Light & Motion claims their Seca lights are designed to provide a strong center beam with “fill light” on the sides and directly in front of the wheel.  The top edge of the light is cut off, keeping the light on the trail.  (Photo Notes: This photo, as with all of our light tests, was shot on “night portrait” mode without a flash, then the levels were adjusted in Photoshop to correct the brightness. No other alterations were made, and we believe this represents the light as close as possible to what you’d experience on the trail.)

We rode this light a lot on rides lasting from 1 to 3 hours…on cold nights (below freezing on a couple of occasions) and warm nights…so we could get a good feel for it.  The overall consensus was that it provides a nice bright light, but the beam pattern is quite narrow.  Battery life is at least as long as claimed and while we never actually timed it, it never ran out on us even during our longest rides (we tend to turn it off when we stop to BS, though).

Each of our opinions are detailed a little further down, but here’s the tech specs:

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The Seca 400 uses six LED bulbs.  The three main ones up top provide the strong center beam with 225 lumens (on High).  The bottom three provide the ambient “fill” light with 200 lumens.  The Seca 400 has the following specs and run times:

  • 425 Lumens output on High w/ 2.5 hour runtime
  • 213 Lumens output on Medium w/ 5 hour runtime
  • 106 Lumens output on Low w/ 10 hour runtime
  • Flash setting with 100+ hours runtime
  • Race Mode lets you switch directly between High and Low, skipping the Medium and Flash modes.
  • 3-cell 11.1v Lithium Ion battery
  • 5 hour charge time

NOTE: As of this review going live, their website still lists the Lumen output at 400 / 200 / 100 on the specs, but describes the light as having 425 Lumens.  Basically, each lower setting cuts the Lumens in half.

USER REVIEWS:

As you’re about to read, opinions vary greatly as to appropriate light patterns, weight, etc., which is why we get at least two or three people to test most items we review.

TYLER: In addition to the following, everything written above is based mainly upon my opinion and use, too.

I used the Seca 400 for a lot of rides over the past six months and for my first night lap at the 2009 BURN 24 Hour Challenge.  The very first ride I did with it was in 27º F weather, so my eyes were feeling a little funny, but the light worked just fine.  For reference, I’ve used LED, HID and standard lights in the past, and the light color and quality from the Seca is as good as any other LED light I’ve ridden, and almost as white/blue as HID.  At 400 Lumens, it’s in the lower third of what’s available these days among competition-worthy lights, but for all practical purposes, it’s plenty of light for general night riding.

Where I found the light lacking was when I was going really fast or I was a bit tired.  Going really fast, it’d be nice to have a little more light and broader beam pattern.  It’s not necessary, mind you, I did use it for a night race lap and had a perfectly quick lap, but it would be nice.  When I was a bit tired, the narrow beam pattern tended to give me a sense of “tunnel vision” which I have mixed feelings about.  During the race, it kept my focus where it should be, but during general night riding I was wanting a bit more fill light, especially when trying to look around corners.  The Seca 400 really does put the bulk of the light directly in the center of the trail.

During the race, about four of us swapped use of the light with incomplete charges done between laps.  There was a slight drizzle or light rain periodically, but the light never failed or went dim despite the wet conditions and sporadic charging.  For a race light, those are good qualities.

EVAN: I’ve ridden the Seca 400 on several different occasions. Setup is easy and the learning curve is basically non-existent, plug and ride. Attaching it to you helmet is also a fairly simple process. However, getting the position to where the light shines in the desired spot is not the easiest. It is moderately top heavy, made more apparent by the fact that the light sits, what seems to me, unnecessarily high.

Power. At 400 lumens pumped out through LEDs, this light has respectable output and throws a clear, well-patterned beam (fat with no defined center). In a commuting scenario, this light is everything you need it to be and probably more. Mildly aggressive/technical /MTB trail riding can also be accommodated handily. For racing, the Seca 400 is adequate, but something a little brighter and less top heavy would be preferred. Maybe the extra lumens of the 700 model would satisfy, if only it could be a little lower profile.

Battery life and charging were both good. The light never went even dim on me after two and a half hours and charging was always quick enough, even in the case of it being rotated through different riders during the course of a 24-hour race.

The Seca 400 proved to be a reliable light throughout our testing and I never had any troubles with it. It never got too hot and was a commendable performer in my book.

OTHER COMMENTS: As mentioned, several others used the light during the BURN 24 Hour and all comments were generally positive, particularly from those who were “upgrading” from older normal-bulb lights.

NOTES: Light & Motion has been around since 1989 making underwater dive lights, then bicycle lights.  We have a much older Light and Motion Cabeza with a NiMH battery that still works fine and has never needed a replacement bulb in its sporadic 6+ years of use (the battery does go a little quicker now, though).  When we first received our Seca 400 for review, the charger indicated the battery was full, however the system didn’t work.  Talking to L&M, we determined it was a faulty battery and within 48 hours had a replacement in our hands, and it’s worked flawlessly since.  L&M said that’s an extremely rare occurence.

Also worth noting is that the batteries and lights within the Seca lineup are interchangeable, so you can easily upgrade the light head and/or battery down the road as your budget or needs allow, or add batteries for longer rides and solo racing.  As for price comparisons, it leans to the high side compared to most competitors’ offerings, but as with most things, we believe you get what you pay for.

BIKERUMOR.com RATING:

Combining Evan’s, others and my opinions, here’s the general consensus:  For $430, you’re getting a high quality light from a company with solid history.  It’s everything the average XC mountain biker needs for average XC night riding and the occasional 12- or 24 hour racer could do just fine with it.  It’s upgradable, lightweight and bright.  Evan’s and my opinions contradict each other on both beam pattern and the weight of the light head. Generally speaking the beam pattern is good, but could stand to be just a bit broader, especially for more technical trails or bombing downhill.  If you’re just getting into night riding or looking to upgrade without blowing the bank, the Seca 400 is a good bet for durability and quality even if it does skew slightly higher on the dollars per lumen scale.

With all that in mind, we give it Four and a half Thumbs Up.

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