Review: Light & Motion Seca 1400
Introduced mid-year, the all-new Light & Motion Seca 1400 took everything that was good about the previous models (which was a lot) and kept it or made it better. Then, they took the few niggling details that we had issue with and fixed them. The result is a bike light that’s darn near perfect. Actually, it pretty much is perfect.
That’s a big claim, we know, so we’ll back it up. First, it’s worth noting the issues that we had with their previous models. We reviewed the former Seca 400 and were in the process of writing up a review on the 900 when this one came out and L&M asked us to hold off. With both of those (the only real difference between them being lumen output), we felt like the beam pattern was too focused, the light head sat a bit too high on the helmet and if you didn’t read the instructions (or our review), you’d have a hard time getting it strapped to the helmet mount properly.
Read on to see how all of those issues have been fixed to our complete and total satisfaction…
WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
The kit comes with the light, battery, helmet mount, Velcro strap for mounting the battery to your bike’s frame, instructions, a sticker, wall charger and a nifty little pouch that fits the items necessary to ride with. The pouch is new for the current generation of lights and makes portage simple. Just keep the items you need to ride with in there and you only have to grab one thing before heading out the door…which means you won’t be cursing yourself at the trailhead when you forget the battery.
The system has a claimed weight of 500g, and ours came in 7g over that mark. Of course, if you’re running it on your handlebar, you’ll come in 15g under the claimed weight, but let’s face it, we all run these on our helmets. At a combined 157g for the light and helmet mount, it doesn’t put much strain on your neck, and if your helmet fits well, it won’t cause unnecessary bobbing around. (That said, it helps to put the mount near the middle of your helmet to balance the weight front to back.)
IMPROVEMENTS & PERFORMANCE
Improvement #1: New reflectors and beam patterns. Above, you’ll see the old 900 on the left and the new 1400 on the right. Notice the revised reflector cones, particularly the middle top (though the entire piece has been reshaped). The result is a broader, even beam pattern:
The 900′s beam pattern (left) was very focused in the center of the trail, like a spot light. The 1400 (right), widens the beam pattern and offers an bright, consistent light filling in evenly across and spreading four-to-five feet on either side of the trail. The actual width will, of course, depend on how you have it aimed, but it’s a marked improvement over the spot of old.
We found that the new beam pattern gave a broader perspective of the trail and made it easier to look around corners with peripheral vision rather than having to turn your head like with the older, narrower beam. It easily casts enough light as far down the trail as you’re likely to be looking while still providing enough light immediately in front of you to avoid root and rock sneak attacks.
Improvement #2: You may also notice the temperature of the light above. The 1400 is whiter, which seems to be a bit easier on the eyes. We like this better, too.
Improvement #3: The light now mounts significantly lower. Shown on the bars further up and on a helmet here, the 1400 (right) mounts more forward and lower than the old models. The helmet mount piece is exactly the same, all of the change has been to the strap layout and body design of the light head unit. This drastically reduces the likelihood you’ll snag the light on a low hanging branch, and it further reduces helmet bob from the additional weight. Lastly, the rubber strap now goes to the front and doesn’t require the looping through the rear of the mount. This makes installation even quicker.
A note about the helmet mount: If there’s one area for improvement, this is it, and it’s slight: The base of it (where it meets your helmet) is fairly narrow, which means the rubbery contact patch that’s meant to keep it from slipping around may very well end up in a vent hole rather than in contact with the shell. This means you may have to play around with some different positions on the helmet to get it to stay where you want it.
The rubber strap on the light head keeps it secure enough that it stays where you position it, but it’s easy to reach up and tilt the light up or down mid-ride. The light head also swivels on the mount, letting you get the left-right position nailed down, too, which helps when putting it on angled handlebars or if the helmet mount just won’t square up on your brand of lid.
Speaking of quick installation, the power cord is permanently attached to the light head, and it plugs into the battery with a sucking, airtight thump that is firm and gratifying. It couldn’t be simpler, there’s an arrow you line up with the dot. We’ve never once had one come out unintentionally over the years of using their systems.
For racers, the battery is small enough to fit into a jersey pocket, which we’ve done, and the cord’s long enough to run under your jersey, out the bottom and up around and into the pocket.
FEATURES & SPECS
Light & Motion SECA 1400 has four standard modes (high, medium, low, flash) and a race mode that sets the light to toggle only between low and high. This saves a few button pushes when you’re in the heat of a race…use low to climb and save power, then tap it once and it goes to high for descending, etc. Like their previous SECA models, the button sits on the top of the light head and is big enough to easily be pushed even with winter gloves on.
Here’s where it gets good: The 1400 has the same run times as the 900 that preceded it thanks to much more efficient CREE LEDs and new electronics. Claimed run times on a full battery are:
- High (1400 Lumens): 2.5 Hours
- Medium (700 Lumens): 5 Hours
- Low (350 Lumens): 10 Hours
Charging takes a few hours and can be done at any point in the usage/discharge cycle without affecting long-term battery performance or memory.
When buying LED bulbs, Eric from L&M says you can get various BIN ratings, which is the quality. If you’re buying BIN C, you’re potentially getting a wide range of color and output quality. They buy BIN A, which is the best and has the least amount of variance, which guarantees that they’re putting the highest quality LEDs in their lights, and CREE is known as one of the top brands of LED manufacturers.
The shell and reflectors are made in the U.S., with much of it made in their own facility in Monterey, CA. Final assembly is there, too.
MSRP is $699, which is expensive, sure, but it’s on par with other lights that claim the same number of lumens.
Let’s say you recently purchased a Light & Motion SECA but you’d like to upgrade. If you’ve got an older L&M system and the battery is a Li-ion model, you can use it with the new 700 and 1400. However, if you have one of the 7.2volt NiMH batteries that were sold with some older Stella models (with a yellow plug on the battery), they’ll work, but they don’t have enough power to get a good runtime. By comparison, the current 6-cell battery battery is 11.1 volts, and that’s the only option. They used to offer a larger 9-cell battery, and if you have one of those it’ll work with these new light heads, but they’re now only selling the 6-cell size.
Take a really good light and make it great, and you get the SECA 1400. It’s bright, white and has a good beam pattern. Installation and use is simplicity defined. It’s lightweight, easy to adjust and aim and has enough run time for most rides. We’ve been able to recharge past L&M batteries between laps at a 24 hour race such that a five-person team got by with just three light systems, and all past L&M units we’ve used have held up extremely well. We suspect this one will do the same, and the new features make it a virtually perfect light. It’s an easy Five Thumbs Up!
OTHER NOTES: They also offer a 700, which uses the same new light head and reflector patterns, but comes in at 700 lumens and uses a smaller 3-cell battery. Run times are the same, it’s just not as bright. That said, we’ve raced with the older 400 and 900, and with the broader beam pattern and whiter light, the new 700 could be a budget racer’s dream come true (it’s also a lot lighter at 341g, but that weight savings is at the battery). It retails for $499, and you can always upgrade the battery or light head later when you win the lottery.