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.

FUTUREPROOF

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.

BIKERUMOR RATING

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.

URL: www.bikelights.com

Comments

PaulRivers - 11/19/10 - 6:18pm

I own both lights myself. I find the beam shots here accurate.

However, I’d hardly call it the “perfect” light.
1. Less “throw” – like you can see in the beam shots, despite having more lumens, the 1400 actually seems to have less throw down the trail – notice how the 900 lights up trees at the far end of the shot that the 1400 doesn’t light up. I say this from personal experience with the lights as well, not just from these two shots.
2. Beam went from to narrow to to wide – I definitely like the wider beam better for mountain biking, but while I found the 900 beam a little to narrow for my taste on my road bike, the 1400 is to wide – when I bike on our MUP, even with it on low, I’ve gotten way more complaints from pedestrians about the light being blinding (the 900 avoided this problem somewhat because of it’s narrower beam – the bright part of the beam didn’t hit them in the face like it does on the 1400). I haven’t had any experience whether this is an issue with car traffic – oncoming cars are further over so it’s not always the same). I don’t know that I need a beam that’s *quite* that wide on my mountain bike either.
3. Battery height – On some of my bikes the battery is so tall that it’s difficult to mount, wish it was shorter (even if it was longer in exchange).
4. I find the connectors between the light and the battery to work well once you have it hooked up, but they’re slightly annoying to hook up because they use 3 prongs, so you have to rotate the connector the right way or it won’t go in. It’s more annoying the dark. Dinotte lights use a connector like on a laptop where you don’t have to worry about rotating it to the right position, you just plug it in. And they haven’t been any less waterproof, either.
5. Cord Length – the cord length is way longer than it need to be for bar mounting the light. I mean, I just tie it up with a twistie tie, but if I was counting grams I would definitely find it annoying. Dinotte has a better system where the built in cord is short, if you need more cord you can just hook up an extension cord they sell. And honestly – are you really going to mount a 1400, super wide-angle light on your helmet?

I’m not in any way saying it’s a bad light – really, I’m not. I own one. :-) Actually, the best combo I’ve found is running both a 900 and a 1400, with the 900 on high and the 1400 on medium. Just saying the “perfect” label I find rather over the top.

Tyler (Editor) - 11/19/10 - 7:08pm

Paul,
Sounds like you’re coming at this from a commuter perspective, which is something we didn’t test with this light. Your comments about hitting pedestrians in the eyes is a solid point.

For mountain bikes, we do mount them on our helmets and usually don’t run a bar light. With lights this bright, there’s no need to double up, and having it on our head lets the light turn where we’re looking instead of where we’re turning. On a commute, this is less of an issue.

For the light’s “throw”, the pictures may not show it (or perhaps the lights weren’t perfectly level with each other, though we tried), we seemed to get just as much light down the trail as with the 900. Having the extra illumination on the sides of the trail is good for two reasons: First, it helps to see what’s around a corner without taking the light completely off the trail in front of you. Second, and something I forgot to mention in the review, is with the narrower spot beam of the 900 (and 400, for that matter), we tended to get tunnel vision after about 20 minutes of riding on the trail, which ended up slowing us down a bit when the trail got tight and technical because we ended up looking too close to our front wheel.

Our impression of the battery connection has been good. There’s a raised (ie. tactile) arrow on the cord, so you can almost insert it by feel, and we haven’t had an issue lining it up or (thankfully!) bending any prongs.

Thanks for the comment, good to see other perspectives. Even when something’s perfect, I suppose there’s always a bit of room for improvement somewhere.

Robin - 11/19/10 - 11:00pm

Its difficult to get a real feel for the reach of a given light, as well as its spread, in a photo, unless there are measured reference points, that is, objects in the image that have defined distances. Without these, 2D images of lights at night lose depth perception as a result of high contrast between lit areas and the dark and because of features that are just lost because of the limited dynamic range of the camera sensor or film. For an example of how bad depth perception can be in such photos, check out photos that Bike Radar publishes from their light tests. It takes a bit more work to include distance defined references, but there’s a big payoff for readers.

Overall, this was a pretty decent review. It seems to display a fair measure of objectivity.

Harald - 11/20/10 - 6:51am

Dear Bikers,

maybe this light is “perfect”, except for its price. If I use a bar mounted light and a head lamp from Fenix (HP20) i can save up to $400,= and still have enough light to ride. There are more options to dim the light to, for example while riding in the snow.. 350 lumens can blind you then.

You can almost buy a one of the best wheel set or suspension forks for $700,=
Maybe if you use it weekly it’s a good investment.

Safe biking!

ZachOverholt - 11/20/10 - 12:04pm

I own a 900, but have been using a demo 1400, and I can say that when mountain biking you can’t have enough light. I get this argument from some local guys, but then while night riding they tend to take it pretty easy at night, where as I bomb stuff probably faster while riding at night. The one time this year I wasn’t riding with my whole light set up I crashed hard and put a hole in my leg with a rock. Price is subjective, if you ride at night a lot (as I do because I don’t have a lot of time in the daylight) and like to go fast, the security of a light like the Seca is worth it. Not to mention that I’m not very good at charging my batteries in advance, and the charger on these is so good I can usually charge it while getting ready to go ride.

Morgan - 11/21/10 - 1:23pm

We have two of the Seca 900s. I like everything about the light except the mount. I use it for night rides on mountain bikes. I ride at night with friends regularly. The 900 mount – the older style – slips all the time. If wet, even worse. (Night rides in winter are the best!) The absolute worst case is riding drop offs; the sudden pause in forward motion causes the light to rotate down on its helmet mount right when you most need the light, and you can’t take your hands off the bars to adjust it.

I’m tempted to try the new mount if it can be retrofitted, but not very confident it will fix anything. I’ve tried adding a hole in the strap to make it tighter, but after a while the strap tears at the hole. This is true even for straps that haven’t been modified. Now I carry a spare rubber strap on the trail. I also have a L&M Vega 200, which uses the same mounting strap and has the same problems – increased because it’s a light+battery all in one, and is heavier. I use it on my handlebars for commuting and potholes and curb drops cause the light to drop.

I’ve emailed and called L&M with my feedback. I like their lights a lot, otherwise. I just wish they had better mounts. Have not yet tried adding skateboard grip tape to my helmet mount or handlebars.

Tyler (Editor) - 11/22/10 - 2:31pm

Morgan,
Double check that you’re running the strap correctly. There are Right/Wrong images in our review of the 400 (link below). We had similar problems until we actually read the instructions and used it correctly, and had tried putting the rubber spacer straps that often come with handlebar mounts for cycling computers on it, but once we ran the strap correctly, we didn’t have any issues.

http://www.bikerumor.com/2009/11/07/bikerumor-review-light-and-motion-seca-400/

PaulRivers - 11/22/10 - 5:31pm

Hi, thanks for your thoughtful reply. :-)

“Paul,
Sounds like you’re coming at this from a commuter perspective, which is something we didn’t test with this light. Your comments about hitting pedestrians in the eyes is a solid point.”

Yeah, I do mostly commuting and road riding with some mountain biking on occassasion (I have a Specialized Stuntjumper, but have the opportunity to go as much as I’d like). I assumed the review covered both as this site is named “bikerumor.com”, not “mtnbikerumor.com”. :D :D :D

“For mountain bikes, we do mount them on our helmets and usually don’t run a bar light. With lights this bright, there’s no need to double up, and having it on our head lets the light turn where we’re looking instead of where we’re turning. On a commute, this is less of an issue.”

I am not a professional, but I have been told that while the helmet light is more important, people still mount a light on the bars or on the top of the fork as a lower light doesn’t “flatten” the bumps you’ll hit on the trail like a helmet light does. A low light points out the big bumps you’re going to hit better, while a helmet light makes flat trail look a lot like uneven trail. I haven’t tried mounting the 1400 on my helmet, but all my helmet lights have been more “spot” lights.

“For the light’s “throw”, the pictures may not show it (or perhaps the lights weren’t perfectly level with each other, though we tried), we seemed to get just as much light down the trail as with the 900.”

It’s always difficult to get accurate pictures of lights, but my own experience reflects what your pictures show as well – I found the 900 punched light down the trail a little further than the 1400. Not a huge difference, but it was noticeable.

“Having the extra illumination on the sides of the trail is good for two reasons: First, it helps to see what’s around a corner without taking the light completely off the trail in front of you. Second, and something I forgot to mention in the review, is with the narrower spot beam of the 900 (and 400, for that matter), we tended to get tunnel vision after about 20 minutes of riding on the trail, which ended up slowing us down a bit when the trail got tight and technical because we ended up looking too close to our front wheel.”

I definitely agree – the 900 was a little narrow for my taste for road riding. (Particularly when I was riding a MUP and rabbits that sit alongside the trail might jump into my path). For mountain bike riding, a wider beam is far more appreciated. It always seemed like an odd choice for a “mountain biking” light.

“Our impression of the battery connection has been good. There’s a raised (ie. tactile) arrow on the cord, so you can almost insert it by feel, and we haven’t had an issue lining it up or (thankfully!) bending any prongs.”

Like I said – haven’t had any reliability or waterproofness issues. No bent prongs, and believe me if they were crappy I would have bent them by now. Ridden it in the rain – no issues. The connector has held up well – no issues there at all.

It was a relatively minor point, but as I mentioned there’s no need to line anything up on the Dinotte lights I have – you just have to get the plug near the plug-in hole, not need to turn the plug over or around. Again though, it’s a really minor point.

“Thanks for the comment, good to see other perspectives. Even when something’s perfect, I suppose there’s always a bit of room for improvement somewhere.”

I can see why you’d be so happy with everything on it for mountain biking – the new beam pattern really seems a lot more appropriate for mountain biking than it does for road riding (whereas on the old light it was kind of to narrow for mountain biking). Wish it had some sort of cutoff, and a lower powered mode for road and MUP riding. It’s a good light though – I kept it, and believe me, I return about half the stuff I buy, lol.

Brado - 11/23/10 - 11:04am

$699.00 ? Really? waaayy out of my pricepoint

Chris - 11/24/10 - 1:31pm

Wish someone would post pics of the 700, 1400 and also one of the cygolite Pace 310. This would give a decent perspective across the spectrum of low, med, high light systems. I can’t decide which I need.

Dscarbs - 11/24/10 - 5:08pm

Awesome! Price needs to just come down by about $150

Morgan - 12/04/10 - 4:47pm

I did a 3-hour rainy mountain bike night ride the other night with my L&M Seca 900 strapped on the correct way, thanks to you, and it did not slip. I am a dope, but happy. Thanks!

[...] our recent review of the Light & Motion SECA 1400, a number of you have emailed or commented about smaller brands or DIY projects that claim to [...]

Post a comment:

Comment sections can be a beautiful source of knowledge, conversation and comedy. They can also get pretty ugly, which is why we've updated our Comments Policy. If your comment isn't showing up or suddenly disappears, you might want to check it out.