Light & Motion Debuts Brighter Commuter and Trail Lights – Bonus Factory Tour!
Light & Motion has always had some of the most compact shapes per lumen output, and they continue to improve both brightness and size.
A couple of years ago, the most they could do with the Seca was 700 lumens with a 9-cell battery. Now, they’ve switched to CREE XML bulbs and have bumped the Seca 1400 to 1700 and been able to reduce the battery from six to three cells without giving up run time. Bulb technology seems to be following Moore’s Law with improvements in efficiency and brightness, and consumers benefit. The downside? The light you buy this year is almost certain to be less bright and less efficient than what they’ll come out within 24 months. The upside? Your new light will probably cost the same or less than your buddy’s year-old light, be brighter and have a longer run time.
Above, the new Seca 800 remains the same, only the 1700 gets the bump, but they look identical. The 1700 has a $469 retail, weighs in at just 345g for the system and has a 1.5 hour runtime on high (3 hours on medium, 6 on low). Thermal management and firmware have been updated, too.
Amazingly, their new Taz “commuter” lights bring almost as many lumens to the bike with half as many bulbs in a self contained package…
The Taz is an all-new, three-LED light with a quick mount strap aimed at both the serious commuter and recreational night riders. Or racers that want something bright but light and simple on the bar to supplement a helmet mounted light. Two models, Taz 800 (800 lumens) and Taz 1200 (12oo lumens), are available, both USB rechargeable using an internal battery good for 1.5 hours on high (3 on med., 6 on low). MSRP is $249 and $299 respectively, making the 1200 a pretty compelling splurge. Weight is 215g and they use a tooled bar mount only – no helmet mount option.
Light & Motion is big on overall visibility, so both the Taz and Urban lights feature their side amber lights.
The Urban Series bumps from 180/300/500 up to 200/400/550 and gets some new colors. Also USB rechargeable. They have a tool-less mount and weigh 112g each. The 200 runs on 2 hours at high (double and double again for each at medium and low), and the other two will go for 1.5 hours at high. They feature a small fuel gauge light to show remaining battery charge, and they have a flash mode.
Prices are $99, $129 and $159, and each model comes in two colors.
Not new but cool is the SoLite 150, a helmet or headband mount light that puts out 150 lumens. The light head clips onto the battery pack to turn it into a flashlight. Retail is $179.
While at Sea Otter I had a chance to tour Light & Motions offices and factory. While they’re getting ready to relocate soon, most of what they do in their waterfront offices on Cannery Row in Monterey, CA, will continue on at the new location. Assembly area has about seven production lines, up from four within the last year as they grow. About 50% of revenue are bike lights, but by volume the bike stuff is much higher…dive lights ain’t cheap.
Their office abuts the ocean in Monterey Bay, with the outer wall dropping directly into the water. . Head engineer Chris McCaslin says the building shakes when the waves are big. It used to be an abelone farming and research center right on cannery row.
Over 50% of their parts are U.S. made with the buttons, O-rings, reflectors and other injection molded parts made in house. The circuit boards are printed in San Jose, CA. The batteries come from overseas, as do the bodies of the lights.
Because of their proximity to the water and depending on the type of plastic used -Nylon in particular, can be somewhat hydroscopic- so they have to put it in a dryer before they add it to the injection molder. Otherwise, when the plastic is heated to 500° or more, any water in there can change the chemical structure of the finished product and it may not meet spec. If you see white stripes in a nylon part, that’s a sign that moisture was in there.
They have a CAD powered 3D printer to let them prototype parts in a day. They also have a milling machine that lets them create their own molds for injection molded pieces. The reflectors are molded in house then sent to a company in Detroit to me metalicized. They’re coated in pure aluminum (not an alloy) using a process called vacuum metal deposition. It’s the same process used to make car headlight reflectors shiny.
Having these capabilities in house lets them blaze through the initial R&D process. It also saves them a lot of money in tooling during the development process and lets them produce replacement parts on demand.
Bins of old parts remain for warranty claims, but many of these were being tagged for disposal as they were pretty old.
Pressure tank to test underwater lights to 300 feet was built in house and is pumped up by hand.
They’re pushing the entire bike light industry to adopt the FL-1 standard, which is used by the flashlight industry. Jacob Thompson, brand manager, said Lezyne and Serfas are likely on board. This helps standardize brightness claims so consumers have a clear picture of what each light does in lumens as measured by an Integrating Sphere that uses an FL-1 calibrated light bulb as a reference. Their testing device cost $25,000.
LED lights typically put off a blue light in the middle and yellows at the edges. It’s subtle, but it’s something they have to design the optics to diffuse the color variations while also giving the light the desired beam pattern.
Their Sola 4000 dive light is about $1,600 with 4,000 lumens. Why not make a bike light with that much brightness? Because the Sola 4000 would overheat in about three minutes in the air.