The Bike List

Light & Motion Stella 300 front light £225

Tested by Jon Adams, tester for The Bike List

It's easy to get caught up in spec sheets and brightness comparison tests, but choosing a lighting system for night riding requires you to delicately balance an equation with six elements: weight, power, beam spread, runtime, ease of use and price. Having something incredibly bright may seem fabulous, but if it only sports a runtime of 30 minutes and your ride lasts 2 hours, then aside from impressing your mates, it's of no real use to you. Similarly, if a light gives perfect illumination for your kind of riding, but weighs a ton and takes 5 minutes to attach and remove each time you use it, then it'll soon find itself gathering dust in the garage, rather than lighting up the track in front of you.

Recent advances in lithium-ion batteries and LED technology have brought about a new breed of lightweight, high-power cycling lights with decent runtimes and simple-to-use recharging systems, and Light & Motion's Stella 300 is a great example of this. The head unit is golf-ball small and very light at just 85g, and has a hard-wired extension lead that plugs in to an external battery pack. At 200g, this isn't spectacularly heavy, either, and the pack comes with a built-in clip to attach it to a jersey pocket, or there's a Velcro band that'll secure it to your frame. The battery pack is a 3-cell lithium-ion unit, and charging is simply a case of plugging in the supplied charger and switching it on. Charge time is 5 hours, and when the battery's done the lamp on the charger flicks from red to green. It's an intelligent charging system, so you don't have to worry about over-cooking your high-end power pack.

Once you're charged up, the lamp attaches via a rubber belt that goes round the bars and slots onto a hook on the front of the light unit. It's very simple, very adjustable, covers bars of all sizes and attaches really solidly, too. It appears pretty robust, but the one-piece mount, belt and hook assembly screws onto the lamp unit and replacement mounts can be bought for £15 if anything goes wrong. The rubber belt also attaches the light to the supplied helmet mount, which is secured to any lid by threading a Velcro band through the vents. It's fine, too, as the lamp is so light you don't really know it's there. Just remember to thread the light's lead through the back vents of the helmet before it runs down to your jersey pocket, as that stops it from falling from side to side when you're on the move. Also remember not to mount the battery pack on the frame when the light's on your helmet, and not to put the battery in your pocket if the light's on the handlebars!

Operation is as simple as charging and fitting - there's one button on top of the head unit, and if you push it briefly, the light fires up into its High setting. Push the button repeatedly to cycle through Medium, Low and Flashing modes, and that's about it! A 2-second hold from any mode switches the unit off. There's also a Race mode, which is handier for general use as it ignores the Medium and Flash settings and just switches between High and Low output. To get to this, you switch the light on by holding the button down for about 2 seconds. This gives you High mode, and subsequent presses toggle between Low and High. Most riders will find this mode more useful for everything, so unless you specifically want it flashing - perhaps for city riding on lit streets - the 2-second hold will become the default way of switching on the Stella 300.

In use, the Low setting gives plenty of illumination for unlit country lanes, and the High output is only really needed for off-road tracks or nasty pot-holed sections of tarmac where you need plenty of advance warning. The beam spread is really well thought out - position the central hotspot about 4 metres ahead, and the flood will easily take in the edges of the road. There's a feeling that the top half of the circular beam pattern is wasted when road riding, but get into a piece of tree-lined double or single-track, and the full circle spread comes into its own, picking out the mid-height twigs and branches that you'll want to avoid.

The only real downside to all this is the brightness of the operation button on top of the unit. It's illuminated by a light which works as a battery status indicator, but the bright glow it emits can be quite distracting on dark roads and trails. I ended up taping it over to prevent it washing out contrast once my eyes had adjusted to the dark. It's nice to know when the battery's on the way out, but it'd be better if the light was dimmer, or positioned somehere else. When your battery is towards the end of its runtime, the main light dips in power, and the button light blinks slowly. You also get a flash from the main light once a minute, but you can override this by pushing the button. When you've only got a few minutes left, the main light dips again and flashes, and the the button light blinks rapidly. To prevent battery damage, the light will then shut off after a prolonged flash.

The Stella 300 may not offer a huge amount of power for the £225 asking price, but what makes this light special is its runtime. On a single charge, you've got a whopping 16 hours of road riding on the Low setting, or an impressive 4 hours on non-techie trails at full whack. It works well using the supplied mounts on either the bars or the helmet, and when on the bars, the only thorn in its side is the over-bright button light which shines back at you constantly. A great light for commuters and roadies, but nocturnal off-roaders may prefer something with more power.

Buy from www.chainreactioncycles.com

Light & Motion says:

Our best selling light just got 50% more output for 2010. With its true multi-sport applications, the Stella 300 will accompany you on rides, camping, nordic skiing, or dog walking. This is your multi-sport light, so give your friends all those other flashlights in your drawers and take the Stella 300 on every outing.

Cruise mode cycles through High, Medium, Low and Flash sequentially. When it's time to get your speed on, switch to Race mode using a two-second push and hold (starting with the light powered off).

Race mode skips the Medium and Flash modes, allowing you to conserve battery power on the climbs while keeping the High setting just a click away for the descents.

Not only will it fully charge any battery in our line in less than 5 hours, it will turn itself off when finished. Plug in and come back a week, or month later to a fully charged, ready-to-head-out-for-a-ride battery.

Our lightweight 3 cell Li-ion pack is easily carried in a jersey pocket, hydration pack, or strapped on a top tube or seat post. It drives the Seca 700 on high for 2.5 hours and the Stella 300 for 4 hours. It makes a great back-up battery for the 1400, giving you an extra 1:45 run time for extended rides.

  • Lumens: 300
  • Run Time: High- 4:00, Med- 8:00, Low- 16:00
  • System Weight: 285 gr
  • Mounts: Helmet or Handlebar
  • Charge time: 5 hours

Find our more www.bikelights.com

At a glance

Verdict Good-looking bar or helmet light with a tiny lamp unit and a huge run time. It’s pricey for its output, but is a class act for unlit roads or light off-road use.
Value
Performance