This time of year many of us are forced to become nocturnal mountain bikers and sadly, evolution hasn’t (yet) endowed us with bat-like night vision. Fortunately Light & Motion has a full line of bike lights to illuminate the trail during dark winter months. We’ve been testing the Stella 120 for a couple weeks now and decided it was high time to give you the 411 on this compact light system.
Light output and beam pattern
Clearly the most important thing about a bike light is how well it lights up the trail and the Stella is no slouch in the brightness department. The 120 lumens of light are focused in a target pattern with the brightest portion reserved for the center “bulls eye” (see photo below). The beam pattern was wide enough to light up the area around much of our peripheral vision but to go really fast on the trail we felt like a second light would have been helpful.
The custom reflector and resulting beam pattern was designed in-house by Light & Motion to maximize usable light rather than raw, power sapping light output. The Stella 120 also keeps things simple with just two light settings: on and off. So, if you’re looking for a bike light with different brightness levels or beam patterns for different conditions you may want to skip the Stella 120.
Mounting the Stella 120
This is where the Stella 120 bike light really shines (no pun intended). The simple rubber mounting strap allows you to quickly attach and remove the light from your handlebars or the included helmet mount even with gloved hands. The helmet mount and battery case are connected to your bike or helmet using velcro straps and these worked pretty well in our tests. In the end we preferred the Stella 120 mounted to our helmet to maximize our peripheral vision and it stayed steady yet adjustable even while riding.
Lightweight with smart details
In any bike light system the battery is going to be the heaviest part – fortunately the Stella 120′s battery weighs a paltry 5.0 ounces, about the same as a t-shirt. The power button on the Stella is illuminated when the light is on making it easy to find in the dark and the outer bezel doubles as a heat sink. Initially we wondered why such a small light would even need a heat sink but after just 10 minutes of use we found the light to be, er, a little toasty. The battery charges in 8-10 hours (or “overnight” as Light and Motion puts it) and we would have liked to see a simple charge indicator somewhere on the power plug or battery itself.
The Stella 120 is a simple light making it great for beginners but potentially limited as a standalone light for experienced night riders or 24 hour racers. For the money the Stella 120 is a great starter light for any aspiring night rider and could make an excellent helmet light to complement a more robust handlebar mounted system. Or just buy two Stellas for less than half the cost of a mack-daddy Seca – one for your handlebars, one for your helmet!