The common problems with bike lights seem miniscule until you’re riding down a moonless, unlit street and your light slowly goes from glowing white, to sad yellow, to nonexistent. Basically, you take them for granted until you really need one. This is aside from the fact that most states in the United States have laws requiring bikers have both front and rear illumination equipped. All bikers need a light, and the team behind Stellight is happy to oblige, as long as you help fund it.
The Stellight is up on Kickstarter offering bikers a degree of flexibility they haven’t had in bike lights since those spoke lights that make you feel like you’re having a flashback when you get up to speed. Well, good news, you don’t have to be a speedy maniac to get patterns of the Stellight. It does not, however, project a fancy pattern of an obnoxious cartoon character on the road in front of or behind you. It takes a unique angle on high-quality bike lights for people that need something more serious than’s Frog’s silly silicone or trippy wheel patterns.
It is the wolverine-tough bike light of all bike lights. It’s made of 6061 Aluminum — the same as a decent aluminum bike frame — is CNC-machined, splash proof, and has its own mount. This is not the light that dies after it gets caught in one hard rain. Aluminum itself doesn’t rust, as you well know if you own an aluminum bike and have left it outside in the rain once or twice (or all winter).
But that’s not the main feature: its six LEDs are completely customizable. The light connects via Bluetooth to the Stellight app on your phone or tablet where you can download or design light patterns up to eight seconds long. You can control each light individually, and as a result the options for unique patterns are vast (over a million). Once downloads are done, the light doesn’t need to be connected to your phone. Patterns are saved internally.
Stellight promises a light pattern for every mood, but it starts with six premade options, and more than 60 will be available for download. Create and share them via the app, download them from Stellight Web. The patterns are shared as QR codes. Future plans for the app include a Morse code translator, though there’s nothing stopping buyers from programming messages in on their own. Then the Stellight would really be a 360-lumen bike light and emergency signaling device.
The 50-lumen rear light has it’s own neat feature: Bluetooth also allows you to control it’s blink pattern by twisting a control on the front light, so you don’t have to turn around and fiddle with something under your seat. If such adaptations become standard, that would remove “turning on your rear light without looking or dismounting” from the test for bad-ass bikers.
In other ways it fulfills all you’d expect of a pretty good bike light system. The front mount lets you take the light out or put it in easily, and the light orientation is easily adjustable, but the clamp only fits 31.8 bars. It would be nice if the light was solar charging, but you can’t have it all. The Stellight runs AAA on the theory that if you forget to charge a built-in battery it’s harder to deal with it on the road, let alone if both the front and rear lights die. You can get 72-75 hours max out of both lights if you keep them flashing on low, which drops to one and a half hours at steady on high.
The decision to go with removable batteries is questionable, since consumers now have to factor-in the hassle of buying batteries and making sure they’re charged, or just being cruel to mother Earth by buying non-rechargeable which is totally uncool these days. Because of this, the Stellight team told DT they’re considering making a version with a built in battery, but haven’t made the final call yet.
Grabotech, the young makers of Stellight, are asking for $70,000, at $169 for an early bird-special set of their super bike lights. Stretch goals are a 25.4m handelbar adapter for the front light mount at $100,000, an automating braking function — found in other lights — at $200,000, and an aeropost adapter for the brake light mount at $400,000.
While the design does seem excellent and the concept of customizable lights could be fun and useful, the price is prohibitive and the AAA battery situation is a questionable choice at best. The Stellight doesn’t really offer a different perspective like the Blaze with its laser projection, but it’s an interesting concept. It’s a great light for people that do a lot of night biking, but let’s hope the Grabotech team can get the price down somehow. The campaign ends August 11, 2015, so move fast if you want to show your support, or check them out at their website.