Imagine if new cars didn’t come with their own headlights, and buyers were expected to supply their own. It would be kind of silly, right? Well, that’s what the situation is with most commuting bicycles. While a few bikes have built-in lights, consumers are generally expected to purchase one separately, then attach it to the bike. Of course many people simply don’t bother, while others buy a light but then get caught in the dark without it. That’s why California-based cyclists Nick Sweeney and James Voshell have created the StemLite.
As its name suggests, the StemLite is a handlebar stem with a built-in light. That means the light will always be there, ready to go whenever needed, and thieves won’t be able to make off with it when the bike is left unattended – unless they want to go to the trouble of removing the entire stem. Additionally, no external battery pack or connecting cables are required.
The aluminum stem itself is 100 mm long with a 10-degree rise, and has a 31.8-mm handlebar clamp (although it comes with clamp inserts to accommodate narrower bars).
Light is provided by an array of ten Nichia LEDs, that put out a combined 500 lumens on High mode. There’s also a 300-lumen Low mode, and a Flashing mode. Users power the light up and select modes via two water-resistant switches on the top of the stem.
At a distance of ten feet (three meters) on High, the LEDs illuminate an area measuring eight feet wide by six feet tall (2.4 x 1.8 meters). The angle of the lighting array can be adjusted up or down by up to 10 degrees, to allow for different bikes and user preferences.
Power comes from three AA batteries – the battery compartment is accessed through an Allen bolt-secured hatch on the bottom of the stem. If lithium-ion batteries are used, riders can expect a claimed run time of 12 hours (!) per charge when in High mode. Up to 21 hours are possible on Low, and over 50 can be managed in Flashing mode. Alkaline batteries can also be used, although their performance won’t be as good.
The whole unit reportedly weighs 420 grams. By way of comparison, a fairly typical rough n’ ready conventional stem, the RaceFace Ride XC, tips the scales at about 175 grams – but it doesn't have a built-in light.
While Sweeney and Voshell are planning to sell the StemLite as an aftermarket accessory, they’re also hoping that some bicycle manufacturers will start including it on bikes as original equipment. It’s an intriguing idea, although it might complicate matters for riders who find their new bike’s stem to be the wrong size – hopefully there are plans for models in other lengths and rises.
The two entrepreneurs are currently raising productions funds for their product, on Kickstarter. A pledge of of US$60 will get you a StemLite of your own, when and if they’re ready to go – the projected retail price is $70. The current model is intended more for mountain bikes and commuters, with a sleeker, lighter model in the works for road bikes.
More information is available in the pitch video below.