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Tested: Nite Ize INOVA STS Bike Light

nite ize inova sts bike light

When looking at the lower-priced headlights, a lot of them look the same. They have similar mounts, similar sizes, and similar light outputs.

But not this one. Not the Nite Ize INOVA STS Bike Light. Just about everything that could be different, is different!

It still offers the core functionality of a headlight, but it’s a super cool, innovative headlight.

Why?

  • It mounts on the center of your handlebar. Yep, right in front of your stem, where it’s unlikely you have anything else mounted.
  • The Swipe-To-Shine interface replaces buttons. It operates like a touchscreen phone.
  • And it’s sturdy, bright, and waterproof! Everything you need for bike commuting.

Sounds interesting, huh? Let’s review it in more detail…

It mounts on the center of your handlebar.

I don’t know how no one thought of this before! Because today, with so many gadgets on your handlebar and stem already, where do you fit a light?

The special mounting system on this means the light can be placed on the exact center of the handlebar. Yes, it fits over the face plate of the stem.

nite ize inova sts bike light

It doesn’t absolutely have to go there, but that’s how it’s designed to be used. It has the clearance for it. It will mount to nearly any handlebar or seatpost.

It’s so easy to install.

There are two plastic nubs, and two fat rubber straps that wrap around the handlebar and then match up with them. There are two slots on each strap, depending on your handlebar diameter.

There are no tools needed! No screws to turn, either. You don’t even need nimble fingers!

There is one potential downside to the mount, though. Since there are two straps, that increases the chances that you’re going to get interference from a brake lever, brake cable, shifter, GPS unit, bell, etc.

When I mounted it on my Specialized Stumpjumper, it was a challenge to get the rubber straps stretched around my oversize handlebar, but as long as I grabbed the very ends and pulled hard, I got it. And then it was super secure.

The trickier part was that the bike has a narrow handlebar and big hydraulic disc brake levers that nearly line up with the Inova STS mount! But there’s still room for it, even running a Garmin Edge, rear view mirror, and a bell on the handlebar!

nite ize inova sts bike light

And then on my road bike, with an oversize bar but seemingly lots of free space, it was easy to mount. However, my Shimano shifter cables were directly in front of the light, and the front brake cable had to be pushed out of the way to make room for the mount. Not a big deal, but it just goes to show you that even when things look easy, they probably aren’t.

Finally, on my old Trek 800 with the small diameter handlebar and no gadgets to worry about (my commuting bike where this light is mounted 99% of the time,) everything was so simple! I had the light mounted securely in about 10 seconds. It’s so easy to wrap the mounting straps around the smaller bar! Surprisingly, I still used the same holes in the strap. More surprisingly, it was tight enough to work!

There’s a little bit of tilt adjustment, but not much. The light is perfectly vertical by default, but you can twist it about 3 small clicks forward to tilt it toward the ground.

It doesn’t rotate anywhere near as much as my headlamps do, but that’s fine because you can just twist the mount around the handlebar when installing it.

Instead of pushing a button, you “Swipe-to-Shine.”

That’s right, there are no buttons! Instead, there’s a touchpad (like on a laptop.)

I’ve always liked buttons, still prefer a mouse to a touchpad, and didn’t want a touchscreen phone… so yeah, I was wary of this.

nite ize inova sts touchpad

I tried to mess with it and failed miserably. It’s so weird!!! This is one of those cases where you really need to read the instructions pamphlet before playing around!

I mean, yeah, it sounds simple enough. You just swipe a finger along the touchpad in one direction for white light and the other direction for red light. But it’s easier said than done!

I find it tricky. I played around a while, and just when I thought I had it mastered… I did not.

It takes the right combination of pressure, speed, and movement pattern. When it does work, I love it. But I just don’t trust it enough, even after a month of use!

It takes A LOT of practice. Maybe too much practice. I’m all for learning new skills, but there’s only so much time in the day. I’d rather learn something else, like orienteering or a new language or something, and stick with lights that use buttons!

I’m honestly not sure of the reasoning behind this. The touchpad can’t really save weight over a button. It’s certainly not more reliable.

I guess, for the headlamp version of this light, if it’s in your pack with a bunch of crap, it’s less likely something swipes it and turns it on than a button gets pushed. And accidentally drained batteries suck. But, as a bike light, mounted on a handlebar, the accidental on is not a concern.

And in either case, this problem is better prevented by enabling the lockout mode if you’re storing the device.

Bare skin vs gloves

The good news is, yes, you can you use a gloved finger to swipe. The swipes worked fine for me when wearing my regular mountain biking gloves. Apparently you do NOT need touchscreen compatible gloves. I guess it’s just pressure sensitive.

What about rain?

What’s harder to control is whether or not it’s raining!

Your finger and the interface must be dry or it won’t work very well. If you get caught in the rain without the light on, sorry, you can’t turn it on! Sweaty finger? Sorry, gotta dry that off before you can turn off the light!

In my tests, the interface was still workable when damp. So if it’s only a light rain, or you have a bit of dry fabric to wipe off your finger, you can still swipe. But if conditions are truly wet, you can’t get anything to work!

So many modes – white, red, high, low, and more!

This headlight has both white and red LEDs!

I love how my headlamps have red lights, since I often use that at night (since it preserves my night vision.) At cycling speeds, though, I’m going to be using the bright white light.

The usefulness of the red light in this case is due to being able to use it on your seatpost as a rear blinky light. (Not that I’d buy this to use it as a taillight, but the option is there.)

Swipe to one side, get the white light. Swipe toward the other side, get the red light. And you swipe multiple times to scroll through the modes – high power, variable dim, medium power, strobe, and lockout.

Variable dim, you say? Yep, with some fancy swiping, you can actually set this at exactly the output you want! It’s super cool, but does require perfect swiping, multiple times in a row.

The lockout mode is to make it next to impossible for the light to be turned on accidentally. To activate or deactivate this, you place two fingers on the touchpad and swipe at just the right time. It sounds difficult but I actually had better luck with this than the standard operations!

How bright are we talking?

The max output on this beast is 142 lumens!

For comparison, my Black Diamond Cosmo headlamp has a max output of only 70 lumens! (Of course, when hiking, I’m not moving nearly as fast, so that makes sense. Cycling headlights are usually at least 100 lumens.)

The 3 AAA batteries (included) will power this light on max output (142 lumens) for 4 hours 40 minutes. On low output (3 lumens,) it will go for 255 hours!

The red LED, on high, is 8 lumens, and on low, 0.2 lumens. This lasts 36 hours on high and 602 hours on low.

Speaking of which, it’s easy to replace batteries. There’s a hinge that can be unclipped, then the housing opens up. There’s no weird motion required or tight pieces that must be pried apart!

What’s the best use for this light?

I’ve been using this mostly for bike commuting around Pittsburgh. I need a light when riding in the evenings, and this is worth running during daylight using the strobe mode so you really stand out.

It also made an appearance during the Pittsburgh Underwear Ride!

From a durability perspective, weather is no concern – it’s rated IPX7 waterproof, so it can withstand submersion in depths up to 1 meter. It should be perfectly fine in any nasty rain storms. (Assuming you can operate the touch interface.)

I’d hesitate to use it for mountain biking. It would be fine if you also have a light on your helmet, but as your sole light source, it’s not ideal.

The mount seems pretty tight and sturdy, but I haven’t done anything crazy with it!

Let’s do a quick price comparison.

This light is $34.99. Well, there are lots of lights in the $35 price range. Here are two of the most popular from trusted brands.

CatEye Volt 100
This light offers a 100 lumen output and the same three modes: high, low, and flashing. It’s also controlled by a single button on top. It’s a $35 light that can be found on sale as low as $25. Find it at Performance Bike and Amazon.com.

NiteRider Mako 150
This light uses a 150 lumen CREE LED with high, low, and flash modes. It’s controlled by a single button on top. It retails for $40, but can be found on sale for $30-35. Find it at Performance Bike and Amazon.com.

I can vouch for the NiteRider Mako 150 as an excellent choice.

For me, the decision is purely buttons vs Swipe-to-Shine. And buttons win.

nite ize twistlit bike light

Pair it with a TwistLit tail light!

Need a tail light, too? The Nite Ize TwistLit is pretty neat. It’s easy to use (just a simple push button,) offers constant and flashing modes, and it’s only $8.99.

Plus, it’s versatile. So many taillights only attach to your seatpost. Or you buy one with a special mount so it fits the seatstay. But this one, it uses one mount that works in so many different locations.

nite ize twistlit bike light gear ties

It was perfect for this Trek 820 WSD. The seat post was totally hidden, so I needed something to fit on the rear rack. Well, the Gear Ties wrap around perfectly! The Nite Ize TwistLit tail light is a top-notch product!

My final verdict is…

I’m left with a mixed opinion here! The Inova STS is a good quality light that’s easy to install and offers lots of features, and it gets style points for being unique. Overall, it’s a neat light; if you’re just bike commuting around the city, it’s more than powerful enough, and the center-mount design is awesome.

But man, I still never know if it’s going to respond to my touch. I prefer buttons and reliability! So while I am generally a huge fan of Nite Ize’s innovative products, this one is not for me.

Official website: www.NiteIze.com

Buy online: www.Amazon.com

Product Review Details
Company: Nite Ize
Product: Nite Ize Inova STS LED Bike Light
Reviewed by: Coach Levi
My Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Date last updated: 2015-09-19
Obtained Product: Free sample from company.
CoachLevi.com Advertiser: No.

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4 Comments
  1. Sounds like fun!

    • Ha! It’s quite a bit of fun to play around with it, but when you’re out riding and need to quickly change the mode, but end up turning it off and can’t get it back on, it’s far less fun.

  2. Great light but the light bracket breaks consistently after a few hours of use. The bracket has broken 3 times for me on a light that I only use a few hours per month. Very brittle plastic bracket that is the weak point on otherwise a great light.

    I was referring to the headlight version of this STS light.

    • @Kenneth

      That’s a bummer! I haven’t touched/held/used the headlamp version.

      However, I have had plastic brackets break on other headlamps, so I know what you mean! Seems that is always the weak point.

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coach levi
Hi, I'm Coach Levi. I'm a USA Cycling Certified Level 3 Coach as well as Level 1 Certified with Precision Nutrition. Want to feel better, ride faster, and look great? Let's work together!

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Coach Levi is my favorite child and favorite cycling coach. I'd choose him over Christoper McCarmikael even. Did I mention that Levi can coach you to a healthier lifestyle where you look and feel your best?
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