Category: light

California: Bill to require rear-facing flashing white lights for bikes

Newly minted Assembly Member Kansen Chu, who represents a big chunk of Alameda and Santa Clara Counties in the San Francisco Bay Area, introduced a bill that would mandate rear-facing flashing white lights for bicycles operated at night. Yes, really. Alternatively, the cyclists may wear reflective gear in place of the light.


Christmas lights: Drive Side

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MJ-880 2000 lumen light

Last April I had the chance to ride around the Mazda Racetrack in Monterey at dusk testing out Magicshine’s 2000 lumen MJ-880 light.  It was… impressive, though that impressiveness comes at a cost, both monetarily (it’s around $200) and engineering.

The unboxing is a little underwhelming – everything is fairly well packed but once you get past the nice finish on the box it definitely looks like it came from a generic factory in China. That didn’t really bother me, I don’t have an altar of product boxes dedicated to the god of consumerism, but it could be a little offputting. Even though I feel I’d rather pay for the product than landfill, having bought a number of Apple products I have come to expect a certain “style” from premium electronic devices, and this falls into that category.

unbox
Unboxing

The first major compromise comes from the fact that the light has an external battery pack.  It’s pretty easy to attach once you get used to it (at least on a standard steel tube, angular aluminum ones work fine but  require a little more attention to positioning), but it’s another step. Assuming you aren’t just riding to and from places where you can safely keep a $200 accessory on your bike, this is the process:

Battery Pack Straps
  1. align battery to frame
  2. run the two straps into their hooks
  3. place extra loops in the bracket holders (optional)
  4. either wrap the power line around your stem, or attach with velcro
  5. mount the front light via the “talon like basement
  6. connect the power lines

Then do that all over again in reverse, and again. And again. It’s not a big deal, but I’m not sure it’d be my go to light for riding around town.

The connections seem very solid while being easily adaptable to different frames, and you get faster as you get used to it, but it’s definitely not slipping on a planet bike light onto a mount and hopping out for a quick grocery run and popping it into your pocket once you get there. There’s also an issue of placement, if you strap it near the front or back of your tube and it will make pulling out a water bottle an issue, but in the middle it tends to get knocked by your knees. Generally if you need a 2000 lumen light, you’re probably not going to be guzzling water, but it’s something to be aware of.

Then again, after using this my 76 lumen Planet Bike Blaze 1W light, which lights up street signs blocks away felt like it was a dying candle illuminating the ground in front of me.  I went to an unlit area and ran a quick comparison test (video) between the two. The difference is very striking, and if you were commuting through an unlit area, felt like drivers around you needed to feel like a motorcycle was coming at them to give you room, you like riding extremely fast at night (or mountain bike, etc), or just like the attention you’ll get a local bike party (video), this light will perform.  This light doesn’t blink, which I’m pretty sure will save lives.

The light, with talon-like basement.

The metallic portion of the light gets… warm. Uncomfortable to the touch. I haven’t been burned from it, but you’ll want to handle with caution.  There are heat sink fins on the device, and considering I can warm my hands by placing them in the beam of light this is probably just an unavoidable consequence of the raw energy being put out.  There have been jokes about mounting a dish on top and cooking eggs on top. Not a lifebreaking issue, but it’s something to be aware of.

If you want the full blaze of glory 2000 lumens all those Li-Ion batteries last around two hours, though you can step things down and get more hours. But that’s not why you’re using this light, right?! If you can easily charge the battery pack at work and/or at home every commute that’s not an issue, but that’s a lot more to think about than a standard AA light as well.

At the end of the day I’d highly recommend it if you feel you truly need the lumens – but keep in mind it’ll require a little more time and attention.  This is a piece of extreme gear, and the compromises in the experience are due because it is extreme… it’s up to you to analyze your needs and see whether the truly impressive output is worth the effort.

The MJ-880 and other models of lights from Magicshine are available for purchase from Magicshine USA.

StemLite: Integrated bicycle light

500 lumen (claimed) bicycle headlight integrated into the handlebar stem.



$60 on Kickstarter.

There are some good design choices in this StemLite and I like the idea, but handlebar stems are one of those parts where really bad things can happen if it fails. Does anybody know how much testing has gone into this stem?

H/T to Trent in Santa Clarita.