- by Christopher Jones
- Published: 18 June 2013
Some cyclists believe that too much light is never enough and, as the weakest species on Aussie roads, this seems like a logical conclusion. Light power alone, however, will not increase your safety; the bright light and the super bright light are both bright, and while a brighter light will let you see more, the flip-side is that it can also dazzle other road users, including oncoming cyclists. With the amount of light available in this review, we are definitely going off-road.
It is a sign that winter is in full swing when the number of bicycle light reviews on BNA increases. In this review we’re looking at Magicshine, a brand that already has some traction in Australia and now has an official distributor: Giro Australia. They have placed two lights, a total of 3000 lumens, in my hands and I took them where I needed them most, off-road mountain biking.
In this article, I’ll look at the “smaller” of the two lights, the 1000 Lumen Magicshine MJ-808E with the CREE XM-L Light Emitting Diode. CREE have earned a solid reputation for quality and are simply the brand of choice for high powered LEDs, so this ticks the right box. Magicshine have a 900 Lumen light which is virtually identical, though uses a different LED and is called the MJ-808 (without the trailing ‘E”).
The MJ-808E is a worthy on-road handlebar mounted light with a push button on the back and 3 light modes; high, low and flashing. Where it really shines however is as a helmet mounted light in combination with the handle-bar mounted 2000 Lumen MJ-880 light for offroad riding. The beam is comparatively narrow with a defined hotspot and serves the purpose of spotting obstacles and reaching far ahead, behind and exactly there where you need more light.
On looks alone it is hard to distinguish the MJ-808E from other generic brand bike lights coming out of Asia. In operation, the battery power-level is indicated by the silicon on/off/mode button which changes colour. Green is good , it indicates over 75% power remaining. The first time I spotted it changing from green to blue on a ride I panicked, thinking that he battery would shortly be drained, however blue is still good indicating 50-75% battery power remaining. Yellow indicates 50-30% and is probably time to turn around and head back home or consider changing to low beam. Red is closer to panic mode and means you have 30-5% power left, but the time to really freak out is when the red button starts to blink, it means less that 5% and pretty soon you will be in the dark.
During my rides I enjoyed trying the different modes, changing the beam strength, but I only managed to run the light down to the yellow light indicating less that 50% battery power. This suggests that the quoted 3 hours run-time on the brightest setting is pretty much on the mark.
A number of features set the MJ-808E apart from generic lights. Firstly, the iPX4 waterproofing means you never have to give it a second thought, even in torrential rain. Secondly, the battery pack is a completely sealed unit that can be easily mounted in various positions on the bike frame and has rubberised bands around the battery unit that save your frame from being scratched. Thirdly, it uses an O-ring mount and, while that isn’t revolutionary, the light stayed-put. Even while riding technical trails and bouncing all over the place, the light didn’t dip or move as I have experienced with other lights or handlebar mounted products. Finally, the circuitry includes overheating protection, which good for peace of mind. While riding I found that the light generally gets good airflow and, while it gets hot, it doesn’t boil.
I do have some criticisms of the product, specifically when using this light as a helmet mounted light. Elastic head mounted accessories are available from Magicshine though, unless you have a hard-shell type helmet, you will probably need to DIY and cut off the plastic mount from the elastic straps and then cable-tie it to your helmet. This creates a semi-permanent mount and, depending on whether your helmet accommodates the mount, is generally not very elegant. I don’t mind the DIY, but I feel like a dork riding around during the day with a black thing attached to my helmet.
When running a helmet light, I prefer not to have the battery mounted directly on the helmet and this battery doesn’t lend itself to being helmet mounted anyway. I found that it was also a bit awkward fastening the battery inside a hydration backpack using the rubber straps that otherwise work so well for mounting the battery directly the bike. The short cable-length means that you have to somehow have the battery fixed tight somewhere near the top of your backpack or get an additional cable extension which is available as an accessory.
On the road, the MJ-808E is a competent high powered light – it will let you see well, though, while sharing the road with traffic, I suggest that it is angled so that it aides you without blinding others. The high-powered flashing mode is a bit useless though is potentially useful as a safety beacon.
The MJ-808E is under-powered for use as a sole light for serious night mountain biking in Australian conditions. You can certainly try it though at the cost of confidence and speed. When used as a helmet light for off-road mountain biking, it wonderfully complemented the Magicshine MJ-880 with its broader 2000 lumen light (coming up in my next review) which meant that I could right faster and with confidence. Because of the price-point, the duo are a very attractive lighting option for technical and competitive mountain biking.
The MJ-808E retails for $179 and is available at good bike shops and camping stores – get in contact with the importer Giro Australia for your nearest dealer.