- by Christopher Jones
- Published: 24 July 2013
Big numbers are often used when marketing bike lights and these numbers usually refer to the amount of light emitted from the device (Lumens). However, that number won’t tell you if the light will effectively illuminate the trail, trees or traps in front of you; it is certainly possible to achieve a high light output with an inefficient spread. The Magicshine 2000 Lumen MJ-880 certainly has a big number associated with it, but will it burn a hole in the night without burning a hole in your budget?
The Magicshine MJ-880 looks different; if you look at the light straight on (turn it off first, silly), it looks like a robotic owl, with its two CREE XM-L LEDs sitting in a pair yellow-ish reflectors. MagicShine call it the “Bionic Eagle Eye Design”, but probably only because “Bionic Owl” doesn’t sound as butch. I don’t know what an eagle’s night vision is like, but I would feel more comfortable with the owl, thank you very much. The unit is flatter and more compact than the traditional rounded cylinder style lights, and it looks comfortable and secure perched on your handlebars (like an owl).
The MJ-880 has two buttons on the top to operate the light. They can both turn the light on; the left buttons toggles the light mode from bright to low, while the right button toggles from low to bright. This is a real advantage as it eliminates cycling through numerous modes to find the right light mode – you just make it brighter or dimmer; simple. If you ride competitively or on technical trails, you will really appreciate this in comparison with other lights that rely on a single button.
Similar to the single LED MJ-808E light, this light displays different colours (through the buttons) to indicate remaining battery power; green is above 70%, blue is 40-70%, red is 10-40%, and flashing red means less than 10%. While this is not consistent with the MJ-808E, it is still simple and easy to understand. The large battery pack includes 6 lithium-ion batteries and has a bit of weight to it, though the reliable mounting mechanism means that the battery sits comfortably under the top tube or on/under the downtube. If you have particularly narrow tubing, or an unusual tube shape, the battery prefers a flatter surface so you may have to experiment to find the best place for it. Once mounted with the flexible rubber straps, it will generally stay put.
The light itself mounts with unique “V-shaped” rubber strap on the handlebars which proved to be reliable and convenient. The light unit is also relatively light (as in not heavy), so it wont move about, but it’s still easy to adjust the angle of the beam quickly on the fly
At full power the MJ-880 dusts off its unassuming appearance to throw out some serious light. It has a good spread both in width and depth and will confidently see you through difficult off-road terrain at night. As the reviewer, it was my job to put my life and limb at risk testing it. On my first ride I started with the lowest light setting and slowly headed out to the trail. When I pressed the button to raise the light level from 10% power to 25%, my speed and confidence increased accordingly. Each step, 50%, 75% and finally 100% saw me riding faster.
Peripheral vision is important, all of the extra information that sunlight helps to deliver about the trail and the environment help you choose a better line and judge the trail ahead rather than riding in a tunnel. The MJ-880 provides a good spread of light, not quite as finely balanced as the MyTinySun 2700x which has more even light graduation, but it’s still an admirable handle-bar mounted light that delivers a lot of bang for buck.
During night mountain biking, if you rely on a single light source, the definition of the obstacles and trails ahead can be lost making them harder to judge. The dual-LEDs of the MJ-880 go some way to combating this, but they work best in combination with a helmet mounted light, such as the 1000 Lumen MJ-808E, to fill in some of the gaps, light up the oncoming corner or obstacle, and provide more definition.
I only have one criticism of this light, and it is because I’m a mountain biker who also rides on the road and commutes. As there are two separate LEDs, it would be wonderful to have a light mode available for commuting with a steady light on one side and a flashing on the other. The flashing light is easier to spot while the steady beam gives other road users a better perception of your speed and direction.
You could argue that the MJ-880 is over-the-top as a light for road riding or commuting by bike, but it does provide a nice broad beam, dimmer light modes, and is easy to operate. As such, it offers excellent versatility – you have access to massive power if needed but can also regulate the light power to best suit your riding conditions.
The MJ-880 is a distinctive light that sets itself apart from the others in design, delivery of good light power, and clever functionality, all at a very attractive price-point.
You can purchase the MJ-880 from Australian bike shops for $229 – ask the importer Giro Australia for your nearest dealer.