Saturday, November 7, 2009

Magicshine Lights

The last few weeks have been a bust riding wise - only ridden two days out of the last 3 weeks or so. I don't know if I had Saturday Night Fever or Cat Scratch Fever - but after two weeks of feeling low level sick, got wacked with a full on head cold. In any case, I'm getting back to normal. Well, health wise anyway - mentally is always a different story.

During my only bike commute day last week, post daylight savings time, now dark at 5:00 PM scenario - discovered, or should say reminded, that my Nightsun lighting system battery was almost toast. Barely holds enough charge for the hour plus ride home. I knew this last season, thought I could stretch it one more winter. Maybe not.

The low battery turns the dark commute into a sport all its own - drafting riders with working lights, riding blind at times, using only low beam with brief blasts of high beam when needed. If it went well, the lights would die just a few houses from home - sort of entertaining at times, but not exactly safe.

Monday - after riding home in the dark, playing my "make the lights last" mobile game of chance, complete with full on dripping head cold - plugged the battery in to recharge over night, and the plastic connector popped off the battery lead - ripped the wires right out. Game over, lights are done. R.I.P. Crap.

I knew from previous experience, the Nightsun replacement battery is over $100 and is the old school, heavy Nicad water bottle deal. Now with the busted connector, good excuse for new lights. The Nightsun system lasted me 15 years with one bulb and one battery replacement over that time. A good run for sure - no complaints really.

For my commuting, I need some decent lights - something in the $300 - $500 range (ouch). Before I pulled the trigger on something that expensive, I remembered people off the local mountain bike club email list mentioning Magicshine lights. Yeah, "Magicshine" - now there's a Chinese translated, English marketing goof for sure. Reminds me of the "Wonder Light" we sold during my '80s bike shop days - about the brightness of a weak flashlight. The joke was, "It's a wonder you could see anything". Language fun aside, comments said the Magicshine lights were a killer deal. After a little Google searching, that appeared to be true. $85 for a 900 Lumen light. So I placed an order and hoped the magic would shine.

I ordered a set online from GeoManGear, they appear to be the only source (don't quote me on that). I went for the Racer Special, since it included a second battery and helmet mount - for $125, plus shipping.

Lights arrived in just a few days and I tried 'em out today.....

Everything out of the box. Charger, light, two batteries, helmet mount, cable extension, O rings for mounting.

The light itself is pretty small. I'm not sure what the bulb technology is - maybe plutonium or kryptonite. Hopefully nothing too explosive.

Now is this a high quality product shot or what? Magicshine should use this in their catalog - the garage door and flash really sets off the product - no? Uh, anyway - the goods mounted on the trusty Ibis commute/cyclocross weapon for a quick test ride. The lithium battery, clumsily strapped to old school Salsa stem, is really small and light weight. The O ring holding the light to handlebar works better then I thought it would. The zip ties and cheesy electrical tape on the shifter cables help reduce glare by pulling the cables out of the light beam, and killing some reflection off the silver cables. Ugly, but effective.

How does it work? Well, after playing with 'em a bit and cruising around the neighborhood some - pretty damn well. These are bright lights - way brighter then my old Nightsun setup. You could stun small mammals. If you stared directly into it, could probably see an alternate universe. Yeah, they're bright. I was impressed.

While I was testing 'em out, my riding neighbor dragged out his $500 Lupine system for comparison - also rated at 900 lumen. Shining at various targets in the dark yard, they seem equal power wise. Now I'm really impressed. Sure, the Lupine build quality may be a tad higher, especially the trick quick release mount - but we're talking $85 against $500. Amazing deal for the money.

Yeah, maybe the Magicshine loses the magic and blows up in two weeks - that remains to be seen. Considering the price, if this last me two winters, I'm still way ahead. If they prove reliable, considering I already have a second battery, may spring for a second light alone ($45) and have two complete 900 lumen systems for $170. Incredible. Use on two separate bikes, mount both on one bike (handlebar and helmet mount), or even aim one backwards to stun unwanted drafters on the Burke Gilman Trail (heh, heh).

A few other technical tidbits - battery charges in 4 hours, light has five modes: high (900 lumen), medium (500 lumen), low (200 lumen), flash mode and SOS mode (??). Run time is claimed as 3 hours on high and 5+ hours on low. Everything covered under a 90 day warranty.

To wind down the worlds longest post on lights, let's review - shall we?

The (not so) Bad:
  • Unknown reliability factor.
  • No strap included to mount battery. I used an old pump strap.
  • Can't fully power down light without unplugging the battery - otherwise the power level light remains on.
  • One bulb power only. If fails, welcome darkness. I always carry a wimpy AA powered back up light anyway.

The Good:
  • Insanely bright for the money. A flat out killer deal.
  • It appears to be fairly well made.
  • Extra parts available online.
  • Really compact and light weight.
  • A flat out killer deal - worth saying twice.

I'll be putting these to the real world test starting next week. Multiple dark commuting days for weeks on end. I'll keep you posted in the event of any spectacular failures.

Shine on O Magicshine.

Update: Fellow mountain biker pointed out the nylon battery case can be used as a mounting strap - burrito style. I tried it and it works, but I still use the old pump strap in addition. I also didn't mention this is a LED light. A few other people have reported this light working great as well - truly a deal for the dough.


  1. Pretty neat despite the Billy Mays inspired name.

    900 lumens is as much as my home movie projector but MagicShine mounts to the bike much more easily and does not require you tow a Honda 2000W generator.

    If it last a year that will be more then most of my girlfriends did


  2. Excellent review. Keep us posted on the reliability issue.

  3. I know a few folks using these lights - all with good results. I plan to order another - when they're back in stock.

    Seems like they're selling a few.

  4. Perfect review!... I would like to post your review on my website... is that ok?

  5. Sure - that would be cool.

  6. "Hi guys, I really enjoyed this information about magicshine lights, is very interesting, I would like get more updates about this"

  7. hello guys, I like your blog is very interesting your subject .... I would like to receive information about this!

  8. @home for sale....

    You'll need to contact Magicshine or a dealer direct for more info.

    After purchasing mine, have been pleased, so posted a review on my blog.