Monkeylectric contacted me.  Man, was I excited!  I have known about their wheel lights for a long time and have thought that they are a very clever concept to increase your visibility on your bicycle.  It’s fall season right now and Day Light Savings just ended in the US.  It’s dark.  It’s rainy (Pacific NW!).  Having something like the M204 monkeylight on my bike is going to be awesome!  At least I think.  Let’s find out.

I got the package yesterday.  It was small and light and just as expected: a manila shipping envelope.  I ripped it open and pulled out the M204.  There’s not much to this system (which is great).  Monkeylectric has done a decent job of minimizing the amount of packaging that is used here.  They’ve doubled the folding external brochure to include all of the information on the system and the basic concepts to run it.  Installation procedures and warnings come on a separate piece of paper in very easy to understand pictures.

According to the informational kit, this system kicks out 40 lumens (not much), has 4 LED lights, has full color capabilities, can be seen in a 360 degree view, is waterproof and has 5 color themes.  That’s a lot of things.  Let’s dig into them, shall we?

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Basic functions.

First off, 40 lumens isn’t a whole lot for most bike light applications.  But, let’s be honest.  You’re not going to rely on this light system to illuminate the dark path in front of you while you’re riding home at night.  The M204 may help light the path, but if you’re looking for something to light up a path, you’d better look for something else.  This 40 lumens is meant to illuminate your (typically) dark sides (bonus points for those of you thinking about Star Wars, right now).  Because most bike lights are focused on illuminating things in front of you and putting a light behind you so people can see you, you’re sides are typically left bare (and dark).  This is where the M204 steps up to shine.

The 4 LED lights make the pattern variations possible.  I think that this design is very clever.  It’s simple, functional and gets the job done.  This equates to good design in my book.  You can adjust the 4 LED’s cycle by pressing the power button.  There are 2 modes here: full and strobe.  The strobe setting doubles your battery life (and my cause a seizure).  There is a full range of color capabilities with these LED’s and the only place that you’ll see it is in one of the 5 color themes that are pre-programmed.

My initial impression of the system is positive.  It’s a great little package that gets the intended job done.  After playing with it a bit tonight, I could see people being interested in making their own custom designs.  If that person is you, I would recommend that you check out their light systems for professionals.  At $895.00, this isn’t anything to scoff at.  The example designs are amazing, though!

I’ll update this post later after I’ve used the light for a couple of weeks.  Check back then!

You can see the M204 and more of what Monkeylectric has to offer by visiting their website here.

Update:

Alright, I’m back to give you an update after monkeying around with this light.  Putting this light on my bike was pretty straight forward.  The only problem that I had with the installation was the fact that my spokes were too wide near the rim to get the light very far out towards the tire.  I think that this would be the optimal position for mounting this type of light because the speed of the wheel (revolution) is the fastest at this point (diameter).  You can see in the picture below, I was only able to mount the light plate about four inches from the hub.

Light plate mounted.

Light plate mounted.

With the light mounted in this position, I was fairly disappointed in the look of the light as I was riding.  I don’t think I’m the slowest rider (definitely not the fastest), but the revolution of the light at this position did not look anything like most of the promotional images that Monkeylectric has.  And for this, I was disappointed.  I wanted to have this solid ring of color flashing around my wheel while I was riding.

Make sure to wrap all of the loose cable up.

Make sure to wrap all of the loose cable up.

As it was, the light only provided the best side lighting on the market.  Ho hum.  But seriously, if you’re looking for a light that will illuminate your side the best, this is a great option.  The light does spin around on your wheel and it does create a good visual for drivers that would be coming from your side so that they can see you better.

As you can see in the video above, the light is very visible (even at my fastest speed, haha).  However, it looks nothing like the solid stripe of light that is on most promotional material from Monkeylectric.

Using the light was really easy once it was mounted on my bike.  Everything stays mounted (thieves be damned) and you just click the handy buttons on the light to get to the right settings you want (light pattern/color and intensity).  Once set, you’re off for a fun night ride.  Even changing the batteries when they go out will be easy.  There is an easy screw off cap to remove and then you take the batteries out, pop in fresh (rechargeable, hopefully) batteries and you’re good.  If you want a more theft proof option, Monkeylectric does provide metal bands that can hold the system onto your wheel.  Just make sure to remove or lockup your wheel before leaving your bike.

Overall, this is a nice system.  Easy to setup, easy to use and it has the functionality that it is intended to provide.


I’ve been looking for a headlight for my bike that’s a bit brighter and when Dorcy contacted me about their 220 lumen headlight, I was all too willing to check it out.  The mornings are still pretty dark when I get up to ride and my current Serfas USL-5 only puts out about 70 lumens.  This sufficed when I commuted on roads with very little traffic, but now that I live in a more populated area, I want something that illuminates the road/path/etc in front of me more so that I can see and be seen better.

Dorcy 41-4001 in package (aka 'It's Little House').

Dorcy 41-4001 in package (aka ‘It’s Little House’).

When I opened up the box from Dorcy International, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the light came with it’s own set of batteries.  I’ve always thought that it’s cheap of companies to sell a product that uses batteries and not supply you with a set of batteries that is probably only going to cost them a couple of bucks (or less).  Moving along, though.

The packaging is nice.  Definitely something that you would expect to see sitting next to other bicycle headlights.  I say this because Dorcy specializes in flashlights and hand held torches.  Once past the cardboard and PET packaging (not much of a struggle), I was met with the final product.

My first reaction was to how heavy the unit felt in my hands.  It’s solid.  A nice feeling if you don’t mind the added weight on your ride.  The whole unit (with clamp) is 185 grams.  Quite a bit more than the 37 grams that makes up the Serfas light I’m using.  The housing of the Dorcy light is machined aluminum and the do a good job of it.  It’s got a nice design and when removed from the handlebar clamp, it actually feels pretty good in your hands.  This is, of course, the second intent of this light.  It will double (as most bike lights do) as a flashlight.  This one just looks like a regular flashlight when it is off your bike.  I think that this is something that Dorcy does well.  This light transitions from one function to the other without looking awkward in either.

There’s a lot of wins for the Hawkeye so far.  Depending on your perspective and the type of biking that you do the pros and cons listed so far can sway your vote either way.  Here is where I feel that the unit falls short despite how you intend to use it.  The handlebar mount has a notched pull strap and a screw tensioner to make sure that the unit is tight on the handlebar.  This is where the overall weight of the design of this unit is a hinderance.  Because the unit weighs so much and because you are going to be riding a bicycle (typically not smooth riding), the headlight is going to be exposed to vibrations.  To accommodate these facts, Dorcy has to include two systems to make sure that the light stays in place.  The nice thing about this design (and most headlight handlebar mount designs) is that you don’t need to remove any existing handlebar hardware to mount the clamp.

I’ll be using the headlight for the next couple of weeks and will update this post with my thoughts.  Until then, check out more about Dorcy on their website.

Update:

I took a couple of night rides over the last two weeks to test out the Dorcy headlight and see how it fared against my current headlight.  My initial impression when I turned it on was great.  I was shining the light against my fence to see how bright it was and at 20 feet, the light was bright and lit up the necessary space in front of my quite well.  I was liking it so far!

Dorcy lighting up a fence!

Dorcy lighting up a fence!

Serfas lighting up the fence.

Serfas lighting up the fence.

As you can see from the images above that the Dorcy light is much more focused.  I was looking forward to a much better lit path.  But, as I got started on my ride, the intensity of the light just didn’t seem as much on the trail.  I’m not sure if my senses were dulled from the brightness that was cast on the fence or if the square light was changing my perception.

I stopped and took a couple of pictures of the light beam that was cast from both lights as a comparison.

Dorcy cast pattern (no laughing!)

Dorcy cast pattern (no laughing!)

Serfas cast pattern

Serfas cast pattern

As you can see, the Dorcy light puts a significant amount of light down on the path in front of you (albeit in an odd pattern).  The Serfas that I’m accustomed to using just didn’t put down as much light as the Dorcy.  And when you compare 70 lumens to 220 lumens, you would expect as much.

The square pattern was still something to get used to.  I wish that I could see a Dorcy headlight without the square pattern to compare it to a more standard pattern.  I think that it would be interesting to see the differences and to know why they chose the square pattern.

This light, being the beast that it is, will drain it’s batteries quite quickly.  Dorcy is stating only 2.5 hours and I bumped up against this.  I noticed the light dimming after extended use and will have to change the batteries for my next ride.  If you have a set of rechargeables ready, then this won’t be an issue for you.  For those of us that don’t have rechargeable batteries, this is going to have you going to Costco and getting the bulk pack to keep your commute well lit.

Overall, this is a great light.  It’s got a solid build, a great design and lights the path up nicely.  It’s going to cost you some batteries, but for running 220 lumens, this shouldn’t come as a big surprise.

I really love to see stuff like this.  I think that bicycles can be changed significantly with technology to make the riding experience more enjoyable for the rider.  This is first solution, prototype stuff, so pardon the rough edges of the person’s work (breadboard in the bike frame!).  However, imagine multi-use tools on your bike like this.  A bike light that warns cars that you’re coming down the road, illuminates the path in front of you and displays relevant information for you.

This is like Google Glass for your bike.  All sorts of information could be displayed through this setup.  Adding a Bluetooth connection could link it to a smart device and show you notifications.  Too distracting?  Maybe.  Irrelevant and pointless?  Maybe.  Efficient and possibly useful.  Definitely.  And this is the point that I want to focus on.  I feel that there are too many single use tools for the bicycle.  Do you remember getting your first pump that fit both Schrader and Presta valves?  I do.  It was amazing.  I no longer needed to search for the other pump for my other bike.  I could just do it all with one tool.

I commute to work on a daily basis and I can just picture myself riding down the road with my Elroy earbuds in listening to something on my phone and my headlight displays the next song that comes up.  Or I see the name of the person that is calling me and I can decide whether I want to answer it or not.  Expecting an important text while racing home?  Now you can see if it from the person you were expecting or your dentist sending a reminder for your appointment in the morning.

As I stated before, this design needs some obvious aesthetic touch ups before launching a full consumer device.  It’s a bit lot rough around the edges.  I just want to point out the significance of this development and the potential uses behind it.

The Defender Bike Light in Black

The Defender Bike Light in Black

Bike lights are an essential part of biking.  The topic of lighting is discussed quite a bit on this site.  Everyone that bikes near a time when the sun is going up/down needs to be seen better or see better.  There are lots of ways of accomplishing this, but the more common lights are easily stolen from your bike.  If you ride in the city, this is surely a problem for you.

Enter Gotham Bicycle Defense Industries and their Defender Bike Light.  The company was started by Slava Menn and Brad Geswein after Slava became frustrated with the number of times his bike light was stolen from his bike.  They both have backgrounds in engineering and set out to design a light that was more theft resistant than current offerings.  The Defender Bike Light attaches to your handlebars and features a security bolt (what I’m assuming is a security Torx bolt based on this image).  True this is much more difficult for a person to remove compared to the light that I currently use.  But in reality, nothing is completely theft proof and people that want to steal bike lights will find a way.

The upside to the Defender Bike Light is that it is one of the hardest to steal lights and the only better option is to weld a light to your bike so that a thief would need to either steal your whole bike (not the best option) or bring an angle grinder to remove the light.

You can check out the development of the light in the video below.

Bike lights are probably one of the more important accessories for a person that rides their bike on a regular basis.  There are lights on the market right now that light up the path in front of you and those that warn drivers behind you.  Light Lane is taking a slightly different approach to the idea of lighting on a bike by creating a set of lines on either side of your bike to indicate a ‘personal’ bike lane.  I think that this is a great idea for several reasons.  Not only does it create a safer environment for the rider by creating a safe boundary around the bike, it also does not rely on an outside source to create the lane for the rider.  You don’t have to rely on your city to implement, update or maintain a bike lane.  If you have a Light Lane light on your bike, you just created it yourself.

However, there are some things that I do not like about this concept and not all of them are the creators fault.  The first thing that I question when I see the picture is the green line.  Bike lanes are not all painted the same colors.  Most are white, some are green.  Some have just striping on the sides of the lane while others are painted solid.  This lighting brings another form factor into this equation further confusing the motorist.  I’d rather not have the motorist that I’m trying to make aware of my presence questioning the green light beside my bike.  I would rather have them instantly be aware that I have created my own bike lane and this fact is immediately recognizable by the design that the light is displaying.

The other potentially confusing aspect of this is when a rider is not riding on the side of the road and the light is displaying a bike lane.  This would be fairly confusing to cars passing by a bicyclist in a left turn lane (or similar scenario).  Imagine two bicyclists riding side by side with these lights.  Granted, the rider closest to the inside of the road could turn their light off, but that would take a bit of thinking and a bit more of being on top of the ball and remembering to do so.

Despite these small issues, I think that this concept is a great idea to push.  It is simple, easy to use, creates a safe environment and could potentially create a replacement for the current, more costly infrastructure.

Check out more at Light Lane.

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