Mid Term: Magicshine MJ-880 Bicycle Light- by Grannygear

Well Jeff J did a great job getting the Magicshine MJ-880 light Out Of the Box for you all to read and I get to talk about what I found on trail.  Then, Guitar Ted will wrap it up as I ship it off the Iowa to light up the prairie.  It is prairie there in Iowa, is it not?  Or just corn and such?

So, I found the mounting to be easy and secure.  The battery is pretty substantial and I typically mounted it to a downtube or top tube, not under the stem like I might do with a smaller pack.  It was held well by the rubber bands and was not an issue.  As well the rubber straps for the light head held well and I did not get much light bounce on trail.  The cords were generous in length and I wrapped them up easily enough.  All in all, it was trail ready in just a few minutes.  I always ran the light bar-mounted.

The good:

  • Bright sucker.  It is all the light I could need as far as straight ahead.  It has a good reach and there were no artifacts in the beam or odd transitions from dark to light to annoy me.
  • It is easy to see the control buttons as they are lit up in one color or another depending on battery status.
  • I do not get much light up in my eyes when leaning forward out of the saddle as the MJ-880 seems to have enough of a ‘front porch’ overhang to minimize this.
  • As I said, the mount never budged under trail conditions, bumps, etc.
  • I always had enough battery run time for the typical two hour night ride, running the light on a combo of low to high beams.  Only once did I even get to ‘blue’ status (70% to 40% battery left).
  • Charge times seemed to be quite reasonable but I never charged it from dead flat.
  • The multi level approach of five levels of current and the resulting brightness gives you a light output for pretty much every need, including fixing a flat tire, etc.
  • It gets hot under use so that could mean that the thermal path from the LEDS and driver is doing a good job getting the heat out of there.
The less than good:
  • The beam, though bright and generous, could use some more side spill.  It has a pretty good cut off, more of a spot beam in the optics.  I would have liked more light to the side of the trail close to me.  I wonder if mixing a flood with the spot optic would not be a good approach?  Those lenses are readily available.  I would give up some throw for this.
  • I would have liked a bit warmer tint in the LED.  It is not a horrible blue or anything, but it is a pretty white-white and that gets you a bit night blind.  A warmer tint is easier to transition from looking in the light and then away and looks more natural to the eye, even though it may not appear as bright.
  • Why five levels?  In my opinion, 3 is plenty but maybe if I could scale the three levels up or down as I like?  If I could set the max, mid, and low levels to my desires within discrete ranges, that would be nice.
  • The small level adjust buttons are darn hard to press while riding.  If you have thick gloves on, it gets nearly impossible to feel them.  And, the force required to press them exceeds the ability of the rubber strap to keep the light head from rotating.  Many LED drivers change state the drive level with a simple momentary push button switch that requires only a light touch to adjust brightness and a long press to power up and down.  So I had to either use two hands or, with one hand, pinch the head unit between thumb and finger to push the buttons well.
  • It gets hot under use and that could mean the light is not up to dissipating the heat from those two heavily driven XML LEDs.  Like too hot to handle for very long.  Like ouch.

I did some tests of sorts to see how hot it got.  With an IR temp gun, the unit, in a 70 degree ambient temp room, went from dead off to 109*F/42.8C in 2:30.  At 4:00 elapsed time, the light head was 137*F/58*C and unless my eyes were fooling me, it had throttled back the light level to self protect.  Fair enough.  You are not supposed to run a light like this on high sitting in a still room.  I then sat it in front of a big fan blowing 65*F/18*C air and it cooled down to 100*F/38*C in about a minute.  Stepping the power down with the light in front of the fan further dropped temps as you would expect.  Still though, even in front of the fan, after 5 minutes of running on high the light head was 115*F/46*C and was too warm to comfortably hold in your bare hand.

Now, all this to put some numbers to it, but on trail, we noticed that if your ran on high, even after a 2 miles DH at good trail speed on a warm summer night, the light head was in that ‘uncomfortable to hold’ range so even under real conditions it gets pretty hot.  Does it matter?  Maybe not but I have not had a light get this warm although I have not tested (or built) a light this powerful either.  As long as the heat it being drawn away from the LEDs and driver, then it will not hurt the light or reduce light output.

Here are some night shots of the light in two locations.  The fence posts are 8 feet apart for perspective and that power pole on the right in the canyon shot (you can see the reflective strips on it) is about 150′ away.

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NOTE: Magicshine sent the MJ-880 at no charge to Twenty Nine Inches for test/review. We were not bribed nor paid for this review and we strive to give our honest opinions throughout.