- 4.5 / 5 Bee's Knees -
Tuesday evening I come home from work and it looks like my front step is the new location for a UPS sorting facility, packages everywhere. MagicShine and a few other companies were very generous in sending out products this season. As for MagicShine, I wasn't entirely sure which products I would receive. I began examining the products I received and brainstorming various ways to review them in creative fashion. Apparently I had my work cut out for me when I opened the final package. "What on earth is this," are the words my girlfriend recalls me saying, followed by confused and intrigued laughter. That product my friends is the MJ-898 Genie helmet light.
Step one, cauterize the wound. Right out of the gait we're going to address the elephant in the room. Is the Genie helmet cool? Is it lame? Does any of the matter? Just looking at the product does beg the questions. First of all yes, I believe it does matter greatly and here is why. This product is designed to be used in the immediate proximity of motorists, aka people, people with attitudes, people with pumpkin spice mochas and timely text messages that are more important than your life, people with biased opinions on what cyclists can do and where they belong. I'm of course speaking for my experiences in the US, not other countries which may be more or less bike-friendly. The reason all this matters is because making ourselves the target for ridicule won't enhance our experience riding. When I first began commuting to work as a necessity in my teenage years I was nearly turned off to it by all the taunting I received from motorists, mind you I was riding on a bike path off the road surface and well within the law. The variables that affected this were, to a degree, partially controllable and included selections of apparel, accessories and riding habits. I'll cut to the chase, the 898 feels so far ahead of its time for what may be socially acceptable that it may subject you to ridicule.
It may sound absurd but as a part of this review I actually polled dozens of people to get their opinions. The consensus? Most adults beyond age 40 thought it was very functional, some even thought it was mildly cool because it is so unique. By contrast those adults in their 20's and 30's almost unanimously said it looked ridiculous...and there's my concern. Maybe not surprisingly, children thought it was the coolest thing since sugar-bomb cereal. It was a spaceship of sorts, some didn't even mind wearing it around the yard, screaming naturally, selecting the turn signals and flying around like an airplane...as if aircraft even use turn signals...how hilarious. This made me wish that us 20 and 30 some year olds were a little less critical. And there it is peeps, I couldn't go without addressing this, please leave your comments on my youtube unboxing video and we will use that as a poll. After riding with the helmet for some time and getting a great number of stares and a number of laughs, I lost concern with peoples opinions and moved on to a more objective review of the product. My opinion of the appearance after using the helmet for a longer period of time was as follows. The taillight is great, maybe even cool. The turn signals are maybe a bit over stated. They grab peoples attention and that's the point, but they may still be too large for my taste. The headlight looks pretty geeky and doesn't follow the same edgy aesthetic that the rest of the helmet possesses. It is my least favorite element. Finally the battery pack is perfectly acceptable in its size and shape, but I don't like the color difference, it draws unnecessary attention.
On with the specs. As is obvious, the Genie helmet light offers turn signals, a taillight with multiple settings and an adjustable headlight with the same. Where this helmet differs from a traditional helmet with a light strapped on to it is of course the integration of these elements into the helmet. The 2 18650 batteries rest above the helmet in a housing that shares a USB charging port and a button which functions to turn the system on and change the rear light settings. An ultra compact remote with bar strap is included. This device is completely required to operate the headlight and turn signals. It is therefore a lynch-pin in this system. Loose it and you've got yourself nothing more than a heavy helmet with a rear flasher. Initially I had a great deal of problems getting the remote to change modes on the lights. After changing the battery this issue seemed resolved. As for the output and beam patterns, everything is relatively impressive. The flashing rear light is excellent and provides substantial road presence even though it is only claimed to cast 6lm. At 20lm, the turn signals are clearly not an after thought. They are terrifically bright, and flash in a pattern/speed similar to that of a car. They also are set to automatically turn off after a number of flashes, maybe 15 or so. Finally, the headlight produces a relatively tight spot beam pattern that would be an excellent supplement to a 800lm range bar light. Additionally, the vertical adjustment, placement of your headlight is a cakewalk.
Comfort and use of the helmet is actually great. The rear retention system mimics that from major brands without breaking any patents. As shown in my unboxing video, the retainer can be adjusted in a vertical and circumference manner. All of the internal padding is removable simply held in with Velcro. Sizing of the M/L Genie seemed very similar to my large Giro Atmos only more roomy on the sizes. A padded chin strap with a number of adjustments was a final feature in a long list which left me very pleased with the overall construction of the helmet in terms of it being strictly a helmet.
Safety...this may be an area of contention. I've looked the helmet over up and down, inside and out, examined the wire routing inside the helmet and have hypothesized the following. Rear impact: the light is of no safety concern. Side impact: the signals are of virtually no safety concern as they are also very shallow. Front light: I am leery of this. Because the light protrudes and has some depth to it, if you were to directly impact the front light, I am confident most of the components would shatter (good and bad). One can only hope they wouldn't continue on through the helmet and into your forehead. Wiring: entirely unconcerned. We are talking very low voltage here people. I'm not the type to play chicken with a train but I'm not afraid to lick a 9v battery to see if its still got some juice. I suspect you'd be dealing with the same or less current. Batteries: maybe the biggest concern if you were to get knocked unconscious. If one or both of the 18650 batteries were to get punctured, they would not explode as some people think. They would potentially incinerate, and burn quite hot while strapped to your head and those gorgeous braids you've been working on for years. I'm covering all my grounds here. Are the batteries dangerous? Almost certainly no. Is there a potential for issues in the event of a crash, yes, to some degree. The battery housing is relatively sturdy and while I'm confident it too would shatter in the event of a crash, in most cases I doubt the batteries will become punctured but I know I need to address the safety of this helmet...it is afterall first and foremost a helmet.
As is the case with most things ahead of their time, people often don't know what to think initially. The 898 is no exception. Some love it, some find it ridiculous, others are impartial and more interested in its performance. Because this helmet accomplishes all of its goals to integrate 4 lights into a helmet all while conserving weight to afford a reasonable level for comfort, I have to consider this product a major success and rate it to near perfection. Because I have some legitimate concerns about the safety of the helmet from a front end crash perspective, I can't say this product is flawless. But likewise, I'd have a hard time proving this product is hazardous short of arranging an engineer to analyze this product in a controlled destructive test. Subjective thoughts aside, no other product I've reviewed this year will draw as much attention and discussion and no other product will have as big of an impact on the market. For those reasons I do think the MagicShine MJ-898 Genie Helmet is so insane and crazy that it's maybe just a bit cool. Again, start talking people, post your comments, lets hear what you have to say...I can't wait!