- 4 / 5 Bee's Knees -
In the years to come, I hazard to guess what bicycles and cycling accessories will look like. In the short life of this website there has been an extensive revolution in products of each segment in the bike industry. Bike lighting has been no exception pushing battery and LED technology to their limits.
At the front end of new technology is the early adopter Magicshine. This, the MJ-902B is the latest version of the MJ-902 but with smart advancements. General design elements remain the same. Dual XML2 emitters from Cree are housed within an ultra-compact, ultra-light housing. The housing has seen a small change with the addition of a black coating to the aluminum elements for a uniform look. Nothing more than a single rubber strap is needed to secure the light to a set of bars thanks to the lights scant weight and protective silicone padding.
One major revision to the product is the battery and its features. For this model and other new models, the battery doubles as a portable charger for small USB devices such as your phone or cyclometer/GPS. Charging a device is accomplished by connecting a device to the output USB and selecting the charge button. This button also serves to illuminate three lights which display the remaining charge of the main battery. Additionally, the battery and power cord can be separated (a dust cover is included to prevent damage to the contacts) and the battery becomes even more suited as a portable charger. While riding, the end cap/cover can remain in place and a user can press directly on the rubber end to display the remaining charge. A thinner section of rubber allows the three lights to illuminate through the cover to eliminate the need for removal. As a final note, the connection between the power cord and light has been greatly improved. The amount of effort needed to separate the two has been significantly reduced but a flexible boot still promotes a water-tight seal. All of the changes made to the battery are a massive success. While I cannot confirm the exact construction of the old batteries, the new ones house LG (brand) batteries for more reliability and better performance.
Adding Bluetooth compatibility and a customizing app is what truly brings this light into the 21st century. Users can connect multiple lights to the iOS/Android compatible app and build light setting profiles for each light. Within each profile a rider can edit the type of light setting including constant, SOS, flash or strobe, as well as the output of each setting. Output for a given setting can be selected in 1% intervals from 1%-100%. Having this flexibility gives riders the freedom to program these profiles or “scenes” as Magicshine calls them thereby creating tailored setups for any riding theater. For examples sake, during general MTB riding you may build a profile with only constant settings of 15%, 60%, 70%, 80%, 90% and 100%. For MTB racing you may only want a couple settings, say 60% and 100%. For road cycling and commuting you may opt for a different profile entirely. One may consist of constants from 25%-100% but also include a dim nighttime flash of 15% and a blistering 100% strobe for daytime use. Again, the customization of these lights is ground breaking and establishes features that all lights will need to offer in the future to be competitive with each other. Additionally, the app worked flawlessly on an iOS platform, never crashing and always offering a very intuitive and responsive experience.
Operation of the light is equally as easy compared to use of the app. Directly from the light, a user can cycle the unit on/off as well as change the output setting within a given set profile. Unfortunately, you cannot cycle between profiles/scenes from the light itself. In order to change the profile you need to connect the device to your smartphone and change it within the app. This is of course very easy but not as quick as if it were available directly on the light body or battery. Tactile feedback from the power button is sharp and glove-friendly. This button is also backlit when the remaining charge of the system drops below 30%. Light shaking is completely non-existent thanks to the lights minimal weight. All testing was performed in a bar setup, helmet mounting could be easily accomplished with an extension cable. The overall cable length is ample for mounting the battery to your toptube or downtube but little else.
Output of this 1,600 light is adequate for most applications. The beam pattern has a relatively intense spot which is slightly larger than others. It offers a graduated flood that is very comparable to the MJ-900B except that the center spot is brighter and as a result your eyes tend to adjust making the flood seem almost a bit more dim while in reality it is slightly brighter overall. As a whole the output is much greater than the 900 and in most applications the added intensity is welcomed. Again with reference to the peripheral dimness, the width and intensity of the flood portion was not ideal for quick switchbacks on single track trails. Like the 900, the 902 made it tempting to burn at higher outputs but it was less necessary to do so than with the 900. On open roads and wide trails, the 902 is more confident with ample output. As with the 900, derailleur and brake cable shadowing is an issue since the light sits so low on the handlebars. Still, I’ll take this over a higher-seated shaky setup. Compared to the 900, the 902’s battery is nearly double the size and does contain double the 18650 LG cells. Because of this, I don’t see many road cyclists opting for the nearly 8” battery pack despite the fact that it is pleasant to look at and well-padded to prevent frame scratching.
Reviewing the MJ-902B and MJ-900B side by side was more meaningful and telling than I may have suspected. Both lights of course offer the same amazing programmability and battery features that should have old industry leaders scrambling to keep up. As mentioned before, Magicshine has long been an early adopter of technology and they have paid for it. Other manufactures have waited for new tech to be proven and 100% reliable before implementing it. Magicshine seems to prefer spearheading its way to the front of the pack. Sometimes this results in unreliable features or unnecessary advances (the Glint 100). Other times, as is the case here, the improvements made will become standard because they unquestionably make these types of products better and allow users to customize them in a way that makes them different yet perfect and tailored for each user. That said, the 902B is not my favored MTB light and definitely not a consideration for my road uses. First, this product is far too heavy and bulky for road use…other riders won’t be as discriminating. Second, in the MTB environment, the beam pattern is simply not wide enough for close-quarters night riding. Magicshines own Eagle F3 is hands down superior to this light when it comes to a usable MTB friendly beam pattern. So even with all of the incredible features this light offers, I’d rather ride the F3 for its wider casting light and mind you its bulky head presents a notable amount of shaking which is a major, yes major flaw. For the right rider and the right riding style, the 900B or 902B would be the perfect light but it isn’t quite perfect just yet. However…and a big HOWEVER, I am hopeful that the 906B will offer a wider beam angle and it unquestionably will offer greater output. It will be equally bulky for road use, but it may be an ideal light for the previously mentioned MTBing styles. Stay tuned with fingers crossed, I hope to review the 906B in the coming year. Finally, please do keep in mind as well the price point of this light. It is imperative to qualify my criticisms with the fact that both the 900B and 902B are very competitively priced and deserve so much praise for what should be considered a complete overhaul or redesign of each. Until next time!