Saturday, November 29, 2014

MonkeyLectric M204 Bike Wheel Light Review

Since Daylight Saving Time ended, I found myself riding more and more often into the night. Naturally, safety is always a concern in the back of my mind when I'm bicycling in the dark. And I have felt that my front and rear lights were not quite enough, especially when it comes to being visible to cross traffic from the side.

So when I received the new Monkey Light M204 (released in mid November 2014) sample for review, I was very curious to try it out! I have been running the light during my commute home for about a week now and I am ready to share my thoughts and photos with you.
MonkeyLectric Monkey Light M204 Bike Wheel Light display

First, I must admit that I am NOT mechanically inclined. The only bike lights I've used are the plug-and-play kind. So when I initially saw the product package, and without a clue as to how the wheel light system worked, I was a little intimidated at the thought of having to "wire" together something.

Resisting the urge to ask my husband for his assistance, I waited until I had a full weekend without any distractions to focus on the installation.
Monkey Light M204 retail package

Once I finally sat down and opened the package, I realized how silly I had been to put off using it! The way the system goes together is INCREDIBLY simple, especially after watching the helpful video on installing the M204 Monkey Light. Basically, the Monkey Light straps to the spokes of the bike wheel, and the battery holder straps to the hub using cable ties. There are two buttons on the light piece labeled "POWER" and "COLOR". Once connected and powered by three AA batteries, turn it on and pedal away!

One thing I have learned from assembling furniture from IKEA is to unbox everything and make sure all the pieces I will need are there. The retail packaging comes with:
  • MonkeyLectric M204 Monkey Light bike wheel light (about 1 1/4" height x 2 1/2" length). The package says 4 LED but I only see 2 lights. Perhaps there are two lights clustered together?
  • MonkeyLectric Hub mounted battery holder (1 1/2" diameter and 2 3/4" length that straps to spokes with vibration proof mount). Here is a photo of the battery holder and core.
  • Stainless steel antitheft straps (are hard to cut once installed)
  • Plastic cable ties for mounting (there are more than the minimum needed in case of oopsies)
  • Soft rubber blocks to adjust the fit of the light
  • MonkeyLectric bike stickers ()
  • Instructions in 22 languages (how did they miss Laotian? )
Cat examines M204 Monkey Light
Havi inspects the pieces of the M204 Monkey Light
I also checked the light to see that it worked, that I understood how the pieces fit together and how the batteries fit into the holder. This way I can spend as little time as possible doing the installation while in the cold garage.

This particular Monkey Light has 5 themes. Depending on the light settings that you use, the lumen (amount of light emitted per second) varies from 10 lumens to 40 lumens which also impacts the lights' run time (50 hours to 12 hours).
All components have solid rubber construction and are waterproof for use in all weather
You will need to supply your own:
  • 3 AA batteries (which are not included, as stated on the package)
  • A pair of needle nose pliers to pull the cable ties tight in the hard to reach places near the hub 
  • A pair of wire cutters to cut the excess cable ties
A wire cutter (a/k/a dykes) and needle nose pliers
Super-excited, I gathered my supplies and went into the garage to put the lights on my bike! The installation went off without a hitch. Two cable ties attach the light piece to each spoke. Here I installed the light as far away from the hub as possible. I did use one of the rubber blocks to adjust the fit of the light to spokes. Two more cable ties attach the battery holder to the hub. Cut the extra length of the cable ties. Insert the battery core into the holder. Connect the wires, press the power button and ta-da!
Make sure to wrap the wire around the spoke so it doesn't interfere with the teeth of the cogset.
So I took the Monkey Light for a test ride around the neighborhood. But this is where things didn't go quite as I had expected as far as the "ring of light" I had hoped to see as pictured (below) on the packaging and on the website.

Looking at the M204 User Guide, it looks like the power button is controls whether the lights flash in a dash pattern or a solid pattern.
I tried pedaling at different speeds but still couldn't get the effect. I only saw a few dashes of light.

Then I had my husband ride my bike so that I could see what the Monkey Light looked like. He rode faster than I could and I think that's when the persistence of vision effect finally kicked in. At this point, I think if I changed the theme I might have seen the ring of light.


I definitely have to play around some more with the settings. I also sent my questions through Monkey Light's support form yesterday and am waiting for a response to how I can make the light work better. Since it is a holiday weekend, I will wait until next week for a response.

Overall, the M204 light does its job which is to help you "be seen". There are other Monkey Lights with more LEDs that you can have fun with on the website. Some display patterns and graphics! This particular set is:
  • Easy and quick to install five minutes or less.
  • Affordable at $25.99USD and can be purchased from any dealer.
  • Relatively easy to operate. The POWER and COLOR buttons are differentiated and separated so I can easily turn it on/off and change the colors even when it is dark outside.
  • Nice and bright. It can be blinding when trying to change the color settings but that is a good thing for visibility!
  • Quiet. I've notice no noise or rattling from the light on the spokes or hub battery pack.
  • Fun. It is like having a disco party under my seat!
  • Cool. As confirmed by two young boys with skateboards who shouted, "That's cool!" when I rode by them. Kid you not.
With the amount of hours that I ride in the evenings, I only wish it was a USB rechargeable system or the hub-mounted battery core was rechargeable. So we shall see how long the first set of batteries last. For now, I carry a few extra batteries with me and, doing the math, I think the 48-pack I purchased should last me quite a while!

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