This review takes a look at the Magtenlight, a bicycle lighting system that does not need batteries. Their website is http://www.magtenlight.com/
The lights were mounted on a Trek Allant
I started commuting by bike in September 2010 as the days were getting shorter and darker. I realized that I will need some sort of lighting system to be seen by motor vehicle drivers, pedestrians, and other cyclists. I decided to purchase a set of lights from Blackburn called the Flea. They are small, powerful enough, and charge using the USB port on your computer. They were useful and I liked them, but it was a pain to charge them all the time.
I started looking for lights that don’t require batteries and the selection is fairly limited. A front hub dynamo system would have been perfect, but I did not have the financial resources to go that route. A sidewall dynamo would have worked, but I did not want to ruin my tires. The other systems on the market involved magnets and I decided that these were more within my price range and would not ruin any part of my bike. I looked at the Reelight and the Magtenlight. After reading a few reviews I decided to try the Magtenlight, realizing that I was taking a bit of a risk as the company was still in its infancy. I went to their site, placed my order, and it arrived from China within 7 business days. It cost about $90 with shipping.
Note: unlike the Reelight, the Magtenlight does not operate using magnetic induction. The magnets pass by a dynamo which contains a small motor that is powered by the magnets. As the magnets pass, a small alternator oscillates back and forth creating electricity.
The installation was a pain in the butt, but after about two hours I had it all set up. I had to reshape the bracket that holds the dynamo in order to fit my bike better, and there was a bit of confusion with how the wires need to be connected. All in all, this part was pretty unpleasant, but, once done, the whole setup seemed pretty sturdy.
Running the wires along the bike frame is pretty straight forward because the company provides zip ties. Make sure to not zip tie around your brake lines as this will cause braking problems (I found out the hard way).
I mounted the lights to the handlebars and the seatpost using the hardware that was provided. I had to use the included rubber strips as the brackets were too wide. It didn’t seem like they would stay put, but after many uses over bumpy trails and roads, I have not had any problems with the lights moving around.
I tried testing the light indoors by just spinning the front wheel, but I guess I didn’t have enough power to get it to a good speed. I just took the 5 volt battery out of my Blackberry and touched the wires to it and my bike lit up like a Christmas tree. At this point I was a very happy camper.
I took the bike out in the spring and rode it on my neighbourhood trail for a more extensive test of the lighting system. This was when I found out my mistake with the zip ties as my rear brake locked in the open position. I took care of the zip tie and continued my ride. The lights seemed fairly strong, even in the daytime, and I was happy with that part. However, when travelling at higher speeds (over 10mph), the dynamo started making some funny sounds. At first, I thought it was the clips rubbing on the dynamo, but I realized it’s the little alternator moving around at a high speed that’s causing the noise. I decided that this doesn’t bother me that much because it will alert pedestrians and other cyclists of my presence. Still, it may be considered negative by others.
I’m fairly happy with the system, although I would have purchased a front hub dynamo and wheel over the Magten if I had the money. It does the job it’s supposed to do, it is very sturdy, and it is very bright for its size. The lights also have capacitors that store a bit of power as an added safety feature, to keep the lights on for a few minutes after stopping. I don’t have to take the lights on and off the bike when I park it and I don’t have to recharge or buy batteries. The Magtenlight is a great system for the money and it will probably last a long time once installed. I am not aware of any manufacturing defects or recalls at this time.