REVIEW Magtenlight

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

A background

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.

Installation

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.

Preliminary test

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.

Road test

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.

Overall impressions

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.

11 thoughts on “REVIEW Magtenlight

  1. Welcome back Doc Oct! Great review, did you see my reelight review in waterloobikes from a few months back (if you didn’t just do a search). I love mine, my only complaint is that my rear rack mounted light takes a beating and the plastic hasn’t held up. Just last weekend I had to do a crazy glue and solder job on them. But I love them and the setup was 30min as opposed to 2hrs. The only thing I’ve noticed is that the capacitors don’t store as long in the cold. I also had to setup the induction magnets on both wheels, whereas it sounds like one alternator served both lights on these ones.

    By the way, reviews are great for traffic to our blog and your trek allant review is the second most sought after term on search engines.

    Cheers and happy cycling!

    1. I read your Reelight review a while ago and I decided to wait a while before posting this. Both systems are great for battery/fricion-less lights, although the Reelight seems to be a more solid company. I chose the magten mostly because it is not powered by magnetic induction, which is the reason why it powers two lights from one generator.
      The capacitors on mine don’t really store that much either, maybe a minute at most, but I don’t ride a lot at night so this isn’t a big deal.
      I think the biggest issues people would have with the magten is the noise at high speed and the initial setup.

      PS I’m glad to hear the Allant article gets good traffic. I could write a newer one at some point now that it’s been almost a year since I’ve had the bike.

  2. I have the reelight, but the front one stopped working awhile ago, to my frustration. Upon taking it apart I discovered that the wires were disconnected, but my soldering job did not do the trick. If anyone thinks they’d be able to fix it, please let me know! While the strobe light effect through forests could be annoying, I miss not having to carry a headlamp with me at all times.

    I also have a bottle dynamo on Dutch bike that occasionally works when I go over a bump, but not the rest of the time, so I could also use someone to do that. I’d be glad to exchange bike electrical help for some fresh tomatoes, basil or other garden delights!

  3. I’ve a hub dynamo on my all-weather ride. It’s nice to not have to think about lights but I’ve busted two of my cheap headlights because they use shoddy mounts… that’s what I get for paying 10$ for them. The headlamp I have puts out a lot of light but there isn’t a lens so it’s not really focused, which is actually nice on the iron horse at night, but it is bright enough regardless. There are some serious tail lights out there but mine is a cheap-o that is about as bright as any other normal LED tail light. I’d say I spent no more than150$ on the wheelbuild… I am on the fence about this sweet front wheel, the rims alone are a 100$ so it seems like a good deal… but by the time I add lights the bill would likely be climbing toward 300$… dunno, really. Lights are nice but for 30$ most folks are best served by battery lights.

    1. I have a sturmey-archer drum brake/dynamo hub if anyone is curious… best deal out there for just a straight generator is the sanyo dynohub and that wouldn’t be terribly hard to rebuild into a front wheel… new spokes likely needed though, so more $$$. I don’t have enough spoke nor am I good enough at wheelbuilding to offer my services but I could likely point any interested parties toward a couple of people I know…

      I don’t really understand much about electronics but there are heaps of DIY LED lighting systems out there so I don’t think it’s necessary to spend 100$ on the best dynamo lights. Maybe regular LED lights could be hacked to be powered by a dynamo. I’ve got a few old ones kicking around…

  4. This light seems quite good, but I couldn’t imagine spending $60 for lights when I seldom travel when it’s dark.

    My current front light has 3 “brightness settings” and the highest could blind you it’s so bright. It does require batteries but I’ve had them in there for over a year now and they work well still.
    My back light has a dozen or so flash settings, again requires batteries which usually have to be replaced once a year.
    Total cost for both is under $10.

  5. Hello Octavian,
    Glad to hear that your magten is doing well.
    Just wanted to comment on this thread, as I bought one of these, but unfortunately, I can’t really recommend it.
    Price: little bit cheaper than a hub dynamo.
    Delivery: about 10 business days – posted to Hungary
    Product: bulky, ugly, kind of flimsy, exposed wire connections. I’m not convinced by durability, unless you’re cycling carefully on perfectly flat roads.
    Installation: a bit tricky, but easy enough
    Looks: definitely very “my mum insists”. It is not sleek, but we can forgive that for the sake of the environment.
    Performance: Don’t know, it didn’t work. However, it makes quite a rattle, causes a little drag.
    Service: Once correct assembly was confirmed, grudgingly sent a part replacement, did not replace whole unit.
    Replacement parts: Also did not work – but same rattle and drag. No forther service/advice/explainations given.
    Refund Policy: When the correct assembly is confirmed (I had to make videos) and product is therefore accepted as defective, you have to post it back to china with registered post, which is nearly the same cost as the unit. If they say they can get it to work at the factory, no fefund. Refund is only for the unit, postage is not reimbursed. The company seems to be asking us to trust them rather a lot.

    Comment: Even if I had got it to work, I’m not convinced by it’s durability. The product needs something to weigh against the negatives of weight, drag, looks, inconvenience (can’t turn it off), and security (it’s easily stolen). So far, I didn’t see any. However, the company refund policy (if it works: you pay, if it doesn’t work: you pay) tipps the scales for me. Customer beware.

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