Monkey light review

We featured the Monkey Light in our visibility roundup a few weeks ago. I had seen one in action a little while ago and thought it looked awesome so wanted to spread the word. Then of course I wanted one for myself. So here is a full review of the M232 unit!

M232 patterns

What is it?

The Monkey Light comes in a variety of flavours. The more expensive the light, the more complicated the patterns are when the wheel spins. This is achieved by the circuit board being bigger and having more LED’s, seemingly simple but beguiling in its ingenuity. I brought the largest commercial version, the M232 because I wanted the pretty patterns.

The circuit board has the LED’s and control buttons and it mounts in-between your spokes. There is a wire that feeds up and connects with a battery pack that you mount on your hub. Inside this battery pack live 3 AA batteries.

The lighting board itself has three buttons, a power button, one to cycle through the themes and one to change the colours. You can mount the board with cable ties, but they also provide two metal clamps which hopefully prevent someone from cutting the light off the wheel.

The whole unit is waterproof so you don’t need to worry about leaving it on your bike. In fact, the images look really cool reflected on a wet street.

Installation

The unit is pretty easy to fit, The instructions are clear and its not really rocket science. It is a little fiddly getting the first cable tie in through the board to hole everything in place, but after that its a cinch. You want to make sure the cable ties are as tight as they possibly can be so the board doesn’t move around.

The circuit board has some orientation markings on it to make sure you put it the right way up. It is recommended that you put the battery pack above the board so that the wheel is balanced. When instilling, just make sure to do the board first, then move it perpendicular to the floor and balance the battery pack on top of the hub and anchor it down with more cable ties.

Mounted on wheel

One thing to spend a little time on is making sure the excess wire is all wrapped up. I had quite a lot spare and had to make sure it was not hitting my forks or risking the wheel rotation. It probably took me 10 mins tops to put mine on the wheel and be ready to roll.

In Action

When you wheel is static the light is very flashy. Really, very flashy. I got caught out and was staring straight at it when I turned it on and was temporarily blinded (I have done this with nearly every light I have ever brought, you would think I would learn). Don’t be an idiot like me! Space invaders

The light comes with a sheet that shows you what combination of indicator lights make each pattern. It can be a little tedious flicking through them to find the one you want, but it’s not too bad. There are also two brightness settings so if you just hit power once to turn it on, you need to hit it twice to turn it off.

I first tried manually spinning the wheel to see the image, but I couldn’t keep it spinning fast enough. So, I took to the streets with a trusty photographer in tow to see what the light can do.

All the images and lights I had seen demonstrated were static, ie. they used rollers to spin the wheels. Therefore I was unprepared for the effect on a moving bike. Its even cooler! The lights work best about 10mph+ and then as you are moving the images actually create kind of a ribbon alongside you, rather than just being confined to the wheel as in the gif above. Its not as distinct in person as on the photo below, but it certainly is cool and definitely eye-catching.

Skull light

The good

The M232 is the most adaptable unit with the most picture options and it is still not very expensive, around £25 on Amazon. Therefore, even if you just use this on occasion it is great value. Its the perfect light for group rides or brightening up the bleak winter months.

It really is a very eye-catching light. You can kind of see it from the front and rear, but obviously it is best seen from the side. We have talked before about the potential importance of increased side visibility. Even when stationary at a junction be it will flashing and so still increase visibility. It’s great that this light does a pretty vital job in such a fun way.

It’s a fun light. I think it is important to keep cycling fun, and this light does that while still adding to road visibility. I don’t think there is an argument to be made for it being distracting to drivers. Rather, it makes pedestrians notice you and in a city that is very definitely a good thing. You will certainly get a couple of questions when sat a traffic light.

The bad

It is pretty ugly during the day. This does not bother me at all but for those of you who like to keep their bike sleek and sexy, it will be a mess of wires and circuitry on your wheel. The smaller versions have dinky circuit boards and still create coloured bands around your wheel.

As it only works well when you are up to speed, this is more of an open road, limited traffic lights kind of light. Crawling along in heavy traffic it won’t have as much affect and the flashing could get irritating. Its very easy to turn on and off though.

You will get some attention. I like talking to fellow cyclists at traffic lights (it happens frequently with the Blaze laser light) but if you don’t, this light might not be for you.

Review Conclusion

This is a great little light that adds a lot of fun to a bike ride. My normally non-bike loving sister thought it was really cool. It is definitely noticeable and increases side visibility. It is really good value and would make an excellent present. Best of all though, it just makes me smile and feel like a little kid again  – it is kind of the tech equivalent of the spoke beads I used to have as a kid.

The M232 Monkey Light is available on Amazon.co.uk for £25.44.

Do you have a Monkey Light? Have you seen one in action and want your own? Let us know!

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10 Responses to Monkey light review

  1. Jane 10/03/2016 at 10:22 am #

    Would love to know if there are any restrictions on wheel size I.e. Could you fit one to Brompton?

  2. Liam 10/03/2016 at 1:23 pm #

    They do have one safety disadvantage – A car drove alongside me too close around the Archway gyratory with the passenger hanging out of the window asking me where I got my amazing lights and trying to engage me in conversation about them. Seriously, they are great for side visibility and I should be on some sort of commission the amount of units I’ve sold at traffic lights. I think they’d be too big on a Brompton wheel – not least because of the amount of spare cable you’d need to hide away

  3. Emily 10/03/2016 at 8:15 pm #

    Hey Jane,

    Re: fitting on a Brompton: the smaller M204 should, MonkeyLectric have a video guide here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h22P26erIAM&t=4m9s
    I have seen one in action on a static Brompton, it works!

    Liam: the attention can be a problem indeed!

    Cheers,
    Emily

  4. AndyZE 11/03/2016 at 10:23 am #

    Give these a swerve and put the money in a collection tin instead. The money will provide much more value to those that receive it.

  5. Vid 11/03/2016 at 11:27 am #

    I’ve had this on my bike for three years. Cost then was nearly £60. It was worth it. At £25 it’s a bargain. The monkey light pro on the other hand costs just under £800…yes eight hundred.
    I did have a problem with battery drain.The battery cassette has since been modified by monkey light.and offered as a replacement.
    If you like seeing people smile these have that effect on people.The only downside is the rider doesn’t get to see them.

  6. Nicole 11/03/2016 at 11:52 am #

    I’ve had a smaller version on my bike than the ones reviewed (about 6 led lights) and used it during winter and they’ve been brilliant. I’ve felt significantly safer as I think you’re far more visible from a greater distance. One thing is you can’t see how effective they are until you get someone to ride your bike and then you realise you could be mistaken for a Christmas tree!

  7. Aaron 11/03/2016 at 8:12 pm #

    Thanks for the wonderful review, Emily! We’re all pleased that you enjoy the lights and seeing the love in the comments warms our hearts. Cheers!

  8. MJ Ray 14/03/2016 at 10:16 pm #

    Isn’t it rather illegal, being capable of showing a red light forwards and a non-red light backwards? Both of those are forbidden for good reason.

    • Aaron 17/03/2016 at 7:00 pm #

      Local cycling laws vary from location to location and we always say that people should review their local traffic laws before riding with our lights. Many places around the world have laws about headlights and tail lights (in Germany and the Netherlands, flashing lights are illegal, but in the UK they are legal if they “conform to the requirements of the current Road Vehicles Lighting regulations.” – Thank you, Wikipedia), yet it is often the case that there are not laws about wheel lights since they are a relatively new phenomenon.
      As far as I know, the trend is that courts lean toward lenience when it comes to lighting that makes cyclists more visible, and therefore safer. Cheers!

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