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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.