Bicycles

Review: Magnic Light iC combines best features of battery and dynamo bike lights

Review: Magnic Light iC combin...
The Magnic Light headlight, very near but not quite touching the rim
The Magnic Light headlight, very near but not quite touching the rim
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The Magnic Light utilizes what are known as eddy currents
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The Magnic Light utilizes what are known as eddy currents
The Magnic Light headlight, very near but not quite touching the rim
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The Magnic Light headlight, very near but not quite touching the rim
Although it is possible to buy individual Magic Lights, we received a complete package that included two headlights and one tail light
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Although it is possible to buy individual Magic Lights, we received a complete package that included two headlights and one tail light
On our setup, the Magnic Lights got attached to the front and rear brake arms, which proved to be fairly easy once we determined what bits we needed
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On our setup, the Magnic Lights got attached to the front and rear brake arms, which proved to be fairly easy once we determined what bits we needed
Some fussing was necessary, in order to get the spacing between the Magnic Lights and the rims just right
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Some fussing was necessary, in order to get the spacing between the Magnic Lights and the rims just right
Each Magnic Light puts out about 40 lumens at a cycling speed of 20 km/h (12 mph)
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Each Magnic Light puts out about 40 lumens at a cycling speed of 20 km/h (12 mph)
A built-in capacitor allows the Magnic Lights to remain lit when the user stops at intersections
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A built-in capacitor allows the Magnic Lights to remain lit when the user stops at intersections
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When it comes to power for bike lights, there are two main options: batteries that have to be charged/replaced, and dynamos. The latter either push against the side of the tire, have to be pre-built into one of the hubs, or require magnets to be mounted on the wheel – in all cases, dynamos also create a slight braking effect when in use. German inventor Dirk Strothmann's Magnic Light iC, however, lets the wheel spin freely and doesn't require the installation of anything other than the compact light itself. Is it too good to be true? We tried out the latest version, in order to find out.

First introduced as a Kickstarter project in 2012, the Magnic Light is mounted a few millimeters from the bike's wheel rim, and utilizes what are known as eddy currents. Putting it simply, these are electrical currents that are induced in a conductor, when that conductor is exposed to a changing magnetic field.

"Relative movements of magnets and neighbored conductive material induce eddy currents in the conductive material – in our case the metallic rim," Strothmann explained at the time. "These eddy currents have their own magnetic fields which are absorbed by the Magnic Light generator kernel and by this way produce electric energy."

Although it is possible to buy individual Magic Lights, we received a complete package that included two headlights and one tail light. That kit contains all the hardware necessary for a variety of mounting options, which was actually a little intimidating at first. None of the various bags of brackets, nuts and bolts are labelled, leaving the buyer to figure out which ones they should be using.

On our setup, the Magnic Lights got attached to the front and rear brake arms, which proved to be fairly easy once we determined what bits we needed
On our setup, the Magnic Lights got attached to the front and rear brake arms, which proved to be fairly easy once we determined what bits we needed

On our setup, the lights got attached to the front and rear brake arms, which proved to be fairly easy once we determined what bits we needed. Some fussing was necessary, however, in order to get the spacing between the lights and the rims just right – too wide of a gap and the eddy current effect won't work, but too narrow and the lights will rub against the rims. Fortunately, once that spacing is set it can be locked down and left, with the lights themselves temporarily detaching from the mounting brackets as needed via a quick-release mechanism.

And yes, they definitely do work.

All three lights illuminated us nicely on our night rides, with no batteries or wheel-rubbing involved. Supposedly they do still create a very small amount of wheel resistance, but we certainly couldn't detect it.

Each one puts out about 40 lumens at a cycling speed of 20 km/h (12 mph), so they're definitely more "be-seen" than "light up the road" lights, but that's fine for commuting on already-lit streets. The light output is also quite smooth and consistent, thanks to the inclusion of a capacitor that also allows the lights to remain lit when the user stops at intersections.

A built-in capacitor allows the Magnic Lights to remain lit when the user stops at intersections
A built-in capacitor allows the Magnic Lights to remain lit when the user stops at intersections

One feature that's new to this incarnation of the product is the ability to choose between four different flashing modes, and it's actually one that we could have done without.

Because there are no physical switches on the lights, users have to change modes by first spinning up the wheel for a minute in order to charge the capacitor, then suddenly stopping the wheel and waiting for the light to start flashing, then spinning the wheel once again until the light resumes flashing, and then stopping the wheel and waiting for the light to flash yet again, indicating that it's entered the next mode.

It's a pretty confusing process, and to be honest we never were sure that we entirely got the hang of it. Fortunately, as with the mounting process, it's something that you'll presumably just do once and then forget about. You could not even bother doing it at all, just sticking with the factory default mode.

All in all, though, if you don't want to bother with batteries but also don't want the friction of a dynamo slowing you down, the Magic Light iC is certainly the way to go. The three-light set sells for €158.82 (about US$182).

Product page: Magnic Light iC

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14 comments
FerdBerfle
These work as described but be warned that the instructions are not ready for prime time and there is absolutely NO support after the sale. I've emailed them a dozen times with questions and never received an answer or even an acknowledgement of my questions. Bad form for something this expensive.
tacheonabike
great idea however REELights are about half the price and althought an extra couple of magnets to fit just as good, these are just too expensive , basic lights cost less than 5 euros
Mel Tisdale
If, despite all the potential pitfalls, autonomous vehicles are going to be let loose on our roads, as seems likely, then I suspect that it will be necessary for all road vehicles, including bycycles, to transmit their precise location to all nearby autonomous vehicles as a back-up should any vital sensors on them fail, making them partially sighted.
This transmitter will need an electrical supply, as do bicycle lights (which should be on whenever the bicycle is on the move), It would make sense for all bicycles to legally required to have something like what used to be called a dynohub to provide this electrical supply.
Related to this subject is the desirability for all bicycles to transmit a pulsed, eyesight safe, laser beam to the front and to the rear that all other road vehicles can detect (like those sold to pilots and hill walkers, etc. should they need to be rescued, which cannot happen if they cannot be found). What they do with the knowledge is for others more expert in the field than me to decide.
We need to be preparing for autonomous vehicles now, especially their relationship with bicycles. Leaving it to the inevitable inquests will be too late.
HughRiddle
An interestingly engineered product, somewhat over-hyped in description. It is simply fitted by the user, generates lighting power from wheel motion and incorporates sufficient capacitive energy storage to cover pauses at traffic lights. Its expensive and on the "..don't want the friction of a dynamo slowing you down.." statement, it's worth noting that the drag created by its relatively inefficient generator arrangement will be greater than that for most hub generators.
Nik
Back in Victorian times, lamps for cycles, or other, were available that required no batteries, and also did not require contact with the wheel or tire. They were called acetylene lamps, and ran on water and carbide. They also flashed, or rather flickered a bit.
DrKnock
DId they just invent a perpetuum mobile? Bye bye 2nd law!
erb2000
Seems like a better idea would be to include a battery that is always charging night and day. Then run the light off the battery.
Brooke
In all the applications I know about Eddy currents (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eddy_current) are avoided. The core of a transformer uses thin layers of metal to minimize them. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transformer#Energy_losses
Léon Foucault demonstrated Eddy currents by spinning a copper disk in a magnetic field to show the direct conversion of mechanical energy into heat. But for this light to work Eddy currents are used to magnetize the rim and that magnetism is used to turn the shaft of the internal generator. https://www.google.com/patents/US20140132155
I think the prior comments about using a hub generator would result in a more efficient way to get some electrical power.
CaptD
I hope they have great "locking" hardware since they would be a prime target for thieves that want bicycle BLING...
Douglas Bennett Rogers
Power to run the light must be extracted from the wheel.