The MonkeyLectric 232 is an innovative bike lighting system which attaches to pretty much any bicycle wheel. Using 32 LEDs it offers ‘full’ colour patterns to illuminate your wheels as you ride along, with the option of 42 different graphical displays, and a multitude of colour options for each of them allowing you to make your bike as kitsch as you like. No longer do you have to tape playing cards to your spokes, or sift through countless boxes of cereal just to get a matching set of
As you waft past the pedestrians on the street they will surely stop and stare in awe, jaws collectively dropped, as you illuminate them in fantastic shades of cerise and chartreuse. If you have it set to random it will cycle through a deluge of pattern and colour combinations, allowing your onlookers a seemingly endless visual show.
That is of course if you’re travelling fast enough. For the patterns to work correctly, you have to be travelling at least 10mph (15kmh). It might not sound like any great speed to many, but when travelling in a commuter’s environment, in urbanised areas, you’d be lucky to hit that speed for too long before being stopped by the next traffic-jam or set of traffic lights.
Fitting the lights is a bit low-tech involving a copious supply of zip ties, plus a metal anti-theft band to deter thieves (unless they have some strong cable cutters). Putting a heavy object on one side of your rim isn’t very advisable and even if you balance the wheel properly with the battery pack, it creates a bit of shake. The battery pack itself is rather low-tech and quite ugly – it also requires a very hard pull on the zip-ties to keep in place. The added weight may not be a problem for the majority of people, where shedding every gram of weight is essential to their bike, but I don’t imagine I’ll be seeing many of these on road bikes.
The build quality of this light is pretty good, no badly made Chinese tat here. It’s fully waterproof (to 1m), and can last anywhere up to 20hours of continuous use, carefully sipping away on 3 AA batteries, which by any standard is pretty good going. You can choose between two power modes which may help to increase battery life.
Apart from looking like something from a sci-fi movie, it actually offers a fun solution to a practical problem by making you much more visible to other road users. It projects out light to the one side when stationary and projects a halo of light spill around you as you travel down the road. Not to mention the ‘WTF is that’ moment that every driver will have, meaning their full attention is on you, and not just if they can make it past you in time before that central reservation comes up. There is however a concern that they may be a little too distracting and you may want to choose the colour scheme carefully to avoid breaking the law.
MonkeyLectric also offer a ‘pro’ version of their monkey lights, which offers you the ability to upload your own designs, graphics and logos for it to display. It offers 4 rows of LED’s in a propeller shape which will cover your entire wheel and almost completely eliminate the ghosting effect. It is most certainly another jump up in sophistication of the 232, although as you would expect it comes with quite a hefty price tag.
The pro version will set you back around £560, which is a serious amount of money, for a not so serious product. In which case you have to wonder; is the pro version £500 better than the 232 which has an RRP of £59.99? To put it simply; no.
If you want to feel like you’re riding a light cycle from Tron, then this is the thing for you. It’s geeky and quirky and I kind of love it. The biggest shame is that you won’t be able to watch yourself riding around to see just how oh-so-cool you look. But when I ask myself; Could I really ride around with cartoon lightning bolts adorning my wheels. I really wish I could say yes.
This is a very clever piece of technology, and if it were actually integrated into the wheel itself rather than sold as a retrofit option, I think it’d be a great option. The price tag isn’t all that steep considering the work and quality of the item. I do feel however, that realistically it’ll only be younger kids that have these fitted to their ten speeds.