MagicShine's MJ 818 rear light gets its power from the front light's battery pack and puts out lots of light for almost-unmissable night time visibility.
Bike light technology moves at a staggering pace. As a youth the height of super-bright output was a feeble dynamo or perhaps some immensely heavy Ever Ready Night Riders which could drain a pair of hefty D-cell batteries in under a week. Today, it is lithium battery packs and USB rechargeables that are bright enough to be used as a spotlight by a stadium rock band.
MagicShine are one of these recent lighting brands, initially finding favour as an import special before a dedicated UK retail division came to the market. Their front lights, and the MJ-808E have become a favourite of commuters, powered by a lithium-ion battery pack usually Velcro-strapped to the stem.
The matching MJ 818 rear light doesn't initially look like much – a simple, even small, dome of clear plastic, with a silver control ring surrounding it. The frame mount is the same as the front light, using a rubber O-ring and plastic clips moulded to the light body. The O-rings come in a variety of sizes to suit different frames and seat pins.
MagicShine certainly see the MJ 818 as an addition to a lighting set up, rather than a standalone unit. Along with the light are a Y-splitter and extender cable to allow a single battery pack to serve both front and rear lights. The MJ 818 doesn't have a visible means of displaying battery status and also seems to draw little power compared to a front light, so it makes most sense to connect it up in this way.
A drawback with this arrangement is that it involves running cables, most likely from the stem, to the back of the bike. It makes the set up more a fixture and far less likely to be easily swapped between bikes if or when required. It also means a little care for frames and fixtures if using zip-ties or Velcro straps to secure the cables. An advantage is that there's only one battery to remember to charge.
When in place and in use the light looks quite small, which is deceptive for the output. At the centre of the unit is a single 3W red LED, surrounded by 9 smaller SMD red LEDs. MagicShine claim an 85 lumen output. There are three output options, which are accessed by rotating the silver magnetic control ring. The principal option is a constant, with two blink modes, the most useful of which is an alternating flash of the central and surrounding LEDs.
The only issue I found with the control ring is that it didn't feel intuitive as to how far to turn it to switch to the next setting, or which way was off. More than once I found myself rotating it back and forth like a dumb safe-breaker and never quite sure how I would replicate the successful combination to get what I wanted.
It is the performance of the light in making me clear and visible that is the real measure of success, and the 3W central LED in particular is very striking and clear from a distance. One part that is perhaps lacking is more lateral light for when passing junctions. The alternating blink setting is also very effective, and I received positive feedback from friends who had driven past me on winter evening commutes that I was clearly visible from a good distance. The main LED has a strong (if a little narrow) 'throw' that makes it very similar to a torch beam and highly valuable in misty of foggy conditions.
Very good rear light, let down only by slightly fiddly control system and the likely need to install long cables to the bike.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Magicshine MJ-818 rear light
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Winter commuting, touring, perhaps mountain biking (although I wouldn't want to be behind it if riding in a group!)
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Straightforward and easy to use rubber O-ring fitting. MagicShine cables and connectors seem to be robust and haven't failed over a number of years of winter commuting.
Appears well made – it is probably a bit smaller than you would expect and weighs very little.
The output of light from what appears to be a fairly discrete unit is impressive.
It survived a long and relatively harsh UK winter; getting soaked and frozen daily.
The light itself weighs next to nothing. If you ran a dedicated battery pack for it then that would add some tiny grammes. MagicShine claim 270g with a battery pack but supply no information for the unit itself.
If you already own a Magicshine front light then the MJ 818 is a fairly cheap and effective addition for the output.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It works very well, offering a bright and clear light with a small, but effective, range of flashing and fixed light modes.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Fantastically bright output with excellent variations, particularly in the flashing modes. The quality of the light 'throw' gave me confidence I'd be seen even in more challenging conditions.
The rear light seemed to draw very little power from the battery pack. I appreciate that red LEDs drawn very little power, but I noticed very little difference in the frequency I was charging the battery pack when I added the MJ 818, and I was using it on the more power-hungry settings.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Reliance on cabling to get the light set up, the dial to switch the unit on and change between modes seems be a little inconsistent – turning it off seemed to be a trial and error of rotating the dial in random sequences.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes – I own a Magicshine MJ 808E front light, and the MJ 818 rear seems like a sensible partner for it.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? If they already owned compatible lights, definitely. For someone looking to buy a family of lights then the MJ 808E and MJ 818 are a good combination.
About the tester
I usually ride: Specialized Allez Sport 2008 My best bike is: Moda Tempo 2010
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, Triathlon