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MonkeyLectric launches Kickstarter campaign

You may have noticed that we don’t pitch very many Kickstarter campaigns here — and lord knows we field a TON of them every week. It’s sort of an unwritten rule here at Bikecommuters.com…you want crowd funding? Take it somewhere else.

There are exceptions, of course, and here’s the latest from MonkeyLectric, which happens to make really great bike lights and has been good to us over the years, letting us test prototypes, shooting the breeze with us at Interbike, and advertising here to help us keep the site running.

Along with the lights we’ve reviewed here, MonkeyLectric also makes a “Pro” series light (mostly a prototype/custom-orderable) that is, well, frighteningly expensive. Enter the Kickstarter campaign — seeking a way to be able to mass-manufacture this light system at a better pricepoint:

MonkeyLectric Kicks Off Funding Production of Revolutionary New Bike Light via Kickstarter
Monkey Light Pro gives bike riders a novel way to express their unique individuality in a dazzling manner

BERKELEY, CA. MAY 22, 2013 – MonkeyLectric announced today the launch of a Kickstarter campaign to fund manufacturing efforts of its new product, the Monkey Light Pro, a unique bicycle light that utilizes cutting edge technology to allow users to display images and animation on their spinning bicycle wheel. The Pro series is for people who want to get their message out, express their individuality and be seen. The company is using the crowdsource fundraising efforts of Kickstarter to finance the manufacturing, which can be found at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/minimonkey/monkey-light-pro-bicycle-wheel-display-system?ref=live.

The Monkey Light Pro, a more technologically advanced version of the popular Monkey Light Mini and the original Monkey Light models, features 256 LED lights and 4,096 colors that can be customized into designs uploaded via Bluetooth. Monkey Light Pro also allows users to upload up to 1,000 photos or 90 seconds of video. The Pro series is mounted to the bicycle wheel where it is easily viewed from both sides and multiple angles; the Pro is shock resistant and weatherproof.

Driven by MonkeyLectric’s eclectic backgrounds, the lighting art featured in their namesake product are designed by various graphic and psychedelic artists, including the well known David Ope, and provides riders the ultimate way to express their creativity. When the bike is in motion, it uses the “persistence of vision” effect to display the images that come pre-loaded or created by the users through its open source API.

Previous prototypes and models of the Monkey Light Pro are currently on display at major shows, in museums, as well as in Japan in collaboration with the Fukushima Wheel Project. This particular project utilizes a modified Monkey Light Pro attached to environmental sensors, where light patterns adjust to the levels of environmental pollutants in the area. The Kickstarter campaign hopes to make the product more accessible to developers, artists and the general public.

“Our first Kickstarter campaign allowed us to establish our own manufacturing line here in the USA,” said Dan Goldwater, MonkeyLectric’s CEO. “The success of that campaign helped us create 3 new jobs, make fixed capital investments in machinery, and relocate to a larger facility. With this campaign we hope to continue to invest in our manufacturing capabilities and make the world’s most advanced bicycle display system available to the market.”
During the campaign, Monkey Light Pro will be available to the first twenty pledges for $495, forty at $595 and 100 at $695. The price point after the campaign will be $895.

The Kickstarter page for the new Monkey Light Pro can be found at: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/minimonkey/monkey-light-pro-bicycle-wheel-display-system?ref=live

About MonkeyLectric, LLC

MonkeyLectric was founded by Brown graduate and MIT scientist Dan Goldwater in 2008 and is the leader in fun and visible bike lighting. Based in Berkeley, California, the small company aims to make cycling fun and visible. They created the Monkey Light to be make to make riding at night just as fun as during the day. Over the top creativity and tongue in cheek marketing campaigns have put MonkeyLectric on the map, and all products are proudly made in the USA. Learn more at http://www.monkeylectric.com.

Just to give you an idea of how amazing the Pro light system is, check out this video that showcases the capabilities:

Review: Monkeylectric’s M210 “Mini Monkey Light”

As many of you may know, we here at Bikecommuters.com are huge fans of the creative geniuses behind Monkeylectric. We’ve been lucky enough to test out their original M132/133 wheel lights, and we’ve visited with the Monkeylectric crew at Interbike over the past few years.

When they announced the new M210 “Mini Monkey”, we clamored for a chance to get a review sample. Lo and behold, about a month after Interbike 2011, one appeared on my doorstep. I’ve been running this thing ever since and am ready to share my thoughts and photos with you.

First off, a bit about the new M210:

– 10 Ultra-bright color LEDs
– Hub-mounted battery pack
– Stainless steel anti-theft strap
– Waterproof!
– Up to 40 hours runtime

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The M210 comes in simple packaging — a bag for the light head and battery canister, a smaller bag for the hardware and a simple header card that unfolds to reveal complete instructions in a variety of languages. While the light head is smaller than the original M132/M133 (10 LEDs — 5 on each side — down from the 32 LEDs on the original model), it still packs a nighttime punch. This new model addresses most of the concerns some of us had over the original model — particularly waterproofing, balance, and theft prevention.

Here’s the light head — covered in a thick, rubbery waterproofing material that seals all those chips and circuits from the elements. The switches are beefy and easy to manipulate:

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Here’s the battery pack — a canister that straps to the hub with zipties and a soft rubber cradle. The battery canister holds a cartridge of 3 AA batteries (alkaline or rechargeable) and seals up tight:

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One cord travels from the light head to the dongle on the battery canister, and the connection between the two is waterproof. And this connection is TIGHT — it is quite difficult to separate the two parts once they’ve been connected.

Splitting the light head and battery compartment into two components over the original’s “all on one” approach has greatly helped with the overall balance of the light. With the original M133 installed, I was able to discern some faint high-speed wobble on lightweight wheels (that wobble was mitigated when I installed the unit on some heavy disc wheels on my Xtracycle. With the new unit, I didn’t notice any wobble, even at relatively high speeds. Score a win for the folks at Monkeylectric!

Another plus of the split configuration is this: back in Florida, I was forced to traverse some DEEP rain puddles from time to time. Old streets, heavy rains and a substandard drainage system meant that some of the roads on my commuting route were flooded. Some of those flooded areas were nearly hub-deep, and my old unit would get submerged. I had to be diligent about cleaning the battery contacts to keep them from rusting. I don’t have to worry about that anymore — the truly sensitive parts are encased in waterproof materials and the contacts are inside the sealed canister at the hub.

The light can be programmed to display up to 15 different 8-bit patterns (skulls, hearts, and many more) in a choice of colors, or you can do as I did and skip the button-pressing and let the light cycle itself through all the choices. As with the original M132/M133, the M210 has two intensity modes — regular and “turbo”. The “turbo” setting blows through batteries much more quickly and is eye-searing in brightness, but the regular setting is bright enough on its own to spill out a pool of light to either side of the wheel. I took some still shots so you can see just how intense and colorful the M210 is when spinning:

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And, as is my style, here is an unedited and rather crappy video of the Monkeylectric light in action — believe me, the “real life” effect is vastly more stunning. It doesn’t help that my neighborhood is lit up like an airstrip (streetlights every 50 feet or so):

Mounting the light head is a breeze — it sits between spokes and is held in place by rubber pads and zipties. Getting the battery canister mounted on the hub is somewhat more difficult…the more spokes one has, the more difficult it can be. Even with my long fingers, getting everything set and cinched up took a few tense moments. Once the canister is mounted, you will only have to worry about changing the batteries from time to time, and that isn’t as difficult…screw off the cap and replace the cells. Here’s the canister mounted to my front hub:

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I was happy to see the addition of the stainless steel “anti-theft” strap — basically a metal ziptie — in the package. While I’ve never had a Monkeylectric light stolen, I am sure others in more urban areas might have to worry about such things. The steel strap is surprisingly difficult to cut with wire cutters (I sacrificed mine in the name of science), so it really does provide a measure of theft deterrence.

As I mentioned earlier, the instruction sheet foldout is detailed and easy to follow. And, it comes in several languages:

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As we’ve discussed over and over again here, there are not enough products on the market to help with that crucial “side visibility” — while many front and rear lights spill to the sides, additional safety for nighttime commuters is always a good thing. And this is where Monkeylectric’s products really shine (pun intended). The M210 provides an incredibly effective means to get you noticed out on the darkened streets where you live, all the while having fun with patterns and colors! The Monkeylectric M210 retails for around $50.00, and is worth the price of admission. Another hit from a great bunch of creative folks!

Now, if we can only get the crew to let us borrow one of their “PRO Series” models….

Visit Monkeylectric for more details, images and video of their lights in action.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

MonkeyLectric’s “Design a Pattern” Contest

Our friends at MonkeyLectric are having a contest:

Create a pattern and enter it in our contest. You could win a Mini Monkey Light and even get your pattern included in the final product!

Use the grid template and color palette below to draw your pattern. You can print out this file and use markers, or open it in your favorite image editing software.

Submit your pattern at MonkeyLectric.com/contest to enter the contest. The top five entries will win a new Mini Monkey Light! Entry deadline is October 30.

Full details, template downloads and other tidbits are available on the MonkeyLectric website. Also, there’s a great gallery of current entries to get your creative juices flowing.

monkeylight

MonkeyLectric’s M210 “Mini Monkey” Coming Soon!

As many of you know, the crew here at Bikecommuters.com is a huge fan of MonkeyLectric — we were one of the first groups to test the original M132/M133 units, and the folks at MonkeyLectric are super nice and super talented. We had the pleasure of visiting with them at Interbike last year and again just a couple weeks ago…take a look at our coverage from this year’s booth visit.

MonkeyLectric can use your help, though…developing lights like this is an expensive endeavor, and the folks there have set up a Kickstarter page to help gather financial support to bring their newest generation spoke light, the M210 “Mini Monkey”, to market. Take a spin over to their Kickstarter page to get the skinny on their goals and some of the prizes for helping out.

In the meantime, we’ve got our hands on an M210 “Mini Monkey” to try out…I am as giddy as a schoolgirl, because this new generation of light addresses many of the “wish list” items I had regarding the older lights. I cannot WAIT to get the light strapped onto my bike and on the street. Stay tuned for that in the next couple weeks.

Monkeylectric M133 LED Bike Light: First Impression

Back in July, the cool folks at Monkeylectric sent us a few of their M132 LED bike lights to try out. Moe wrote up an article about it then.

I got an M132 in the mail in August and slapped it onto my Xtracycle. After one hard rainstorm, I had a “freak failure” when one of the soldered switch legs corroded, causing a loss of contact. Granted, this was an unusual occurence, so I contacted Dan Goldwater, founder of Monkeylectric, to get his insight into things. Dan was quick to offer me the opportunity to test the revised M133 model and a prototype waterproof battery-holder cover. I must add that I sent the failed unit back to Dan and he got it to work again by lightly brushing the corrosion with a toothbrush, so there was no “catastrophic, unrecoverable failure” here.

What’s different about the M133? Well, it has beefier switches that are reportedly much more water-resistant than the older M132:
switches

It has a revised battery-holder with extra “lips” to help retain the batteries at higher wheel RPMs:
retainer lips

Also, a couple extra programmable patterns were incorporated into the memory of this device. Let me tell you this: the colors and patterns in this device are mesmerizing — I blew through a set of batteries just playing with this amazing light before I ever mounted it on my bike!

The prototype battery-holder cover is made of rubber and it is designed to seal most of the moisture away from the batteries and their contacts. Dan estimates them at around 90% waterproof, and I’d agree…I’ve been through a few medium-intensity rainstorms with the lights now and I haven’t seen any evidence of water or corrosion in the battery-holder. Dan also mentions that they’re working on incorporating a snap-on cover that mounts partially underneath the battery-holder during assembly and this new setup should be almost completely waterproof.

Mounting these lights is a breeze. Simply select an area on your wheel and ziptie the device in place with the included ties and rubber vibration-isolating pads. The whole process takes about two minutes.

Let's roll

The M133 has nine user-selectable patterns and sixteen colors to choose from. The user can select 1-4 patterns and 1-4 colors at a time or the device can be set to randomly cycle through all 16 colors and 9 patterns. There’s a lot to play with here. In addition, there are three separate “speed” menus; they allow the selection of the speed of pattern-changing, color-changing and overall “mood” (simple or complex patterns). Finally, there are two intensity settings: regular and extreme. In regular mode, a set of batteries should last 15-30 hours. In “extreme” mode (which is quite eye-searing), the batteries can be expected to last 4-6 hours. The regular or high-efficiency mode is plenty bright, though — and the lights will spread a bright patch 3-5 feet to each side of the wheel while it is in motion.

Here’s a couple still shots of the lights in action. First disclaimer: the colors are much more vibrant in real life and the patterns even more complex.

pattern 1

pattern 2

For even better photos, please visit our friend Derek Pearson at Bikerubbish.com. The guy is a professional photographer (rather than a point-n-shoot hack like me), and he was able to catch nearly the full intensity of these wonderful devices.

And, here is a Youtube video that gives you an idea of what these lights look like in action. I was dismayed to realize that the video didn’t accurately reflect what these lights are capable of, and Dan explained to me that, “the reason is that most consumer video cameras shoot at 30 frames per second, but your eye is closer to 10 frames per second. So your eye sees a tracer that is 3 times longer.” Basically, in real life the lights trigger a tracer effect that fills in any gaps in the pattern…it’s quite striking!

For reference, I have two lights mounted. They are both set to display all 16 colors and all 9 patterns randomly at medium-high speed.

The lights are packaged with an excellent instruction/programming and installation guide and all the necessary hardware needed to mount the lights. And, customer service from Monkeylectric is top-notch…they quickly answered any questions I had and handled my device failure with aplomb.

Do these lights work to help keep a bicyclist safer at night? Well, I’ve had a lot of amazing reactions…pedestrians hollering at me, motorists pulling up alongside me to ask about the lights (motorists, I appreciate the curiousity, but please don’t roll up next to me — it startles the hell out of me!). Visibility with these lights is quite astonishing, and the light is visible from the front and back as well as the sides.

We’ll see how these devices hold up under Florida’s grueling conditions…but for now, I’m hooked. These lights are fun, colorful and really make a bicyclist stand out in the dark — that’s a win-win in my book!