Cateye Volt 50 rear light  £49.99

7/10

Bright with impressive battery live, but it'd be nice if the mount position were more flexible

Weight 165g   Contact  www.zyro.co.uk

by Nick Hodges   January 28, 2014  

Cateye Volt 50 R

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With USB recharging and a dedicated under-saddle mount, the Cateye Volt 50 Is a clever light — maybe a bit too clever.

Cateye have been in the cycle lighting market for a long time, and their range of lights will be first choice to many new riders. Much of their range is aimed at the urban or commuting market, but the new Volt 300 front and Volt 50 rear lights are clearly aimed at road cyclists. The video on their website seems to be all about late night forays on performance machines

The Volt 50 rear light effectively comes in three parts: the light body with the controls and USB port; the battery; and the fitting bracket which connects to the saddle rails. When assembled the light is a long, thin, cigar shape, with the LED at one end.

The first thing that struck me about the Volt 50 was the battery and recharging system. It is a simple micro USB cable connection, built into the body of the light with a weatherproofing cap for protection while on the road. Using a USB cable is a little different, but the micro USB fitting is pretty ubiquitous now.

Many USB-rechargeable lights are sealed units, but the Volt uses a screw-in battery. This means that in theory you could carry a backup battery (they are quite compact, and not heavy) in the event that the light runs out of charge.

This makes sense with the Volt 300 front light, in particular, but for the rear I'm not convinced that the expected run-times would be likely to leave you stranded. It is good to see some consistent thinking from CatEye, though, in ensuring the Volt 50 uses the same battery system as its partner front light and making them interchangeable. There is a range of aftermarket batteries and desktop chargers for those that feel they would ride long enough in the dark regularly enough to warrant it.

The chances of needing a backup battery for the Volt 50 would seem low unless you are out for a very long ride. On flashing mode CatEye advertise 20 hours of runtime, and the 50-lumen output is bright and visible even in relatively light conditions. Of the four available modes (constant, rapid, pulse and flash), my favourite was the pulse setting – a constant beam with a regular brighter pulse. CatEye claim an 8-hour run time for this, but my experience was that it went for considerably longer. Helpfully, the power button lights up when there is 20% charge remaining to give you a chance to plug it in, or swap battery.

The shape of the light and it having a single LED means that the output is more of a narrow beam than broad spread. Oblique visibility of the light isn't its strong suit, but the strength of the beam is decent when approached directly from behind.

The saddle rail fixing is straightforward: two long bolts clamping the halves of the bracket together. In a world where most lights seem to be held-on by O-rings this felt a little industrial, but it does a good job and with the shape of the light it's probably inevitable. In the event that something stupid happens and one of the bolts goes missing then finding a replacement isn't easy, but cable-ties work well enough. You won't lose the bolt though will you? I mean, how on earth could that happen? Just stay away from the fridge

The only major issue I had with the saddle rail mount is one that may distress the more pure-minded road rider out there: it meant I couldn't fit my saddlebag. For as many riders as will find this frustrating, there will be those who are indifferent to it. But for those who eschew the Velominati rule 29 it will make buying the Volt 50 a tougher decision.

The principal difficulty I have with the Volt 50 is that despite the positives – the excellent run time and pulse mode – there is something frustratingly bespoke about the whole thing. Competitors to the Volt 50 can offer cheaper lights with similar output, a simpler fixing system that could be used in a variety of locations on the bike frame (or even the rider), and a charging system that doesn't rely on a cable. The benefit of the replaceable battery is similarly offset by the fact that the batteries are bespoke to this system. What CatEye offer is a good piece of kit, it just feels like a few too many elements of flexibility have been sacrificed to get it there.

Verdict

This is a great light — bright and with an impressive battery life. The light modes are ones you would actually use. I just wish it had a few more 'standard' elements to it that would make it a little more flexible.

The light comparator

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Cateye Volt 50 - Rear Light

Size tested: Black - Rear Light

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?

CatEye says...

(the Volt50 - HL-EL460RC-REAR)

Powerful enough to be seen in the day light or rainy, foggy weather. The compact, rechargeable Volt50 tail light emits 50 lumens for optimum visibility on the road. It has four modes: Constant, Flashing, Rapid and Pulse. The low battery indicator provides a quick reference that it's time to recharge. Mounts to the saddle with included saddle rail mount.

Dimension - 111.5 X 31.0 X 38.0 m

Weight - 120 grams (with bracket and batteries)

Light source - High intensity red LED X1

Light output - 50lm

Runtime - Rapid mode-8hrs

Pulse mode-8hrs

Flashing mode-20hrs

Constant mode-4hrs

Battery - Li-ion rechargeable battery (3.7V-2200mAh)

Recharge time - 6 hrs (USB2.0)

Mount size - 56.0~78.0mm (RM-2 bracket ø6-8mm)

Other - Low battery indicator, lighting mode memory function

The short video on the CatEye website makes it clear they think this is a roadie-friendly product, suitable as an accessory for a pair of nice mid-section carbon wheels.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Fairly simple saddle rail mount and a secure-looking clip for the light. The light itself is in two parts – the body section with the LED, power switch and covered micro USB charging socket. The battery screws into it and can be removed/replaced easily enough. CatEye offer a standalone charger for these battery packs, which are interchangeable with the Volt 300 front light.

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
7/10

The three parts – battery, heavy aluminium light body and mounting rails – all seem solid enough. The rubberised buttons and USB cover cap appear robust. The fittings are all robust and nothing seems too fragile.

Rate the product for performance:
 
9/10

It's small but seems effective. I particularly like the pulse mode, combining a steady beam with a bright pulse.

From the form of the light the majority of the beam goes straight backwards with little outward spread.

Rate the product for durability:
 
8/10

It has survived plenty of heavy soakings and low-temperature mornings without complaint.

Rate the product for weight, if applicable:
 
8/10

120 grams including battery doesn't seem unreasonable.

Rate the product for value:
 
7/10

The light is £50 RRP, although many retailers are discounting it by 10-20%. This is an effective light for the money, but it is up against some stiff competition from other companies like Knog and Lezyne. The replacement battery option is a nice feature.

Some will like the saddle rail mount, but I am (shamefully, perhaps) a fan of my saddlebag and I'd love to see a less-specific mount.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Battery run time is extremely impressive – in excess of the stated times. It is straightforward to charge, connect together easily and the low-battery light is reliable. Beam output is narrow and bright.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

The light modes are excellent, in particular the steady beam with pulse. CatEye have provided modes that you would actually use! Battery run time appears to be excellent.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

I miss my saddlebag, with the little tab on it that I can fix a light to. Admittedly the saddlebag looks rubbish, but it had stuff in it that I now have cluttering up my jersey.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.

Would you consider buying the product? No – sadly, I'd prefer the flexibility of a simpler fixing USB rechargeable.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Probably not.

Overall rating: 7/10

About the tester

Age: 37  Height: 182cm  Weight: 69kg

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: time trialling, commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, Triathlon

 

10 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Seems great for early morning training on the TT bike, as a light basically won't fit anywhere else but the saddle rails thanks to the funky tube shapes.

Was also thinking about the Exposure Flare, which got a good review but comments from longer-term users turned out to be a fair bit worse: http://road.cc/content/review/46514-exposure-flare-rear-light

posted by jstreetley [54 posts]
28th January 2014 - 17:15

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I bought one for exactly that reason but the damn thing is so long it won't fit past the mahoosive seat post on the Dean.

posted by coefficient [1 posts]
28th January 2014 - 18:19

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Agree, if you're on a TT bike, your saddle is more than likely going to be pushed fairly far forward. My summer bike has an aero seatpost and I recently bought a rear light based on the fact that standard mounting systems aren't compatible. I have an inline post, with the saddle fairly far forward so this Cateye wouldn't fit. I went with a Moon Comet http://www.moon-sport.com/product-detail.php?id=72 The battery doesn't last that long, but it's long enough to be out for 3hrs in the evening, or a long early-morning commute, perfect for a TT bike. The under-saddle mounting is also really tidy compared to the Cateye bracket and isn't that noticeable when the light is removed.

Twitter: @velosam

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posted by SamShaw [203 posts]
28th January 2014 - 18:35

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It took a lot of cursing and cussing to get the bracket to fit the carbon rails on my saddle.
Love the light though, plenty of light given out on the unlit country roads that I commute on.

Lover of animal fat based food products Smile

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posted by LardLover [92 posts]
28th January 2014 - 21:44

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The output is excellent, I've had a couple of comments from drivers how visible it is. It is very easy to use too with a simple cycle of options and enough of a delay not to accidentally be turning it on or off.

It is pricey but I've never yet seen one as much as your stated £49.99, I think you may have got the price mixed with the 300 front light. The average price for them is £10 less than you state and mine was £29.99 from Evans recently.

My gripe is the bracket is a tad flimsy. I have managed to crack the housing for the nut with very little pressure and no feedback or warning I was overtightening. It is secured with superglue now and seems solid enough.

posted by Shouldbeinbed [27 posts]
29th January 2014 - 0:48

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Consider a RB with Aero seat post, normal rear light cannot be mounted on the teardrop shaped post. Saddle rail mount is the best option of these bikes.

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posted by JumboJuice [4 posts]
29th January 2014 - 8:29

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Would've bought one of these to compliment my Volt 300 front light, were it not for a set of circumstances that resulted in me only being able to get a rear light from a retailer who didn't stock Cateye lights.

Not too fussed about the mount myself, I ride a "normal" ride bike and don't carry a saddle bag, so no concerns there. Can appreciate the Marmite analogy though, it's not for everyone.

Went for a Lezyne Micro Drive instead, about the same price as this (in terms of what you'd actually pay, not the RRP) and am quite impressed with (the output of) that. It's the newer version with the revised mount, haven't had any problems with it popping out in a couple of months of riding with it now.

posted by parksey [107 posts]
29th January 2014 - 9:38

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I was commuting home last week and got stuck behind someone who had this light on. Fairly gave me a headache.

Until I passed him Wave

posted by del_boy13 [6 posts]
29th January 2014 - 12:46

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A clubmate has this light and the Cateye 300 front. Smart looking kit, he liked the idea that you can swap the batteries over if the front gets low.

I was driving through town and caught him up. Pulse mode was really effective - the light was already bright enough but the extra pip of red every few seconds was really noticeable, even when the bike was 200-300 metres ahead in traffic.

Like this reviewer, I didn't fancy the bracket. If you want an under-saddle solution then consider the Cateye Rapid 3 or TL-610 (both use AAAs) with the RM-1 saddle rail mount.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [1779 posts]
30th January 2014 - 21:55

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There is a seat post bracket for this light (SP-13) but none of the major retailers seem to be stocking it at the moment.

I have the light and its front counterpart and am really impressed with both of them. The saddle mount is a different matter though...

Mine came off during a dark and very wet commute home, no doubt rattled free by the potholed winter roads. It didn't seem to be loose when I attached the light before setting out either, so keep a close eye on it if you use one.

posted by sweeney [7 posts]
4th February 2014 - 21:39

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