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.
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?
(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
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.
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.
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.
It has survived plenty of heavy soakings and low-temperature mornings without complaint.
120 grams including battery doesn't seem unreasonable.
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.
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: time trialling, commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, Triathlon