Cateye has a massive range of lights on offer, with this Volt 500 XC slotting in somewhere in the middle. It's a simple light with a decent output, but the short battery life makes it hard to recommend for anything more than a back-up lamp.
Even though this is the 500 XC, the actual lumen output from its main solid beam is a mere 400. That in itself isn't a massive issue – it's enough light to see by at sensible speeds on unlit roads – the problem is you only have that light for a single hour before the battery is flat. It's a battery that takes 7 hours to recharge too, so touch and go for a commuter.
The only other option then, for light to see by, is the 100-lumen mode, which on anything other than lit streets isn't much cop, even if it does last for 8 hours.
The beam offers a larger spot than the similarly powered Moon Meteor-X Auto I've been testing (review to come), but the Cateye doesn't seem to offer the quality of illumination. Part of the reason is because the Volt has quite a yellow coloured beam, as opposed to the bright white of many LEDs on the market.
The larger spot of the Cateye also seems to lack the punch of other similar lights, especially noticeable when riding in the wet and you aren't getting the same amount of light reflection back from the road surface.
The 500 XC has two other modes – 100-lumen solid interrupted by a 500-lumen pulse, which is great for daytime use, plus a 100-lumen flash, the best option if you really need to extend the battery life as you'll get 30 hours from it.
Giving the Volt its due, it is way more robust than I expected with its plastic body. The usual drop tests I carry out to replicate it whacking the tarmac and being run over by a car caused a few scratches and the lens cover to pop out (it clipped straight back in), but that was it. The Cateye just shrugged it off.
The bracket is a simple rubber band option, which is easy to attach and stays put on all but the roughest terrain. It only fits 31.8mm diameter bars though.
As far as value goes it's on the pricey side when you look at the previously mentioned Moon in terms of performance, and the identically priced Lezyne Macro Drive 600XL looks to excel where the Cateye doesn't.
Back in the day Cateye was at the forefront of light design. When I was a nipper its (I think) HL500 was futuristic at a time when we were all bombing around with those Ever Ready bricks, halogen bulbs and all that, and in later years the Cateye Stadium was the first bike light to use an HID bulb if I remember correctly. It was £299, plus the bulb may have cost £75 to replace... and its bottle battery and ballast box for controlling the voltage weighed a ton... but it was cutting edge at a time when bike lights really started to make a leap forward.
Which makes the 500 XC a bit of a disappointment really, looking quite primitive in output, design and battery life.
Great as an emergency light but seems quite primitive in terms of lumens and run-time...
road.cc test report
Make and model: Cateye Volt 500 XC
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the light 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 Cateye Volt 500 XC front light is high powered 500 Lumen light with a USB rechargeable battery and a Proprietary Opticube lens. Featuring 4 modes you can choose the best suited setting for the weather conditions you are riding in or to cope with the remaining battery life left. To cycle through the modes keep on pressing the on and off button. To charge the light, simply plug into your laptop, computer or a USB wall plug. The battery can last up to 30 hours in it's flashing mode and 1 hour in constant (400 Lumens) giving the battery plenty of range."
It's an okay light but a bit primitive by today's standards.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the light?
Light Source: 1 x High Brightness White LED
Beam: Propietary Opticube Lens
Brightness: 500 Lumens (max. flash setting)
Power Source: Li-Polymer battery USB rechargeable technology
Run Time: From 1 hrs - 30hrs
Charge Time: 7 hours
Removable rubber band handlebar mount
Battery Life Indicator
Pretty hard wearing. The plastic body is surprisingly robust.
There is nothing to it to be honest, click on, click off.
It's simple but works.
Heavy rain did little to dampen the spirits.
Just an hour's life on full output is pretty poor for a light of this size, and a 7hr recharge time is quite extensive.
I'd use this as a secondary light but little else.
A robust little unit.
You aren't going to notice it on your bar.
Against the competition I'd say the Cateye is a bit behind the times.
Tell us how the light performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the light
Way more robust than I expected.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the light
Short battery life.
Did you enjoy using the light? It's okay as a backup.
Would you consider buying the light? No
Would you recommend the light to a friend? No, not against the opposition.
Use this box to explain your score
The Cateye's plastic body is way stronger than I expected and it does make for a light that you can really trust if you drop it or crash. But it also feels far behind the competition in terms of output and battery life. It's not a bad light, but it's not good, so I'm settling on 6.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: Kinesis Aithien
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.