Home
Verdict: 
Great as an emergency light but seems quite primitive in terms of lumens and run-time...
Weight: 
86g
Cateye Volt 500 XC
6 10

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.

> Find your nearest dealer here

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.

> Read our guide to the best front lights

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.

Conclusion

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.

Verdict

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

Rate the light for quality of construction:
 
7/10

Pretty hard wearing. The plastic body is surprisingly robust.

Rate the light for design and ease of use. How simple was the light to use?
 
9/10

There is nothing to it to be honest, click on, click off.

Rate the light for the design and usability of the clamping system/s
 
8/10

It's simple but works.

Rate the light for waterproofing. How did it stand up to the elements?
 
9/10

Heavy rain did little to dampen the spirits.

Rate the light for battery life. How long did it last? How long did it take to recharge?
 
4/10

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.

Rate the light for performance:
 
6/10

I'd use this as a secondary light but little else.

Rate the light for durability:
 
8/10

A robust little unit.

Rate the light for weight:
 
8/10

You aren't going to notice it on your bar.

Rate the light for value:
 
4/10

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

Decidedly average.

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.

Overall rating: 6/10

About the tester

Age: 38  Height: 180cm  Weight: 76kg

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.

3 comments

Avatar
Ramuz [263 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes

Cateye had a basic but perfectly effective solid bracket system that worked fine for years. The new elastic strap is awful: you not only have to remove the whole thing every time you want to take the light with you and then stretch the rubber back onto the bars when returning (which will overtime cause it to weaken), but the light is much less stable, and as such can become unaligned on hitting a rough surface.

My long-term relationship with Cateye is over.

Avatar
dottigirl [559 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes

I broke two of the previous clamping system, so a different experience to you. Cateye are on my list along with Knog for 'expensive design failures'.

Avatar
beezus fufoon [673 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes

after reading the reviews I got a volt 800 for not much more than the list price of this one - it really is so much better