The Cateye EL020 hybrid lamp certainly isn’t the most powerful in its class but sophisticated solar technology backed by a single AA contingency cell signals an end to sudden, unexpected and potentially fatal blackouts.
However, the small, uncharacteristically fiddly switch was poorly positioned and particularly difficult to engage on the fly, let alone wearing winter gloves.
Everything about the EL020 screams space age, this is another of those lights that bears more than a passing resemblance to the USS Enterprise with its huge solar panel and round lamp. Engineering grade plastics feel extremely robust and despite the swooping curves it doesn’t consume nearly so much handlebar real estate as you’d think thanks to the slender mount, which is thoughtfully universal throughout the brand's commuter lighting range. Flip it over and loosening the discrete Philips screw provides access to the battery tray.
The panel display indicates which power source is operating at any given time. For a full charge, the solar panel needs to sit six hours in daylight – the average window ledge seems fine – although at a pinch it will absorb some charge when left in the gaze of a desk lamp. Keep an eye on the display – a blue arc suggests all is well but red calls for a flick of a small-serrated switch drawing auxiliary power from the dry cell.
The Opticube lens technology has a quoted 400 candlepower delivery and you get two hours runtime on high beam and six in flashing mode from the solar power, although this fluctuates with temperature. By contrast, two alkaline AAs returned eight and twenty four hours respectively. While very pure, the light isn’t terribly powerful, especially riding away from the main drag. Flashing is a different story, the steady pulsing beacon cutting a swathe through congested streets and roundabouts straight through to the suburbs – perfect alongside older, or more basic dynamo headlamps that don’t hold their charge when stationary.
Clever commuter lamp with a rather fiddly switch
road.cc test report
Make and model: Cateye EL-020 HYBRID solar + battery front light
Size tested: n/a
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?
Sustain your ride with Cateye's Hybrid renewable energy design. Conscious design and innovative technology generate this unique dual-battery design.
Clever design with impressive output in flashing.
The solar cell charges the nickel-metal hydride battery for up to 6 hours of ride time and the alkaline back-up allows for a reserve 30 hours of run time.
The hybrid design allows you to choose between power sources for maximum power and run time. With flashing and constant modes, the CatEye Hybrid gives the environmentally conscious cyclist options never before offered. The light mounts with the newly redesigned FlexTight™ bracket for quick tool free mounting.
Solar (Ni-MH) 2.5+ hours of runtime (Constant)
Solar (Ni-MH) 6+ hours of runtime (Flashing)
Alkaline (LR6 (AA)) 10+ hours of runtime (Constant)
Alkaline (LR6 (AA)) 30+ hours of runtime (Flashing)
Flashing and constant mode
OptiCube™ lens technology
Runs on 1 Ni-MH battery / AA Alkaline battery (included)
FlexTight™ universal bracket
Eurobike Award 2009 winner
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, for suburban commuting
About the tester
Age: 36 Height: 1m 81 Weight: 70 kilos
I usually ride: Rough Stuff Tourer Based around 4130 Univega mtb Frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)