Cateye's EL540 is a viable alternative to dynamos for commuting and utility riding round town and in the sticks. Don't be fooled by the slightly quaint looks and AA Nimh power source, cutting edge technology squeezes every last ounce from the single LED and it's powerful enough for navigating unlit backwaters by. Forgetful types will be reassured by the fact the cells can be swapped for common or garden alkaline types without impairing performance. However, at 258g it'll be a touch hefty for some and consumes a fair bit of handlebar real estate into the bargain.
The EL540 employs what's known as reverse offset lens (ROL) technology, which allows 95% (ten per cent over and above conventional designs) efficiency of the light emitted. Look closely and the LED is mounted, facing backwards and towards the reflector, which projects the beam forwards. Popping off the angular shroud gives easy, tool-free access to the battery tray and internal components. Typically Cateye, materials and construction are top-notch so there's no danger of batteries and similarly sensitive components being jolted around over rough roads and towpath.
Charge times are quoted as between five and seven hours, although in practice ours has gone from zero to hero in a matter of four, denoted by an indicator integral to the thumb friendly rubberised switch turning from red to green. Easily operated in gloved or bare hands, it toggles between high, low and flashing without accidentally engaging when lolling about in a pannier.
The lens projects a square, rather than circular patch of light, devoid of halos or similar interference, explaining how I was able to navigate unlit sections and alleys with such ease, managing 20 or so mph on clear stretches round town and 18 rural. Peripheral visibility is deceptively good too, a crisp beam bleeding outward and warning others of my approach when negotiating the junctions and roundabouts. Flashing is again very effective, albeit in the be seen rather than see by sense-although a godsend should the low battery indicator start winking and resorting to dry cells isn't an option Run times have been near as dam it faithful to those quoted even with the stock batteries, so you'd be very unlucky to get caught short.
Brilliant commuter lamp for town and around if you're not overly pressed for handlebar space.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Cateye Econom EL-540 Rechargeable Front Light.
Size tested: Black
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?
Ecology meets economy. The CatEye Econom Force uses ROL technology and 4 AA batteries to provide an efficient, regulated 4000cd light beam.
"With high, low and flashing beams, a run time of up to 30hrs, and the option of upgrading to NiMH rechargeable batteries, using the built in charging port, give you as many lighting options as you". clever take on the traditional commuter lamp.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the light?
Dimension： 114.0 X 56.0 X 53.0mm
Weight： 244 grams (with bracket and batteries)
Light source： High power white SMD LED X1
Light output： 4000cd
Battery： AA alkaline battery X4
Runtime： Approx 2hrs in high mode, 9hrs in low mode, and 30hrs in flashing mode
Other： Low battery indicator
Very user friendly.
Generally well sealed and more than up to the rigors of daily commuting.
Good run times and slow charging, although this is tempered by the ability to run dry cells.
258g (244 quoted)
Tell us how the light performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Dubbed 'Big Bertha' the EL540 has been something of a pleasant surprise. Sure it consumes a fair bit of handlebar space but thanks to the lens' huge surface area and clever optics, I felt particularly safe at roundabouts and similarly tricky spots. Presence is better than most of this kind through the sticks too. Sure, the wall charging NIMH cells can feel a bit irksome compared to the latest USB type but in emergencies you can pop in a set of AA cells and totter home without any loss in performance.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the light
Great ouput and beam quality.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the light
Did you enjoy using the light? Yes
Would you consider buying the light? No but only as it's not compatible with my typical riding conditions
Would you recommend the light to a friend? For town and around certainly.
About the tester
Age: 38 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)