Cateye impresses with the new Volt 800. It's quite possibly the best single-barrel LED front light on the market right now.
Front lights are normally relatively easy things to buy – you just decide how much light and battery life you need, match this up with your budget, and away you go. Let's deal with these three critical variables first off: as the name suggests, you get up to 800 lumens; you also get an impressive battery life of up to 80 hours (2hrs if you use it on the full high beam); and it's all yours for £99.99.
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Of course, 800 lumens of light will draw significant energy from the battery, but the seemingly measly 2-hour battery life is extended to 3.5 hours when used on the mid 400 lumen setting, and 8 hours when on the low, 200 lumen output. Throw in a 'hyper constant' mode, which runs constantly at 200 lumens with a strobe pulse of the full 800 lumens for 7 hours, and a flashing 200 lumen mode which extends life to a sizeable 80 hours, and you've got enough flexibility to customise what you need.
For a typical commute of up to an hour, you'll get away with using the full beans for both rides if maximum forward visibility is your thing; if you just want to be seen for long periods of time out on a club ride, the flashing mode will suffice, with a simple switch over to a constant setting easily done to get you home in the dark.
The beam on the road is impressively wide considering the single-LED output – it covers cycle paths with ease, as well as the vast majority of the road in front of you. At the 800 (and I think even the 400) lumen setting, it's also very adept at helping you pick out obstacles in the road, and even when the beam is set on the road, the latent light bounces back off road signs in much the same way you see with car lights – they really do stand out.
One side-effect of the 800 lumen setting is that you do get quite a lot of heat generation from the bulb. After just 10 minutes of use I found this became a slight issue when removing the light once I got home – but taking a little care you can avoid the front end of the barrel, and after a couple of minutes the heat subsides anyway.
Once it's cooled, you can then easily remove the battery from the bulb end and charge it using the USB connector. Cateye has obviously realised the USB connector requires a little extra waterproofing so has fitted a rubber cover; it certainly can't hurt, and doesn't impede easy charging.
The recharge time is a claimed 5-11 hours, which is quite a range. For my part, I used my USB 3.0 connection on my computer to recharge the battery, which from near-empty charged fully in 8 hours. I just kept this topped up after each day, which meant I didn't have to think about battery life too much. Cateye claims you can fully recharge the battery a sizeable 300 times before life drops below 70 per cent of its maximum.
Overall, the build quality is excellent too – from the bracket to the screw-on battery, everything is well machined and fits like a proverbial glove. This means it's waterproof and dealt with rainy conditions without any issues at all – although I always took the time to dry the unit before unscrewing it for recharging as a matter of common sense. It's not a particularly lightweight unit, but then it's not noticeably heavier than rivals either.
Fixing the light to the handlebar isn't as easy as the rubberised brackets used by some brands, but it's not far off. You tighten the bracket to the frame by turning the fastener, and the light then mounts by sliding into a secure clickable interface. You then press the catch at the front to release the light and slide it off again. In short, what the bracket loses in ease of fitting, the light gains in security.
Also available is a centre fork bracket, as well as a helmet mount. Both are good options, although because the Volt 800 isn't super-light you're going to know after a couple of hours' riding that it's on your head.
> Check out our guide to the best front lights and our beam comparison engine here
So, is this the best single-barrel light on the market? It's certainly one of the highest-performers. I found the 800 lumen output to be spectacularly good, and at a minimal weight penalty with plenty of options to maximise battery life. Build quality is great, as is the bracket and the fitting options too.
At a penny under £100 it's not cheap, but then I hear arguments every day that you can't put a price on safety – so I'm inclined to forgive it somewhat for this. It'll last for years if you look after it, and give you unparalleled visibility for the size of the unit. I see it as a top investment, if you can afford the initial outlay.
A top performer with a blindingly strong 800 lumen setting
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Make and model: Cateye Volt 800 front 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?
Commuters and night riders looking for top light output with minimal sing-barrel size.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
- Dimension: 116.0 x 31.2 x 43.2 mm
- Weight 140 grams (light unit and battery)
- Light source: High intensity white LED X1
- Run time：
High mode: 800 lumens/2hrs
Middle mode: 400 lumens/3.5hrs
Low mode: 200 lumens/8hrs
Hyper Constant mode: 800 and 200 lumens/7hrs
Flashing mode: 200 lumens/80hrs
- Battery: Li-ion rechargeable battery (3.6V-3100mAh)
- Recharge time: Approx 5-11hrs (5hr fast recharge using 1A or higher USB charging adaptor, or using USB3.0)
- Recharge/discharge number of times: About 300 times（until the rated capacity drops to 70%）
- Other: Built-in fast recharging circuit. Low battery indicator. Lighting mode memory function. Helmet mount / Center fork bracket (optional)
Rate the product for quality of construction:
Built strong; will stand up to practically anything reasonable you throw at it.
Rate the product for performance:
Top light output at the 800 lumen setting, with enough flexibility to maximise battery if needed.
Rate the product for weight, if applicable:
135g is certainly not heavy – but you do just about notice it when mounted on the bar.
Rate the product for value:
£100 is a lot for a light – but the performance does justify this price tag.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It's the best single-barrel light I've used.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Brightness and variability of settings.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The bracket might have been more similar to my preferred rubberised types.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Age: 25 Height: 188cm Weight: 83kg
I usually ride: Specialized Allez Sport My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding
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