Cateye's Rapid X Rear LED light has been around for a couple of seasons now. While I'm delighted with the build quality and overall performance, minor revisions would improve its appeal – especially at this end of the market.
Aside from the minimalist design and proportionally large 180-degree lens area, 24g is seriously impressive and it feels really solid. I've dropped it a couple of times and it's survived unscathed – most notably when it tumbled from my jersey pocket and bounced along the patio without so much as a scratch.
Bike lights have been mimicking those fitted to higher end cars in recent years, adopting the COB (Chips on Board) technology that allows more diodes to fill the same space. Aluminium heat sinks disperse heat and give them the best chance of long, productive lives. The Rapid X follows this particular trend with excellent straight on and peripheral bleed, which means it's equally potent round town or along pitch black lanes.
Its factory fitted lithium polymer cell is easily refuelled in a couple of hours and features the now almost universal port plug size, so chances are the one belonging to your phone or tablet will also do the job.
This is hidden behind a sculpted, rubberised foot, designed to achieve a paintwork-friendly, host-hugging surface – simply choose the appropriate O-ring, depending on whether you want to tether it to seatpost, seatstay or rack. Aside from cultivating a slightly silty patina, it seems universally kind to surfaces and hasn't harboured water/spray.
Speaking of which... Like most, the Rapid X has an IPX4 rating and is resistant to heavy rain. A good few close-range blasts from my garden hose didn't make any impression either.
A la modes
The small switch requires a deliberate two-second press before it will power up, and the memory function saves faff if you have a favourite mode. There are six in total, which to some will be overkill, but on the other hand they allow plenty of choice to suit conditions and, of course, battery life.
With great power comes great responsibility... The constant 50 lumens setting proved less distracting than its intermittent counterparts, and works better than I'd expected during the day. Several friends driving home reckoned they could spot me at half a mile or so down the back roads. After 53 minutes, the system's battery auto save function prevents blackouts by kicking down to flashing. This has been dependable to date, although it'll be interesting to see if this remains the case over time, as the cell ages.
Low is a more sensible setting; I would have been more impressed if Cateye had divided the power more equally between these two, but still...
I've tended to run this with its Micro sibling in pulsing for the best of both worlds: enough presence that other traffic can estimate my speed, the pulse reminding them of my presence but without risk of dazzling. A run time of 4hrs 46mins hero to zero is more like it too.
Flashing modes tend to divide opinion. In the 'being seen' sense this one blinked away for 29hrs 39mins and proved unexpectedly useful on some overcast afternoons. Rapid and pulse were good for 280m or so, more on really clear nights, dipping to the 200 mark in town, where they were particularly welcome at roundabouts and junctions. Both modes have consistently returned 15hrs 47mins.
Vibration is another retina tickler – great for pitch black blasts and for warding off wheel-suckers – and returns 7hrs 50mins or so, but it's a bit too raw for group riding and rush hour traffic.
As for value, these days it's possible to pick up good, solid rear lights for less than 20 quid. As a present or at a discount, I'd be delighted with the Rapid X, but as it stands there are models offering very similar bang for less buck.
Plenty of presence, but pricey compared with the competition
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Cateye Rapid X Rear
Size tested: W 22.5 x H 27.2 x L 73.2mm, up to 50 lumen output
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 revised Rapid X is now even brighter! Now pumping out an impressive 50 lumen of 180 degree visible light! The Rapid X may look like a normal Cateye light but this neat compact rear light offers a level of light intensity like no other. Visible from 180 degrees and using a neat band fitting system it can be placed in several different positions on the bike, from seat post to seat stays."
Undeniably impressive rear light with eye catching settings and power output, but pricey.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the light?
* Ultra bright strip LED technology
* Li-Polymer battery technology up to 50 lumen output
* Complex circuitry for safe charge and discharge
* USB recharge (2 hrs)
* O-Ring attachment
* 6 modes: High / Low / Flashing / Rapid / Pulse / Vibration
* Runtime: 1 - 30 hours depending on mode
* Dimensions: W 22.5 x H 27.2 x L 73.2mm
The small, positive switch is tricky to locate in the dark when you're wearing full finger gloves.
Simple O ring system is secure, yet discreet.
IPX4 and has resisted heavy rain and the odd blast from my garden hose without missing a beat.
Good, aside from the highest setting, which can prove genuinely useful but depletes the battery – fast!
Plenty of presence for unlit back roads and decent economy in the lower settings, which are also very effective.
Feels solid enough and has survived being dropped/similar accidental carelessness with no obvious signs of damage.
A good but not great light for the money – there are several boasting similar figures, costing quite a bit less.
Tell us how the light performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall the Rapid X is another excellent compact model with ample bite for the darkest nights, even in the lower settings. Peripheral presence is good when seatpost-mounted and seemed to encourage a wider berth when being overtaken. It was very effective when tackling roundabouts and other junctions. On the flip side, power could be spread more intelligently. Rapid and vibration also run the risk of alienating riders at closer quarters, so go for something more subtle on group rides.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the light
Compact but eye catching rear light with sufficient modes to suit pretty much every riding context.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the light
Price is steep even compared with models boasting similar spec. Switch isn't the easiest to operate in gloved hands.
Did you enjoy using the light? Yes
Would you consider buying the light? Yes but not at full RRP...
Would you recommend the light to a friend? Yes, with the above in mind.
Use this box to explain your score
Powerful, effective light with useful settings but price tag is a big turn off for me.
About the tester
I usually ride: Rough stuff tourer based around 4130 Univega mountain bike 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, mountain biking
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)