We here at Singletracks are big fans of mountain biking at night. Practically speaking, if we didn’t ride at night, we wouldn’t get nearly as many miles in. Also, riding at night is just plain fun. That’s assuming you can see what you’re doing though, as no single piece of gear will impact your enjoyment more than the light you choose. We’ve tested a bunch over the years–expensive lights, cheap lights, lights from major manufacturers, and even some hand-built units.
One brand we hadn’t yet tested, though, was CatEye.
CatEye sent over two lights from their Volt Series. The Volt lights all use rechargeable batteries and brightness ranges from a commuter-oriented 80 lumens up to a “holy-shit-is-that-a-helicopter-following-us?!?!” 6,000 lumens. All of the Volt Series lights–save the Volt 6000–are self-contained units, meaning the light and battery are integrated. Tested here are the Volt 800 and 1600.
- Volt 800
- Dimensions: 4.5″ x 1.2″ x 1.7″ (116mm x 31mm x 43mm)
- Weight: 5oz. (140g)
- Battery: 3.6V-3100mAh
- One LED bulb
- Five light modes: High (800 lumens), Medium (400 lumens), Low (200 lumens), two flashing modes
- Run time: 2-8 hours (up to 80 hours flashing)
- Charge time: 5-11 hours (USB)
- Price: $130
- Volt 1600
- Dimensions: 4.5″ x 2.4″ x 1.7″ (115mm x 60mm x 44mm)
- Weight: 9oz. (260g)
- Battery: 3.6V-6800mAh
- Two LED bulbs
- Five light modes: High (1600 lumens), Medium (500 lumens), Low (200 lumens), two flashing modes
- Run time: 2-15 hours (up to 100 hours flashing)
- Charge time: 9-16 hours (USB)
- Price: $220
Interestingly, spare battery packs are available for both lights. Removing the battery is easy on the 800: it simply unscrews from the light head. It’s slightly more involved with the 1600: there are three allen screws that hold the battery pack to the light head. Prices for the additional batteries are $45 for the 800 and $107 for the 1600.
Handlebar and helmet mounts are simple and functional. CatEye’s adjustable “FlexTight” bracket should fit handlebars of any diameter. The low-profile helmet mount uses a velcro strap to feed through the vents. Both lights can be used on either mount.
On the Trail
My typical setup while using these lights was to put the brighter Volt 1600 on the handlebars and the Volt 800 on my helmet. I tried it the other way around as well, but the additional heft of the larger light was noticeable. Also, the helmet light is only needed to help see through corners, so it doesn’t need to be as bright. The light from both units is white, bright, and clear. There were no distracting dark spots in the beam. Both offer good coverage of the trail, but unsurprisingly the dual-beam 1600 trumps the 800.
Finding the power button was easy–even when mounted on a helmet and wearing gloves. Pressing and briefly holding the power button turns the lights on or off. Switching between modes is done with a quick press of the power button. Thankfully, the CatEye lights remember which mode they were in when you turn them off. For instance, if the light was in the medium setting when you turned it off, it would still be in the medium setting when powered back on.
I found the run times on both lights to be true to CatEye’s claims. By toggling through the light modes–as I do with any light–I could easily make it through a 3-hour night ride. While the power button turns red when the battery is low, there isn’t a meter like you find on some other lights.
The only drawback I found is the jump from the high to medium settings is too large, particularly with the Volt 1600. It drops from 1600 lumens on high to 500 lumens on medium. In my experience, 1600 lumens is only necessary on the most demanding descents. It’s overkill for flat sections or climbing. However, 500 lumens isn’t quite enough, even for tame trails. I would suggest 800 lumens for the medium mode, or alternatively, adding another brightness level to the mix.
These two Volt lights from CatEye have a lot going for them. They get high marks on form factor, build quality, and ease of operation. Swappable battery packs are a nice bonus, especially for bikepacking. And, as mentioned above, brightness and clarity is top-notch. Apart from the large jump between the high and medium settings, there isn’t anything that left me wanting.
Thanks to CatEye for providing the lights for review