- 4 / 5 Bee's Knees -
It might be safe to say, the first thought that comes to mind at the mention of the brand Cateye is not bike lights, especially high output lights. However, this cyclometer powerhouse brand has added a potent package to their evolving lineup of bike lights with the Volt 1200. By employing successful elements of design from their other products (namely their mounts) and applying creativity, Cateye has produced a light that is unique to the point of challenging consumer expectations of how a bike light should work.
With manufactures focusing more on the efficiency of LED emitters and their relationship to new advances in optics and reflectors, Cateye utilizes a truly unique reflector design to produce a beam pattern that may shake up the status quo. Whether this beam pattern will be embraced or shunned by cyclists is hard to know, but time will tell. To achieve a tighter, almost wedge shaped beam pattern with limited foreground flood and massive reach/throw, the Volt 1200 sports reflectors resembling an octagon with four rounded sides and four subtle flat sides. Again, these flat edges focus light in a square-like pattern (up close) which elongates to a wedge shape that fills a standard car lane and little more. By far, the Volt 1200 is the most focused high output light I’ve tested and the pattern is either something you appreciate or reject. After significant use however, the beam pattern does seem to make great sense both for visibility and practical use. Whether the reflectors or emitters are the cause, the output is noticeably less intense than the comparable Mega Drive or TAZ 1200. This does appear to equate to a longer runtime than the two other lights mentioned and I suspect output tests may come in just south of 1200lm for the Volt (I’ll leave that testing to the good folks at MTBR with their $50k testing apparatus). Summarizing the beam pattern, if you want a focused but highly usable beam pattern with more light than you know what to do with, you’ll appreciate this entirely unique beam pattern.
Now that I’ve touched on the only controversial bit of the Volt 1200’s design, let me say the remaining design elements are indisputably fantastic. Build quality was not sacrificed with the use of durable composites and aluminum as well as a magnificent mode selector switch. Not only does this switch operate with confidence, it also cycles through each of the light settings in a logical and predictable manner. The overall build quality is not just skin deep either. Intelligent programing protects the Volt 1200 from overheating or discharging the battery beyond a safe level.
As with all the lights tested, the Volt 1200 is micro USB rechargeable via a sealed port on the bottom of the light. Charging times are shortened by using an AC wall adapter whereas a direct jump from your computers USB port will take a good while. These charge times are mostly in line with similar lights tested. Run times for the Volt are very impressive when compared against lights in its class or even lights with larger external power sources. For those iron-legged cyclocross types, the “all night” setting is claimed to shine for a staggering 17.5 hours. Additionally, if your light steps down to this setting after burning through its higher outputs, it ensures you adequate light on your ride home from an evening mash.
Saving the best for last, Cateye designed the Volt to accept their FlexTight bracket which realizes a secure and slip-free interface while retaining a truly minimalist design to save valuable handlebar real estate for your other gadgets. The convenience of this QR mount is noticed after just one use with incredibly quick and easy one-handed light mounting. And while some companies have created clunky QR mounts with poor tolerances, Cateye accomplishes the opposite. Although the interface could be just a touch more taught, the application of this mount yields a secure attachment with minimal light vibration. Without question, this mount is the most convenient and among the most secure of those tested.
Overall, quality and smart design return a light with generous output, unique projection and uber-convenient operation. Ultimately consumers will have to decide if the beam pattern produced by the Volt 1200 is ideal for their riding style. In the event it is, users will find the Volt to be one of the most well rounded lights out there. If popularity for the Volt 1200 proves less than satisfactory, Cateye then has a platform that can be retailored to deliver a more typical beam pattern if the market demands such. Either way, the Volt 1200 is a remarkable light and will please a broad audience with its plentiful features, conveniences and more-than reasonable price point.