- 3.5 / 5 Bee's Knees -
Here we are again. Another review catered to the budget conscious cyclist who doesn’t want to sacrifice performance because of a constraint on funds. When I first started commuting religiously, I invested in a beast of a light. Four hundred bucks later I was the proud owner of a Trail Tech MR16 1600lm HID motorcycle light with battery…certainly a poor choice for commuting as the beam pattern wasn’t friendly to oncoming traffic. After downgrading to a light with an output of maybe 400lm to strip myself of battery packs and coiled extension cables, I came to terms with less output and embraced my “wireless” setup vowing to never go back. Years later I reviewed the Niteye B20, it was the return of the cable. While a great light, the B20 again was cumbersome with a battery pack and cable and wired remote, it was just too much clutter for my personal preference. With a similar setup, the Cycle Torch GT800 enters the market of wired helmet lights at a highly competitive price. And I’m back to that same question, can it be better than an all-in-one unit?
Beginning with construction, the GT800 is very impressive across the board. The CNC machined housing is ultra compact and polished off with a nice finish, I believe sand blasted then anodized. Chasing back to the battery, the cable is neither too long nor too short and offers a simple, water-tight coupling. A backlit power/mode button has a terrific tactile click or snap that instils confidence in the overall build. Where I didn’t like the Shark 500, the GT800 employs the same micro foot tensioned with a rubber strap. Because the 800 housing size is compact and the weight is dismal, this shoe feels like a better fit on this light. Also like the 500, three straps are included to mount the rear light and front light. Though Cycle Torch claims two are dedicated for one light and one for the other, I find they’re all interchangeable with none favoring the rear or front in any way. Each is relatively easy but occasionally awkward to install for each ride but entirely secure. An excess of Velcro strap is included with the helmet mount setup. By trimming this up to fit a particular helmet, a rider can make the installation much easier. For a rider to remove any component of the light when used as a helmet setup requires a little patience but thankfully the fit is secure. A wet-suit-like cover houses the battery pack and allows for mounting directly on your helmet or person such as a backpack, maybe a jersey pocket or whatever you dream up.
Performance of the light is definitely impressive. Against my Urban 800, the Cycle Torch has a whiter, more contrasting light which seems brighter to the eye…and maybe it is. It’s beam pattern could be described as a focused flood with a tight center hotspot. I believe most riders would find it appealing. Low, Med, High, Flash are organized simply in that sequence, operation is completely intuitive. Helmet setup, as mentioned before, is more difficult than it needs to be but certainly isn’t bad. Mounting the battery to a helmet is only for the stiff necked, the system weight is just too heavy for this. Stowing the battery in a backpack or jersey pocket proved easy and provided the advantages of a helmet light without the added weight of a battery to your noggin. As for a bar setup, this package works terrifically well. However, the system is at a disadvantage compared to one-piece lights which project equal or greater output at the same or lower package weight. I can’t think of any all-in-one light of similar output that weights as much as the GT800. Additionally, the power indication light on the rear of the housing is bright and a bit distracting for a bar setup...helmet users wont encounter this issue. When compared to other helmet lights that employ external batteries, the GT800 is a good value but a bit under powered. Other helmet lights with internal batteries provide superior system weight savings. And again, in a bar setup, this light provides no advantages over internal battery lights although it is equally capable with its quality beam pattern and positive output.
Out of the box, I was quite impressed with the GT800. The premium power button got things started off on the right foot. What appears to be a premium finish would fool anyone into thinking this was a high end product. If that weren’t enough, the beam pattern is common and very likable. Both the color and intensity of the light is ample. Now the issue, which I already raised. Why would you strap nearly 300g to your head when you could easily buy a light in the 120-150g range with the same output? I can’t answer that question to favor the GT800. It wouldn’t take but a couple seconds to name 2 or 3 lights with a similar output at huge weight savings AND they don’t have cables and battery packs. With the exception of some 3,000-5,000lm monsters that are coming out this year, the simplicity, weight and performance of these all-in-one units trump battery pack setups each and every time. The most logical or practical application for this light is with a helmet setup while mounting or stowing the battery elsewhere. For cyclists who don’t care about the cables and can find an advantage I’m missing or for those who are just trying to keep costs down, I think the build of the GT800 is every bit as polished as more expensive lights…maybe even slightly better. However, this site is the Subjective Cyclist for a reason, I post my opinions because that’s what prospective buyers want, just an honest users experience. In a nutshell: great light, excellent build, great output/beam pattern, unbeatable price/value but it just doesn’t make sense in my world compared to sealed battery models of similar price and of significantly less weight. Happy Riding.