With the dark evenings following the end of Daylight Savings, we’re trying to bring the light back into your cyclocross training with some night riding tips and ongoing light reviews. If you haven’t seen them yet, also see our guidelines on what to look for in a bike light for cyclocross training and some night riding tips.
CatEye currently offers no less than 13 headlights, with its blinding three-beam 24-hour mountain bike race-worthy $325 Sumo 3 headlamp system that produces 5500 candlepower, down to its affordable Opticube light line that works on AA or AAA batteries.
We recently reviewed the Nano Shot Plus LED headlight, and found it to be an ideal light for cyclocross training, if not a little light (no pun intended) on maximum burn time if you need it for longer rides or multiple commutes without a charge. CatEye has released the Volt series of lights this season, and we’ve given both the Volt 300 and Volt 1200 lights a test, and have the Volt 300 review for you today.
The interesting thing that the CatEye Volt series of lights offers is cartridge batteries, so that you can either buy spares or buy a replacement should you use your light beyond the life of the battery (about 300 charges). CatEye also offers a fast, optional charging cradle to speed up recharging times from the typical painfully slow USB-limited all-day charging.
CatEye Volt 300 Single LED Headlight
CatEye Volt 300 LED bike headlight comes with helmet and handlebar mounts, and USB charging cord. © Cyclocross Magazine
The Volt 300 is a small, single LED, narrow beam headlight that weighs just 117 grams and can be mounted on your handlebar or on your helmet. The light comes with a Velcro strap-based helmet mount, and is designed primarily to either increase rider visibility during commuting, or as a spotlight to complement and enhance a main light on road or off-road rides.
If you’ve read our night riding tips, nighttime cyclocross training expert (and optometrist) Dr. Clifford Lee strongly encourages the use of two lights for night riding: one main light on the bar, and a spotlight on the helmet. We tested the Volt 300 in this exact fashion, and found it extremely valuable in catching driver’s attention on the road in flashing mode, and also highlighting the corners, barriers and competition during cyclocross training races.
The light is rated at 300 lumens, and the lumens are focused pretty well into a concentrated square beam, with little peripheral light outside the bright spot. When compared to the recently reviewed 200 lumens Knog Road Blinder 2 light, the CatEye is definitely brighter and more concentrated, but because of that narrow focus is actually less suited to being a main light when off-road. See the comparison image below.
Brighter vs. Wider: CatEye Volt 300 compared to Knog Road Blinder.
In operation, the Volt 300 worked like a charm, with great battery life in flashing mode, and sufficient burn times as a spotlight. The helmet mount is easy to mount with one Velcro strap and can adapt to mount the light using either horizontal or vertical vents on your helmet. It offers indexed angle settings that allow on-the-fly angle adjustment that doesn’t slip with bumps, but a few times I wished for smaller angles of adjustment.
The one-button operation is pretty simple—it scrolls through three steady beams from high, medium and low, and then the Hyper Constant mode, which rapidly switches between bright and low modes. There’s a fifth mode, the flashing mode, that is triggered by a double click of the button. When turning the light back on, just as with the Nano Shot Plus, the light returns to the same setting you last used, unless it was the flashing mode. I’d rather have the button scroll through all five settings and remember if it was in the flashing setting, but remembering to double click to get to flashing mode is something I can get used to.
The button offers a battery charge indicator that turns red when it’s low. Needless to say that when it’s on your helmet, unless you’re riding near mirrors or riding with someone as tall as Ryan Trebon, the status light is pretty hard to see. When mounted on the handlebar, the charge status indicator can help you manage your battery life and brightness settings so you can make it home before it shuts off.
CatEye Volt 300 LED single beam bike headlight mounts well to most helmets and features a simple one-button operation. © Cyclocross Magazine
The light uses the same mount, versatile, tool-less FlexTight™ bracket as the bigger Volt 1200 and Nano Shot Plus lights, but uses the narrower mounting option that sits inside the two rails of the mount, instead of straddling the two rails like the bigger lights do. It doesn’t make a difference, as the Volt 300 is light enough to still be stable with the narrower mount. CatEye has held firm to its standard “hold anything” computer/light mount, and these lights, along with almost any other CatEye product, will snap right into existing CatEye mounts. The plastic thumbscrew takes just 20 seconds to mount to a handlebar, and was easy to swap between bikes. Since it’s tool-less, you have to make sure you tighten it down with some effort, especially when riding over bumpy terrain, to keep the light stable, but it’s a quick, convenient mount that’s more stable than the increasingly common rubber-band mounts. (Lights snap into mounts from front-to-back, so that in case you hit an obstacle like a tree branch while moving forward, your investment doesn’t pop off the mount.)
If you don’t do much riding at night, or do so on roads that have enough street light that being visible to others, not lighting up the road, is your main concern, the Volt 300 is certainly a capable main light, and should offers many hours on flashing mode. I wouldn’t use it as my main light on trail rides or cyclocross practice, but it could work in a pinch should your main light run out or you find yourself at the entrance to a begging-to-be-explored path.
You can light up someone’s life this holiday season, with the Volt 300 or any of the other lights we’ve reviewed.
CatEye Volt 300 LED Bicycle Headlight Specs:
LEDs: 1 high intensity white
Full power burn time: 3 hours
Maximum burn time: 8 hours (low)
Flashing burn time: 60 hours (flashing), 11 hours (Hyper Constant)
Different light modes: 3 constant, 2 flashing
Charge time: 6 hours (USB 2.0), 3 hours with optional charging cradle
Charging port: Micro USB
Included: USB cable, handlebar mount, helmet mount
More info: CatEye.com
CatEye Volt 300 LED Bicycle Headlight Photo Gallery:
Andrew Yee is the founder of Cyclocross Magazine, and has been hooked on 'cross since his first race in 1991. When he's not writing about the sport, he's a cyclocross fan and racer, husband and dad. He compiled a bunch of student loans getting degrees in mechanical engineering, environmental studies and business and has lived and raced most forms of bikes in PA, HI, MA and CA.
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