The biggest (first world) problem in my life is finding time to do the things I say I want to do.
I’m not unusual – we’ve all got demands on our time. Work stuff. Partner stuff. Kids stuff. Houses stuff.
All that stuff tends to crowd out my time to get out on the bike.
No more is this felt than during the winter months.
Work always seems to be busier. The hours available to ride are fewer and there’s more likelihood that the hours that are available are marred by inclement (at best) or thoroughly miserable weather.
Nativities and Strava Activities
After a quiet month’s riding in November, I set out in December with the objective of magicking more time to ride (against a backdrop of Christmas fairs and Nativity performances).
But how to do it?
Judging by my Strava feed, more and more people are using Zwift-linked indoor trainers to de-link their riding opportunities from the outdoor conditions.
But the conditions in my pain cave are so bad that a Neanderthal would turn his nose up. The creation of a super dooper indoor training environment will have to be put off for another year.
So how to create more time (to ride)?
Even Elon Musk can’t create more time out of nuffink. I don’t stand a chance.
Look, I’ve telegraphed this in prior posts so I won’t draw it out.
I recently (like in December) decided to buy a good set of lights in order to make riding viable at times when previously I’d have deemed it too dark and dangerous. And thusly created more time (sort of) for bicycling than had been available before.
You Can Never Be Too Visible On Your Bike
The danger of being unseen on dark country roads was brought into stark reality at the same time I was mulling over the potential purchase.
I came in to work one Monday morning in early December to the terrible news that a colleague in another team had been hit by a car whilst walking on a country lane on the prior Friday evening and had died as a result.
Now he wasn’t on his bike but the logic is the same.
I think I bought the lights that Wednesday.
Choosing My New Bike Lights
I can’t pretend I applied any particular science when undertaking my lights purchase.
I headed straight to Wiggle, clicked to the Bike Lights page and promptly selected the (front) bike light at the top of the page (meaning it was the best selling item).
Which happened to be the Cateye Volt 800.
Factors that contributed to this snap decision:
- At £57, it was on at a price in line with what I was expecting to pay – this sounds somewhat woolly but I wasn’t looking for a £30 light (not very bright; normal batteries?), nor was I looking to drop the best part of £100 on a glorified torch;
- It seemed the right size – I wasn’t looking to attach a floodlight to my handlebars but it looked about right for throwing a reasonable amount of light out onto the road;
- Cateye seems to be a leading bike light manufacturer. I think my last set of commuter lights were made by them. I’m not a major fan of cats. But I do likes the fact that the inventor of cats eyes (cats’ eyes; cat’s eyes; catseyes) was a Yorkshireman; and
- It looked like it had five out of five stars from over 270 reviews (on close inspection it turns out to be 4.7 out 5 – no matter
“Good purchase”, I told myself.
“Now get yourself a rear light to go with it”.
Rear-ly Good Lights
Like for the front light, I had a preconceived notion as to what I felt comfortable paying for a rear light. Or rather I decided that I didn’t really want to spend a great deal more than £75 for both of them.
The Lezyne KTV2 Pro Drive Rear 75 seemed to fit the bill (list price of £25 but available for £18) – maths savants will rightly note that the cost of both lights together was exactly 75 squid.
As a good cyclo-blogger, it felt right to get a light made by an alternative manufacturer, so I could at least pretend to have done extensive research before recommending products to you.
And I quite fancied buying something made by Lezyne – they make high quality kit, I’ve had one of their really nice mini pumps for ages and I’ve been coveting one of their GPS computers for some time.
That all sounds rational, no?
Whether logical or not, I dropped my cash (entered my Wiggle password) and within a couple of days both lights dropped through my letterbox (were delivered in a box by an underpaid courier).
What Are Lumens (And How Many Of Them Do I Need)?
Wow. Shove that question into Google (how else am I going to answer it) and prepare to be bewildered by science. The ‘SI of luminous flux… solid angle of one steradian…uniform source of one candela’.
Lumens are a measure of light visible to the human eye. The lumens a bulb (or bike light) gives off, the brighter it is.
Home lighting fans will note that lumens have increasingly replaced watts as a measure of bulb brightness. The drive towards energy efficiency has delinked (to a degree) brightness from watts consumed in modern lightbulbs.
In bike light terms, 800 lumens is ‘very bright’; 200 lumens is reasonably bright (still capable of lighting a decent amount of the road in front of you).
Cateye Volt 800 In Use
As should be clear to you by now, I’m not in a position to benchmark the performance of this light against other alternatives. This is the first bike light I’ve bought and used since my London commuting days in the 2000s.
That said, I’ve been really pleased with my purchase.
Installation of the mount was dead easy. The plastic strap tightened firmly around my handlebars such that the light, when it’s attached, stays in position and doesn’t start to dip down over time.
Perhaps that is more down to the light itself being well balanced in the mount rather than the tightness of the strap holding the mount in place.
Since I regularly drive on dark country lanes, I am frequently dazzled by other drivers and, increasingly, night time cyclists. I’ve developed a somewhat obsessive desire not to shine the light directly into driver’s faces, even on the lowest 200 lumen setting (which you can get to from the 800 lumen ‘full beam’ with a single press of the button on top of the light).
Sometimes, when I’m riding with the light beaming straight forward, I’ll manually dip the Volt by pushing the front end downwards when I see a car approaching. This rotates both the light and the mount around my handlebars, which may or may not be what the designers had in mind.
No matter. It seems to do the job, staying in position both in its new lowered stance and when returned back to level light flinging.
The light unit itself is a pretty solid bit of kit. When in hand, it has the feel of a good quality cudgel, should I need to deal with the odd ruffian or guttersnipe on my rides.
Charging is a breeze. There’s a USB port (micro? Mini? One of the two), protected from the elements by a rubbery cap.
Every so often I just need to remember to plug it in. I think the on-off button – which is translucent – has a red LED underneath it that glows red when it needs charging. It certainly glows red when charging (and goes off when fully charged).
The Volt has 5 light modes, three of which are ‘solid beam’ options:
- 800 lumens – very bright; causes oncoming drivers to crash into hedges;
- 400 lumens – medium bright; attracts moths and guides in light aircraft;
- 200 lumens – normal bright; the option I tend to go for.
We also have ‘hyper constant’ and ‘flashing’ modes. The latter is presumably best kept for the privacy of your bedroom.
Hyper constant (because you can never have enough constant) mode involves the light always being on at the 200 lumen level, with regular pulses of 800 lumen.
Your choice of lighting mode has a bearing on battery life. Cateye says that the 800 lumen setting will last 2 hours. Hypertension mode increases that to 7.5 hours (claimed- I haven’t tested). Your basic low (but still adequate) 200 lumen setting is claimed to hold out for 8 hours.
Flashing mode lasts for much longer (like 100 hours) but that option is more for being seen in an already lit environment (eg a town with street lighting).
As alluded to, your choice of mode will also depend on how much distress and annoyance you want to cause other oncoming road users.
It’s pretty easy to cycle through the light modes by pressing the only button on the light (pressing and holding it down turns the light off completely). It’s a reasonably large button and can be operated when I’ve got my bulky gloves on.
Lezyne KTV2 In Use
The Lezyne KTV2 is a little different in use.
Where I bought the Volt to install primarily on one bike, and it really only gets fixed in one position (the handlebars), the KTV2, like many rear bike lights has a more flexible fixing system.
Otherwise known as a rubber band.
It’s a strong thick rubber band though. Said rubber band can be stretched around the seat post and grip the light into place.
It’s quite flexible though (hah). With my saddlebag in place, along with a rear mudguard that also cantilevers from the seat post, there’s not much seat post real estate left to install the light on.
It turns out there’s a loop of material on the back of the saddlebag that was presumably put there for exactly this purpose (to attach rear lights). With a bit of squeezing and coaxing, the rubber band can slide under the loop and it’s now successfully holding the light in place.
One of the best things about this light is the fact that, whilst it uses USB power to charge, it does away with the need for a cable.
It comes with a built in USB stick that can be inserted directly into a plug, laptop, desktop or wherever you get your USB juice. Said stick is protected from the elements by a large, snug-fitting, rubbery cap that seems to provide a significant amount of protection from hard things (the floor).
A little LED at the side indicates when the light needs charging. Once it’s fully charged, the LED turns green.
Whilst not having a cable certainly has benefits (if you’re the kind of person that loses or forgets USB cables), my only reservation is around the risk of the stick breaking as it hangs out of the plug (or computer). It seems reasonably robust plastic and none of the other reviews online seem to mention this as issue. Guess I’ll just have to mind how I go.
Like the Volt, the Lezyne has five modes (this must be the optimal number of modes for a bike light):
- Two modes where the light is on all the time: ‘blast’ mode at 20 lumens and ‘economy’ mode at 3 (yes, 3 candles);
- Three flash modes: ‘day flash’ at the full 75 lumens (hence the name); a 25-lumen flash and a 10-lumen flash
It’s dead easy to cycle through the modes by pressing the on-off switch on the top of the unit (which, as the name suggests, will also turn the light on, or off, if you press and hold it).
So take your pick (of the modes…).
For me, the rear light is there to make you more visible to the vehicle driver coming from behind, so I’m more a flashy kind of guy (and since I’m also middle of the road, I tend to plump for the 25-lumen brightness).
I’ve been very happy with both bike light purchases.
The Cateye Volt 800 in particular has opened up a whole new world of dusk and night time riding that I’d previously assumed wasn’t available to me. Its a good quality light that does everything it says on the tin (box).
The Lezyne KTV2 is slightly less revelatory. It produces a similar amount of light to rear lights I’ve used in the past.
As I said (wrote) above, my rear light (generally on basic flashy mode) is there to make me be seen from a distance by drivers approaching from behind. This Lezyne light definitely does that. The difference with (or improvement over) lights of the past is the overall high level of quality and the neat ability to recharge directly into a USB port.
At least that’s one less charging cable to have hanging around the house (see previous post on Minimalism…)
If you’d like to buy either of these lights (or both!), you do so by clicking one of the following links (both affiliate links so I may get a small commission; you pay the same price):
- Click here to buy the Cateye Volt 800 front light
- Click here to buy the Lezyne KTV Pro Drive 75 rear light
If you’ve already got bike lights, what do you use? Do you recommend them? Let me know in the comments below.