Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Cateye HL-EL520 Headlight

So when I'm not riding with my Schmidt dynamo hub, I've got the Cateye HL-EL520 headlight ($50) on my handlebars. The light output is pretty decent, the Cateye propaganda even states it has 1200 candlepower - yeah, candlepower units mean nothing to this engineer - how about lumens?

This little dangling guy uses 4 AA batteries, and they last quite a while on this single LED light - I've replaced the batteries twice in the six + months I've had this light, although I replace them when I notice the light getting dim, not when it's extinguished.

No real problems with the light output, but I do have a few concerns with the user interface...

Let's start with the on-off switch. It's a single push button with three modes - press once and it's on full power, a second push dims it a bit, and the third turns it off, right? Nope, you have to hold the button down for 5-seconds for it to go off while in the third position. 5-seconds isn't that big of a deal until you have to do it every time you get off your bike. Multiply those 5-seconds out 100 times - that's more than 8-minutes of my life I'm spending holding down this damn button. The predecessor to this model, the EL510, didn't have this issue (it was simply bright-dim-off,) so why did they introduce it here?

Also, see how the button sticks out the back of the light? Put it in your pocket or bag when you lock up your bike and more often than not - voila, it gets bumped and turns on! I have it on to-do list to replace the switch with something a bit more friendly - unfortunately, my soldering iron is packed away.

Next is the attachment device for the EL520. According to the Cateye website, this bracket is a "universal, tool-free design that mounts quickly and securely on virtually any handlebar, stem, or seatpost." While I have no qualms with their claims on mounting, there does seem to be a bit of an issue unmounting said bracket - say you want to transfer the light from one bike to another, that tool-free action doesn't apply here, buddy.

Overall this light supplies more than enough light to "be seen," and provides an adequate patch of light for those dark city streets, much better than the Beamer 3 or 5 models from Planet Bike, but Cateye is lagging in the design of their switch and mounting hardware.

What's that you say? Contact Cateye and let them know of their design flaws? Good luck getting a response. If you have a contact, email me with it.

Conclusion: I do not recommend this product. Get a Planet Bike Blaze 1 (the "1" stands for 1Watt) when available next month ($45) - I tested one at Frostbike a few months ago and it's essentially a white version of their SuperFlash blinky - enough said.

[edit - if you happen to hang your light upside-down, which of course you should - make sure to plug the drainage hole to keep the water out.]


Jim K said...

FWIW, I like the previous mounting strap much better. The new one seems flimsy and like it won't hold up over the long haul.

Reflector Collector said...

"universal, tool-free design that mounts quickly and securely on virtually any handlebar, stem, or seatpost."

Says nothing about "dismounting" I see another flaw in the idea of mounting a headlight on a seatpost.

Seriously, a good write up. A small portable easy to mount headlight is a really handy thing to have in the bike-equipment arsenal. A favorite errand (before signing up for Netflix) was a late night run to the video rental store to return a movie.

Marco Esteban said...

I like to mount the headlight on my seatpost for when I'm riding backwards - I think this is what Cateye had in mind. Riding backwards is the new black, I think you'll all agree.

Me [LFoaB] said...

I rode backwards yesterday, quite a few times actually...

the wind was good for that.

Truth be told:

All I had were tailwinds yesterday.

I like Minneapolis, Windesota.


Patch O'Houli said...

Screw the light, nice headset.

Me [LFoaB] said...

Screw the headset, nice H-bar grips [reminds me of what Paris Hilton might use if she didn't have a molded plastic ass like a Barbie doll, therefore precluding her from cyclering].