Cateye Volt 1700 front light review

Is the Volt due a refresh or can the tried and tested design compete with newcomers?

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Our rating 
2.5 out of 5 star rating 2.5
GBP £170.00 RRP | USD $240.00 | AUD $210.00
Cateye Volt 1700

Our review

The Volt 1700 is best suited to cross-country riders who spend their time hurtling along bridleways and fire roads rather than gravity-fuelled addicts looking to ride the techiest trails in the dead of night
Pros: White LED hue gives good definition; mode selector button easy to use
Cons: Side-to-side beam spread is very limited
Skip to view product specifications
Cateye’s long-standing Volt has been around for years and the model’s longevity represents its popularity. The range consists of nine front lights in all, with the 1,700-lumen lamp on test here sitting second from top, below the Volt 6000.

Has it stood the test of time or is it in dire need of a refresh?

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Cateye Volt 1700 details and specification

The Volt’s 1,700 lumens come from two LEDs that sit behind a lens designed to increase beam width. The Volt 1700 also has side visibility thanks to small cut-outs on the body.

The battery is USB rechargeable (a micro USB cable is included) and the light’s lithium-ion battery cartridge can be removed and replaced by pulling down on a metal pin on the underside of the body while pulling the light apart.

The light has five modes, toggled using a single button on its body. The button changes colour depending on how much battery life is left, with three indicators: orange for 50 to 31 per cent, red for 30 to 16 per cent battery and red flashing when there’s less than 15 per cent remaining.

Cateye Volt 1700
The twin LEDs pump out up to 1,700 lumens.
Alex Evans

The button doesn’t change colour indicating which mode you’re in, however, and there aren’t any other displays on the light. A double click of the button will bring it to its maximum mode no matter which mode it’s currently in.

The plastic mounting clamp is compatible with both 31.8mm and 35mm handlebars, but there should be enough strap left on the flexible plastic strap to attach the light’s clamp to larger diameter tubes.

A worm-gear thumb wheel tightens the strap and the light mounts using a sliding quick release system with a small button on the side of its body to release it.

Cateye Volt 1700 performance

The 1,700-lumen Volt certainly puts out plenty of power and the light’s beam is very intense, but that power is all very focussed.

The beam’s spread is quite narrow from side-to-side and, like other lights with a narrow beam, this makes it particularly hard to pick lines and ride fast, especially when the trail is twisty or there are lots of obstacles off to the side of your line of sight that need to be spotted.

It does feel like very little of the light’s mighty power is being projected to the sides.

The amount of power on offer does mean that if the trails are fast, open or particularly straight the beam’s side-to-side spread is less of an issue.

Cateye Volt 1700 bicycle light beam pattern
Cateye Volt 1700’s beam is quite focussed making it hard to spot lines around turns or obstacles to the side of the trail.
Simon Bromley

The beam has a good forward range that’s very bright close to the light and only fades as it reaches impressively far ahead of you. But because of the low beam width, you wouldn’t want to be heading down anything especially gnarly at any kind of pace.

The LEDs emit a white light with a blue tinge that is good at illuminating obstacles well but can create some shadows compared to softer, more yellow beams.

Cateye Volt 1700
A rubber shim helps to keep the light from moving.
Alex Evans

The button is easy and intuitive to use with gloves on, but the lack of a mode indicator means it’s possible to get lost as you jump up through the light’s options.

The battery indicator, while present, doesn’t give a very accurate grading of remaining power and shouldn’t be relied on to time your rides. Instead it’s better to get a feel for the light’s battery life rather than relying on readouts.

A replacement battery costs £99.99 but the 1 hour 50-minute run time on max power means a second battery isn’t an absolute necessity, despite that run time being 10 minutes shorter than claimed. However, if you’re looking to ride all night, the option is there to invest in a second battery.

As well as the headline 1,700-lumen setting, the Volt has modes emitting 500 and 200 lumens, with claimed run times of 5 hours and 15 hours respectively. There’s also a ‘Daytime HyperConstant’ mode with a 1,700/200-lumen alternating flash, plus a standard 200-lumen flashing setting.

The bar clamp is very easy to use, and I appreciated the tool-free mount which is great if you’re planning on using the light on multiple bikes. The mount is very secure too, and I managed to get it more than tight enough so the light didn’t have any unwanted movement, even over gnarly terrain.

The Volt did get quite hot during usage but it didn’t overheat or enter a life-preserving lower power mode.

twin led mountain bike front light
Compared to some lights, the number of accessories and mounts in the Volt’s box are limited.
Alex Evans

Cateye Volt 1700 bottom line

The Volt 1700 is best suited to XC riders who spend their time hurtling along bridleways and fire roads, rather than trail or enduro addicts looking to ride the techiest trails in the dead of night.

The replacement battery is handy but the extra expense might be better invested in a more rounded light. The Volt’s lack of side-to-side beam spread is its undoing because the rest of the light performs very well.

That said, it’s still a great starter light for night riders that could be used just as successfully as a helmet-mounted (£9.99 for the helmet mount) companion to a brighter bar-mounted light with a wider beam.

How we tested

Testing lights objectively is a tough task. While it’s entirely possible to measure the number of lumens a light emits, there are a lot more variables that dictate how much of that light illuminates the trail. The colour of the light, its beam pattern and lens type have as much effect as the outright power.

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With that in mind, we haven’t measured the number of lumens each light emits for this test. Instead, we’ve assessed how the light performs by describing the beam pattern, its colour and overall performance, while also measuring run time on the most powerful setting.

Product Specifications

Product

Price AUD $210.00GBP £170.00USD $240.00
Weight 275g – Total weight
Brand Cateye

Features

Features Run Time: 1 hour 50 minutes (max power)
Clamp weight: 18g
Light weight: 257g
Integrated battery Yes
Light type Front
Output (lumens) 1700
Remote switch no