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Cateye HL-EL135 Review

Inexpensive and easily portable but has a poor beam distance and quality.
Cateye HL-EL135
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Price:  $25 List | $19.95 at Amazon
Pros:  Inexpensive, small and easily portable
Cons:  Low beam quality, beam distance, below quality mount
Manufacturer:   Cateye
By Gentrye Houghton ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 14, 2018
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36
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#14 of 16
  • Brightness - 40% 1
  • Beam Quality - 25% 3
  • Battery Life - 20% 7
  • Portablity - 15% 7

Our Verdict

The Cateye HL-EL135 is one of the lowest scoring bike lights we've tested. Although it is highly affordable, it ranked low in our value field because our beam and field tests show that it performs poorly as a bike light. It has a concentrated, low-powered beam that illuminates a small and narrow area in front of you. This makes it rather difficult to see the road as well as obstacles within your peripheral range, and makes you less visible to traffic during both night and day riding as compared to other lights we tested with brighter and wider beams. If you're looking for an affordable bike light for commuting we recommend the Knog Blinder Arc 1.7 or our Best Buy winner, the Light and Motion 350.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Cateye HL-EL135
This Product
Cateye HL-EL135
Awards  Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award   
Price $19.95 at Amazon$241.76 at Amazon$109.95 at Amazon$140 List$49.99 at Amazon
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Inexpensive, small and easily portableGreat beam distance and quality, lasts four hours in high modeWide even beam pattern, bright, illuminated on/off button, swivel mountWide, even beam pattern, multiple blinking modesBright, wide and even beam pattern, illuminated on/off switch, easy on and off handle bars, good value
Cons Low beam quality, beam distance, below quality mountVery heavy, expensive and time-consuming to install and removeBeam could be more even/less narrow, battery life on the short sideMinimal swivel, short battery lifeShort (1.5 hour) battery life
Bottom Line Inexpensive and easily portable but has a poor beam distance and quality.This is your go to light for quality and distance of beam.This light is bright, swivels nicely and even has an illuminated on/off switch.Although it has a shorter battery life, it has a wide even beam with multiple blinking modes.This light not only is a great value but it has a super bright and even beam pattern.
Rating Categories Cateye HL-EL135 NiteRider Pro 1800 NiteRider Lumina 750 Cygolite Expilion 850 NiteRider Lumina 550
Brightness (40%)
10
0
1
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
Beam Quality (25%)
10
0
3
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
Battery Life (20%)
10
0
7
10
0
10
10
0
6
10
0
4
10
0
5
Portablity (15%)
10
0
7
10
0
3
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
8
Specs Cateye HL-EL135 NiteRider Pro 1800 NiteRider Lumina 750 Cygolite Expilion... NiteRider Lumina 550
Max Beam Distance (m) 34 m 175 m 180 m 147 m 146 m
Battery Life (hours) 38.3 hrs 3.8 hrs 1.7 hrs 1.4 hrs 1.5 hrs
Battery Type AA Alkaline x2 USB Recharge USB Recharge USB Recharge USB Recharge
Mount Options Handlebar Handlebar Handlebar/Helmet Handlebar/Helmet Handlebar/Helmet
Installation Tool-free Tool-free Tool-free Tool-free Tool-free
Swivel Mount No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Weight 96 g, 3.4 oz 500 g, 17.6 oz 182 g, 6.4 oz 174 g, 6.1 oz 180 g, 6.3 oz

Our Analysis and Test Results

Although this light performs poorly in most of our categories, we loved the portability and ease of removal while at the bike rack. Plus, this light is small enough to throw in most jean pockets or even the hip belt of a great commuter backpack like the Osprey Talon 22.

Performance Comparison


This light stays secure to the handle bar as well as fitting a variety of sizes with its zip-tie attachment system.
This light stays secure to the handle bar as well as fitting a variety of sizes with its zip-tie attachment system.

Brightness


Brightness is generally considered to be the most important criteria for safe nighttime riding, and this light only earns a 1 out of 10 score, the lowest score possible. During the lab testing portion of this review, we measured the maximum beam distance at around 34 meters, or approximately 112-feet, while several others easily double this distance and remain affordable options.

The photos below compare the beam distance of the CatEye HL-EL 135, on the left, to the Best Buy winner, the Light and Motion Urban 350 on the right. As you can see in these photos, the Urban 350 projects a beam much farther down the bike path, and measured a maximum beam distance of 110-meters.

Beam Distance Photos
Beam photo of Cateye HL-EL135
Beam photo of Light and Motion Urban 350

Cateye HL-EL135
Light and Motion Urban 350

Beam Quality


Both for safety, and for seeing what's around you, the best lens optics create a beam that is wide with an evenly lit pattern. This light has a concentrated beam that sends the vast majority of light directly in front of you with very little light extending out to the sides. As you can see in the photo below, the Editors' Choice winning Niterider Lumina 750, on the right, has a much wider and more even beam pattern. This casts more light down in front of you and aids in the ability to see the condition of a road or trail as well as out to the sides, which is handy while turning corners, seeing street signs, and for helping oncoming traffic to see you. Thus, the HL-EL only earns a score of 3 out of 10 in this category.

Beam Diameter and Pattern
Beam photo of Cateye HL-EL135
Beam photo of NiteRider Lumina 750

Cateye HL-EL135
NiteRider Lumina 750

Battery Life


Battery life was the only category in which the CatEye HL-EL excels. There are three key considerations we used for testing battery life: beam power over time, USB rechargeable versus AAA/AA battery powered, and regulated versus non-regulated beams.

While the batteries used with this light lasted a whopping 38 hours, we only gave this light a score of 7 out of 10 because it is not "regulated," meaning that its output declines over time and becomes very dim after about 25 hours. Due to the concentrated beam and overall low light level, we feel the long battery life is mostly trivial.

Portability


This light scores reasonably well in our portability category because it's small and lightweight. It's easy to carry around in your bag or slip into a pocket. Though, the light has a a mount similar to a zip tie, we found that other types of mounts are easier to adjust and can be fit more securely on the handlebar, like the rubber belted systems used in the Urban 350 mounting system.

The light slides easily onto the mount, but removing it is slightly more tricky. You reach underneath the front of the light and push up on a small lever, which can be difficult to find, especially with gloves on. Other lights we tested, like the Cygolite models, come off much faster and easier.

Best Applications


This light is really only applicable in well lit urban settings to add some visibility to oncoming traffic. However, when viewed head on during our field testing, this light proved low visibility in both day and night settings, and therefore did not add much additional safety while riding city streets and paths. We feel you would be better served with another light, like our Best Buy Winner, the Light and Motion Urban 350 for only about double the cost.

This light barely lit up the streets during Ryan's commute  even during the golden hour of twilight. Instead  we recommend using this light for added visibility to oncoming traffic when paired with another light  like the Light and Motion Vis 360+.
This light barely lit up the streets during Ryan's commute, even during the golden hour of twilight. Instead, we recommend using this light for added visibility to oncoming traffic when paired with another light, like the Light and Motion Vis 360+.

Value


Although this light comes in at a great price, around $30, it is one of the lowest performers within our review. At double the price, we believe you'll get more bang for your buck with lights like our Best Buy Winner, the CatEye Volt, or the Knog Blinder Arc.

Conclusion


This is one of the lowest scoring lights we've tested coming in with a score of only 36 out of a possible 100.

Accessories


Included with this set is a rear light, and an optional helmet mount can also be purchased separately.


Gentrye Houghton