Cateye HL-EL135 Review
Cons: Low beam quality, beam distance, below quality mount
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is one of the lowest scoring lights we've tested coming in with a score of only 36 out of a possible 100.
Included with this set is a rear light, and an optional helmet mount can also be purchased separately.
— Gentrye Houghton