Friday, January 20, 2012

Day Lights: CatEye Rapid 5 Review

CatEye's NEW Rapid 5 on the seatpost of my Terry Symmetry - bright enough to be seen in broad sunlight.
Most local laws say that cyclists must have working front and rear lights to be on the road at night.  Well, that's certainly reasonable but I have found that you can and should go beyond what the law says.  I mean it's your life.  Wearing a helmet might not fit in with the cyclechic crowd on their "fixies" either but YOU are the one in the driver's seat.

What I have learned is that almost any bike light will be visible in pitch darkness therefore if you don't ride much after dark, a cheap blinkie might be ok.  The better deal is to get a bike light strong enough to offer visibility during the day as well.  This to me is the benchmark of a superior light and one that can be run in daylight for maximum visibility.

CatEye Rapid 5

This is new in the CatEye line of tail safety lights.  It offers 4 modes of operation, RAPID, PULSE, FLASHING & STEADY with flashing giving you up to 100 hrs on x2 AAA batteries, (provided).  Step through each mode by pressing the ON button, hold to shut off.

This light like most CatEye models benefits from their unique FlexTightTM bracket which is also included.  These brackets require no tools, only your hands to install and tighten via a simple knob.  Mount it vertically or horizontally.  You can even angle the light's position up or down.  I've used their FlexTight brackets for years and often don't bother removing them when replacing one of their lights.  They really hold up.  I've never had a light fall off or stolen once it was locked in.  The lever makes it easy to remove but effectively secures the light in place.

Visibility Factor

The bowed shape insures the greatest visibility from the sides, up to 90 degrees.  This light is waterproof and offers CatEye's OpticubeTM technology which is more frequently seen in their LED headlights.  In fact the Rapid 5 packs three high power LEDs plus two 5 mm LEDs with the OptiCubeTM  feature.

What amazed me most is how incredibly bright the Rapid 5 was on flashing mode in full sun.  I kept backing further and further away from the bike to get a sense of what a driver would see during the daytime.  It totally got your attention and could be seen several yards away "doing its thing".

The Wrap 

I think if you've used CatEye Bicycle lights and electronics over the past few years as I have, you will be comfortable with their universal FlexTight mounting system.  You'll get more than a little used to being able to switch out lights without going through a whole bracket reinstallment ordeal. 

The only minor beef I have is that the Rapid 5 didn't come with the Clip Attachment  (#5440900N).  My Nishiki Sport Touring has a rear rack with a trunk so my seat post is obscured.  I attach all of my lights on that bicycle on my trunk bag (see photo below) so having the clip would be very handy.  Same for clipping this light on Panniers, baskets or a jacket if you are walking, jogging or even skateboarding. 

CatEye tail light clipped on my Trek Trunk
Where this light shines, however, (pardon the pun), is in its ability to be seen at a great distance in full sunshine.  If it is THAT bright during the day, it's going to claim supernova status at night when riding is more precarious.  We will fully road test the Rapid 5 over the next few months but if first impressions are worth anything, I'd say this light is one of the better designed ones out there both for brightness and operation.  We've confidently used CatEye bicycle lights during our film shoot on one of the world's most famous bike lanes, the New York City Bike Path.  

Having just an extra layer of visibility may make all the difference between being seen and not, even during daylight hours.  I run my lights, both headlights and rear lights every time I get on my bike.  Just like wearing a helmet, it is something I simply do to be saf(er) out there.  How about you?  What kind of bicycle lights do you use and do you run them during the day?  We'd love to hear from you.

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