Product Reviews November 24, 2010

Cateye Vs Blackburn - a rear light-off!

Honestly, I must have exactly the type of profile cycling marketing executives yearn for; I'll wager I am their ideal consumer. I am brand loyal, like spending money on my hobby and I quite like gadgets. I'm basically an easy target anything mildly cycling related that I think I might need, but in all liklehood probably don't really. Having recently bought a new bike it naturally needed new lights. I have bought a couple of Mars 3.0s for the AT2 trailer and I've been very pleased with them...but on my road bike I have a 5 LED rear Cateye (LD600) which has also seen good service. So which is best?  

Let's face it, both these lights are pretty good. And by that I mean they are (a) bright and (b) have a flashing mode that helps you stand out and makes your batteries last longer. As rear lights go, what more are you looking for? Well maybe the key difference is in the subtley of their design - or rather Blackburn's confidence in their's. By this I mean the Mars 4.0 comes with a lifetime guarantee. I can't think of many consumer goods, actually any at all, that come with a lifetime guarantee. I thnk Scotch video tapes did once upon a time, but then DVDs came in and killed video off. The Mars' lens is designed to reflect the maximum amount of light out of it's various angles and most importantly it's completely waterproof. It has one unbelievebly bright (1 watt) LED in the middle and 2 smaller LED each side which illuminate two side amber panels. Frankly, I'm not sure how effective they really are. As you might expect it comes with a mount where you can attach the light to either a vertical or horizontal post. For the tool-phobes out there - you're in - it does'nt need any! The bracket supplied is made out of sturdy plastic and the screw you use to tighten the mount onto the bike is 'man-sized' - so not too fiddly. It comes complete with 2 'AA' sized batteries, so it's ready to go when you are. The batteries should last in excess of 150 hours. A nice touch is the clip, so you can use it on the back of your jacket. My Altura day-glow jacket has just such a hook. 

So how does the Cateye LD600 compare?

Design wise it looks better than the Mars. It's sleak and sits nicely in line with my seat post. I love symmetry - so anal! It also has a LED to LED pulse as well as the normal continuous beam and flashing interval mode. It's powered by 2 'AAA' batteries and they too last a long time. But actually for all this aside, I think the Blackburn is better. Why? I can summarise it in one word. 'Rain'. Well, say let's say 'water'. The main problem with the Cateye is the seal is not very good. It means over time the batteries get wet, the contacts rust and the light doesn't always work. Major flaw. That and the on off button isn't very positive. So it takes  acouple of presses to get it going. No such problem with the Mars. It can be alittle awkward to turn on and off as well - but it's sealed up very tight - and so far I've had no problems with it functioning at all. No sign of any condensation in the lens, it's like it's just come out of the box. 

So in this mini bikebritain challenge I proclaim the Mars 4.0 winner! Yours for between £20 and £25, available from online retailers including my favourite provider - Buy this light and you'll be seen from Saturn - and that's a promise!

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