The CatEye AMPP Front Light Review in a nutshell: it’s seriously bright and well built but feels like a tank compared to some rivals. Japanese brand CatEye is a name that has long been synonymous with some of the best best bike lights – and indeed some of the best rear bike lights – and this is a great example of their craft.
Founded in 1954, CatEye has got plenty of experience too, and this shows in its products, that are generally extremely simple to use and tackle the task in hand with little complaint. They are also built to last, with tried and tested designs and mounts that mean you won’t be hunting for the electrical tape when cheaper mounts inevitably snap off.
The CatEye AMPP 1100 is one of the brightest front cycling lights it produces and, quite predictably, pumps out a staggering 1100 lumens of the bright stuff with an enlarged and well designed lens that gives a solid beam pattern out front and a little extra out of the sides for illuminating junctions and corners.
CatEye AMPP 1100 Front Light Review: price and availability
The CatEye AMPP 1100 Front Light Review is currently on Amazon UK with a hefty discount, costing just £67.06 (at time of writing), rather than its RRP of £94.99.
In the United States, you'll find it priced at $99.95, while in Australia it retails at $114.99 AUD and up to $159.95 NZD.
CatEye AMPP 1100 Front Light Review: design and features
This is where the CatEye lacks compared to the competition, because there aren’t really many features to talk about. Granted, there are three output modes (low, medium and high), which are essential for not dazzling oncoming motorists.
On top of this, the on/off button acts as a good battery charge indicator, glowing red, yellow or blue depending on the state of charge. Run time on the highest setting is only 90 minutes though, which falls behind rivals from Lezyne and and high-tech brand Beryl.
But to counter this, CatEye has installed a high speed charge circuit, which means you can get a full top up via a standard micro-USB cable in around three hours. That ensures you have enough charge, even if you have to quickly plug it into a socket at work before heading home.
CatEye AMPP 1100 Front Light Review: performance
The AMPP 1100 attaches to the handlebars of most bikes thanks to a fairly standard loop and ratchet system, which wraps around the bars and tightens via a twisting dials. It’s possible to find a decent location on most machines, even if the bars vary wildly in thickness.
From here, CatEye uses a sliding mechanism to attach the light to the mount. It’s really simple and easy to get on and off, even with gloved hands. That said, the light unit itself is fairly bulky, so you’ll want to stash it in a backpack or bag, rather than a packet, when parked up.
Operation is as easy as it gets, with a long hold of the big button on top switching the lamp on. Press that button again and it cycles through the different light modes. Cleverly, it’s also possible to flick between a sort of high and low beam set-up by long-pressing that top button for a second or so, allowing the rider to quickly flick between the settings so as not to dazzle other road users.
This will be fairly commonplace, because the AMPP 1100 packs some mightily bright LEDs. In fact, the highest strobe setting is arguably too much for regular road riding and tends to encourage car and van drivers to blast you with high beams in annoyance.
During my time with the light, I only tended to use the low and medium settings, or a low strobe if I feel I really needed to attract the attention of other drivers and didn’t really need the solid headlight illumination. But it’s nice to have the highest power option for dark country back roads.
Here, the beam pattern does a good job of not only lighting the road aheads but also casting a decent amount of lumens to the left and right. This makes sighting potholes and drains easy, but also lights up the inside of tighter corners. The lens also means cross traffic can see you at junctions.
The only downsides are the size of the unit and its rail attachment to the mount. It makes it too bulky to stash in a coat or trouser pocket but the upside is that the tough aluminium exterior ensures it can withstand the odd drop and general bashing.
Battery life is also not as good assume rivals, with the most powerful mode only really lasting around an hour, which isn’t long enough to sate the appetite of serious road cyclists. It fares much better on the lower powered and strobe modes, but I felt I was plugging it in a work fairly frequently.
CatEye AMPP Front Light 1100 Review: verdict
This is a solid front lamp that’s easy to use and very easy to live with. The overall construction is great and it feels much sturdier than the plethora of plastic rivals. The downside here is the additional bulk… it’s a large light.
But it is properly bright and CatEye has thought about the lens design, so it casts an extra wide light pattern, especially in its highest setting. The fact that it also has small apertures on the flanks only improves visibility around corners and attracts attention at dangerous junctions and roundabouts.
Battery life could be better and it lacks the connected tech tricks of a See.Sense lamp, nor does it boast the frickin’ lasers found on a Beryl LaserLight. But it is reassuringly old school, solid and reliable.
CatEye AMPP Front Light 1100: also consider
The Lezyne Hecto Drive 400XL (opens in new tab) is a better choice for cyclist who prefer to pedal on well-lit urban roads as opposed dark country lanes. This cheap and cheerful light can deliver up to 17.5 hours of light at its lowest output setting and its heat-dissipating CNC machined aluminium casing makes it feel like a premium offering.
Although not as powerful as the CatEye, we also like the simplicity of the Kryptonite Street F-450 (opens in new tab), which has a maximum lumen output of just 450, but can be rapidly charged via USB and on energy conserving Economic Flash, it ekes out 24 hours of light from the on-board batteries. It's also pretty cheap.