Reclaiming the High Street for the people

After consecutive weeks of hard riding going to, around, and back from Daang Reyna on Sundays, I took a bit of a break. Although I ride and commute at a relatively fast pace normally, bridging the 26 km going there in about an hour, my brain needed some variety.

The great thing about living in the southern Metro Manila area is that good riding awaits in multiple directions. On Palm Sunday, I decided to go northeast, at a slightly slower pace, to Bonifacio Global City (BGC).

Bonifacio Global City hosting a Honda Club Philippines monthly eyeball meeting sometime in 2004. The skyline was uncluttered with skyscrapers back then.

Ever since I attended my first car club meet there in 2003, I’ve been following how it’s changed over the past fourteen years. It has done so very quickly, and in such leaps and bounds, that it’s hard to reconcile the wide-open grassy lots of yesteryear with the cramped concrete skyline of today as one and the same place. Nowadays there’s almost no discernible line between BGC and its northern border along Makati’s Kalayaan Avenue. There used to be such a wide swath of green keeping them apart.

It still attracts the active crowd, mainly runners and cyclists, but it’s also become choked on its own traffic congestion – the price to pay for its commercial development. I find its conversion into a concrete jungle sad, to be honest. The local 1.8-kilometer road cycling loop that most riders used for training laps didn’t hold my interest long enough, so I ended up just riding around.

Riding into Bonifacio High Street, I noticed that the 9th Avenue crossing was closed to traffic going north-south. From past experience, this is normally done when there is some sort of sports event going on, such as BGC Cycle Philippines or any number of footraces, as Bonifacio High Street is frequently used as a start/finish area. This wasn’t the case, though.

Additionally, there were designated temporary bike lanes around the perimeter of Bonifacio High Street. Those normally aren’t around on weekdays.

A closer look yielded the answer. Apparently this whole initiative is BGC’s way of taking back the streets from vehicle traffic, and giving it back for people to relax, play, walk, and ride around. At the very center of 9th Avenue, on the cobbled pedestrian crossing, lay lots of things that wouldn’t look out of place on a playground. There was a limbo rock bar; a couple of poles where a span of elastic rubber opened the possibility of playing the “Chinese garter” jumping game; a set of giant slippers one could fling in a giant game of tumbang preso; and giant versions of Connect Four and Snakes & Ladders, complete with equally giant dice.

On the other side of the closed street was a bike riding clinic held by the National Bike Organization. Conveniently, the cordoned-off area had a bike rental station as well, so you could learn how to ride even without your own bike. This is a great idea. I don’t know how long they’re holding the clinic for, though, and I don’t suppose they teach hand signaling or other bike-commuting techniques, but this is a start.

This being a Holy Week ride, Bonifacio High Street had its annual Stations of the Cross exhibit with large booths for the fourteen stations. This has gone on for a number of years now, but it’s always a nice sight.

Some of the stations are more distinctive than others.

Out of courtesy, I dismounted and pushed my bike along the pedestrian footpaths for these photos.

To end this little cycling adventure, for some strange reason, this exhibit of dog portraits was put in along with the Stations of the Cross exhibit. Perhaps this was put in as a little bit of sunshine to contrast to the somber mood that usually accompanies Holy Week.

Daang Reyna training gatecrasher

Earlier this year, I asked my friend Mario if he had any rides planned for one Sunday morning, and he said he was going to Daang Reyna to join his cycling club VPx for training. I was welcome to come along.

Prior to that, it had been a while since I last visited Daang Reyna. This road on the outskirts of Muntinlupa – connecting Daang Hari road to Bacoor, Cavite with Victoria Avenue bound to San Pedro, Laguna – is perhaps best known for the glass-domed Palazzo Verde garden wedding venue (nee Fernbrook Gardens), but it is also a popular mecca for cyclists.

Daang Reyna is book-ended by a gasoline station, the Evia residential/commercial development, the three-way MCX entrance rotunda, and Palazzo Verde at one end, and a much smaller circular rotunda at the other, referred to as the “Lollipop.” A single lap going out and back is 4.7 km long, making it a more southerly alternative training spot to the SM Mall of Asia seaside road loop in Pasay City. Unlike that place, which is pancake-flat, Daang Reyna has a slight uphill grade going to the Lollipop, which becomes a slightly downhill false flat on the way back.

Louger Mendor of VPx.

While there is a freedom to relish in riding solo, I feel like I may have been riding solo for far too long. That initial invite has extended for a few more weeks as of this writing, and I have slowly seen the benefits – which are only maximized by the fact that most of the VPx cyclists I’ve ridden with are far stronger than I am. It is refreshing to not be the strongest rider in a group.

One of my first rides with the VPx crew.

One of the later ones. I’ve increased my average speed.

Yours truly with Mario Ramos.

The lady and gentlemen of VPx.

Review: Cat Eye Volt 800 (HL-EL471RC) front light

Alas, the little Cat Eye Nano Shot front light I bought along with Bino in 2013 died a feeble “death.” Well, maybe that’s incorrect. The LED emitter and optics still worked fine, but its proprietary internal 1050 mAh battery had given up any semblance of holding a charge.

My dearly departed Cat Eye Nano Shot: 2013-2016. Rest in peace

Theoretically, I could order a new battery (but I highly doubt local availability), open the Nano Shot chassis up, and swap it with the old one. Given my experience with the Volt 1200, though, the 200-lumen Nano Shot just wasn’t going to cut it for me any more. It was time to upgrade…and I now had specific demands.

Is the Volt 800 front light going to satisfy those demands?

FEATURES

  • Single white high-intensity LED emitter with OptiCube optics and reflector design
  • Replaceable 3100 mAh, 3.6V cartridge battery
  • Mounts via FlexTight bracket
  • Five modes
    • High: 800 lumens @ 2 hours burn time
    • Normal: 400 lumens @ 3.5 hours burn time
    • Low: 200 lumens @ 8 hours burn time
    • HyperConstant: 200 lumen beam + 800 lumen pulse @ 7 hours burn time
    • Flashing: 200 lumen strobe @ 80 hours burn time
  • Rechargeable via included micro-USB cable or optional charging dock

IMPRESSIONS

This thing is sleek. The blocky Volt 1200 could look out of place on a road bike, and the Nano Shot can give off a toy-like vibe at times. In contrast, the Volt 800 looks right at home.

On the surface, the appeal of this light to me was how it could pack a large punch in a package half the size of the Volt 1200. It so happens that the main things about this light, the 3100 mAh battery and single LED emitter, are exactly half that of its older big brother.

Also noteworthy is its appearance. The Volt 800’s light head comes in anodized black, a treatment it shares with many of the second-generation Volt front lights, like the Volt 400 and Volt 1600. So far, it has resisted the cosmetic corrosion I got with the Volt 1200 and its bare aluminum light head. At max power, the light head can get warm, but not as scaldingly hot as the Volt 1200 does.

Basic layout is the same as with most other Volt front lights. The optics still have cutouts at the sides in a bid to improve side visibility, although they’re proportionally a little larger here. There’s a lone button up top which glows red when the battery runs low or is charging.

Underneath, a rubber grommet on a strap still provides protection for the micro-USB port. It uses the trusty FlexTight bracket; the mounting foot here slides and clicks into the middle rail instead of surrounding it on the outside.

The rear of the Volt 800 is made up by its replaceable cartridge battery. Instead of mounting up with three bolts, this screws itself into the light head and terminates in a satisfying soft click. The screw-in design is friendlier for quick battery swaps than that of the Volt 1200’s, whose battery on mine is pretty much permanently seized inside the light head. Cat Eye even sells a two-way dock you can use to either quick-charge this battery, or as a power bank for charging other devices.

SAMPLE BEAM SHOTS

All photos were taken with a Panasonic Lumix LX5 with identical exposure settings: F/2.8, 1/2 second shutter, ISO 400, 50 mm. The camera was simply placed on top of the saddle, unsecured, and may have been slightly nudged sideways with each press of the shutter release button. The lights were tilted about 5 degrees down from horizontal to avoid dazzling other road users.

OFF

Volt 800 – LOW mode @ 200 lumens. (The HyperConstant mode’s steady beam is identical.)

Volt 800 – NORMAL mode @ 400 lumens.

Volt 800 – HIGH mode @ 800 lumens.

Here’s how the Volt 1200 fares in the same location, for comparison.

Volt 1200 – ALL-NIGHT mode @ 200 lumens. (The HyperConstant mode’s steady beam is identical.)

Volt 1200 – NORMAL mode @ 600 lumens.

Volt 1200 – DYNAMIC mode @ 1200 lumens.

Side-by-side against the Volt 1200, the Volt 800’s light has a slightly cooler, bluer tint. Apart from that and the lower max intensity, they share a lot in common. The beam pattern is still a tightly controlled rectangle which emphasizes seeing off into the distance over short-distance flood lighting. It doesn’t seem to mind being mounted upside-down, either.

LIVING WITH THE LIGHT

One notable change from the Volt 1200 was the pulse frequency for the HyperConstant and Flashing strobe modes. On the 1200, both modes have quick turnover – perhaps even obnoxious and seizure-inducing on the Flashing mode. On the Volt 800, the pulse frequency is a little more relaxed and friendlier in both modes.

The improvement I appreciated the most on the Volt 800 was its button programming. A long press turns the light on or off; once on, single presses on the button cycle through the different modes as listed above. This time, Cat Eye finally got the hint that a quick double press of the button should instantly switch over to the High 800-lumen mode; the next button press returns to whatever the previous mode was. I wish I could export that programming to the Volt 1200 because it’s just so useful. For most of my riding, I just switch between HyperConstant and High, to squeeze as much operating time as I can out of the battery while maintaining good visibility.

That brings us to the intended purpose of this light. Unlike the Volt 1200, whose mammoth battery makes it a super-versatile monster of a front light that can swallow either a 200 km audax or 10 days of commuting on a single charge, the Volt 800 leans more heavily toward commuting. In the day, you could get by with HyperConstant; switch over to Flashing in the bright light of noontime for extra attention. The 400 and 800 lumen modes ensure that fast-paced night rides can be done more safely.

All the while, you’re going to be more aware of the limitations of the battery’s legs, especially since a full charge from empty will require five to eleven hours depending on how much current you can push into it. Buy a spare battery or two, though, and all concerns of burn time anxiety go out the window. If you also own either a Volt 300, Volt 400, or Volt 700, or the Volt 50 rear light, you can use any of those lights’ batteries in the Volt 800, as they all share the same basic chassis.

VERDICT

Like the Volt 1200 that I got before it, this is not a cheap light. It is, however, just as packed with value, although I do feel investing in a least one spare battery increases that. The 800-lumen emitter, good optics, and improved button logic make it investment-grade. Everything else checks the important boxes for me.

Highly recommended.