Review Showdown: NiteRider Stinger USB VS Cateye Rapid X Taillights

NiteRider Stinger USB Taillight

With the kids back to school, cyclocross season starting, and summer ending, it’s time to bust out the commuter lights again.  Personally, I prefer easy to mount lights that recharge via USB and have good battery life.  The NiteRider Stinger USB and the Cateye Rapid X fit the bill.

Flash past the break for the reviews.

NiteRider Stinger USB Taillight USB Port

The original NiteRider Stinger taillight (sans USB) was in rotation for about a year and a half until the USB version came along.  This new version works just the same, with the addition of the rechargeable battery (via a USB micro plug).  It has a flashing mode, high steady, and low steady (group ride setting).  Battery life is quoted at 4 hours on high steady, 16 hours for low steady, and 10.5 hours on flashing.  Those numbers correspond with real world use pretty closely.

The light lets you know when the battery level is low by flashing blue when turning it off.  Charge time from dead takes about 1 hour 45 minutes.

The max output of the rear light is 25 lumens.  This is more than enough to be seen with in the urban environment.  The tool-less mount (rubber strap) is dead simple to use, and fits just about any seat post (including those aero jobbies) just fine.

NiteRider Stinger USB taillight Rear View

In use, the light works great.  Side visibility is better than some thanks to the protruding lens.  My only issue with this one is when it’s not in use.  The rubber strap makes it easy to take on and off the bike when locking it up.  However, the light is activated by pushing in the clear lens.  As you can imagine, tossing this in your bag or pocket often times causes the light to activate, prematurely running down the battery.  This makes the light hard to live with, but at least the $35 cost is budget friendly.

Cateye-Rapid-X-USB-Taillight

The Cateye Rapid X taillight is of similar concept.  It’s a fairly new addition to the ever expanding light selection I seem to have.  It’s quickly moved to the top of the pile thanks to it’s unique flash patterns, brightness, ease of mounting, and great 180 degree visibility.

The Rapid X has 6 modes.  Four flash patterns to suit your personal preference, and a high steady and low steady (group ride setting).

Battery life is as follows:

High Steady:1 hr

Low Steady:5 hrs

Flashing:30 hrs

Rapid Flashing:16 hrs

Pulse Flashing:16 hrs

Vibration Flashing:8 hrs

Cateye-Rapid-X-USB-Taillight-USB-Port

I typically only use the light on high steady, or the pulse flashing pattern, and find with daily commuting it needs recharged on the weekends.  Not to shabby, and way easier than / less spendy than changing out batteries.  When the battery level gets to low, the light automatically switches to a flashing setting to get you an extra hour before its completely dead.

From drained, it will take two hours to charge via a micro USB cable.  And unlike the proprietary rubber strap the NiteRider uses, the Rapid X uses a rubber o-ring in one of two sizes to fit most any seat post or seatstay.

The Rapid X makes use of a COB LED strip rather that the more traditional single LED and lens combo.  This, combined with a red tinted transparent housing allows for 180 degree visibility.

Cateye Rapid X USB Taillight Rear View

To turn the light on or off, one has to press and hold the power button for 2 seconds.  This (for the most part) elevates the issue of the light accidently being activated while stowed.  In use, the light is plenty bright enough on any setting to be seen with.  Retail cost for the Rapid X is $40.

Both the NiteRider Stinger USB and the Cateye Rapid X are great lights that are easy to take on and off the bike.  Battery life is plenty good, and brightness is more than adequate on both.  The Rapid X’s power button delay gives it the win here however, as nothing is worse than pulling a dead light out of your bag when it’s time to head home for the night.

Comments

Antipodean_G - 08/31/14 - 6:50pm

Night shots of the light in action?

Psi Squared - 08/31/14 - 8:00pm

It appears that neither of these has any adjustability to provide maximum illumination for drivers.

Ventruck - 08/31/14 - 8:28pm

Saw a vid of the Rapid X. They’re pretty cool looking. From the vid and if I understand Nick’s 180 degree visibility description, they’re equally bright along their length.

chup - 08/31/14 - 8:36pm

How about aero seat post compatibility?

Dsklwyn - 08/31/14 - 8:54pm

I use the rapid x with my aero seatpost and sometimes on the stays. It’s visible enough from different angles that you can use it pretty much at any angle. I even did a test with my wife to see what angles were most visible. Until I turned the unit all the way around, there was no real difference.

M C - 08/31/14 - 9:39pm

Like Psi Squared said. I’ve tried some tail lights with high lumen output but no adjustability, the light beam either being sent to the ground or up in the air… Seems to be the case with these two lights :S

ToddC - 08/31/14 - 10:33pm

M C- I guess you didn’t read Dsklwyns post. Maybe you should. :S

greg - 09/01/14 - 1:14am

frankly, i wouldnt want the light aimed up towards drivers. as long as the light is visible, it’s better to shine toward the ground so the drivers can see your silhouette and recognize you as a cyclist. otherwise you’re just some annoying distraction and they cant really tell how far away you may (or may not) be.

Psi Squared - 09/01/14 - 1:15am

ToddC: “Visible enough” is a personal and subjective evaluation, not an objective one. If someone wants to maximize the the light a driver sees from a bike’s rear light, that’s justification enough for wanting position adjustability.

Dsklwyn - 09/01/14 - 8:17am

It was personal and subjective, but I was just curious as to how visible the light was on my seat stays vs my seatpost. They both looked about the same at night from a few different distances. I was just trying to endorse the light based on this. When I got the light, I was a little worried that the fact that it wasn’t adjustable would be a problem and it just doesn’t seem to be the case.

eric - 09/01/14 - 11:02am

@chup The Rapid X works well with Aero seat posts and thin seat stays. It’s slim design cradles the back of the post well.

STS - 09/01/14 - 4:01pm

Nick,
did you test whether those taillights are waterproof? I have tested a lot of tail lights but only few of them proved to withstand an hour long ride in the rain. Most of them temporarily failed or were permanently destroyed.
Testing this property is as easy as giving them a 5 minute gentle shower.

Daniel Jamison - 09/01/14 - 7:26pm

Thanks for the reviews. Looking into better commute lighting right now. Very helpful and I will be checking out the rapid x online now. Looks much better than the hokey one I roll with now.

Nick Burklow - 09/01/14 - 8:10pm

@STS – I’ve ridden in the rain with both of these here in Portland with zero issues. I wouldn’t call them waterproof, but they are both pretty weather resistant.

G - 09/01/14 - 11:36pm

If you’re looking for an adjustable, high lumen output, USB rechargeable light, look no further than a L&M Vis 180. That thing is killer! The only drawbacks: doesn’t work too well with narrow aero posts and the mounting design requires some extra work to tuck away the elastic strap.

Brian - 09/01/14 - 11:59pm

I have a CatEye Rapid X and am a little bit disappointed with it. It’s true that it has better viewing angles compared to other LED lights but all the modes other than the “Steady High” mode are just a bit too dim in my opinion. And the high mode barely lasts an hour. The other problem is since it’s attached via a tight O-ring, I find it near impossible to take off to recharge every couple of days (I ride in the evening/night fairly often). Plus, the quality control was a surprising disappointment – mine had a bunch of thick visible dust particles stuck inside of it despite being brand new. I would like to see them put a bigger/better battery or more efficient LED strip in it to increase the brightness and battery life more and also add an option for a quick release. That would make it perfect for me.

JAKE - 09/02/14 - 12:13pm

Wait for the niterider sentinel… it will blow your minds!!!

Dean - 09/03/14 - 12:29am

I use a Bontrager and don’t feel safe with it at all. What are the alternatives?

matt - 09/06/14 - 2:35am

My old Cateye Rapid 5 and my NiteRider Cherry Bomb both take batteries, both are fully adjustable, but most importantly last about 80hrs in flash mode. Why on earth would I want a usb light that lasts a few hours at best?

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